This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
by Maria Popova
“Motherhood Personality Disorder is a complex, interfamilial compulsion fueled by estrogen, culture, religion, and the Family Values Industrial Complex.”
Mother’s Day has come and gone, and with ithistory’s finest letters of motherly advice . But while most people have a mother or mother-figure to associate with the holiday, far fewer than half are a mother or motherfigure, placing the occasion on a spectrum from irrelevance to alienation and discomfort for them. Those of us who have chosen not to have children harbor particular unease around the implicit cultural value judgment embedded in this holiday — after all, what does it say about a culture when its only national holiday celebrating womanhood celebrates women’s uterine capacity or adoptive aspirations? In No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood (public library), comedy writer Henriette Mantel rounds up a troupe of female entertainers and authors whose essays explore various facets of what it means to be happily childless — or, as one contributor aptly puts it, “child-free.” Most women desisted from motherhood by their own volition, and some by nature’s, by way of reproductive health issues and painful surgeries, but all share a contentment with the final product of not reproducing. And though some of the essays hang dangerously on the precipice of defensiveness and apologism, perhaps this is due to their authors’ genre rather than gender — great comedy, after all, relies heavily on self-derision.
Don’t you regret not having children?” Gloria Steinem didn’t miss a beat. “Well. “Mom please hold my gum. if every woman had a child there wouldn’t .” Mantel sets the stage in the introduction: Years ago. my daughter has been the biggest joy in my life and I can’t imagine not having her. was her guest. handed it to her. Joan said to Gloria. I was very aware of my inability to multitask by age five. I admitted this to my mother when I came in from playing. Joan. She answered. Gloria Steinem. humor and humility — a trifecta that recurs across the essays — points her inner radar to a lifelong inability to multitask as a tell-tale sign that motherhood is beyond her abilities: I knew my limitations at a young age. and said. actress and comedian Jennifer Coolidge. I remember watching The Tonight Show with Joan Rivers. In her usual obnoxious way. and I can’t handle both. “You know. who was the guest host. I’m going to the bathroom right now. spit out my chewing gum.In the foreword. who was about forty years old at the time. with equal parts heart.
” Because. writing.be anybody here to tell you what it’s like not to have one. there are many ways to leave meaningful legacy besides childbirth: [Legendary anthropologist] Margaret Mead suggested that the generative impulse could be expressed in other ways. such as passing ideas on to the younger generation through teaching. after all. . It was a true gift for me to be able to pull together writers who are here to tell you “what it’s like not to have one.” Joan looked at her like that thought had honestly never crossed her mind. or by inspiring example.
Of course they are lovely and warm and adorable. My parents took a lot of pictures of me at these parties. and it was a big deal if you survived. From the pictures I see the cake though—all these big multicolored rice cakes. It’s too much responsibility. but I am frightened of doing something wrong that will alter them forever. I have my own problems with love. […] It might not be a fear of kids themselves. as in truth I usually get along with them pretty well. Give them a weird look and they might be talking to their therapist about me fifty years later. frankly. They like my tattoos and my uncomplicated child/adult face. I just don’t want to love anyone that much. […] Babies scare me more than anything. I guess because life was tough in the old country. They identify with my orange shoes. or a gay pride flag made of carbs. not sweet like birthday cake but a delicious treat all the same. followed by another when you make it to one whole year. but I think wanting that cake isn’t enough reason to have a baby. but what if I had to do that with someone I actually MADE?! (Or went all the way to China and adopted. There’s a big party thrown when you are one hundred days old.Korean-American comedian Margaret Cho pens collection’s finest. This is not a joke—I have long thought I would adopt one . most disarmingly witty essays: one of the Korean children get a lot of fuss made over them. and it’s so funny when they decide they like you and hold you in return. It looks like a chewy Neapolitan ice cream. and I have processed and played the same games for a lifetime. They’re tiny and fragile and impressionable—and someone else’s! As much as I hate borrowing stuff. that is how much I hate holding other people’s babies. each pastel stripe a steamed layer of pounded and steamed rice flour. although I don’t remember a thing as I was really drunk at both. I look like I would let them get away with stuff. It’s the best and I want it. My fear of having children is that. and I do.
because really. but I was raised in the Midwest. “You’ll eventually want to have kids. here’s the truth I can’t have children:” I told my cabdriver somberly. Yes. I’d finally learned the secret to get people to stop insisting. […] I should have just told them to butt out. And my ploy worked. I attempted to look distraught.” SNL’s Nora Dunn takes head-on an inconvenient truth about the perilous potential of motherhood: . clammed up and began focusing intently on the road.of those baby girls from China. Thus was born my all-purpose taxicab “confession. Finally this man. after years of being told by complete strangers that I didn’t know my own mind. who’d relentlessly argued that I would change my mind about my decision to not have children. my lips quivering. who’s going to know the difference?) Comedy and fashion writer Bonnie Datt shares her tragicomic solution to the cultural pressure for childbirth: “Okay.” I just had to lie about it. so this rude option never crossed my mind.
director. for maybe I have. but I am a narcissist with a conscience. down. I know that never stopped many others. Those who are anti-abortion never mention them. and comedian Debbie Kasper delivers a deadpan quip: I was always too self-centered and irresponsible to have kids. Author Laurie Graff examines the root of the palpable pang she feels when bombarded by images of idyllic family life during her Facebook voyeurism: That pang is about feeling out of step with the stages of life more than of having missed out on them. but I have also been too busy to notice. When I was little. They seem to be the same people who want to cut food stamps and get rid of social programs that might help children and mothers. Good. Still part of the non-civilian us. bad. It’s who I am and how I live. I continue to stay the course. there is no talk of children. or who the boyfriends might be. . up. This is not to say that I haven’t. still in the city. I didn’t get that from my own mother. They never talk about nineteen-year-old fetuses. I still continue the pursuit of my dreams. I didn’t understand that there is no such thing as undivided attention. They never seem to take into account who the father is. Writer. They don’t talk of war or hunger or about how much it costs to buy shoes and socks and how hard it must be to have children without a washer and dryer. I never wanted to have a baby if I wasn’t positive I could give it a wonderful life and my undivided attention.In the current abortion debate. My feeling was I needed to become a good mother to myself before I invented a child that needed one.
” writer and crossword lover Andrea Carla Michaels illustrates just how deep the bias of our cultural expectations goes with an anecdote wildly amusing on the surface and rather poignant at its heart: A dozen years ago. “No. are you married?” I said.In an essay titled “Mother To No One. . “Why would I be married?!” and I said to her. “Well. are you married?!” She seemed alarmed and asked. “Aunt Andrea. my eight-yearold niece Hanna asked me. why would I be married?” She folded her arms and said.” “Good weird or bad weird?” She grumbled that she hadn’t decided yet. when I was approaching forty. “You’re weird.
and if you didn’t. Is it a loss? How would I know? I’m too busy living.” . I am blessed with a full. and interesting life. reminding us of Hamlet’s great insight: of It is not an experiment in which I will have the chance to participate. This “chat” with my niece didn’t prepare me for the now-daily shock of being mistaken for someone’s mother. Motherhood is not in the cards for me. healthy. Alexa dramatically turned to Ricky and exclaimed. true to my gender.” Playwright Jeanne Dorsey considers the ambivalence motherhood. He asked who I was the mother of. “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so. “Aunt Andrea is the mother to no one. you were “weird.But it was already so clear to her at eight that people were married and had kids. who was piecing together family relationships.” It’s amazing how young those attitudes start. I overheard my other ten-year-old niece Alexa patiently explaining things to her six-year-old brother. And then every once in a while. I ask myself: How would I feel if I were someone’s mother? And how would that someone feel about me? I will never know.
and TV producer Valri Bromfield playfully proposes the inclusion of Motherhood Personality Disorder in the DSM-5. placing it in the Cluster D category of overly intrusive/dissociative disorders: Motherhood Personality Disorder. interfamilial compulsion fueled by estrogen. or MPD. is a complex. the next edition of the psychology bible that is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. actor.” comedian. religion. and the Family Values Industrial Complex. culture. She lists several of the diagnostic features: .In an essay titled “The Pathology of Motherhood.
eventually replacing their child(ren) with several dogs or cats. perhaps because she is attending a Zumba Fitness Party or because she flew to Cairo in a manic state earlier that morning. but otherwise does not really give a shit. The patient lies motionless in bed staring at the ceiling and soiling her clothes. Under Prognosis. (Note: Only diagnose MPD if the delivered baby does not present signs of being the offspring of Satan.” or intoxication. such as: an inability to find her car keys. or the patient is simply not available. CATATONIC TYPE: This has been found to be the most adaptive type for the MPD mother with teenagers. MPD patients can hopefully achieve partial remission. From the ages of two to sixteen. watching “her show. the offspring must be transported everywhere by grandparents or other guardians. the juveniles can reply honestly in the affirmative. as it facilitates the use of the family home for underage recreational activities. sleeping. the replacement of obsession objects can allow for the eventual . she concludes: With treatment. The patient’s children often take advantage of this particular presentation of symptoms. While personal hygiene suffers with this intervention. Intrusive preoccupation with offspring Episodes of major martyrdom Intermittent cooking and cleaning She itemizes the three main subtypes: PARANOID TYPE: This type presents in cases where the expectant mother has seen the film Rosemary’s Baby and clings to the hope that she will give birth to the demon child. since. when friends’ parents later ask if the mother had been present at the time. as the mother is habitually preoccupied with behaviors incompatible with child supervision.) DISORGANIZED TYPE: This subtype has the greatest impact on the patient’s family.
Jane Gennaro. Cindy Caponera. No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood features contributions by writers. Amy Stiller. Carol Siskind. Thanks.reintroduction of human children and grandchildren. and politicians like Cheryl Bricker. but only under strict supervision. and more. public domain images by Nikolas Muray via George Eastman House . Kaye. Judy Morgan. Suzy Soro. comedians.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.