An Interview with Jennifer L. Shawne, author of Baby NOT On Board
Something very odd happened around the time I turned 30. It seemed like everyone around me was either talking about having kids, having kids, or wondering when I was going to start sprouting my own bump. Having kids wasn't on my radar at all before that, but when I did consider starting a family, I kept hitting against all the wonderful things in my life I'd have to give up. I knew a lot of other people--including my wonderful editor at Chronicle Books, Mikyla Bruder-- were in the same boat as me, and I really wanted to write something that would reaffirm their choice. It was like a lightbulb went off. This was a book that had to be written!
2. How does it fit in with the other books you’ve written?
Well, my last book "Instant Weddings" [www.instantweddingsbook.com] is really about getting married when you want to and how you want to. It was definitely bucking the trend of weddings that take over a year to plan and seem to cost more and more. Maternity and parenting books are huge sellers, so you could say that this book is also about providing an alternative point of view for men and women.
3. How long did it take you to write it?
It was important to get this book on shelves as quickly as possible, so I wrote it in less than six months. Writing a book in less than a year is something I could never have done with kids.
4. Describe your experiences as a member of the child free community and how they influenced your book. When did you decide that parenting was NOT for you?
It's been very comforting to know there's a huge community of childfree people out there providing support, humor, and ways of staying strong in a society that puts so much pressure on people to have children. Childfree Web sites and books were a tremendous resource as I wrote this book. I'm also incredibly lucky to live in San Francisco, which has fewer kids than any other U.S. city, so in a way I'm living right in the middle of the biggest childfree community in the country.
As for my own decision, there was never a single epiphany. I decide not to have kids every day. I wake up at 8 AM and think, if I had kids I'd have to get up at 6 and that would just rot. I just got back from a four-day yoga retreat and thought, if I had kids I never would have enjoyed that incredibly relaxing, healthy weekend. I walk around my vibrant San Francisco neighborhood and think, if I had kids I couldn't afford to live here and would have to move to the suburbs, which don't suit me at all.
5. How has the child free community reacted to your book? Have you received any backlash from parents?
I have received so many nice emails from childfree people around the country thanking me for writing this book. That's been so wonderful. I love hearing from fans. And I have been amazed, actually, to learn that parents really enjoy reading my book!!! Many of my friends and family members with children have told me that I nail alot of the downsides of parenting right on the head and that they enjoyed having a good laugh at their own expense.
6. Name the top three reasons someone should buy your book.
Well, if they're thinking about whether or not to have kids, I think it makes a very strong case for the not-having-kids side. If someone has made the decision to remain childfree, then it's really going to help them deal with and laugh about all the pressure to procreate. For parents, I think it makes a very good gift to childfree friends, lets them know you get it.
That's three reasons. I'll add a fourth: It's really funny! I can still read it and crack up and I've read it a million times. I know that alot of people who've made this decision get hung up on how unsupportive most people are about their choice or annoyed with how kid-centric our society can be. But my feeling is: Who cares what they think? Being childfree is a wonderful, happy decision. Why not smile about it?
7. In your acknowledgements, you mentioned some parents who are friends that helped with your book. Can you talk about how they helped?
My friends with children really pitched in, telling me about all the things they hate about being parents, all the things about their former lives they missed. One mother I know handed off all her books about raising toddlers, which were scarier than anything by Steven King. I knew parenting was a drag, but I had no idea how much of a drag it was.
Of course, all my childfree friends have been really supportive and contributed many ideas to the book. I've also been incredibly lucky in that my own parents and my in-laws haven't pressured my husband and I to start a family. I know that's a difficulty many others face and I feel really blessed not to have to constantly defend my choice to people I love.
8. I love the format – how much of that did you envision, and how much was created by the publisher?
Well, any book is a partnership. Without getting too bogged down in the details: I did all the writing and came up with the ideas for the illustrations. The publisher guided the writing process, found the illustrator, and did the gorgeous design. Chronicle Books has some of the best-looking books around. I'm really fortunate to work with them.
9. What advice can you give those who have decided not to have kids who are facing pressure from family, friends, and colleagues to procreate?
Here's a funny story. I go to a corner store that's run by a really nice, really old Korean man named Henry. Every time I see Henry, he asks me, "How long married?" I answer, "three years." And then he asks, "Where's baby?" I smile and look around like I've lost something and say, "Oh my gosh! I forgot to have a baby!"
Now, some people might find this type of question intrusive or annoying, but in Henry's culture, if you don't have kids, you're screwed when you get old. His kids help him run his shop and they're going to take care of him when he's old.
I think most of the pressure we get to have kids is, like Henry's concern, really well-intentioned. And that's why I say: Don't get defensive. Have a quick and witty reply ready to go at any moment. Of course, everybody should buy my book which is full of tactics and quick responses.
10. Any more books in the works?
I've got some ideas, but nothing I can really talk about yet.
11. Where can people purchase your book?
Well it's online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. But I really hope that people will go to their local bookstores and if it's not on shelves, ask them to order it. It's actually been hard to convince some bookstores to stock it. They don't seem to realize that there are a ton of people out there who aren't having kids. So having customers ask for it makes a big difference.
12. Please share anything else you’d like Married No Kids readers to know!
There is one thing! A common misconception about childfree people is that we hate kids. Some of us do hate kids, of course, but not all of us. I have seven nephews and nieces and a bunch of friends with kids. I have a ton of fun with these kids, then happily return to my quiet apartment. Whether you have them or not, whether you like them or not, kids are part of our world and the future will eventually lie in their hands. So I believe it's really important to invest in their education and well-being whether you are a parent or not.
Oh, and I've got a blog up on the Baby Not on Board Web site that I'm trying to keep up to date with news and information relevant to the childfree. I hope folks will visit it! [see link above right]
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