8 Books on Being Childless by Choice or Circumstance
Foregoing motherhood has traditionally marked a woman as “other.” With no official place setting for her in our society, she has hovered on the sidelines: the quirky girl, the neurotic career obsessive, the “eccentric” aunt. Instead of continuing to paint women without kids as sad, self-obsessed, or somehow dysfunctional, what if we saw them as boldly forging a first-in-a-civilization vision for a fully autonomous womankind? Or as journalist and thought leader Ruby Warrington asks, What if being a woman without kids were in fact its own kind of legacy?
Taking in themes from intergenerational healing to feminism to environmentalism, this personal look and anthropological dig into a stubbornly taboo topic is a timely and brave reframing of what it means not to be a mom. Our experiences and discourse around non-motherhood are central to women’s ongoing fight for gender equality. And whether we are childless by design or circumstance, we can live without regret, shame, or compromise.
Bold and tenderhearted, Women Without Kids seeks first and foremost to help valorize a path that is the natural consequence of women having more say about the choices we make and how our lives play out. Within this, it unites the unsung sisterhood of non-mothers―no longer pariahs or misfits, but as a vital part of our evolution and collective healing as women, as humans, and as a global family.
In an era of falling births, it’s often said that millennials invented the idea of not having kids. But history is full of women without children: some who chose childless lives, others who wanted children but never had them, and still others—the vast majority, then and now—who fell somewhere in between. Modern women considering how and if children fit into their lives are products of their political, ecological, and cultural moment. But history also tells them that they are not alone.
Drawing on deep research and her own experience as a woman without children, historian Peggy O’Donnell Heffington shows that many of the reasons women are not having children today are ones they share with women in the past: a lack of support, their jobs or finances, environmental concerns, infertility, and the desire to live different kinds of lives. Understanding this history—how normal it has always been to not have children, and how hard society has worked to make it seem abnormal—is key, she writes, to rebuilding kinship between mothers and non-mothers, and to building a better world for us all.
Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids by Meghan Daum
One of the most provocative and talked-about books of the year, Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed is the stunning collection exploring one of society’s most vexing taboos.
One of the main topics of cultural conversation during the last decade was the supposed “fertility crisis,” and whether modern women could figure out a way to have it all―a successful career and the required 2.3 children―before their biological clocks stopped ticking. Now, however, the conversation has turned to whether it’s necessary to have it all or, perhaps more controversial, whether children are really a requirement for a fulfilling life.
In this exciting and controversial collection of essays, curated by writer Meghan Daum, thirteen acclaimed female writers explain why they have chosen to eschew motherhood. Contributors include Lionel Shriver, Sigrid Nunez, Kate Christensen, Elliott Holt, Geoff Dyer, and Tim Kreider, among others, who will give a unique perspective on the overwhelming cultural pressure of parenthood.
This collection makes a smart and passionate case for why parenthood is not the only path to a happy, productive life, and takes our parent-centric, kid-fixated, baby-bump-patrolling culture to task in the process. In this book, that shadowy faction known as the childless-by-choice comes out into the light.
Childfree by Choice: The Movement Redefining Family and Creating a New Age of Independence by Dr. Amy Blackstone
As a childfree woman, Dr. Amy Blackstone is no stranger to a wide range of negative responses when she informs people she doesn’t have–nor does she want–kids: confused looks, patronizing quips, thinly veiled pity, even outright scorn and condemnation. But she is not alone in opting out when it comes to children. More people than ever are choosing to forgo parenthood, and openly discussing a choice that’s still often perceived as taboo. Yet this choice, and its effects personally and culturally, are still often misunderstood.
Amy Blackstone, a professor of sociology, has been studying the childfree choice since 2008, a choice she and her husband had already confidently and happily made. Using her own and others’ research as well as her personal experience, Blackstone delves into the childfree movement from its conception to today, exploring gender, race, sexual orientation, politics, environmentalism, and feminism, as she strips away the misconceptions surrounding non-parents and reveals the still radical notion that support of the childfree can lead to better lives and societies for all.
A savvy and validating guide to what might be in store for growing numbers of childfree and childless adults worldwide, Do You Have Kids? Life When the Answer is No takes on topics from the shifting meaning of family to what we leave behind when we die. Weaving together wisdom from women ages twenty-four to ninety-one with both her own story and a growing body of research, Kate brings to light alternate routes to lives of meaning, connection, and joy.
Today about one in five American women will never have children, whether by choice or by destiny. Yet few women talk much about what not having kids means to their lives and identities. Not that they don’t want to; there just aren’t obvious catalysts for such open conversations. In fact, social taboos preclude exploration of the topic―and since our family-centric culture doesn’t know quite what to do with non-parents, there’s potential for childless and childfree women to be sidelined, ignored, or drowned out. Yet there’s widespread, pent-up demand for understanding and validating this perfectly normal way of being. In this straight-shooting, exhaustively researched book, women without kids talk candidly about the ways in which their lives differ from societal norms and expectations―the good, the bad, and the unexpected.
50 Things to Know About Being Childfree by Choice: A Guide for Understanding and Acceptance by Kelly Hawkins
Do you hear silence instead of the hands of the mythical biological clock ticking? Does your heart flutter faster when you see a puppy than it does when you see a tiny human? Do you break into a cold sweat when you receive a baby shower or child’s birthday invitation? 50 Things to Know about Being Childfree by Choice, by Kelly Hawkins, offers a candid and humorous description of why she and several other women she interviewed have chosen not to have children. Most books on being childfree tell you about how it is an atypical decision. Although there’s nothing wrong with that, and the decision is still not the norm, the number of women and couples that are choosing to lead a life without kids is on the rise. In fact, it is becoming what some would consider a movement.
In these pages you’ll discover the various personal experiences, alternative priorities, fears, and challenges that have led the author and some of her closest family and friends to pursue paths other than motherhood. This book will help you understand that being a mom is not a role that every woman desires to play. By the time you finish this book, you will know why it can sometimes feel lonely as a childfree woman, but will discover that if you too have felt this way, you have a larger support network than you may think.
More women are childless than ever before—nearly half those of childbearing age don’t have children. While our society often assumes these women are “childfree by choice,” that’s not always true. In reality, many of them expected to marry and have children, but it simply hasn’t happened. Wrongly judged as picky or career-obsessed, they make up the “Otherhood,” a growing demographic that has gone without definition or visibility until now.
In Otherhood, author Melanie Notkin reveals her own story as well as the honest, poignant, humorous, and occasionally heartbreaking stories of women in her generation—women who expected love, marriage, and parenthood, but instead found themselves facing a different reality. She addresses the reasons for this shift, the social and emotional impact it has on our collective culture, and how the “new normal” will affect our society in the decades to come.
Notkin aims to reassure women that they are not alone and encourages them to find happiness and fulfillment no matter what the future holds. A groundbreaking exploration of an essential contemporary issue, Otherhood inspires thought-provoking conversation and gets at the heart of our cultural assumptions about single women and childlessness.
Many women expect to become mothers but are childless through social rather than biological reasons – perhaps they haven’t met the right person or they prioritised career or education earlier in life. Featuring international interviews by grief counsellor and researcher Lois Tonkin, this collection of first-person stories provides insight into the under-discussed situation of being childless by circumstance.
Each story highlights the different aspects of being childless by circumstance, as women move through their 30s, 40s, and 50s, and beyond their ages of fertility. The book explores feelings of grief and loss, and also how women adapt positively to their changed life expectations, finding excitement in the alternative, rich and complex shapes their lives have taken.
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