“Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed” – Meghan Daum (4/5 ★)

This book was an incredibly impactful one for me and that’s surely because its topic is of immense interest at this certain time in my life. I’ve never liked kids and have never felt any longing to give birth to some of my own ones. There was a moment in my life when I felt pressured into considering freezing my eggs at a timing when they were still “in a good condition”. Why? Just in case at a later time in my life I would have changed my mind & it would have been too late to conceive naturally. Or at least this is what people continuosly try to convince me of. This is exactly where one of the authors’ experiences spoke to me:

“The turning point came when, after seeing that I had run out of excuses and still wasn’t enthusiastic about pregnancy or motherhood, I finally said to myself, ‘I don’t really want to have a baby; I want to want to have a baby.’ I longed to feel like everybody else, but I had to face the fact that I did not. This meant that I had to work through the implications of being radically different from most other women in a fundamental way.’ […]” (p. 190)

There’s so much pressure on women within our society to find a partner, build a family and have kids, so that you often find yourself justifying when you tell people that a lifestyle like that simply isn’t for you. This book with 16 essays by both male and female writers was just like a breath of fresh air. While reading it, you will feel understood within a group of people seeking a life outside the borders of conventional stereotypes of life goals. So many things that I have felt before have been put into words here, confirming to me that parenthood simply isn’t for all. I could 100% relate to so many stories, so that I was highlighting passage after passage.

“I have no regrets. I have been grateful for the freedom not to have children – it is a relatively new freedom, unknown to most women throughout history.” (p. 145)

“All living things on this planet have a simple two-part mission: to (1) survive long enough to (2) self-replicate. It is a complex animal indeed, arguably one too highly evolved for its own good, that consciously declines to fulfill one of its few basic biological imperatives.” (p. 202)

These authors explain each of their situations in how they decided to live their life in a “childfree” way and I’ve enjoyed most of them. The most thought-provoking one was by Laura Kipnis, written from an extremely feminist point of view, questioning the nature of maternal instincts.

“[…] I don’t believe in maternal instinct because as anyone who’s perused the literature on the subject knows, it’s an invented concept that arises at a particular point in history […] – circa the Industrial Revolution, just as the new industrial-era sexual division of labor was being negotiated, the one where men go to work and women stay home raising kids.” (p. 34)

“[…] Women aren’t going to achieve social equality until some technological alternative is invented to save us from being the only sex expected to go through it [child birth].” (p. 31)

“If women have been ‘ensnared by nature’ as Simone de Beauvoir (no fan of maternity herself) put it, if it’s so far been our biological situation that we’re the ones stuck bearing the children, then there should be a lot more social recompense and reparations for this inequity than there are.” (p. 35)

Why 4 out of 5 stars instead of the full rating? There was a bit of a repetitiveness about certain topics written about (such as the decline of the amount children within a family after the Pill becoming widely available, among others), which in my point of view could have been polished a bit better with a deeper editing process. There were also about 4 essays that didn’t speak to me at all (where I didn’t end up highlighting a single passage), so that’s where the star reduction comes from.

This book isn’t for everyone. If you have always felt like you want to become a parent and have children, this one surely isn’t for you. If you have felt yourself contemplating whether you want to have children or not, this might help you decide or provide you with additional arguments for your decision. If you, like me, have always felt like parenthood isn’t for you, you’ll definitely have a fun time nodding along to all the different statements by the authors while reading 😉

” ‘The world’, he said to me darkly one of those evenings, ‘has enough people. You and I do not need to add to them.’ ” (p. 18)

I think this might very well end up being one of my favourite books of the year and I have absolutely loved it, regardless its “short story – essay” format!

★★★★☆ (4/5)

Edition: ISBN 978-1-250-08164-3
Picador, 2015

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