Review by Brit McGinnis
Do you know someone on the brink of deciding whether to have children? Give that person the book No Kids Required by Jenn Sadai. Her book gives readers a holistic conversation about the decision to have kids, and tells it in a voice that may resemble your kind aunt versus an economics professor or a prying parent. She takes great pains to not alienate mothers from the discussion or condemn their choices. Above all, she writes about treating the decision as just that: A choice to be made.
Validating the Power of Choice
The idea for this book partly sprang from a survey Sadai conducted of childfree women who spoke about their motivations for not having children and how they felt about it. In the book, Sadai gathers their answers and presents resulting discussions under headings that anyone who’s visited a childfree forum would recognize, such as: Not Everyone Likes Kids, No Room For Regret, and The Joys of Being Childfree. Within each section, Sadai examines the decisions of the women she interviewed, compares them against each other and remarks on the trends. With a gentle tone throughout, Sadai aims to see each of these women where they’re at and not question their judgement.
No Kids Required stands out in how much care it takes to validate the power to make choices. Sadai opens up about being a stepparent, a hard (and sometimes confusing) role for someone who didn’t originally plan to have children:
“For the first seven or eight years of our relationship, the kids were the largest part of our lives. Everything we did revolved around their needs, and I rarely had a moment to myself. Bringing a baby into the chaos didn’t seem like a smart idea. As his children got older and needed us less, I fell in love with my newfound freedom and flexibility. I learned that I like being a stepmom to independent adults significantly more than I enjoyed being a stepmom to small children or teenagers.”
Honest & Frank
With the debate over whether people can have the role of stepparent and still consider themselves childfree, we need to read more honest feelings like this about how the role of stepparent can affect a childfree person. I hope that more stories like Sadai’s will be published and the discussion will become even more nuanced.
One of the final chapters, “Krisztina’s Crisis,” best summarizes the book’s strengths. Sadai describes how in the process of writing No Kids Required one of the contributors fell pregnant and decided to keep the child. She describes her journey and decision-making process in detail. This chapter illustrates just how difficult the decision to have a child can be and gives space for the messiness of the situation. I wish more books about the decision to have children could read with such frankness.
What I liked least about No Kids Required involves the author’s dependence on her voice as a moderator. Sadai spends much of the book describing the survey she sent out to people asking them about their childfree lifestyles and experiences. It made me want to read the actual survey. Her narration can also sometimes overpower the actual quotes and submissions from the women themselves.
Overall, this book is a great gift to anyone in the midst of determining whether they wish to have children or not. Sadia gives readers many portrayals of happy childfree people and plenty of complicated stories to keep it from becoming one-sided. Her commitment to not demonize mothers in a book about deciding whether or not to have children comes through. The perfect title No Kids Required embodies the message that becoming a mother isn’t required for a person to be happy, and proposes to only undertake the journey if it would make that individual person happy.
Thank you, Brit!
Brit McGinnis is an author and editor from Portland, OR. She writes on Medium, The Salve, and covers weird news for The Stacker. She was named a Hero of Haddonfield by the filmmakers behind Tales of Halloween in 2014.