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No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  465 ratings  ·  100 reviews
In No Kidding, comedy writer Henriette Mantel tackles the topic of actually not having kids. This fascinating collection features a star-studded group of contributors—including Margaret Cho, Wendy Liebman, Laurie Graff, and other accomplished, funny women—writing about why they opted out of motherhood. Whether their reasons have to do with courage, apathy, monetary considerations, ...more
Paperback, 248 pages
Published April 16th 2013 by Seal Press (first published April 9th 2013)
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Donna Brown
Jul 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
As a childless female, this was an intriguing read to me. I knew, as I read it, that to some these essays would seem cynical, acerbic, even overly-nonchalant, as if the only way a woman could be ‘happy’ without a child would be to live in a state of self-denial. I, however, understood. Though I used to joke that I didn’t have a maternal bone in my body, I know that was a lie. I truth, I think I may well have been a good mother, perhaps even a great one (perhaps not… it doesn’t pay to get too car ...more
Apr 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
In spite of a few reservations, I'm giving 4 stars to this compilation. As a woman in her 30s who doesn't have (and doesn't plan to have) children, I was really excited to read this book. I think there is a lot of unfortunate demonization of women who have made this choice, and I welcome anything that normalizes this choice.

That being said, there were a few things that bugged me. I agree with the previous reviewers when I say this: There were entirely too many essays that started out
May 25, 2013 rated it liked it
Overall an enjoyable book of essays by women in their 40's-60's about why they did not have children, particularly since there are so few books that address this topic. The experience of the writers, however, was rather homologous---all upper middle class majority white majority Jewish or Catholic women who act/write for Hollywood. I think diversity of experience and choice to not have a child would have added immensely to this as after a while it became a bit redundant with the writers describi ...more
Traxy Thornfield
Apr 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I jumped at the chance of reading this essay compilation written by women who do not have children, and for the most part, never planned on having any, but who are fine with it. Proud, even. We do need more childfree women to speak up and say that it's okay to decide against breeding, because (as so many of these essays mention) women who decide against motherhood are seen as either weird, entirely selfish or as child-hating shrews. Why not throw a "crazy cat lady" in there as well for good meas ...more
Aug 30, 2015 rated it liked it
A solid collection of short essays by women, who for one reason or another, never had children. I am reflecting right now on what it might look like for me to be a mother and what it might be like not to have children, as I consider my life's path, and this book was helpful in doing that reflection. The theme that struck me the most was that the hardest part about not having children seems to be not what is missing or what the women lack by not having the experience of motherhood, but instead ho ...more
May 13, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle, nonfiction, 2014
I have been working on my own creative non-fiction on this topic for years. This wasn't as funny as I had hoped, which means there is still room in the world for my book. If you would like to be a contributing author, I am open to submissions. :)
Maggie Gordon
Aug 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
Cross-posted at:


No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood is a series of essays from women in the entertainment industry discussing their decisions not to have children. Some contributors are happy with this choice, while others are filled with regret. All of them have faced discrimination because of their childlessness and have had to come to terms with how their lives have been affected by this prejudice.

The Good

When I first spotted No Kidding in a store, I/>The/>
Mar 25, 2014 rated it liked it
I thought I would identify with this book of essays more than I did. There were a few too many with the "I create art, not life" theme, which left me thinking, "I create fart, not art," and I still don't want kids. Ah well, diversity of experience.
Lisa Roney
This was a great Christmas gift from my husband, who has witnessed the snarky comments so many people make about the fact that we don't have children and didn't have them with other people earlier in life. I doubt there are any books out there about being a childless man, but now I find that there are quite a few about being a childless woman. They are, essentially, a type of illness memoir, in spite of being written by those who live--by choice or otherwise--without procreating.

Sonja P.
Jan 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
I've known I haven't wanted kids since I was in high school and I have spent the time since being condescended to, badgered, questioned, and pitied. It's nice to read an essay collection like this because it makes you feel less alone. A lot of these women have reasoning that is similar to mine and have similar experience with friends or families or strangers that match my own. It sucks having to deal with the NO you'll change your mind or your life doesn't have meaning or even your OBGYN laughin ...more
Nov 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
The women who submitted these short stories about why they remain child-free deal with this complex issue in a funny, elegant, sometimes sad way. Some had always known they didn't want to be a parent, while others found themselves ending up that way. A small number wanted to have children but were unable to do so.

I was introduced to this book from an article in the NY Times. The idea that there was a book about women who are living the life that I have chosen was so intriguing. The s
Sep 30, 2013 rated it really liked it

Today’s Nonfiction post is No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood edited by Henriette Mantel. It is 233 pages long, including notes and more information about the writers and is published by Seal Press. The cover just the title and editor information on it in red and white. The intended reader is adult with and without children. There is language, sex, but no violence in this book. The essays are written from first person, with one exception. There Be Spoilers Ahead.

Jul 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Worth a read, for parents and child-free alike. I'm somewhere between liking it and really liking it... The best part was that, unlike most of the blather* I read around this issue, there were lots of times I thought, "Yep! That's the way I see it, too!" I have rarely, if ever before, felt like my perspective was being fairly represented. So much of the child-free platform seems to be both immature and downright mean. These women are a great example of how to think about being child-free without ...more
Travel Writing
Jul 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone interested
Recommended to Travel Writing by: me
As a woman who has spent an inordinate amount of her life trying NOT to get pregnant, while also participating in the one activity that causes pregnancy, I was looking forward to reading, “No Kidding”.

It is a nice stroll through 37 different women’s experience on not getting pregnant, trying to get pregnant and not being able to- but then being ok with it, and a few truly ambivalent broads who maybe should have went to therapy a few more years before writing about it.

I was not impressed with a
Oct 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
The pitch I'd heard for this book made it sound more comedic, but most of the stories were from women who, more or less inadvertently, wound up childless due to career focus, bad relationship timing, physical ailments, etc. and who have regrets about that fact. It became rather tiresome to hear repeated references to being too self-absorbed and irresponsible for kids (and, indeed, it seems that every woman here has a therapist!) and repeated defensive statements of "but, really, I do love kids!" ...more
Jun 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2013, bea
This collection of essays explores reasons women do not become mothers. It covers the full gamut of women's experiences -- from women who never wanted to be mothers, to those who badly wanted children but were unable to have them. It is hilarious and heart-wrenching in turns. While I haven't fully decided about my own future, with or without children, these essays prove that either choice can be valid and meaningful. This particular life choice is one that gets very little attention and is often ...more
Aug 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
The editor's definition of "writers" is a LOT different than mine. Some funny comments, but for the most part the essays were borderline poorly written. Each "writer" pretty much said the same thing, just with some personal differences. I was excited to read this book because it is a topic I can relate to, but I was disappointed at the poor quality of the essays, which is why I gave up reading it about 2/3 of the way through.
Eli Claire
Aug 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
I felt like this book was less "woman writers on bypassing parenthood" and more "female comedians over fifty who decided to not have kids after wanting them and deciding not to." I didn't relate to most of the stories and very few of them made me laugh or go "Me too!" Maybe because I'm a queer woman who's in her twenties...? Who knows. Overall, I'm glad this collection exists, but I didn't really enjoy reading it.
Sep 17, 2013 rated it it was ok
I've read every book I can find on the Childfree Revolution, or Childless by Choice Movement, etc. This book was not bad, but it would have been much better had authors been picked as opposed to comedians. Too many women trying to be funny about their life choices or situations without anything unique to say.
Apr 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Women writers write funny and poignant essays about their choice, or lack thereof, not to have children.
Aug 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Very humorous look at the child free life. Where was this book when I was 10 (which is when I knew without a doubt I wanted to have exactly zero children)?
Apr 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Loved it!! Really hit home since we are childless by choice!
Tabbie Elliott
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
“Occasionally, some overextended, stressed-out friend of mine utters, ‘You’re so smart you didn’t have kids.’ And you know something? They’re right. For me, it was smart. Because it’s just not accurate— or interesting— to assume everybody’s life plan looks the same.”

Remember high school? Getting invited to the party was what mattered, whether you wanted to go or not. Being pregnant, even for a short time, made me feel invited to a party that I wasn’t sure I wanted to attend. ‘But eve
Bookish Jen
Jan 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
With shows like “19 Kids and Counting” and “Teen Mom” taking up our airwaves, hyper-focus on celebrity baby bumps, and the tiresome “mommy wars,” you might forget there are women who have eschewed baby making. Sure, some childfree women find support groups on Internet message boards and blogs, but for the most part you’re not going to find many books on the topic of women going through life sans kids. That’s why as a childfree woman I was delighted to find the book No Kidding: Women Writers on B ...more
Amy Armstrong
Jul 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley-arc
No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood covers a lot of ground in a remarkably humorous and touching way in this collection of essays primarily by comedians and television writers who have remained childless for a variety of reasons. The choice of whether or not to be a parent is a loaded one. Given the ongoing debates surrounding birth control and abortion, it's often hard to say if some women even have the right to choose a child-free life.
Contributers to No Kidding: Women Writers on Byp
Jan 12, 2015 rated it liked it
I took a very personal interest in this book for three reasons: I'm a woman, I'm a writer, and I'm bypassing parenthood. For every book like this, there are about a trillion parenting books (maybe more), so I'm always excited to see the subject of childlessness discussed in an unapologetic way; the fact that it is a series of essays by writers (many of whom are hilarious) was a definite bonus. This book satisfied that requirement, though I was disappointed with a few points.

My husban
Mar 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
As a woman who does not plan on having children myself I was excited to read this book of essays written by women who never had children for various reasons. I did enjoy the book and definitely identified with some of the things some of the authors said. I was amused that almost every single one of them seemed to feel the need to assert vociferously that they don't hate children and demonstrate it by talking about their relationships with some other people's kids because it is something I find m ...more
Annabeth Leong
I was terribly disappointed in this book. In retrospect, I can see the signs that it wasn't going to be what I wanted, but I bought it expecting something very different than what I got.

What I Wanted: A book of essays exploring the various experiences of women who chose not to have children. The back of the book promised it would be "compelling, inspiring, and often hilarious." To me, hilarity was something I would willingly tolerate in order to get the other two. I figured there might be some
Nancy Van Iderstine
May 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Author/editor Henriette Mantel had a great idea -- Ask 37 women who get paid for being funny why they don't have children. Why? Because throughout their entire adult lives everyone else has!

With a foreword from Jennifer Coolidge, and featuring a who's who in the world of comedy writers and performers, like Margaret Cho, Wendy Liebman, Laurie Graff, Suzy Soro, Beth Lapides, Nora Dunn, Betsy Salkind and many others, there's a wealth of funny and sometimes sad material on the subject of
Dec 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
When I started working on my Childless by Marriage book, nobody was writing about being without child. It was almost a taboo subject, but now the shelves are filling up with books about not having kids. Most of them, like this one, are about the joys of being childless by choice. In this case, it’s 37 women writers in the entertainment business. Although a few did try to have children and learned that they couldn’t, most never wanted them in the first place. They were too busy with their careers ...more
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Henriette Mantel is an emmy-award winning writer and director. Her latest book, “No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood” was published in 2013 and is currently being adapted into an Off-Broadway show. In 2012-13 she created a web series titled, “In The Middle” for which she directed, wrote and acted in. Henriette has extensive experience in directing documentaries. She co-wrot ...more
“I was always too self-centered and irresponsible to have kids. I know that never stopped many others, but I am a narcissist with a conscience.” 1 likes
“I’m not even a very good plant mommy, truthfully; as I reflect, my plants are all thirsty most of the time. I wait until they scream out in terror before I remember to water them. Several have jumped right off my terrace ledge in search of an owner who will love them. I am just not a nurturer.” 0 likes
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