Reviews

Nobody's Mother: Life Without Kids

RICHARD VAN CAMP

When a group of people who have been silent begin to speak up, one of the first literary forms to emerge is the memoir. So it is with the twenty-two women whose stories are gathered in Nobody’s Mother: Life Without Kids, edited by Lynne Van Luven (Heritage House). For one reason or another—twenty-two reasons, to be exact—they have chosen not to bear children; their book is among a very few on the subject (most of them published in the last few years), perhaps because, as Lorna Crozier writes, “the words used to describe [the childless condition] are negative and denote a lessening or loss.” Maria Coffey travels to Africa, where babies die every day of aids, malaria and hunger, and meets a mother who pities her profoundly for having no children. Patricia Frank tells her mother about her decision not to bear children and then deals with the effects of her mother’s reply: “Good decision. Wish I hadn’t.” Sadhna Datta breaks ground for other Indo-Canadian women by escaping the social expectations of her community, though she has to make up for her “odd” condition by serving as one of the main caregivers in her family. Candace Fertile takes the bull by the horns: “The idea [of pregnancy] gives me the creeps”; “Babies are needy. It’s their job”; “Toddlers are needy”; etc. Van Luven herself wraps up the collection neatly with the dreadful/ delightful tale of an uncle who confronts her at a gathering of her large, fecund family and says: “You weren’t such a mean little gal, you’d have kids by now.” Of course, children appear in women’s lives whether or not they are invited: the contributors to Nobody’s Mother include stepmothers, godmothers, doting aunts and accidental grandmothers. The fact that many of these writings include an explicit or implicit disclaimer—I like children, it’s just that I don’t want to have them—is somewhat unsettling in 26, forty-four years after the publication of The Feminine Mystique and thirty-seven years after Peggy Lee recorded “Is That All There Is?” That alone is a darn good reason to read the book. These women may not be anyone’s mother, but they have brought many other riches into the world.

Tags
No items found.

RICHARD VAN CAMP

Mary Schendlinger is a writer, editor, retired teacher of publishing and, as Eve Corbel, a maker of comics. She was Senior Editor of Geist for twenty-five years. She lives in Vancouver.


SUGGESTIONS FOR YOU

Reviews
Michael Hayward

Sitting Ducks

Review of "Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands" by Kate Beaton.

Reviews
KELSEA O'CONNOR

Rocks in a Hard Place

Review of "A Field Guide to Gold, Gemstone & Mineral Sites of British Columbia, Volume Two: Sites within a Day’s Drive of Vancouver" by Rick Hudson.

Reviews
KELSEA O'CONNOR

The Human Side of Art Forgery

Review of "The Great Canadian Art Fraud Case: The Group of Seven and Tom Thomson Forgeries" by Jon S. Dellandrea.