Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

It Got Me Thinking…About the Answer to the Question April 18, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

My book club recently read Rhoda Janzen’s hilarious memoir, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress. Janzen is childfree, and in an interview included in the back of her book, she was asked if this was a difficult choice. She begins by sharing that her then-husband’s bipolar disorder was a factor, not only the risk of passing his condition on to the next generation, but also because they felt they “couldn’t provide a stable parenting environment.” Certainly very sound reasoning. Then she took her answer a bit deeper, and this is what blew me away:

You know what troubles me? The notion that we should reproduce just because we can. Seems to me we should be able to articulate some proactive, deliberated reasons for bringing a child into the world. When women cite their biological clock[s], I wonder if they’ve thought that out. Shouldn’t human beings assess their biological urges as well as admit them? What if we’re having babies to feel less lonely, more needed? If so, we’re using someone to make us feel better about ourselves. That’s a little creepy.

I’m one of those women who “assessed” and, for many well-considered reasons, decided motherhood would not be the appropriate path for me. It stuns me that other people, and our baby-obsessed society at large, still frown upon this process, this logic. “Creepy,” indeed.

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s mostly at peace with her decision to be childfree.


5 Responses to “It Got Me Thinking…About the Answer to the Question”

  1. Illanare Says:

    I’m mid-way through the book at the moment and loving it – and her. Loving her even more now for that comment.

  2. loribeth Says:

    This book is in my gargantuan “to read” pile. I grew up in a section of Canada with a large Mennonite population, so the title immediately appealed to me. Many of my Mennonite classmates came from large families. One of my grade school classmates had 17 brothers & sisters. Her mother would keep one of the older girls home from school for a year each year to help her out with the younger ones.

    I had no idea Rhoda was childfree — I will look forward to reading this book even more now!

  3. Mali Says:

    Oh, I love her! I’ve thought that so often, but not so articulately I’m sure. Now I’m going to go buy her book. Thanks for this.

  4. Elena Says:

    I’m not so sure about this line of reasoning. If someone adopts this as their personal view und having/not having children, and makes it the basis for their decision, thats fine with me.
    But on the other hand i think that the wish for a child is ALWAYS selfish. It’s important to see that that’s ok. And that it’s ok to be sad if this selfish wish isn’t fulfilled for us.

  5. Thank you for validating a choice I made in my early twenties. I new their was only a 25% chance my child would have bipolar but for me that was to great of a chance. I didn’t want my child to have to struggle as hard as I have to make a life for myself. So I too agree there is nothing aweful about our decision. I think I did a child a favor.

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