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A Collection of Stories About Not Choosing Motherhood

Emily Perper | Longreads | May 10, 2015 | words

These folks have given their decisions a lot of thought—choosing not to parent at all is as big a decision as choosing to have a baby, or two, or five. It isn’t flippant, or silly, or selfish, as you’ll read in these essays and interviews.

Posted inNonfiction, Reading List, Unapologetic Women

A Collection of Stories About Not Choosing Motherhood

Stories about not having children.
Photo: Vladimir Pustovit 

Here’s the thing: Moms, on an individual basis, may be taken for granted throughout much of the year, but motherhood itself is a status symbol. It’s a time-honored, accepted, even revered, path. Having children is, supposedly, one of the most fulfilling, important, life-affirming things a person could ever do.

So I wanted to write about women (rather, people—not everyone with a uterus identifies as a woman) choosing, actively, not to be mothers. I wanted to find joy in a countercultural narrative. And, yes, I wanted to write about this on Mother’s Day. Because it’s a day some well-meaning family member or total stranger might say, “So, when are you going to have kids?” It’s none of their business, but also, not everyone wants to have kids, and that’s totally okay. These folks have given their decisions a lot of thought—choosing not to parent at all is as big a decision as choosing to have a baby, or two, or five. It isn’t flippant, or silly, or selfish, as you’ll read in these essays and interviews.

• Author Meghan Daum has done her part in bringing childless-by-choice into the contemporary public consciousness; she edited the anthology Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have KidsThe table of contents boasts essays from Lionel Shriver, Geoff Dyer, Daum herself and a host of other authors. I enjoyed this interview with Daum at Jezebel, especially this line: “Choosing not to have kids is actually a way of showing respect for parenting (at least good parenting) and is ultimately good for kids because it creates a society in which kids are truly wanted”. Peep her own essay, “Opting Out of Motherhood,” at Harper’s. And if you’re intrigued by the anthology, I recommend Courtney Hodell’s beautiful piece on chosen childlessness at Elle. She’s a great storyteller.

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