Review: Complete without Kids: An Insider's Guide to Childfree Living by Choice or by Chance

Complete without Kids: An Insider's Guide to Childfree Living by Choice or by Chance Complete without Kids: An Insider's Guide to Childfree Living by Choice or by Chance by Ellen L. Walker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Walker approaches the subject first by re-framing it as "childfree" instead of "childless". Linguistically, this intrigued me from the start because it speaks of how we tend to frame adults. They are lacking--"childless". In a culture that orgiastically worships children and youth, to be "childless" means you lack any connection to what's important. Curiously, the word has overlap with the word "chilly"--clearly not a conspiracy of any sort, but interestingly nonetheless as that is somehow childfree adults are described as the author points out.

The book operates as a guide for things to consider if a person is on the fence or a reinforcement of the decision for those that have decided. In fact, in many ways the author tries to play to several different audiences ("Childfree living by choice or by chance" as the subtitles reads) and I don't know that it works out as successfully if she had just charged in deep to one specific audience. She does provide a panorama view of the things to consider from coming to the decision, to engaging the world from this vantage point, to the new choices opened up to you by moving in this direction. She also emphasizes differences in relationship, wealth, and opportunities for those finding themselves along this path.

My major critique of the book is that it doesn't really have a substantial strong male presence or approach about what it means to be a male without children. I don't think she fully considered that there are different experiences for men who don't have children than women. I would argue that there is. This is not a case of one has it worse than another, but how that decision is challenged or questioned often plays out differently. For women, not having children can often mean they are looked at as less, devalued, or not seen as a complete woman. For men, the judgment comes in other forms such as challenges about our masculinity and even implications or raise eyebrows as somehow being more predatory than men who do have children. So I think she misses the boat on that one (mayhaps the book I need to write?).

All in all, she provides some good food for thought even for people who believe they are going to have children but want to think more critically about it before moving forward with the decision. I have to wonder if people had the opportunity to have a genuine conversation on the topic of whether to procreate or not, how many of them actually would--especially when we consider that about half of children born were unplanned.

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