Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed
When I was young, I believed that I couldn’t ever be a writer because I didn’t want to have children. I felt that a “normal” writer went through standard stages, such as marriage and children, and since I knew I wasn’t going to be part of that traditional path, I felt I couldn’t fulfill the requirements of being a writer.
I was thrilled when I heard that a collection of essays had been published on the topic of not having children. It’s only been the last couple of years that I’ve seen articles online about men and women who have chosen not to have children. There are blogs dedicated to adults who are childless, but in those blogs, the participants are categorized as childless (due to infertility) and then childless by choice.
In Seflish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed, Meghan Daum put together a collection of essays from esteemed writers who opted out of siring children. The writers are mostly women, and they each share their personal feelings about having children and why it wasn’t in the cards for them. The reasons are various. Some of them wanted children, but then when it came down to it, they realized it wasn’t for them. Others always knew that they didn’t want children. Some of the writers brought up their own childhoods with toxic parents that might have lived their lives differently had there been adequate birth control methods.
Personally, I was frustrated that so many of the writers had to make side notes to explain their family background in order to justify why they didn’t want children. I feel this is an excuse. Why can’t we just say we just don’t want them? My other issue was that many of the writers had to say that they do love children. What I noticed was that these writings were still written with the standard codes of society. The writers will mention how they could be seen as “monsters” for not loving children. And some writers stated “I could see how I would be monstrous if…” This upset me because the writers were still following the traditional paradigm that dictates something is horribly wrong with you if you can’t see children as wonderful. But maybe I’m putting too much on this book. Perhaps it’s enough that these voices came out for now and started the discussion of individuals who wanted a different version of life.
This is a breakthrough in writing. This is a topic that has been controversial for so long, and even now, brings out vitriol when someone (usually a woman) utters that she doesn’t plan to have children. I’m grateful to be living in a time where it is becoming more common to opt out of having children, but it’s still a marginalized position that can incite hurtful comments from people who ardently believe they know what’s best (for you to do). I hope more essay collections get written like this because I feel there’s so much more to be said on this topic, and there are so many more experiences we need to consider.