Color me selfish and self-absorbed, reading this book got me to thinking about my own decision (?) not to have kids. I'd say it's 80% decision and 20% the way it happened. I hope to write about this in my zine next year. We'll see. In case I don't get around to it or forget this key point, for me the decision or happenstance has less to do with not liking kids than with not liking myself.
But as for the book, two of the sixteen writers (that I know of) are Barnard alums: Sigrid Nuñez and Lionel Shriver. Though there are a couple/few POC and men, this is a fairly white middle class/white collection. The editor addresses the concern that including only writers means getting only writer/artist perspectives, but maybe it also limit by class? I'm not writing this to attack Daum, just considering. OTOH I would have like to more POC perspectives.
The essays aren't strictly personal explorations. Several of the authors did research about parenting and childhood. Laura Kipnis is on about how children and childhood are a post-industrial invention. In times prior, children were workers. They brought more in than they cost. They were essential. As they became less financially valuable, people had to come up with other reasons to value kids, like love and personal fulfillment.
When I said I don't know if my "decision" not to have kids was 100% decision, I'm not alone. Paul Lisicky says he might have had a kid, in the same way he might have moved to Tokyo if someone had asked him. But that seems very dude privileged to me.
Lionel Shriver's piece perhaps the most troubling, because it somehow evolves into a question of whether or not white people have a "right" to feel sad that their (our) numbers are dwindling. Oh no! What if people of German ancestry die out?!?
Some of the authors are hard on children and mothering young children in a way that some people with kids would probably find challenging and that I found tedious. There's a lot of talk of "having it all," including from Pam Houston, whose chapter is "The Trouble with Having It All." She's in the "it's not possible" camp. My feeling may be more that "it all" is a myth, but that career success and childrearing and not in binary opposition. Then again, money, so maybe? Houston's piece is among my favorites, below Danielle Henderson's "Save Yourself." And I related to Geoff Dyer's piece where he confesses that he finds children's self-importance triggering "deep-rooted class antagonism" and that he doesn't want to bring more middle class children into the world. I, too, have a hard time with the idea of raising a white child of privilege.