When I first saw the title of Jen Kirkman's new book, I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales From a Happy Life Without Kids, I sighed. On the upside, I loved the idea that there was a new book out by a great female comedian who was childfree. Following the childfree for over a decade now and being committed to increasing its acceptance in society, I've seen coming in through the door of humor to be a great way to increase awareness and educate about the childfree choice. Why did I sigh?
The title. My first reaction was something like Ashley Suzanne's, a goodreads reviewer:
"...saying "I Can Barely Take Care of Myself" seems to play right into the stereotypes so many of those with children have about us childfree folks" - its first impression is "No, you're totally right, people who don't want children are a little broken and just recognize that we aren't as good at life as you parents are."
The more accurate truth about the childfree is, as she writes, "I can take care of myself just fine and I STILL don't want children."
I get that Kirkman wants to be humorous in the title, but why do it in a way that reinforces negative stereotypes and myth - why not try to use humor to point to the ridiculousness of a stereotype or myth instead?
But maybe I am being too sensitive.
The truth is I care deeply about the childfree choice being fully accepted by society someday. Kirkman told Suzanne on twitter to not judge a book by its cover. OK I won't either. I just wish Kirkman would have used her humor talents in the title in another way, one that would ultimately serve to squelch, not reinforce childfree myths.
The notion that the childfree aren't good at taking care of themselves is not at the top of the most stubborn childfree stereotypes, but it does relate to one of the big stubborn ones - the one having to do with maturity - or the lack of it - that not wanting to become parents somehow means we aren't adults - that we don't want to take on the responsibilities of adulthood.
The childfree know what a crock this is. We have jobs, we pay our rent, our mortgages, take care of family, and the list goes on. And the decision itself to not raise children is a very adult decision. Whether to become parents is one of the biggest decisions every adult makes in life. Some of us say yes, some of us say no.
The title of this book, to me, sends the message that something is wrong with those of us who say no, which is a core pronatalist myth (one I call the Normality Assumption) that seriously needs to be debunked.
And to me, that's not funny.