9. Books Exploring the

Decision to Have Children

 Copyright © 2013 by James Leonard Park

Selected and reviewed by James Park,
arranged by quality, beginning with the best.
Red comments are the opinions and evaluations of this reviewer.

1. Susan Jeffers 
I'm Okay You're a Brat:

Setting the Priorities Straight
and Freeing You from the Guilt and Mad Myths of Parenthood

(Los Angeles, CA: Renaissance Books, 1999)       280 pages
(ISBN: 1-58063-139-8; hardcover)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ755.8.J44 1999)

     This book could affect the size of the population of the United States.
It is destined to be read by thousands of people.
And many of the readers will make different reproductive decisions
because Susan Jeffers has broken the silence
about the downside of parenthood.
The author herself is a successful mother,
but most of the wisdom contained in this book
she has learned after the fact.
Because she wishes she had known these facts beforehand,
she presents them for others to consider,
hoping that future parents will look before they leap
into the 20-year commitment of parenthood.
This book decisively breaks the conspiracy of silence,
which heretofore only presented motherhood is glowing colors.
Non-parents know almost nothing of the problems of parenthood
before they have children of their own.

     These are some of our precious life-values
we lose when we have children:
freedom, sleep, mobility, privacy, money, career opportunities,
camaraderie, 'sanity', adulthood, self-esteem,
personal time, fun, relationships, & peace of mind.
Each of these points is illustrated
from the real-life stories of other women.

     Jeffers speaks the unspeakable truth about kids:
Children are very needy creatures,
totally dependent on adults for everything.
The child-as-angel is only part of the story.
Some children are very hard to cope with
because they are so selfish and demanding.
The teen years might be the hardest,
with teens declaring and acting out their hatred of their parents.
Some children ruin their own lives
with drugs, alcohol, sex, & babies.
No matter how hard their parents try,
some children are more the products
of their peers and the mass media
than of values their parents attempted to give them.

     Susan Jeffers asked people why they had children.
She discusses about 30 of these 'reasons'
—pointing out their inadequacies.
And she offers a 10-point test
to see if potential parents are really ready
to accept the responsibilities of parenthood—for better or worse.
Reasons for having a second child are sometimes just as foolish
as the 'reasons' for having a first child.

     Reasons for remaining child-free are also explored,
which turn out to be much more reasonable and persuasive.
But very few people have begun to consider this option.
Parenthood was just automatic
after 'falling in love' and getting married.

     If parents could 'rewind' their lives
to the point before they had children
—still with the knowledge they have learned
as the result of being parents—
how many would decide not to reproduce
—and therefore have very different lives?

     This is a courageous book,
which can be read in whatever depth you wish.
You can dip into it at any chapter that speaks most directly to you
in your current phase of life and thinking.
And if you have not thought deeply
about the option of parenthood before,
you will emerge from this book
with a radically different state of mind.
And you might decide to reorganize your life-plans
to create a completely different future for yourself.

2. Merle Bombardieri 
The Baby Decision:

How to Make the Most Important Decision of Your Life

(New York: Rawson, Wade Publishers, 1981)       307 pages

    A mother of two who conducts Baby Decision Workshops
as part of her practice as a therapist and family-life educator
explores the pros and cons of having children.
In this well-balanced book, she discusses
the distortions and exaggerations of these pros and cons
as presented by pro-natalists and anti-natalists.
Each issue is explored in depth without repetition.
This book contains many helpful exercises and questions.
It is realistic about both the child-free choice
and the choice to become a parent.

3. Leslie Lafayette 
Why Don't You Have Kids?

Living a Full Life without Parenthood

(New York: Kensington Books, 1995)     296 pages
(ISBN: 0-8217-4853-X; hardcover)
Library of Congress call number: HQ755.8.L34 1995)

    Leslie Lafayette founded the Childfree Network in 1992.
It was based on her personal desire to be a mother,
which she pursued by hoping to adopt
an unwanted baby born to another woman.
She was not married.
She spent $8,000 in the process
and finally decided she did not really want a baby.

    Her original desire to have a child
seems to have been based on the idea
that she would be a failure as a woman
if she did not become a mother.
The meaning of her life depended on motherhood.
(Childless men are not questioned
about their lack of fulfillment
because they did not become fathers.)

    Chapter 2 of Why Don't You Have Kids?
explores (with examples from the lives of real people)
the following 10 reasons for having children:
1. contraceptive failure, accidental pregnancy.
2. for a man to prove he is a man.
3. conformity, the expectations of other people.
4. never considered not doing it.
5. to create grandchildren.
6. to be taken care of in old age.
7. the biological clock says it's time.
8. to save the marriage.
9. immortality thru reproduction.
10. as a natural extension of a committed relationship.
The people who admitted having children for these 'reasons'
regretted such thinking in retrospect.
Even tho they often loved and treasured their actual children,
they would not be induced to reproduce again for such 'reasons'.

<>    Chapter 3 explores several myths about child-free adults:
1. They are anti-child.
2. They are selfish.
3. They have empty livessad, depressed, lonely.
4. They are sorry they will lack children to take care of them.
5. They are 'different'.
6. They are unfulfilled.
7. They are self-absorbed.
In some cases, these characterizations are correct,
but for the vast majority of child-free people
interviewed by the author,
these stereotypes did not apply.

    This book is packed with facts and opinions

that should give everyone pause about becoming parents (again).
Abundant stories from the lives of real people
illustrate each point.

    The author is definitely not anti-child.
She taught high school for 17 years,
devoting herself to the lives of children
during some of their most difficult years.
But now she devotes herself to another unpopular task:
telling the truth about parenthood.

4. Terri Casey  
Pride and Joy:
The Lives and Passions of Women Without Children

(Hillsboro, OR: BeyondWords Publishing, 1998)       201 pages
(ISBN: 1-885223-82-X; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ535.C29 1998)

    25 women tell their life-stories
one chapter for each woman
of how they made their lives meaningful
without becoming mothers.
All of these women are different, but most are married.
Readers who are thinking about going thru their lives
without becoming parents will find here
some specific reasons for remaining child-free.
These women lived well without motherhood.  

5. David Benatar
Better Never to Have Been:
The Harm of Coming into Existence

(New York: Oxford University Press, 2006)       237 pages
(ISBN: 0-19-929642-1; hardcover)
(Library of Congress call number: BD431.B3919 2006)

    A philosophical exploration of the pros and cons of being born.
Potential people who were never conceived and never born
have no rights or interests.
Before any specific DNA for a human being is created,
it cannot be harmed or benefited.

    The argument is philosophical rather than practical.
David Benatar argues that it is always a harm to come into existence.
People who like the title will be the ones who read this book.

6. Ellen Peck & Judith Senderowitz, editors

The Myth of Mom & Apple Pie

(New York: Crowell, 1974)       333 pages 

    A comprehensive collection of articles on the pressures
for child-bearing, the best one-volume source. One article
explicitly addresses the notion of the 'maternal instinct':
"Motherhood: Need or Myth" by Betty Rollin (p. 147-158).

7. Shirley L. Radl 
Mother's Day is Over

(New York: Charterhouse, 1973)       234 pages

    Motherhood demythologized by a mother of two.
Based on interviews with about 200 mothers.
This book should be read by all women
who are romantic about motherhood
—to see what it is really like—
and by all mothers who feel guilty
about being terrible mothers.

8. Ellen Peck 
The Baby Trap

(New York: Bernard Geis, 1971)       245 pages

    A very good book by a militant non-mother, giving all the arguments.

9. Elizabeth M. Whelan 
A Baby?...Maybe:

A Guide to Making the Most Fateful Decision of Your Life

(New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1975)       237 pages    

    An honest and intelligent examination of the pros and cons
of deciding whether or not to have children,
including personal comments from interviews
with both parents and non-parents.

10. Jessie Bernard 
The Future of Motherhood

(New York: Dial Press, 1974)       426 pages

    Motherhood from a sociological point of view.
Realistic; well documented; well written.

11. Ellen Peck & Dr. William Granzig 
The Parent Test

(New York: Putnam, 1978)       350 pages

    This book consists of 6 questionnaires with almost 500 detailed
questions concerning attitudes and aptitudes for parenting.
Very useful help for those who want some stimulus
for examining the option of child-rearing.
The questions have been tested
on successful and unsuccessful parents.
After each questionnaire, the authors explore the issues involved.
The book does not take a stand for or against parenthood,
but it does deal with a great number of child-rearing situations
that might not have been considered by potential parents.

12. Jill Bialosky & Helen Schulman, editors
Wanting a Child

(New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1998)      274 pages
(ISBN: 0-374-28634-5; hardback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ755.8.W367 1998)

     This book is worth reading for the sheer beauty of the writing.
This collection consists of several first-person accounts
of the experiences that emerged from wanting a child.
The two editors both had several miscarriages
before they finally achieved motherhood.
Here are some of the stories, summarized in one line each:
Lesbian parenthood by donated sperm.
Parenthood by donated egg.
Several stories of adoption, foreign and domestic.
Stories of how a child with very serious health problems
make happy parents miserable.
Buying a baby from a pregnant teen-ager.
Connecting with a child given up for adoption years before.
Deciding about a Downs syndrome fetus.
Two gay men have children by a surrogate mother.
Divorced mother happy to have her only child.
Two gay men adopt a baby.
Stories of still-born babies.

     Once again, you will appreciate reading these stories
not because of their content (which is often very dramatic)
but because of the high quality of the writing.
Whatever we think about the events described,
this book is a delight to read.

     However, not one of the persons represented in this book
ever wonders why people have children.
Wanting a child is assumed to be a valid desire,
which needs no justification at all.

     After reading this book, you may conclude
that adoption is the most reasonable parental behavior.
Millions of babies are born by accident
to teen-age mothers all around the world.
When accidental mothers cannot raise their children,
these babies should be adopted by adults
who can give the children a good life.
Usually these babies are physically healthy,
but because of the social conditions into which they are born,
they will have miserable lives unless they are adopted.

     Several stories in this collection tell of the lengths
some people pursued in order to adopt their children.
We need better ways to bring together
the needy children of the world
with the adults who can be good parents for them.

13. Anne-Marie Ambert
The Effect of Children on Parents

(New York: Haworth Press, 1992)       308 pages
(ISBN: 1-56024-117-9; hardcover)
(ISBN: 1-56024-118-7; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ755.8.A47 1991)

     A careful documentation of the negative effects
of children on parents
—based on printed sources
and some original research with college students.
Children affect their parents in the following areas:
health; housing and living space; employment patterns;
economic burdens; changed relationship with spouse;
life-plans; sense of control over life.
Special problems receive separate chapters: juvenile delinquency;
children's emotional problems; the family of divorce;
children with severe chronic illnesses; PMS and motherhood;
racial identity problems from 'mixed' marriages;
grown children who blame their parents for their problems.
This is one of the few books
examining the negative impacts of having children.

14. Anna & Arnold Silverman
The Case Against Having Children

(New York: McKay, 1971)       212 pages

    A child-free couple marshals all the arguments
against the decision to reproduce.
The first chapter is "The Myth of the Maternal Instinct".

15. J. E. Veevers 
Childless by Choice

(Toronto: Gage Educational Publishers, 1975)
(Toronto: Butterworth, 1980)       220 pages

    Based on interviews with voluntarily childless couples.
A comprehensive and open-minded book,
neither pro-natalist nor anti-natalist.
The themes include:
social, family, and physician pressures to have children;
postponing children becomes a decision never to have children;
the inter-couple process of deciding not to have children;
reasons for and against a "family" without children;
maintaining a variant world-view and life-style.

16. Marian Faux 
Childless by Choice

(Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1984)       196 pages

    A review of many of the factors that go into a woman's choice
whether or not to have children.
Based on published materials and some interviews.
The free-lance author has no particular ax to grind.

17. Edward Pohlman 
How to Kill Population

(Philadelphia: Westminster, 1971)       169 pages

    A well-reasoned and well-documented
argument for population control.
Very readable.

18. Paul Ehrlich 
The Population Bomb

(New York: Ballantine, 1968 and later editions)       223 pages

    A classic source of thinking about over-population.

19. Martha Kent Willing
Beyond Conception:
Our Children's Children

(Boston: Gambit, 1971)       241 pages

    A passionate, intelligent plea for population control.
The author encourages the personal decision to stop at two children
and proposes public policies to limit family size.

20. Sharryl Hawke & David Knox 
One Child by Choice

(Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1977)       233 pages

    An intelligent examination of being an "only child".
The book explodes many widely-held myths
and presents some positive advantages of stopping at one child.
When I started reading this book,
I too believed many of the myths about the single child.
Now I have been enlightened and recommend this volume
to everyone who has only one child so far
and might be considering having another one.

21. Edward Pohlman 
The Psychology of Birth Planning

(Cambridge, MA: Schenkman, 1969)       496 pages

    Definitive, technical.

22. Stephanie Dowrick & Sibyl Grundberg, editors
Why Children?

(New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1980)

    Eighteen female writers tell their very individual stories
about having children or deciding not to have children.
This book was first published by a feminist press in London,
where the women live.
Altho the stories cannot easily be generalized,
because these are such unusual women,
the book can help other women (and men)
to think deeply about their reproductive decisions.

23. Kate Harper 
The Childfree Alternative

(Brattleboro, VT: Stephen Green Press, 1980)       177 pages

    Based on interviews with 10 couples and individuals
who have decided to remain child-free.
They explain their own life-histories
and their reasons for not having children.

24. Nancy Chodorow 
The Reproduction of Mothering:

Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender

(Berkeley, CA: U of California Press, 1978)       263 pages

    A highly technical study
of how girls are conditioned to become mothers.
Why women want children—from a Freudian perspective.

25. Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry
The Joys and Sorrows of Parenthood

(New York: Scribners, 1973)       159 pages

    A book about parenting in all its dimensions,
summarizing the widely-held views of its time.
It has more about the problems than the fulfillments,
but it is a sound treatment of many dimensions of parenting.
It suffers from blandness and middle-of-the-road-ness
because it was written by a committee.

26. Laurie Lisle 
Without Child:

Challenging the Stigma of Childlessness

(New York: Ballantine Books, 1996)       273 pages

    The author's personal struggles with the decision;
historical examples of other non-mothers.
She does not examine the reasons for and against systematically.
But this book could add some depth
for a reader who has read other books about parenthood.

[last]. James Park 
Why Have (More) Children?

Chapter 9 from New Ways of Loving:
How Authenticity Transforms Relationships
(Minneapolis, MN: www.existentialbooks.com, 2007—6rd edition)

    In just 40 pages, James Park covers all of the issues discussed
in the other books in this bibliography:
about 30 reasons for having (more) children
and about 10 reasons against.
So if the reader has limited time
or wants a good introduction to the issues,
this might be the place to begin.

    Why Have (More) Children? divides the exploration into:
couples' reasons; women's reasons; men's reasons;
and reasons for not having children.

    The table of contents will appear on your screen
if you click these blue words:
Why Have (More) Children?
You will also see the first page of the text.

    If you want to see a list of all the chapters of
New Ways of Loving:
How Authenticity Transforms Relationships ,
click the blue title above.

Please suggest additional books to be included in this bibliography.
Send all comments to James Park: e-mail:

revised 9-22-2010; 3-28-2013; 5-9-2013

Visit the excellent website of the
Childfree Association
Here you will find lots more books and links to examine.

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If you would like to see other book reviews by James Park,
go to the Book Review Index .
Here you will find about 350 books reviewed
in about 60 bibliographies.

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