Published by Picador on March 31st 2015
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There’s an overlooked back alley of the “Mommy Wars” that doesn’t involve mommies, but is directly impacted by the embattled culture. Though women are no longer raising broods of children in heels and pearls, societal expectations exist to the point that couples who choose to forgo parenthood are barraged with questions and expected to explain their decision.
Hoping to give voice to that choice, Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed is a collection of essays by sixteen writers on their decision not to have children. From women and men, straight and gay, the essays touch on a number of reasons why parenthood may not be for everyone. Covering careers, families, childhoods, and illness, each writer describes the journey to their decision. At times, I couldn’t help but wish that Daum had expanded her reach outside a pool of writers. While it was great to have such fabulously written pieces, it would have been refreshing to read a collection with an added element of perspective.
With that said, I do think there’s enough variance that most childfree or questioning readers should be able to find at least one piece that resonates with them. When I came to the essay written my Anna Holmes, I ended up highlighting nearly every line. I finished it and started over again, so thrilled to find someone who could put my feelings on parenthood into words.
“And so when I tell people—usually female friends—that, at age forty-one, I ‘don’t know’ if I want children, what I’m really saying is that I don’t believe I can do the things I want to do in life and also be a parent to kids, nor am I willing to find out.”
And a reminder that it’s not because I hate kids.
“But herein lies the rub: as it stands now, I suspect that my commitment to and delight in parenting would be so formidable that it would take precedence over anything and everything else in my life; that my mastery of motherhood would eclipse my need for—or ability to achieve—success in any other arena.”
And that’s just it. I know I would be a good parent. I really like children…I’ve worked with them for a decade. But I don’t know if I have it in me to give up my picture of personal success to raise them. As much as I hate the term, I’ve always had the drive to “lean in” and constantly find myself pushing back the societal gender roles that work against that, namely motherhood.
So maybe I really am Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed. But at least I’m not alone, and this collection was a fantastic reminder.