Even before I became a parent, I knew I never wanted to be one of those mothers who starts every other sentence with, “As a mother…” and then proceeds to give her opinion to anyone within hearing distance, regardless of their parent status or if they had asked for my opinion at all. For the most part, I think I have avoided being that type of mom. I do, however, know plenty of other parents like this. For as much flack as Jen Kirkman catches for being happy in her decision not to have children, I too have heard so many people offer their unsolicited advice on the fact that I am content with having only one child. So while it’s not exactly the same thing, I can relate to the author and understand why she felt the need to write this book explaining her stance.
The most disappointing thing though, was that for the most part, I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales From a Happy Life Without Kids did not do what the title said it would; we don’t hear too many tales about Jen having a “happy life” without kids. Instead, she mainly defends her decision and answers the questions so many have pressed upon her through anecdotes about her multiple neuroses, failed relationships, and stalled career. I don’t think any of the tales I read in this memoir were happy at all, actually.
The book is divided up into chapters which are titled accordingly: they are questions or statements related to motherhood that Jen Kirkman has heard countless times such as, “But you’d make such a good mother” and “who’s going to take care of you when you’re older?” In each chapter, the author addresses the question and tells a tale about why she doesn’t necessarily need a child to fulfill her life or to accomplish the things people are telling her. The stories themselves aren’t funny or even particularly entertaining. I’m not sure if they are meant to be.
Kirkman has tried to explain her decision every which way to others, and no one seems to get the hint that she just doesn’t want to be a mother, period. Whether her reasons are valid to them or not is irrelevant–she is a grown woman and is allowed to make her own decisions without having to explain them to anyone else. The fact that Jen felt this book needed to be written at all lights a fire under me–it’s 2014, not 1914. Whether a woman wants kids or doesn’t want kids, I don’t think a book needs to be written about it. Either way it’s a bit narcissistic to think your decision is affecting the lives of so many, because in reality, it’s not. People ultimately just love to stick their noses where they don’t belong.
For answering questions Jen has been asked so much in her lifetime, this book succeeds. For trying to prove that she is happy without children…not so much.
Carrie runs the blog Sweet Southern Home, and is a stay at home wife and mom to one little boy. When she’s not reading, she’s usually watching Netflix with her husband, playing outside with her son, or baking. Her family would describe her as sometimes annoyingly sarcastic, but mostly lovable.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Simon & Schuster. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.