Published on April 16th, 2013 | by Sharilyn Johnson


Review: Jen Kirkman’s I Can Barely Take Care of Myself

Comedian Jen Kirkman isn’t the “mom” type.

That’s her own assessment, although according to some of the hardcore mommies she encounters, she’s totally going to change her mind. Any second now. Most definitely.

But being childfree is a choice that Kirkman, 38, is perfectly satisfied with. It’s that satisfaction that makes her debut memoir, I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales from a Happy Life Without Kids, so much more pleasurable than if it were a militant lifestyle defense.

From the socially disastrous choice of dressing as Groucho Marx for a pre-teen slumber party, to playing dress-up in her own home as grown woman (just because), much of the book is simply getting to know what makes Kirkman who she is. But the childfree theme takes precedence. She treads very little career-related ground, and skips the gory details of her divorce.

Her adventures in a mom-dominated world will feel familiar to like-minded women: the parents who don’t think an “adults only” sign applies to their precious offspring, drool-encrusted moms who can’t hold a conversation that isn’t about diapers, and strangers asking pointed questions about reproduction. (Personally, I’m relieved to learn I’m not the only one who suffers the prodding by well-meaning extended family members at an annual giant week-before-Christmas Christmas party.)

Kirkman describes these frustrating encounters without coming across as bitter, reserving only a small dose of bile for the repeated procreation interrogation of her sister when she had cancer.

There’s no hatred of children here, or of anyone else for that matter. She doesn’t refer to kids as “crotchdroppings” and “spawn” on every page, like you’d see in online childfree forums.

Nor is Kirkman fervently against the lifestyle trappings of the mommies she encounters. She’s not someone who, if given a white picket fence tomorrow, might slit her wrists on it.

It’s that reasonable outlook that makes this book so digestible. Kirkman isn’t interested in churning out an anti-motherhood manifesto. She thinks motherhood is perfectly fine. For other people.

While some notes are hit more than once, Kirkman is careful not to beat a dead horse. The mix of personal – although at times only tangentially-connected – anecdotes should satisfy those who only know her from her frequent Chelsea Lately appearances, and need breaks from the issues of reproduction.

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.

Order I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales from a Happy Life Without Kids through Amazon.

Info on Kirkman’s book tour, including dates in Toronto June 7-8, is available on her website.


About the Author

is the author of the book Bears & Balls: The Colbert Report A-Z. Called "one of the city’s most discriminating comedy critics” by NOW Magazine, Sharilyn has been covering comedy for longer than she cares to admit. She served as the comedy reporter for Winnipeg's Uptown Magazine for five years, and was the host of the radio show Laugh Tracks for three seasons. Her work has also appeared in the Toronto Star, the Winnipeg Free Press, The Apiary, and on CBC Radio's national comedy programs LOL and Definitely Not the Opera.

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