Friday, December 14, 2007

What's wrong with wanting a baby?

My Google alerts (great service!) brought to my attention a scathing review of Madelyn Cain's The Childless Revolution. Jessa Crispin writes on her Bookslut page that "those who choose motherhood and those who choose childlessness are on opposite sides. Once you've chosen, you're alien to the other group."
Well, I have noticed a divide between the "childfree" and the "breeders," but can't we reach across and find a peaceful way to relate? A lot of us who don't have children wish we did, and some of those who have kids wish they didn't.
In her review, Crispin begins by telling us Cain isn't qualified to write about childlessness because she had a child when she was almost 40. The fact that she had trouble conceiving for all the years before that doesn't count. And the fact that she had an intense desire to be a mother puts her on the "other" side, the breeder side. Do you agree?
Crispin goes so far as to note how many pages Cain devotes to each of her three sections, the childless by choice, by chance and by happenstance. The childless by chance get the short end, she says. "This isn't really a book about being childless. This is a book about women who wanted children but didn't get them."
She also also complains that Cain's book is poorly written and that it has too many personal observations. I disagree. The issue of having children or not having them is personal.
All this makes me sigh. I hate to see women dividing into enemy camps. Also, I happen to think the Childless Revolution is fine book. See my review on the Childless Resources page on my suelick.com website.
What do you think? Can a mother write about childlessness? Are mothers and nonmothers so different they have to live in separate worlds? Have you read Cain's book? What do you think?

IMPORTANT NOTICE: This blog has moved. Please switch over to the new site at http://www.childlessbymarriageblog.com. All of the old posts have already been transferred over there, and it would make life easier if you would comment at that site. Thank you.

6 comments:

magdalen said...

I do think that a mother can write about childlessness, though her view will obviously be altered by the reality that she eventually wanted and had children.

I, too, am troubled by this bullshit idea that the world consists solely of Happy Selfish Breeders and Happily Self-Righteous Child-free People, and they must fight to the bitter end.

I say this as someone who spent most of her life happily childfree by choice, who wrote articles about child-free/childless living for books and magazines, and who took some flak for it. I also say this as someone who now understands a *little* more about parenting, because I have a stepdaughter who lives with me half-time. I also say this as someone who ended up *wanting* to have a biological baby, but who has chosen not to for reasons of health, circumstance, staying with my partner and family, and just plain life.

The Internet encourages us to be simplistic and one-dimensional in our arguments. The relative facelessness of encounters online tend to encourage shrill self-righteousness and cruelty that we'd never do (or put up with from others) in real life. Once again, I'd like to think my opinion on this can be backed up. I've been deeply involved in online community since 1992.

Well, I think I'll ponder this whole issue for a bit more & make some big ol' gigantic post at my blog, http://magdalen.blogs.com/nymphe once I have a better handle on it…. Thanks for bringing this up, Sue.

John said...

Just as a childless person is unlikely to write a book about parenting, I believe ideally, a childless by choice (also known as childfree) book should be written by a CBC person, unless it is an academic type book rather than a supportive type book.

So yes, I would prefer to read this type of book from a non-parent or non-wants to be a parent.

magdalen said...

john, i can definitely understand your point. i recently called around to people in my city who specialize in childless and infertility issues -- counselors and such. my first question was, "are you a parent?" and they invariably were.

i still think there's something to be said for learning from each other, even if we don't happen to be exactly alike. and i don't believe that it boils down to a world of parents and non-parents. those arguments tend to ignore some of the similarities we might all have -- and also leave very little room for adoptive parents, step-parents, etc.

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