Here are the choice bits I promised from Henriette Mantel’s No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood. Although I’ve picked some of the sadder passages, all the essays in the book end on some note of triumph. So just buy the book already, along with Jody Day’s Rocking the Life Unexpected:
Nora Dunn, p. 22: The women I know who have children never say they want another person. They always say they want another baby. They don’t seem to realize that no matter how many babies they have, the baby will always get bigger.
Laurie Graff, p. 57: When I look at Facebook, I am a voyeur. I see pictures, happy pictures of the families my peers have created. I see the choices of girlfriends while piecing together the lives of ex-boyfriends. Artists and civilians alike, divorced, married, widowed, single, straight, or gay, they update their status and show off their kids. I do not know how they really feel, but it looks picture perfect. I look at those pictures, and I feel a pang.
Ann Slichter, p. 85: Back at Gelson’s in the checkout counter there’s that lame US weekly. I think of all the comparing and wishing and hoping I’ve done over the years. Famous pregnant women clad in cute outfits are on every cover. Five months pass, I look at the magazines, same gals, this time they’re pushing strollers. Six more months go by, and every publication has “How I lost my baby weight,” juice fasts, and low-carb eating plans. Those silly little magazines are designed to make me feel bad. And I fall for that trick every time. According to them, I’ve failed.
Andrea Carla Michaels, p. 94: I mean, since turning fifty, I have been placed in the role of older woman, someone’s mother, lonely cat lady– where “independent and free-spirited,” adjectives folks used to ascribe to me, have been daily replaced, “kiddingly” of course, they insist, with “eccentric” and “quirky,” and with multiple references to cats.
Jeanne Dorsey, p. 98: In the ideal world, she will be at peace with this choice, and her identity as a woman remains complete. In the real world the stigma of being a childless woman is part of the collective unconscious.
Betsy Salkind, p. 126: You’d think that people who do have children would take a greater interest in the world of the future, but I’m not seeing that so much. Parents often seem more intent on making sure their kids have advantages over other children than improving the situation for all.
Judy Nielsen, p. 147: My ability to live so well with MS for twenty-five years is the result of having had the time and middle-class privilege to heal myself — and of having the choice of not having children… Instead, I have had time, precious time, to pay attention to my eating, my sleeping patterns, my feelings, my dreams. I participated in my wellness by committing to the age-old practice of practicing.
Kathryn Rossetter (her essay is worth the price of the book alone):
p. 194 Major assumptions are that I am a feminist and career woman who never wanted kids; that I was traumatized as a child; that of course I have had one or more abortions; that I am selfish and self-absorbed and I will never understand life and the depth of unconditional love. Men assume I’m so independent that I am not even looking for a relationship and am just a good-time girl. Some have even intimated that as a woman I seem “unnatural.” I usually just shrug and say, “Life doesn’t always work out.” I offer no more information.
p. 196 During this time, the first phase of my college friends were beginning to have their children. Christmas cards were full of baby pictures and tales of how the love of a small child had transformed them. It was a feeling they could never explain and a depth of love they never knew possible… A divide was forming between the mothers and non-mothers.
p. 196 Whenever I was in a serious relationship, I would feel the strong desire to have a child with that man. I would see us creating new life out of our loving union. But I never felt this when I was on my own, and during those times, I didn’t give children much thought.
p. 198 I suppose it was that I just couldn’t wrap my head or my heart around having a child alone… Unfortunately, I had no one in whom to confide my thoughts, fears, and sadness. At that time, the women’s movement was too fragile to be able to afford the time to support those left confused in its wake.
p. 199-200 Going to L.A. at forty with a broken heart is just slightly less painful than taking a sharp stick in the eye. At that time forty was the new sixty, so personally and professionally, I had a lot of time on my hands… Most of my friends were living a suburban lifestyle… There was no place for me there. I felt excluded from “real life” and profoundly alone.
p. 201 … I threw myself on the bed, and from deep within came a sound like a wolf caught in a trap, howling for its life. I cried for my disappointments, I cried for my mistakes, I cried for my losses. I was a failure as a woman. No one loved me enough to commit to me. I was embarrassed. I felt I needed to apologize for my life.
p. 202 I don’t see my issues discussed on The View. There are no books written, statistics kept, or exposes done on single, childless women of a certain age. My opinions are not sought. I am not even marketed to as a viable consumer.