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Complete without Kids: An Insider's Guide to Childfree Living by Choice or by Chance Paperback – 7 Dec 2010
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Top customer reviews
The only element of it I'd serious contend is the way that it examines the childfree lifestyle in relation to the advantages it has. The author sets out to try and show that people who decide not to have children are not just 'selfish' and that it can be a dignified and meaningful way of life - which is definitely true - but then goes on to look solely at how the people she's interviewing can indulge themselves at weekends, pursue their own hobbies, have great sex, eat what they want, go out when they want, do what they want, spend their salaries (that they keep more of because they don't have kids) on whatever they want and the emphasis is always that they can do all this WITHOUT BOTHERING TO THINK OF OTHER PEOPLE. The people interviewed often have long-term partners or are married, do a lot of voluntary work and help out in their communities on top of their normal jobs. They must be used to making sacrifices for other people and are probably not remotely selfish, but because the emphasis is so much on the freedom that having no children can bring, they don't come across as anything but. The book also claims that there's no one personality type that unites people who don't want children, but then goes on to say that they tend to value their independence from a very young age, they don't want to compromise their own sense of order, and even - interestingly enough - that they don't want to lose their youth and believe that children would force them to do this. It specifically says that many adults who don't want children do so because they want to continue having fun. From whiney comments about friends with children not being available to 'play' with them any more to boasts about how they're free to ride their motorcycles all weekend without once having to think about anybody else, the book somehow manages to confirm the major prejudice that it's trying to dismiss. It's a real shame. I think a very different approach is needed to convince more people that deciding not to have children is equally valid and dignified.
I think the issue that's being skirted around is that the decision about whether to have children is an innately 'selfish' one whichever side of the debate you end up falling towards. If people who don't want children are thinking about freedom and lack of responsibility, then the other people want children because they personally WANT them, not because they're bravely willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of mankind.
Other minor things: It didn't have very much of a male contribution. Some men were involved but the focus is almost entirely on women. There also any representation of young people either and despite vague references towards these people it almost assumes that every reader will have already made these choices anyway. I'm twenty. I didn't feel very included, particularly by the questions at the end of each section which are directed towards people in their forties and older.
In any case, it was still interesting to read.
Walker courageously interviews and shares the stories of other adults who have chosen to be child-free. She explains the dynamics behind the decision making of voluntarily choosing to be childfree and how the concepts of love and money tie into such an important choice. There are also resources included for those who are certain that they want to partake in the child-free route. "Complete Without Kids: An Insider's Guide to Childfree Living by Choice Or By Chance" by Ellen Walker is also a suitable accompaniment to Kidfree & Lovin It by Kaye D. Walters.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
I love the way she has you write about having children, pros and cons and so forth. All the while that you're writing it down, you naturally question yourself if this is something you can live without or not. By the time you finish her book, you'll definitely know whether or not you want to have children. This book was definitely a great read and a great workbook of sorts.
Like many others who have read this book, I have been happily married for several years and am childfree. I expected a though-provoking exploration of the childfree life-style, social perceptions of childfree couples/women, etc, and perhaps something more grounded in clinical psychology and data. I was not necessarily disappointed, but the book seemed to fall short in several areas.
Early in the book, Walker writes: "One of my primary goals was to examine childfree living from a neutral position."
Walker starts out well enough, tying her own personal experiences in with those of several interviewees, and cites studies and statistics that support her opinions. However, about half-way through the book Walker's tone changes and she simply begins touting how much better life is without children. Instead of continuing her thread of unbiased exploration into factors that lead to the decision to remain childfree, societal pressures and expectations, or even healthful coping mechanisms for women who are dissatisfied with their childfree status, she begins to depend heavily on the opinions of those she has researched. Indeed, much of the book succumbs to speculation about what she or those she interviewed *think* it might be like to have a child. Initially, I didn't mind the new direction; however, since Walker began to compare the happiness/health/financial stability of childfree couples/singles, the book could have been much stronger had she done more research & interviews with parents. Instead, there are several paragraphs throughout that are based entirely on speculation. Writing of a Christmas Ski trip with her partner, Walker states: "I imagine that if we had children, the trip would've been focused on them, where they wanted to go, and what they wanted to do. It certainly would have lacked romance, and I would have felt exhausted from trying to make sure that everyone was happy." She then goes on for a full page about the ways she imagines the trip would've been spoiled by having children present. I just don't see this as valid data or even helpful in a book marketed toward those who have already made the decision not to have children. Further, I did not find any part of the book helpful for those who want to have children but can't.
Walker ends the book with a bit of a call to action. While I too believe that the decision to remain childfree is a personal one and should be as socially acceptable as having children seems to be, I just don't see childfree couples as some minority group in need of social or political recognition. Then too, Walker attempts to address the unfairness of our tax code several times (re: the unfairness of social programs and tax breaks for families with children) yet later one of the interviewees suggests that elderly childfree citizens will eventually become a burden of the state (since they will not have children who will care for them as they age). She briefly cites population growth and scarcity of resources as a reason to refrain from reproducing, but the topic is merely mentioned, not explored. In these sections of her book, Walker is cramming information and opinion but fails to properly address the issues. Topics are introduced and then forgotten.
As I stated, the book reads well and is at times a very interesting look into the minds of several people who have decided not to have children for various reasons. I wouldn't go so far as to recommend or not recommend the book, but I would say to take it with a grain of salt. It is more of an opinion piece than anything. This book seems geared toward giving people something to quote the next time they feel the need to defend their decision to be childfree; it is a justification of a decision, not an exploration or celebration of it. It may be helpful for younger people who are considering not having children. It would not be much help to those who find themselves childfree due to biological/health reason and are unhappy with their childfree status.
The book is a good piece of research along with the imparcial narrative of the author, who exposes the topic from both her own and the interviewd's perspective.
Must read for young people thinking about the idea of bearing children or not.