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Book Review: 'No Kidding' misleading for women not interested in motherhood

Front cover of 'No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood'
Cover design: Daniel Pelavin / Publisher: Seal Press

'No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood' (edited by Henriette Mantel)


The common saying "Don't judge a book by its cover" is easier said than done, but judging a book by its title should be allowed. And the problem with "No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood" is the word "bypassing."

Merriam Webster defines "bypass" as "to go around or avoid (a place or area)" or "to avoid or ignore (someone or something) especially to get something done quicker."

And while there are women who genuinely ran like Flo Jo to get away from motherhood, the book is filled with stories of women who just physically waited too late to have children, went to gynecologists to figure out how to have kids later in life, a couple of very clipped tails about abortion, majority talking about why their childhood was all screwed up, at least half of them repeatedly mentioned their therapists, and excessive gushing over nephews and nieces to prove women who don't have children aren't demons. These stories help the nuisances who say, "See, I told you so! Everyone wants kids!"

And while everyone has a tale to tell about why motherhood is or isn't in the cards for them, the title makes it seem like these women are loud and proud about not wanting children. The reality is most of them are stuck with not having children as opposed to being happy about their decisions. Quite a few stories feed into the theory that childless women must be selfish, had a bad childhood, have a physical ailment, lied about being infertile to get people to leave them alone or are just too old to have the children that society wants them to have.

Keep in mind barely any of the writers are gushing over babies. Birth control is in full effect for these ladies. And mothers reading this book may be mildly offended at all of the jokes being cracked about parents bragging about their kids, constantly posting photos of their children all over Facebook and blabbing the ears off of their childless friends. But an uncomfortable amount of the writers sound slightly jealous or like they've given themselves pep talks about being childless as opposed to genuine disinterest.

There are exceptions to this pattern. The best entries in the book are from funny women who are worth giving high-fives to because of how matter-of-fact they are on being childless: Margaret Cho's "I Wouldn't Know Where to Begin," Andrea Carla Michaels' "Mother to No One" and Suzy Soro's "You'll Never Babysit In This Town (Again)."

Other writers are equally pleasing but go for political, financial and social issues in American society to show the hypocrisy of those who demand that women be mothers. Examples include Nora Dunn's "All Of It" and Cheryl Bricker's "The Plus of Child-Less."

And other women's stories don't try to be funny or socially conscious. They're just content in their own single lives and/or crushing the ridiculous belief that women who don't want children will never find a man: Judy Morgan's "Motherhood Once Removed," Merrill Markoe's "Why I Never Had a Kid" and Jennifer Prediger's "Bjorn Again."

The women in this book are as likely to be married or in a serious relationship as they are to be in one cringe-worthy relationship after another. If not for the title, this book may have been easier to read. But for fertile women with fun childhoods who just have no interest in having a Mini-Me, this book is a source of aggravation.

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