I received an intriguing invitation this week.
The organiser of a parenting group got in touch with me, to ask if I’d be willing to speak at their next meeting.
I was really pleased to hear from her. My recent child-free book was intended to be light-hearted and inclusive, written with parents also in mind.
Watch: Things People Who Don't Want Kids Always Hear. Post continues below.
The reason was simple: I’ve read numerous books about motherhood over the years, mostly because I enjoy reading about lives that aren’t like mine.
And I’ve noticed that ‘motherhood’ books tend to be full of friendly, everyday support that feels inclusive, while books about child-free-ness tend to feel heavy and exclusive; sprinkled with dry psychological theories and militant tropes.
(They also tend to be all about the because, because there must always be a because. Motherhood isn’t burdened with a because; there is never any need to explain why a woman wants to have a baby).
At last, I thought… here’s a curious and open-minded parenting group who ‘gets it!’
But as it turned out, my happiness was short-lived.
I explained the subject of said child-free book (because you have to, don’t you? Just in case anyone feels uncomfortable), only to receive a spluttery response from the organiser.
“Oh… well, I don’t think the audience will be receptive to a topic of choosing not to have children,” she said. “Couldn’t you talk about something parenting-related instead, such as how to support a child who wants to be a writer?”
Um, no. I can’t.
Why? Well, for one thing, I HAVEN’T GOT ANY KIDS.
And for another, I didn’t experience very much in the way of parental support myself. My dad told me to get a normal job, and to this day he hasn’t read any of my work, while my mum buggered off when I was five.
(I’m actually glad about all that, by the way. I think a shitty childhood is a prerequisite of being a good writer. As the great Derren Brown says, “whoever heard of a creative genius being understood as a child? Who likes to imagine an artist who emerged into adulthood content with his lot?”
Not that I think I’m a creative genius, mind you. I just think not enjoying the support of my parents has helped me on my way to where I am now, which is a rather lovely place.
But I’m not sure the parenting group would have been receptive to advice that amounts to, “do your best to NOT understand your child, and make sure you shush them every time they open their mouth to speak.