by Sheila Heti
When we were kids, my mother decided not to tell us about Santa Clause. Yes, it’s a lovely fairy tale, but it’s also a lie, and a set-up for deep disappointment when we discover it’s nonsense. What she didn’t realize is that it didn’t matter whether she told us. The myth of Santa Clause so permeates our culture that we both knew about and believed anyway.
In Sheila Heti’s book, Motherhood is a lot like Santa Clause. You can decide you don’t want children but our entire culture is geared toward making you believe that you do. Making you doubt your own feelings and question your ability to make decisions at all. Our culture tells us there’s something fundamentally wrong with anyone who doesn’t want children. This actually quite simple decision (“I don’t want children”) is constantly challenged: You’ll change your mind; You’ll regret it; Children are the only reason for living.
Motherhood is one woman’s attempt to work through her choice not to parent in a culture that tells her she must. The book gets repetitive at times, much as the constant refrain of ‘oh, but you have to have children’ probably does for our protagonist, but it’s worth sticking through to the end. It’s a smart, funny and necessary book.