In Praise of the ‘Auntie Brigade’

"So many non-parents are great mentors or part of the Auntie brigade," says Meghan Daum, editor of "Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids."

Courtesy of Publisher

Meghan Daum acknowledges that growing up in Ridgewood does not tend to put one on a path toward editing a book called Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision NOT to Have Kids (Picador, April).

“It’s a funny place to be from in terms of this book,” says Daum, whose previous output includes the 2004 novel The Quality of Life Report, and the 2001 cult classic My Misspent Youth, an essay collection.

Ridgewood, where Daum lived from age 9 until graduating from Ridgewood High in 1988, is not the kind of place typically associated with people who, like Daum, are childless by choice, she says.

“There are almost no adults in Ridgewood who are not somebody’s parents,” says Daum, 45.

Although there were kids in the house, Daum’s family was “really out of place” in Ridgewood, she says in a phone interview: Her father was a freelance music arranger and composer who had an office in the attic, and her mother “did not play tennis. ”

Given that background, maybe Daum actually is ideally suited to editing a collection that addresses what she calls “an unnecessary adversarial dynamic between parents and non-parents.”

“I think it’s really important for kids to be exposed to adults who are responsible, concerned and caring—just not parents,” she says.

“The conversation tends to be framed around the idea that people who don’t have kids don’t like them or want to have material things or sleep late,” says Daum. “But so many non-parents are great mentors or part of the auntie brigade. The world needs all kinds of people.”

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