HOLIDAY GIFT LIST
Holiday gift list of the top ten books on whether ‘to have children or not’ by the filmmaker of the new childfree film TO KID OR NOT TO KID
More and more people are undecided about having kids, and the number of people without children has doubled since the 70’s, so where are the books for childfree readers? These books are out there, but they can be hard to find. And you won’t often see them just by browsing the aisle of your local book store—believe me I’ve tried. In fact, when asking for help at my local bookstore, I’ve often been referred to the self-help and parenting sections!
If someone had sent me one of these books when I was trying to make my decision about kids, they would have moved up to the top of my best family member or friend, list. So in the lead up to the holidays, whether you’re a friend, parent, or colleague and you’re looking for a great gift for your undecided or childfree friend, here are the best books I found while researching my childfree new film TO KID OR NOT TO KID (out 2018).
*Prices quoted below are from Barnes & Noble online, but support your local bookstore!
MOST ACCESSIBLE – SELFISH, SHALLOW, AND SELF-ABSORBED by Meghan Daum $11.45
For those that want to hear from multiple perspectives, this book with contributions from sixteen writers both men and women is a great read and was immensely popular when it came out in 2015. I find any books with an us-and-them attitude really off-putting, but this book isn’t that at all. In fact, it’s really hard to pick my favorite chapter as the personalities of the writers are so different, but I love Meghan Daum’s description of why she wanted to write the book, of wanting to find a different way to talk about not having children, and that was one of the reasons that I picked this book up in the first place. When I first started making my film I had no idea how to talk about it, and now I do.
THE DEEP DIVE – BABY MATRIX by Laura Carroll $11.95
This has to be number one on my list, as I couldn’t have made my film without it. If any of you know the ground-breaking works of Ellen Peck in the 70s (Pronatalism and The Baby Trap), they are well worth the read; however, the research is now a little dated. Carroll picks up where Peck left off, and she is one of the most prolific and comprehensive authors on the childfree issue today. She not only brings Peck’s subjects up to date (writing in 2012), she awakens us to the current myriad of societal pressures to have children. If you’re considering not having children, then you will easily recognize her description of pronatalism and have many “aha” moments about times when you might have been made to feel like an outsider for not procreating. It’s a releasing read and powerful in its research. Carroll concludes that parenting isn’t instinctive to everyone and provides evidence in well reported research. She makes us aware that there is a taboo of telling the truth about parenting, and this is a focus of my film (also see her book Families of Two).
MOST FUN AND MY HOLIDAY READ – I CAN BARELY TAKE CARE OF MYSELF by Jen Kirkman $15.49
If you’ve never seen Jen Kirkman’s stand-up, you should. I’ve just got this book and am waiting in anticipation for a few quiet hours over the holidays when I can sit down and read it cover to cover. Like Jen, I don’t have children so I hope to have a few quiet moments.
THE PERSONAL JOURNEY – TWO IS ENOUGH by Laura Scott $17
This book is a collection of personal accounts by couples from different sexual orientations. Scott starts with her own personal meditation on the subject—not quite able to bring herself to use the term “childfree,” she prefers to use “childless by choice,” so for those in your early days of accepting your childfree identity, this is a softer approach. Holmes also examines if there are common personality traits to the childfree, it’s interesting to ruminate on.
FOR WOMEN AND MEN ON THE FENCE – MAYBE BABY by Lori Leibovich $12.85
I would prefer the title to be “Maybe Baby or Maybe Not,” and I don’t really like the cover as it doesn’t frame the contents very well. BUT it is the first book I’ve read that is aimed at the three distinct places in your decision-making process. Leibovich has curated 28 essays from different writers with very different experiences. The essays are diverse and cover a range of subjects, from mental health issues to lesbian relationships (in this case focusing on the person that isn’t the biological mother).
Are you on the fence about your decision, or do you want to hear from writers that have had a kid (the largest chapter), or do you want to hear from those that haven’t had children? It feels geared slightly more towards those that have made the decision to have children, however, I found the first two sections really interesting.
FOR THE BUSINESS BRAIN – BABY BOON by Elinor Burkett $12.85
This book makes you understand how tax breaks and health insurance benefits families with children, and effectively means that the childfree earn less money. This will encourage the childfree to send an email spouting the facts and figures to their personnel directors and local politicians when they’re still working at 9pm on a Friday night before the holidays and everyone else has left the office to pick up their kids. We don’t have as many tax write offs and we often work more hours covering for parents that need to leave for a child’s flu shot or school events. So this book might just give you the confidence to ask for that sabbatical you’ve always dreamed of. Burkett also raises the controversial question of whether women really can have it all. I would love a second edition of this book as this was written in 2000. Elinor?
FOR THOSE THAT NEED ENCOURAGEMENT – CONFESSIONS OF A CHILDFREE WOMAN by Marcia Drut-Davis $12.99
Drut-Davis was fired from her job as a teacher after coming out as not wanting kids on the TV show "60 Minutes." A memoir from a woman who has been there and done that, and is now in her 70’s and still hasn’t changed her mind. This book will make us feel like we’re lucky to live in the times that we do, even if we’re still made to feel like outliers.
FOR YOUR AND MY MOM – THE FEMALE ASSUMPTION by Melanie Holmes $15.00
Written by a mother to her daughter, I’ve got a copy for my mom and I can’t wait to discuss the book with her. From Holmes’ research, only half of mothers would be disappointed if their daughters did not have kids! I hold this statistic in my mind, as it’s very powerful when considering parents’ expectations for their children.
FOR THE SINGLE WOMEN IN THE HOUSE – OTHERHOOD by Melanie Notkin $14.26
I have many friends that have wanted to find a partner and haven’t found them yet. Some of those friends feel that this got in the way of having children. This is a book for them, those that are childfree by chance or circumstance. I am giving this as a gift this year.
FOR THOSE THAT CAN’T HAVE CHILDREN – LIVING THE LIFE UNEXPECTED: 12 Weeks to Your Plan B for a Meaningful and Fulfilling Future Without Children by Jody Day $15.21
For those friends that are childless, meaning those that can’t have children. Day started ground-breaking and healing work in the UK for women who weren’t biologically able to have children, sometimes called “childfree by chance.” I don’t neatly fit into this world, but you probably know people who need this book.
THE BOOK I HAVE ON MY GIFT LIST – REGRETTING MOTHERHOOD By Orna Donath $15.95 (hint to my husband and family)
An Israeli sociologist and anthropologist, Donath writes about the last taboo, those who regret having children. There is very little writing on this subject. When I have contacted the few writers who had tackled it they were reluctant to talk on camera, but spoiler alert there is a very interesting section in the film about regret (check out Laura Caroll’s review of Donaths book Laura Carroll.com).
Maxine Trump has directed documentaries for TV networks from Discovery to Sundance and is author of the forthcoming book “A Documentary Roadmap” (Focal Press, 2018). Her previous feature film Musicwood, was a New York Times Critics’ Pick. Her next film To Kid or Not To Kid will be out 2018.