Book Review: No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood – Henriette Mantel (ed.)
Review: No Kidding
As a childless female, this was an intriguing read to me. I knew, as I read it, that to some these essays would seem cynical, acerbic, even overly-nonchalant, as if the only way a woman could be ‘happy’ without a child would be to live in a state of self-denial. I, however, understood. Though I used to joke that I didn’t have a maternal bone in my body, I know that was a lie. I truth, I think I may well have been a good mother, perhaps even a great one (perhaps not… it doesn’t pay to get too carried away). But I never, not once, wanted it. I imagined it – I felt it was my duty to do that at the very least – but I couldn’t feel anything other than a vague sense of it being a chore that would need to be addressed. Yet, unlike washing clothes or ironing, it would require decades.
I would think of those who wanted children and couldn’t have them and feel hideously selfish, but I knew that this – like societal expectation – was no reason to go against my resolve. Of all the roles I imagined I would play in life, mother was one that would occur only under duress. That seemed to me more selfish (to the potential child) than failing to bear one at all.
It was oddly refreshing to see some of my feelings echoed in this anthology. It can feel a little lonely being a 33 year old woman facing down the ‘Your turn next’ and ‘Everyone changes their mind’ comments. You can be duped into feeling a little lacking, even if you feel you’re truly not. Yet at the same time, I could see how those with children, or wanting children, could perceive these musings as selfish. We don’t mean to be, truly. But perhaps we have maternal bones enough to know that an unwanted child actually deserves so much more. We may endeavour to be good mothers if we find ourself in that situation, but isn’t it better that we refrain? Just in case…