selfish, shallow and self-absorbed-sixteen writers on the decision not to have kids (part won)-ed. meghan daum

“I picture my life without children as a hole dug in sand and then filled with water. Into every void rushes something. Nature abhors a vacuum. Into the available space and time and energy of my kid-free life rushed a thousand other things. I published seven books in fourteen years and am writing two more now; I’ve written countless essays, interviews, reviews, blog posts, e-mails. My days are so busy and full and yet so calm and interrupted and self-directed, I can’t imagine how kids would fit in. Kids talk so much. They require their parents’ undivided attention on demand. They are expensive. They require oceans of energy and attention. And so forth. No matter how much you love your kids, they’re always there, and you are entirely responsible for them, and this goes on for many, many years.” (59-60, A Thousand Other Things, Kate, Christensen)

“I often think I became a writer because for the first fifteen years of my life, I never got a word in edgewise.” (137, ibid)

“When I reread my teenage diaries recently in preparation for a book project, I came upon a startling fact: I actually had begun to consider a voluntarily childless life in 1963, at age sixteen, when I wrote, ‘I’ve decided to live my life disproving that women’s only creativity is bearing children.’ I don’t remember writing this, but my prophesy came true. I knew even then, well before I had to confront it. I just didn’t remember that I knew.” (193, Beyond Beyond Motherhood, Jeanne Safer)

“We do not hate children (and it still amazes me that this notion is given any credence). In fact, many of us devote quite a lot of energy to enriching the lives of other people’s children, which in turn enriches our own lives. Statistically, we are more likely to give back to our communities than people who are encumbered with small children-not just because we have the time but because ‘giving back’ often includes returning the kids to their parents at the end of the day.” (2, intro, Meghan Daum)

“For me, what I hoped in 1989 that I could achieve has come to fruition: my womb has always been empty, but my life is full.” (196, Jeanne Safer)

i’m not sure how exactly this one came to me, other than there are no accidents. i have definitely been on a meghan daum completist mission, from her collection of black book writings and her novel that i lost at the acc, but perhaps this one came through a bust magazine review, because it’s fairly recent. i was definitely reading it at samurai bambi‘s third birthday party, and her mama’s mostly on board for my matching my books to their occasions (after getting over me bringing common’s autobiography to their engagement party and secretly loving me matching i love yous are for white people to their toronto wedding reception).

but writers who love kids and their work so much that they’ve decided not to have kids? kind up right up my alley. i love this collection so much, and cannot cleanly separate the pull quotes into clear concepts, i just know that i pulled so many of them out of the book that it would’ve been overwhelming in one entry.

“There isn’t any point in feeling defeated by the empty room inside. I’d rather keep building the house I’ve already been building, even if it’s crooked, faded at the roof, and with a cracked foundation.” (70, Paul Lisicky)

“Parenting doesn’t freak me out. But I spent the majority of my formative years healing from what felt to me like bad parenting, which made me realize that sometimes your willingness to parent isn’t enough. Sometimes love runs out. It took me a long time to figure out how to fill my life with the love my parents didn’t seem able to give me. I decided to take the love I’d have for a child and give it to myself instead.” (150, Save Yourself, Danielle Henderson)

“I always used to say, when pressed about children, that I figured some kid would show up someday who needed something from me and I would be ready.” (183, The Trouble With Having it All, Pam Houston)

“In an essay, I once described being a parent as like belonging to a cult, ‘living in conditions of appalling filth and degradation, subject to the whim of a capricious and demented master,’ which a surprising number of parents told me they loved. It’s hard to imagine the electively childless responding as warmly to an equally unsympathetic description of their own lives. This is because parents still remember what it was like to be us, but we can’t imagine what it’s like to be them; their experience encompasses ours. I accept that people with children are having a deeper, more complex experience with being alive than I am, and this is fine with me. Raising children is one of many life experiences I’m happy to die without having had, like giving birth, going to war, spending a night in jail, or seeing Forrest Gump.” (262, The End of the Line, Tim Kreider)

“Then you can persuade yourself that your children prevented you form having this career that had never looked like working out. So it goes on: things are always forsaken in the name of an obligation to someone else, never as a failing, a falling short of yourself.” (203, from Out of Sheer Rage, Geoff Dyer, Over and Out)

and, boom. (and harsh, but true).


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