La Vie Childfree

Talk Childfree & Beyond with Laura Carroll

Add this new book to the growing number of books out there about the childfree choice: No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood. It is a collection of essays edited by Henriette Mantel, a New York comedy writer.

I am reading the book right now, enjoying it, and went to a book event this week in San Francisco where four of the contributors read, and then opened it up for discussion. Some high points:

Maureen Langan, award-winning comic and broadcast journalist, talked about how at 41, she underwent IVF four times, surprisingly got pregnant “easily” but miscarried. She remarked about how the idea of having a child felt like her life would be “constricted.” I wondered why if she felt this why she tried IVF not just once, but four times….I hope her essay goes into this.

Vanda Mikoloski, is a comic and a budding entrepreneur-she is starting a line of men’s underwear called “carpe scrotum” – that alone got the audience roaring. Some things she mentioned that contributed to her not wanting kids: she experienced death in her life, and as a result “closed her heart,” put on emotional armor, and dated “jerks”…

The line I loved most related to the childfree decision from Andrea Michaels, former LA stand-up comic and game show writer, was, “I don’t describe myself in other’s terms.” Take that to heart, childfree!

And Bernadette Luckett, who has worked as a stand-up comic and is now working on a documentary about teaching vets the art of stand-up comedy, talked about how her mother’s attitudes about childrearing and parenthood influenced her, as well as a “lingering fear of pregnancy.”

Some good discussion ensued, including Maureen making the point that the question that really needs to be answered is, “What is the nurturing part of your life?” Motherhood is certainly not the only way for women to answer this question for themselves.

I also loved a comment by a 23 year old who said it is now a “political statement to have kids.” Some younger people have concerns about bringing children into the world right now.

She also commented that having children is seen as just a “different way to go about life.” That made me smile. This view coming from a Millennial is a good sign toward the social acceptance of the childfree choice in that generation.

Another young woman asked whether there were essays by younger women in the book – the panel said not really, as Mantel sought out friends more her age who don’t have kids.

It made think – maybe that is the next essay collection that needs to come out. In 2007, a similar book came out called Pride and Joy – it’s a collection of essays by women from all walks of life. But is not from younger women either…

I am in the midst of a decade long longitudinal study of childfree women. I am tracking forty women who were in their twenties when the study started over two years ago.

These women will have their stories, but until this study completes, childfree women and men out there in your 20s- even 30s, any takers to begin collecting your stories?

Anyone else read No Kidding yet? Please share your thoughts!

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Comments (11)Posted by Laura on Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

11 Responses to “Childfree Talk by Women Writers” Add your own

  • Jamesa said:

    “I don’t describe myself in other’s terms.” Perfect line for the rest of my life! Thanks for the review Lauren :D

  • Laura said:

    I know I love that line too….she seems like a great woman, too….

  • Scott said:

    Sounds like good reading.

    My hope is that one day the phrase “bypassing motherhood” will be totally nonsensical or at least sound really weird. The phrase still assumes that motherhood is normal or inevitable and you have to do something unusual to dodge it. No one says “bypassing childlessness.”

    Maybe some day it will sound as asinine as saying someone who got married was “bypassing spinsterhood.”

  • Laura said:

    “Maybe some day it will sound as asinine as saying someone who got married was ‘bypassing spinsterhood.’” Ha-love it!

  • Scott said:

    I thought about it some more, and “bypassing motherhood” isn’t necessarily a bad way to put it. It could go either way. We don’t just bypass things that are good or normal things. We also bypass things that are dangerous or bad for us. A heart bypass goes around clogged blood vessels. In an attempt to lose weight, I may bypass the dessert cart.

    Bypassing pitfalls is a good thing. Bypassing peer pressure is a good thing.

    I’ve come to a similar conclusion about “childless.” It could go either way. Adding “-less” could mean that you’re lacking something good, or it could be you’re lacking something bad. I try to think of “childless” in the same way I think of “painless” — yes, please!

  • Laura said:

    How about painlessly childfree?! – just kidding ; )

  • Scott said:

    “Painlessly childfree”

    Hmm. Isn’t that a little redundant, like “wet water”? :-)

  • Susan said:

    It’s great to see more women childfree writers speaking publicly about their choice, not that they owe anyone an “explanation.” Personally, I think one of the driving forces of pronatalism are faith-based organizations like “Concerned Women For America,” which I seriously believe would return women back to the 19th century if they had their way.

    What is really creepy (to me anyway) is that so many women still believe that archaic nonsense. But it is still necessary for progressive women, childfree or not, to publicly challenge the “back to the home/kitchen” ideology they continue to proclaim.

  • Scott said:

    In reply to Susan:

    I saw in the TV listings recently that a segment on Katie Couric’s show was titled something like “Reclaim Your Domesticity.” I’m not sure when and who ever took it away from women, but I didn’t bother to watch. Not clear to me that it was ever stolen, or if it was, why would losing it be a bad thing in the first place?

  • Laura said:

    Is that part of the ‘work-life’ balance that gets so much ink these days?? Geez…

  • Susan said:

    Hi Scott! Any show titled “Reclaim Your Domesticity” is one I would definitely refuse to watch. It would be like reading one of those archaic 19th-century books written by women like Catherine Beecher (I call her the Phyllis Schlafly of the 19th century), who was a huge fan of the “woman’s sphere” nonsense.

    I decide for myself what my version of domesticity is, rather than allowing others to make that choice for me. I doubt it would match Couric’s version, and I couldn’t care less if it doesn’t. :)

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