I Can Barely Take Care of Myself
Tales from a Happy Life without Kids
By Jen Kirkman
Summary: “You’ll Change Your Mind.” That’s what everyone says to Jen Kirkman—and countless women like her—when she confesses she doesn’t plan to have children. But you know what? It’s hard enough to be an adult. You have to dress yourself and pay bills and remember to buy birthday gifts. You have to drive and get annual physicals and tip for good service. Some adults take on the added burden of caring for a tiny human being with no language skills or bladder control. Parenthood can be very rewarding, but let’s face it, so are margaritas at the adults-only pool.
Jen’s stand-up routine includes lots of jokes about not having kids (and some about masturbation and Johnny Depp), after which complete strangers constantly approach her and ask, “But who will take care of you when you’re old?” (Servants!) Some insist, “You’d be such a great mom!” (Really? You know me so well!)
Whether living rent-free in her childhood bedroom while trying to break into comedy (the best free birth control around, she says), or taking the stage at major clubs and joining a hit TV show—and along the way getting married, divorced, and attending excruciating afternoon birthday parties for her parent friends—Jen is completely happy and fulfilled by her decision not to procreate.
I Can Barely Take Care of Myself is a beacon of hilarious hope for anyone whose major life decisions have been questioned by friends, family, and strangers in a comedy club bathroom. And it should satisfy everyone who wonders if Jen will ever know true love without looking into the eyes of her child.
Source: I purchased a paperback
As someone who doesn’t want kids, I thought this book was the perfect fit for the Book Written by a Comedian category of the 2016 Popsugar Reading Challenge. It’s been on my radar for awhile and I’m glad I had the perfectly opportunity to read it. It is certainly nice to hear of someone else’s experiences with trying to explain to strangers why you’re not having kids.
I didn’t expect to have much in common with the author or to have similar experiences, after all, choosing to be child free is likely the only thing I’d have in common, so my expectations were low on how much I’d really enjoy the book. It was enjoyable, but Jen was much more unstable and chaotic than I am, so it’s hard to relate on other topics. However, I do think it’s necessary to point out how often strangers and friends seem to tell her she’d be such a good mom. I’m more convinced now than ever before that people are full of crap and would say that to just about anyone so long as they aren’t lighting up a crack pipe and letting kids they are babysitting try some. And even then, there would probably still be that one person who would insist on how much better that lady’s life would be if she just procreated.
Despite how chaotic Jen was, I admired how committed she was to not having kids. I understood why she felt so bothered by people constantly asking her about it. There was a part in the book where she was sitting with a woman who was bugging her. Her husband was sitting with the woman’s husband and wasn’t being pestered at all. It’s like women who don’t want kids have to be more sure than men who don’t want any because women are constantly being bombarded by questions and men don’t typically ask other men why they have no children.
I could definitely relate to how Jen didn’t want kids, but wasn’t against settling down and getting married. I think people assume that if you don’t want kids, you are also against marriage or just haven’t found the right person, which is definitely not true. I also liked that Jen didn’t hate kids, either, which is something I can relate to. I hate undisciplined children, but on the whole, I actually like kids and have enjoyed hanging out with them on occasion. Doesn’t mean I want one and I like that the book explored that, too.
I was amazed at how many encounters I’ve had that were similar. I’ve been told I don’t know what real love is. I’ve been told I’ll change my mind. I’ve had family not even question the fact that I got married so young because I’m the mature one who just always knows what she’s doing, but when I said I didn’t want kids it’s like suddenly I am 12 and have NO IDEA what I’m doing with my life. I’ve had family/friends shove the idea of having a baby down my throat, assume I am just “going along with” my husband’s decision, or that I’m negatively influencing my husband because he’s SO GOOD with kids and I’m obviously holding him back. I’ve had people look at me with pity and assume that because I’ve been married so long without kids, I can’t have any and it must be a giant strain on our lives. (These people hadn’t even asked me, they just assume this and treat me accordingly.)
I enjoyed I Can Barely Take Care of Myself and could definitely relate. I think anyone who makes decisions outside of the traditional norm can relate to the book, even something is minor as choosing not to eat meat, which was something else Jen felt strongly about. I’m not a vegetarian, but I feel like they have to explain themselves often. (Well, normal ones. I’m not talking about the ones who ALWAYS bring it up or constantly shame meat eaters. Those types of people wouldn’t relate because people who don’t want kids aren’t typically advertising it because we really don’t want to get into conversations with strangers about our decisions. Those types of people have more in common with the women shaming Jen for her decision not to procreate.) I recommend the book if you’re vaguely interested in getting another perspective or just hearing someone’s story so you know you’re not the only one, especially if you don’t know anyone else who doesn’t want kids. I read some passages with wide eyes because I’ve BEEN THERE and I can simply say, “OMG, I know. I’ve had this happen, I’m so glad I’m not the only one who has dealt with this!”