I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales From a Happy Life Without Kids [NOOK Book]

Overview

"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,...
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I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales From a Happy Life Without Kids

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Overview

"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.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In her first memoir, stand-up comedian Kirkman takes a seriously humorous stance on deciding not to have kids. She includes stories on dating, babysitting, and what happens after performing a comedic set, but they all support the main point of her book—that she doesn’t want any children. All the anecdotes and pot shots at celebrities help shape the picture of the childless comic presented on the page. She posits that there is nothing wrong with having no inclination to procreate—and supports her stance with quotes from the Bible, Oprah, George Clooney, Aretha Franklin, and others. Everyone and everything is employed to prove that living a childless life really isn’t all that bad. In fact, it can be quite fulfilling. With the novelist’s penchant for self-flagellation and exploitation, and jokes punctuating at least every page, this book is ideal for the woman who needs a quick comeback for those who criticize her about not having kids, or for those just looking to laugh. (Apr.)
creator of Two Broke Girls and Whitney - Whitney Cummings
“This book takes you through the journey of Jen Kirkman’s misunderstood child-free life. I’m now convinced of two things: Jen is freaking hilarious and she should definitely not have a baby—she should have a Valium.”
comedian and New York Times bestselling author of Life As I Blow It - Sarah Colonna
“If you've ever been told you'd ‘change your mind’ about anything in life—when you knew that you wouldn't—this book is for you. Jen has a unique, fresh and funny way of reminding people that sometimes, you really do know what's best for you. I’m glad she didn’t change her mind about writing this smart, brave, and heartfelt book.”
#1 New York Times bestselling author of He’s Just Not That Into You - Greg Behrendt
“Jen Kirkman’s wickedly original yet totally universal debut about the expectations of others kicks so much ass you'll agree with her even when you don’t. Not for the stupidly over-sensitive. For lovers of great!”
InTouch magazine
“Boldly funny without being anti-mom.”
TheHairpin.com
“Very funny. . . . the core of the book is about not wanting to have children, and the ways in which society gets up in your face about it . . . I laughed out loud several times.”
ThirdBeatMagazine.com
“Between these charming, cringe-worthy, and badass tales, Kirkman successfully convinces us she isn’t meant for motherhood. It’s safe to say she’s much better suited to birthing books.”
The Kentucky Democrat
“Full of humor, wisdom, and laugh out loud moments.”
Savannah Morning News
“Kirkman puts her comedic talent to use by snarking to her readers about the ridiculousness of baby culture, overly-enthusiastic parents, and total strangers who feel it necessary to publicly pry. And since it’s a good bet that those readers feel the same way, this book may very well strike a funnybone.”
Chelsea Handler
“Jen Kirkman has written an excellent—and very funny—guide to promote not having children. Thanks girl, for saving me the time.”
Tampa Bay Times
"A standup comedian's hilarious explanation for why, gee, thanks for asking, but she isn't going to change her mind about not having children."
Sacramento Bee
“Candid, funny stuff.”
From the Publisher
“Jen Kirkman has written an excellent—and very funny—guide to promote not having children. Thanks girl, for saving me the time.”

“If you've ever been told you'd ‘change your mind’ about anything in life—when you knew that you wouldn't—this book is for you. Jen has a unique, fresh and funny way of reminding people that sometimes, you really do know what's best for you. I’m glad she didn’t change her mind about writing this smart, brave, and heartfelt book.”

“Boldly funny without being anti-mom.”

“Very funny. . . . the core of the book is about not wanting to have children, and the ways in which society gets up in your face about it . . . I laughed out loud several times.”

“Full of humor, wisdom, and laugh out loud moments.”

“Kirkman puts her comedic talent to use by snarking to her readers about the ridiculousness of baby culture, overly-enthusiastic parents, and total strangers who feel it necessary to publicly pry. And since it’s a good bet that those readers feel the same way, this book may very well strike a funnybone.”

“A seriously humorous stance on deciding not to have kids. . . . With the novelist’s penchant for self-flagellation and exploitation, and jokes punctuating at least every page, this book is ideal for the woman who needs a quick comeback for those who criticize her about not wanting kids, or for those just looking to laugh.”

“Between these charming, cringe-worthy, and badass tales, Kirkman successfully convinces us she isn’t meant for motherhood. It’s safe to say she’s much better suited to birthing books.”

“This book takes you through the journey of Jen Kirkman’s misunderstood child-free life. I’m now convinced of two things: Jen is freaking hilarious and she should definitely not have a baby—she should have a Valium.”

“Jen Kirkman’s wickedly original yet totally universal debut about the expectations of others kicks so much ass you'll agree with her even when you don’t. Not for the stupidly over-sensitive. For lovers of great!”

Library Journal
Kirkman (Chelsea Lately) is childfree by choice. Unfortunately, this explanation doesn’t suffice for many people, including her mother-in-law, strangers at weddings, and even an audience member who encounters her in a comedy club bathroom after one of her stand-up routines. Kirkman—like her acts—is deadpan in her descriptions of the repetitive, inappropriate comments friends and strangers have made about her decision to abstain from parenthood. Retold with the characteristic wit that is found in her comedy writing, this is a smart book that will serve as a childfree-by-choice manifesto for working adults and women pursuing a career in a male-dominated industry. VERDICT Even if you are a parent or hope to be, this book shows the other side of the coin by dispelling the myth that a woman who is childfree by choice will eventually change her mind.

(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Reviews
A comedian's memoir belabors the point about her never wanting to have children. It's a credit to the author--a comedian and comedy writer best known for her work with Chelsea Handler and on the Internet series "Drunk History"--that her debut book is more ambitious than the usual attempt to extend the brand by transferring bits into print. Except for the parts that she directly quotes from her stand-up routine, this book stands on its own, and the best of it provides engaging reading even for those who have never seen or heard of the author. The problem is that its main hook--"The way most people feel about loving being a parent is exactly how I feel about not being a parent"--is made early and repeated often, as if the author feels the need to defend her childlessness against a constant barrage of criticism. Though she does show that strangers and casual acquaintances sometimes equate childless with "selfish," none of those close to her seem to question her decision. Her parents support her, her sisters (one childless) support her, her husband and in-laws (now ex-) are fine with it, and her friends and fellow comedians have often reached the same conclusion. So whatever support this broadside might offer to those similarly committed to not having children, it really seems more like a peg for a book proposal, something that might aid publication and promotion of a work by a comedian less renowned than so many other comedians who have written books. As she admits in her thanks to Chelsea Handler, "Let's be honest. Nobody was buying my book ideas before I became part of your show(s)." Kirkman attempts to interweave the manifesto with memoir, which is particularly appealing during its early, naïve, rites-of-passage stages. The author seems likable enough, but her basic premise could have been condensed into a magazine article. For childless readers who fear that others think they are selfish.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451667011
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 4/16/2013
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 70,051
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Jen Kirkman is a stand-up comedian, writer, and actress well known for the award-winning short series Drunk History. She has two comedy albums, Self-Help and Hail to the Freaks, and writes for and appears as a comedian/panelist on E’s Chelsea Lately and After Lately.
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Read an Excerpt

I Can Barely Take Care of Myself


  • I’m sitting on my couch in just a bra and sweatpants. For some reason I also have a cocktail ring on my right finger and a feather headband atop my head. I’m too embarrassed to wear the feather-band outside of the house—although I guess not too embarrassed to commit to print that I’m wearing it and knee-high pom-pom slippers late at night. When I’m on a writing procrastination binge I start playing dress-up, and I just got bored and quit halfway through, so now I’m procrastinating my game of dress-up by finishing writing the introduction to this book. This is just one example of what it is to be me. Besides the usual distractions from life—friends calling in tears because they’re heartbroken, flat tires, deaths in the family, leaks in the ceiling, work—I pretty much have the ability to do whatever I want, whenever I want because I don’t have children. That’s not the only reason why I don’t want children—it’s just one perk.

And yes, I don’t want children. As far as I know, I can have children. But I’m not great with kids and the thought of raising them scares me—it’s more terrifying to me than an empty house in the woods or a clown doll sitting in a chair. You’re just so screwed if you find yourself in any of these situations! There’s no way out!

Most people assume that “doing whatever I want” includes partying all night and enjoying my hangover without a toddler sitting on my head. But I’m actually pretty mild. I got nervous one time after taking Benadryl three nights in a row to fall asleep. I fantasized about whether I would have to call my loved ones before checking in to Betty Ford or would someone from the rehab center go through my iPhone for me?

I remember asking my mom when I was little if I could go live at this place in Boston called “The Home for Little Wanderers.” I didn’t realize that it was a facility for orphans. It sounded to me more like a place for free spirits who knew that even if they loved where they were one moment, that could change tomorrow. One thing I know about myself is that everywhere I go is my new favorite place. And I’m not a cold, heartless vagabond either. If in my wandering I end up reading to children at a zoo in Madagascar—wonderful! I don’t hate kids. I just hate the idea of dragging a kid around with me as he or she is forced to adapt to my lifestyle. I also don’t want to have to carry animal crackers around in my purse.

I have a picture of my cat from childhood, Mittens, on my living room wall. He’s been dead for twenty-four years. When friends ask me why I don’t just get another tuxedo cat, I say, “I loved Mittens because my mother changed his cat litter. Not me.” I do have a small collection of stuffed-animal tuxedo cats given to me as gifts by people who, I assume, assumed that I needed something to care for. But those kitties are smashed down facefirst in a wicker basket in the bedroom. I’m afraid to look. I think they might be dead.

The way most people feel about loving being a parent is exactly how I feel about not being a parent. I love it. And I can’t imagine my life any other way. I’m one of those people in an ever-growing movement called childfree by choice. I think it’s a clinical and defensive name for what sounds like an otherwise fun group of people. I’ve never actually seen members of this movement all in one place. I guess we’re not as organized or fabulous or as into riding floats as gay people. We live in pockets of cities and suburbs all across America and the world and we may not have anything else in common with one another except that none of us right now has a toddler saying, “Mommy, please put a shirt on. It’s inappropriate to sit around the house in a bra and why is there a peacock on your head?”

So while I sit here on my couch at home dressed like someone halfway to senility, I’m remembering the time that I was sitting on a couch in my psychologist’s office, wondering whether it was weird that I still had my sunglasses on my head during our session. I wondered whether I was too accessorized for sitting around figuring out my problems and analyzing my patterns. It feels like I should treat therapy like going through airport security (which I do a few times a month as a traveling stand-up comedian)—I should have nothing in my pockets, no shoes and no jewelry around my neck, nothing on my outside that can distract the person in front of me from seeing what I look like on the inside.

That day I said to my shrink, “I feel like an outsider in the world because I never want to have children. When people ask me if I want children and I say no—they always say things like ‘You’ll change your mind.’ I’m sick of it and I feel like I don’t fit in.” I don’t know what I expected my therapist to say—probably her usual: “Was there a time in childhood when you felt like an outsider? Is this pushing any old buttons? You know if it’s hysterical, it’s historical.” What I didn’t expect was that she’d say, “You don’t want kids? Why not? What’s up with that?” What’s up with that?

“Oh no,” I said. “Not you too! You’re going to tell me I’m weird for not wanting children?” She explained that it’s my reaction to those people that we need to work on—and that we don’t need to attach any jumper cables to my biological clock. She suggested that instead of answering, “I don’t want kids,” that I should simply say, “It’s not in my plans right now.” Oh boy. She had no idea what I was up against at every cocktail hour/wedding/shower/holiday party I’ve been to since I started to ovulate. I’m convinced that people who want kids and people who have kids have secret meetings where they come up with their talking points. There’s not one response to “I’m not having kids” that I haven’t heard and I’ve heard the same questions and comments approximately one bazillion times:

• If you don’t have kids, who is going to take care of you when you’re old? (Servants?)

• Men have to spread their seed. It’s in their DNA. (He can spread his seed all he wants. I have a magic pill that prevents it from growing.)

• But it’s the most natural thing you can do as a woman. (So is getting my period every month.)

• That’s selfish. You can’t be immature forever. (And spending your days watching Dora the Explorer with a kid is mature?)

• You have to replace yourself on earth. What will you leave behind? (There are a few plastic bags that I never recycled . . .)

Random people who want me to have children are the same type of people who won’t let up on me because I haven’t watched The Wire and I never plan to. I just never got into The Wire. Is The Wire brilliant and life altering and does it make you feel less alone at night? Yes! That doesn’t mean I have to like the show. I have no opinion on The Wire. It is just not a part of my life. I’m not trying to be cool or different. A Non–Wire Lover is not my identity. I just don’t even think about The Wire. And yet people continue, “It’s available on Netflix!” “I understand that it’s easy to get.” “You’ll love it.” “I won’t. I might. I don’t care.” “How can you not watch it? Well, what kind of shows do you watch?” What will happen to these people if I never see The Wire? Are they at home feeling a phantom pain in their abdomens and thinking, If Jen would only watch The Wire, this bad feeling would go away. And in the same way my Netflix queue remains Wire-free, people seem really agitated that my womb remains baby-free.

I took my therapist’s advice and started getting cagey with my answer. But once I started saying, “It’s not in my plans right now,” it was taken as, “Yes, I plan to have kids someday.” And then just to avoid arguments, I went through a phase of lying. “Yes. I want to have kids someday. I want to have kids right now. Anybody have a turkey baster? Let’s kick this party up a notch. I’m ovulating!” But I’m not going to lie anymore.

I’ve always been a little different. I was called a “freak” in high school because I wanted to be on a stage instead of on a lacrosse field. I went to a job interview at an office straight out of college wearing black tights, green nail polish, and clear jelly shoes. I got the job but my new boss took me aside to explain the office dress code. She asked me, “What were you trying to prove with that outfit? Why do you want to look weird?” I had honestly thought that this was a good outfit to wear. I wouldn’t even know how to try to be weird. It seems like too much effort. Just like trying to be normal—whatever that looks like—often seems more trouble than it’s worth. I mean, who really wants to wash her car in the driveway every Sunday (or even have a driveway)?

My favorite TV show when I was six was The Lawrence Welk Show. I wanted to grow up and live in a world of bubbles and polka music someday. I went to the most popular girl in school’s slumber party in the sixth grade dressed as Groucho Marx. (It didn’t go well—you’ll read all about it.)

It may not be filled with bubbles and polka (actually thank God for that, my aesthetic and musical tastes have changed), but I’ve found a community of weirdos in the comedy world. I moved by myself to New York City and Los Angeles. All of my family and my childhood friends live on the East Coast. I decided to wander the country in search of a career as a stand-up comedian. Fifteen years later and two comedy albums in, I’m doing just that for a living, in addition to writing and appearing on Chelsea Lately and playing the part of myself in the Chelsea Lately spin-off After Lately. My days consist of writing comedy and the occasional phone call to my sister to explain that the e-mail she just received from me saying “I’m pregnant, please call Mom” was really from Chelsea Handler, after she’d had her way with my computer.

My twelfth-grade teacher Mr. Bergen would be proud of me. He wrote me a card when I graduated from high school that said in big black letters, GET OUT OF THIS TOWN. GET OUT WHILE YOU CAN, and a lovely note on the inside that encouraged me to follow my dreams because he could tell that I wouldn’t be happy trying to conform on any level. Now, I don’t think having a child makes you a conformist and I don’t think that not having a child makes you a nonconformist—but I do think that following your heart no matter what other people have to say takes a real sense of self. My friend Shannon, who has two children, says that the judgment never ends. She had children—she did the supposed “normal” thing—and still people chastise her for not having six kids or for the fact that she doesn’t abide by the latest parenting trends. “What? You breast-feed before sunrise? Oh no. You’ll end up with a vampire.”

The bottom line is that the choices we make often make sense to us but can confuse others. Somebody is always going to be disappointed with your life choice, and my rule of thumb is that as long as I’m not the one who is disappointed, I can live with that. If you’ve ever been thought of as selfish and immature or told “you’ll change your mind” about anything, I hope this book can be your card from Mr. Bergen. “Get out while you can”—get out of that mentality that there is a “right” way to live. (Well, technically there is, I believe it’s called the Golden Rule, and you can find it either in the Bible or on a coffee mug, I forget.)

I know some people think that not wanting kids means I’m cold, but I’m not totally without baby urges. I felt something when I saw my friend Grace’s baby all swaddled in a blanket on the couch. She looked like a yawning peanut. She was just a content little lump, drooling and going in and out of sleep. And I got that feeling deep down inside that almost brought tears to my eyes. I got an urge and I thought, Oh my God. I want to . . . be a baby.

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Sort by: Showing all of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2013

    Read it in one sitting - no kids to distract me!

    Jen Kirkman being child-free by choice details exactly what it is like to be constantly called immature, selfish and generally guilted into having kids when you don't want to. If you too are child-free OR know someone who is you should be reading this book in between nappies. Seriously though - really good voice and one that MANY will find some comfort/solace in.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2013

    Absolutely fantastic!! Jen Kirkman is taking a stand for so many

    Absolutely fantastic!! Jen Kirkman is taking a stand for so many of us out there that have made the choice to be child-free. I've told all the "no kids for me!" people in my life to read this book. It's funny, frank, makes you laugh, makes you angry... all-in-all a must read for everyone. Even if you have kids, please read it, it'll give you a different perspective on our decision to not have kids.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2013

    Thank you Jen Kirkman!

    You nailed it and thanks for doing so on behalf of we in the childfree by choice community. Sometimes I feel like people think I'm crazy when I try to explain the nonsense I've had to endure my entire life, but I think from now on I will just refer them to your book. This should be required reading for parents whose sense of entitlement these days is beyond overblown. I can't wait to buy copies to pass out to my other CFBC friends!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2013

    Like it

    Entertaining and quick read, Jen hits all the points on how it feels to not have kids when it seems like everyone else does.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2013

    Not to shabby!

    I am a woman much like Jen Kirkman (minus the fam and fortune) so I was excited to relate to another woman in her mid-30s without a child. It was nice to see all people harass equally, no matter what state you live in. I enjoyed the book and it was an easy, fast summer read. Nothing too serious and just enough insanity.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2013

    So relatable

    Glad to know others have to deal with the ridiculous responses people give when you tell them you don't want children.

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  • Posted May 8, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    When asked why I don't have children yet, my answer is always &q

    When asked why I don't have children yet, my answer is always "I can barely take care of myself." So when I saw this title and read a blurb of this book, I knew immediately that I had to read it. I already knew the author and I had a connection. I would "get" whatever Jen Kirkman was trying to say.

    I Can Barely Take Care of Myself is a hilarious original debut from television writer and stand-up comedian Jen Kirkman. You may recognize her from regular appearances on Chelsea Lately and After Lately. Her first published book is comprised of funny detailed stories of her real life without kids.

    This book is recommended to any woman who is child-free by choice. (Put your hands up!) This book should be read if you've ever rolled your eyes when asked, "But who will take care of you when you get old?" It is especially for those who sarcastically thanked every person who said, "But you'd be such a good mom!" (Or am I the only person who had such reactions to these questions/comments?) This book is not just for other women who choose to live child-free. It is for anyone whose life decisions have been questioned.

    Author/comedian Jen Kirkman dedicated this book to her parents for "being so overprotective that I never got pregnant as a teenager." Although my parents were not overprotective, I thank them for being so trusting that I never got pregnant as a teenager and could therefore enjoy this funny good read.

    Grab a copy of I Can Barely Take Care of Myself. Read it, relate to it, laugh through it.

    Literary Marie of Precision Reviews

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