I recently read books that I came to for rather different reasons and yet, set side by side, they seem inordinately correspondent. Both present alternatives to traditional life narratives, a move that is almost always powerful and valuable
My draw to Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids, edited by Meghan Daum, is fairly self-evident to anyone who knows me. I am happily coupled, but I am also deliberately childfree. While I see more and more people “like me” nowadays, I also find our culture’s imperative to procreation tedious at best, oppressive at worst, particularly as imposed upon women. Add to that the insane cultural demands put on mothers to be self-actualized, self-sacrificing, still sexy super-women and the whole endeavor makes me want to retire to a mountain lair for life. So it’s no surprise that I sparked at an entire volume devoted to multiple people’s stories of why they chose to forgo parenthood.
Among the essays in what I will hereafter refer to as SSS there are really no duds. I didn’t enjoy all of the essays equally but none of them lack interest or insight. The volume reveals, in a way that even I found surprising, the myriad paths that people take to chosen childlessness. The volume suffers mildly from being solely focused on writers—who make up a rather motley crew in terms of the general population—and from being largely—although not entirely—white. But it was also interesting and lovely to hear from gay people and straight people, women and a few men, people still within childbearing range and those for whom that ship has long since sailed about why they chose not to have children.