Here are some books I have found. I will keep adding new items as I come upon them. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have something to add to this list. Thank you.
One-fifth of American women and about the same number in the United Kingdom reach menopause without giving birth, and the number is quickly approaching one-fourth, so we are not alone.
Books on childlessness have changed considerably in the 20 years I have been reading about the subject. In the 1980s and early 1990s, most works addressed childlessness as a tragedy, an emptiness that needed to be filled by adoption or some other type of mothering substitute--raising dogs, teaching, social work, and other nurturing activities. Then came a rash of books proclaiming the right to be "childfree." Today, women are writing about what a burden children are and advising their peers that if they throw away their contraceptives, they will probably also be sacrificing careers, leisure time and sleep. Our parents lied to us, they say. You can't do it all. And, you do not have to be a mother. What worries me these days is a growing divide between mothers and childless women. But dip into these books, arranged from newest to oldest, and make up your own mind. The Baby Matrix: Why Freeing Our Minds from Outmoded Thinking About Parenthood & Reproduction Will Create a Better World by Laura Carroll, http://livetruebooks.com, 2012: Carroll, who previously published Families of Two, about couples living happily childfree, has put together an absolute encyclopedia about why the “pronatalist” viewpoint that tells us that everyone should have children is no longer valid. Although I disagree with some of her points, I have to admire this well-written and deeply researched book that I will keep handy as a reference from now on. Carroll challenges common assumptions such as the idea that people need children to be fulfilled, mature, happy, and cared for in their old age. Furthermore, she says parenting should be a privilege for which people must prove they are qualified. And, people should be rewarded for not having kids instead of getting tax breaks for having them. Maybe, maybe not, but there is so much information here. Want to know how many childless women there are in Finland? It’s here. Want to know what sociology texts tell college students about marriage and children? It’s here. If you’re interested in the subject of having or not having children, read this. Kidfree & Lovin’ It! by Kaye D. Walters, Serena Bay Publishing, 2012. This is yet another book glorifying the childfree life. It is extremely well done, full of solid information and great resources, including an extensive list of famous non-parents and lists of places for the childfree to find other childfree people. Walters spent years surveying thousands of childfree people and includes lots of quotes from people who don't have children, nearly all by choice. This is the most thorough book that I have seen on the subject. But I had a hard time reading it. The overarching message seems to be that only fools procreate. It’s too expensive, messes up your careers and your relationships, and, most important, you have to sacrifice your freedom. Certainly Walters offers a few words here and there noting that if you feel that parenting is right for you, then go for it. But those passages are overwhelmed by pages and pages of why parenting sucks and why children are undesirable. Also, if you and your mate disagree, then compromise is impossible; you have to break up. If you are childless by choice, you will love this book. If you’re on the fence, you may decide after reading this that you don’t want children after all. But if you want children or wanted them and couldn’t have them, I bet you won’t make it through the whole book. Being Fruitful Without Multiplying by Patricia Yvette, Renee Ann, Janice Lynne and others, Seattle: Coffeetown Press, 2012. This is an anthology of stories from women who have chosen not to have children. Many have known since they were very young that they did not want to be parents. Their reasons vary, including bad childhoods, having to raise their siblings, infertility, preferring to focus on their careers, and just enjoying life without children. It's an interesting look at the many ways people make this decision and present it to the world. Childless: Reflections on Life’s Longing for Itself by Gillian Guthrie, Australia: Short Stop Press, 2012. This is a marvelous book that covers a vast range of topics related to women who never have children. Guthrie spent many years working in television news before tackling this book that is close to her heart. Married twice to men with problems, she didn’t find a man who would be a suitable father until she was at the end of her fertility and was not able to conceive. To produce this book, she conducted extensive research and called together childless women to meet for Childfree Lunches and talk about things they had never talked about before. The resulting book is beautifully written, nicely weaving Guthrie’s own story into the overall picture of childlessness in Australia and the rest of the world. Currently one in four women are childless in her country. Chapters introduce us all sorts of women without children and how they happened to be that way. Guthrie writes about gay women, women in politics who have been lambasted for not having children, women who grew up with abusive and/or mentally ill parents, women who suffered through legal and illegal abortions, the grief of childlessness and so much more. Silent Sorority by Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos, self-published 2009, Kindle version Nov. 2011. This is a story about infertility and its effects on a couple’s life. Like so many people, Mahoney assumed that when the time was right, she would conceive as easily as most of her friends and family had. But it didn’t happen. She takes us through her decade-long struggle to get pregnant, which ended after their second attempt at in vitro fertilization failed. That’s about halfway through the book. After that, she shares her grief and depression, anger, and attempts to find other “infertiles” like her. Eventually, she found a sisterhood with her blog, www.coming2terms.com, and then this book. Those of us who are not infertile, just childless by marriage or circumstance or even choice, might wonder why we should read this book, but it’s well-told story that carries the reader along and it gives an excellent picture of what it’s like not to have children in a world where no one else seems to understand what you’re going through. Visit Pamela’s website and new blog at http://www.silentsorority.com. I’m Taking My Eggs and Going Home by Lisa Manterfield, Steel Rose Press, 2010. This memoir includes all phases of childlessness. Manterfield writes about being childless by marriage, childless due to infertility, and finally childless by choice. First husband Mark didn’t want to have children. Second husband Jose was older, already had children and had had a vasectomy, but he was willing to do whatever it took to have a baby with Lisa. Unfortunately, nothing seemed to work. This book is well-written, well-researched and suspenseful enough to hold the reader from beginning to end. It’s a welcome addition to the literature of childlessness. Manterfield blogs at LifeWithoutBaby.wordpress.com. She has a wonderful video on her childless experience at http://www.lisamanterfield.com.
Childless, Hilary Crahan and Susan Hodges, editors, Lulu publishing, 2010. The good thing about this essay collection is that with only 75 pages and lots of white space it doesn't take long to read it. Unfortunately, it's just not a very good book. Unnamed authors each write for two or three pages on why they never wanted kids or why they did and it didn't happen. The feelings are valid and it's good to express them, but they don't add much to the conversation, mostly because they are all so general that one can't be sure of any of the facts. Good try.
Two is Enough: A Couple’s Guide to Living Childless by Choice by Laura S. Scott, Berkeley: Seal Press, 2009. Scott has made childlessness by choice her mission in life. She founded the Childless by Choice Project and conducted extensive surveys and interviews to present a clear picture of the decision to remain voluntarily childless and its ramifications. Although a tad bit didactic--we don’t all care about the statistical details that she seems to labor so hard over, this is a well-researched and sympathetic book that many people reading this may want to consult. She offers sound advice for those who have not yet made the decision of whether or not to have children. She also offers extensive information and resources, including books, groups and websites. Overall, Scott’s view is that we need to learn to accept each other, no matter what our choices are regarding parenthood, and this book is a good step in that direction. Visit www.childlessbychoiceproject.com and Scott's related blog, www.childlessbychoiceproject.blogspot.com.
Swimming, a novel by Enza Gandolfo, Victoria, Australia, Vanark Press, 2009. Kate didn't think she wanted children, but in her 30s, she changed her mind. Her husband Tom, a sculptor, didn't care much for kids but was willing to go along to make her happy. Unfortunately, her body didn't cooperate. After four miscarriages, as she moved into perimenopause, she gave up trying. This is one of the few novels I have read that deals realistically with the pain of childlessness. Childless readers will recognize the obnoxious questions people ask and the left-out feeling as one's friends devote themselves to their children. Kate also suffers through a divorce and struggles to find her place in the world. If she is not a mother, what is her role? The novel threads two stories, Kate as she is now and the novel she is supposedly writing about the story of the child she might have had. The latter tells us the story of her life, and I honestly disliked the breaks where she dithered over her writing project, but the stories come together in the end, and it did turn out to be a very engaging novel with characters so true I halfway expect to meet them on the street.
Beyond Childlessness: For Every Woman Who Ever Wanted to Have a Child and Didn't by Rachel Black and Louise Scull, Rodale International Ltd, 2005. I haven't read this book, but from the reviews, it looks like a great comfort to women struggling with childlessness. Black and Scull, both childless, combine their own stories with those of other women to offer practical advice for coping with the grief, the questions, and the arguments that arise in childless relationships. They discuss infertility and adoption, as well as husbands who don't want children.
Nobody's Father: Life Without Kids, Lynne Van Luven and Bruce Gillespie, editors, TouchWood Editions, 2008. This sequel to Nobody's Mother gives the guys' side of the story. Men seem to be much more matter-of-fact about things like childlessness, and it shows here. They have come to be childless in a variety of ways, including their wives' miscarriages and abortions, being gay, not wanting kids, and simply not getting around to thinking about it until they believed they were too old. The most touching essay comes from a man who was a father, but lost his teenage son to cancer. These essays are well-written and thoughtful. They also respect parents and women who want to have babies. Many of the men love children and treasure the role of favorite uncle. I think the editors and authors have done a good job.
We Can't Stay Together for the Dog by Jennifer Keene, TFH Publications, 2008. I interviewed Keene a year or two ago for my book on childless women, looking for answers about whether people treat their pets as children. I didn't get much for my book out of the interview or out of this book—except for the fact that she refers to pet owners as Mom and Dad throughout—but there is a lot of useful information for dog owners here, even if you're not getting a divorce. Plus the photos and design are gorgeous.
Nobody's Mother: Life Without Kids, Lynne Van Luven, editor, Touchwood Editions, 2006. This Canadian anthology by various childless women is fabulous. Excellent writing, honesty and freshness set this book apart from the many other tomes on childlessness and make it not just a one-subject collection but an outstanding work of creative nonfiction. The writers have come to be childless through infertility, marrying men who didn't want children, by waiting too long, or by straightforward choice. All of them have given great thought to their situation. What I like most is that there is no disapproval of others' choices, no dismissing mothers as "breeders" or childless women as "selfish." In fact, many of the women love children and have found that their childless state allows them to spread their mothering wherever it is needed.
After the Rice by Wendy French, Tom Doherty Associates, LLC: 2006. When the book starts with, "I was late, and not for the bus," I'm interested right away. It raises a question that does not get answered for 150 pages and then there's another question which is answered on the final page. I didn't like the answer, but I liked the book. Wendy has a light, easy style that makes her novels so fun to read. She has nailed her characters perfectly. They're a little crazy, and they act and talk just like people everybody knows. The plot is real, it's current, and it's not in the least clichéd. Highly recommended.
What, No Baby? Why Women are losing the freedom to mother and how they can get it back by Leslie Cannold, Curtain University Books, 2005. Australian author Cannold looks at the issue of "circumstantial childlessness" in Australia and the United States, focusing on societal causes, the family-work conflict, and the difficulty in finding men who are willing to father. This is a good book. Although perhaps the author repeats herself a bit too much, she has thoroughly researched her topic and writes in an easy-reading style, despite the many footnotes. Her main thesis is that the way our societies currently operate makes it difficult for both men and women to consider parenting during the years when a woman is most fertile. Women who are childless by circumstance are NOT childless by choice, she emphasizes. Changes need to be made in order for motherhood to be as available and respected a choice as choosing not to mother. This book takes a while to read, but it's worth it. It opens up a whole new perspective and makes the reader think hard about why we want to be mothers, or why we don't.
The Mommy Brain: How Motherhood Makes Us Smarter by Katherine Ellison, Basic Books, 2005. Although many people think motherhood turns the brain to mush, science is proving it's just the opposite. The rush of hormones, combined with the demands of caring for the young actually have been shown to cause permanent positive changes in the brain. Moms are smarter, better at multi-tasking, and more empathetic. Parenting sharpens their senses and their memories. Drawing on countless studies and an impressive array of sources, Ellison has written a fascinating book explaining how mothers' brains change with pregnancy, childbirth and lactation. It gets a little scientific for the average reader at times, and Ellison strays off the topic in the final chapters to discuss problems mothers face in society, such as lack of childcare and inflexible work schedules, but overall, she has done a great job. The notes and bibliography are extremely helpful for anyone wanting to follow up on the subject.
I Want a Baby, He Doesn't by Donna Wade, with Liberty Kovacas, Ph.D., M.F.T. Adams Media, 2005. Well, judging by the title, I felt my own book had been completely "scooped," but no, this book is different. It is essentially a how-to for couples trying to reach agreement on the issue of having children. In fact her message could be summed up in three words: Talk about it." She gives guidance for how to discuss this touchy topic and urges couples to seek counseling if they have trouble talking it through on their own. Husband and wife will not be happy until they both buy into their decision, she believes. She offers good information on counseling, vasectomies and tubal ligations, infertility treatments, and adoption, plus excellent resource lists and a questionnaire to help couples determine whether they are ready to be parents. Wade first self-published a book by the same title, then got a contract with Adams Media and worked with Kovacs to put more substance into it. They quote the experiences of many couples as examples of what works and what doesn't. Overall, despite being seriously slanted toward convincing the man to be a father, it's a well-written and helpful book.
I Will Bear This Scar, edited by Marietta W. Bratton, iUniverse, 2005. This is a wonderful collection of poetry by childless women. I started circling the page numbers of the ones I liked and I ended up circling almost all of them. Here we have women who have had miscarriages, who could not conceive, who chose to be childless, who had abortions, or who otherwise missed their chance. Here's the ending of one I circled with an exclamation point, "Angela" by Robens Napolitan: "I never held her, or heard her call me 'Mommy,'/ but I was a mother once, until the blood/ran down my legs and she was gone." I liked the sassiness of "But What Will You Do?" by Peggy Lin Duthie, which talks about how she'll live happily when she's old and alone "strolling plump and naked" through her apartment full of "ancient books and beautiful, breakable vases." Some of the poems are painful to read, but even those offer comfort to those of us missing the children we never had.
Do I Want to Be a Mom? A Woman's Guide to the Decision of a Lifetime by Diana L. Dell, MD and Suzan Erem, McGraw-Hill, 2003. Using her expertise as an obstetrician-gynecologist and psychiatrist, Dell covers the various aspects of the parenting decision, offering anecdotes from women who talk about their experiences with motherhood and childlessness. This sounds good, but the reviews clobber the book for lack of substance and detail. They say that Do I Want to Be a Mom? brings up important issues but doesn't cover them in any depth. Other readers claim it is helpful.
Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children by Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Miramax Books, 2002. This book has one main point and it's a good one: In the 21st century, women can choose to pursue any career they want, but they will find it hard to be mothers at the same time. Some women are forced to abandon their careers in order to raise their families while others who wanted children sacrifice motherhood for their careers. Many in the middle fight a never-ending battle to juggle work and family. Hewlett has surveyed a large number of women and thoroughly researched her subject. She also tells us the facts about fertility, stressing the reality that very few women over 40 will conceive and bear healthy babies, in spite of all the new reproductive technology. Those who postpone motherhood are likely to be disappointed. Women who want babies need to find a mate in their 20s and get pregnant before they turn 35, or it's not going to happen.
Baby Hunger by Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Atlantic Books, 2002. Very similar to Creating a Life, this "International edition" stresses three main points: 1) women who pursue high-level careers find it nearly impossible to have families, too. Of those who graduated from college in the early 1970s (that's my group), she says only 13-17 percent have children. 2) If you want children, you'd better make that goal as important as your career goals and plan on marrying and reproducing before age 35 because fertility greatly decreases after that--and all the new reproductive technology works for only a small percentage of women. Most just spend a lot of money and heartache, but never have a baby. 3) Employers need to wake up and make it possible, not just in writing but in reality, for parents to work schedules that make sense with families. Well written, lots of good information, nice comparisons of the U.S. with the UK and other countries.
Cheerfully Childless: The Humor Book for Those Who Hesitate to Procreate by Ellen Metter and Loretta Gomez, Browser Press, 2001. This is a fun little book full of cartoons and jokes about childlessness, based on the premise that some of us are just not cut out to be moms and dads, so we might as well admit it and laugh about it. For example, "When offered the coveted opportunity to hold a newborn, I casually smile, nod, and back away . . . until I'm in the next building." Or "You think grabbing a condom kills the romantic moment? How about a two-year-old bursting into your bedroom unannounced? Now if that doesn't wilt your flower I just don't know what will." Or "Not everyone is, well, destined to be a parent. As my 40-ish friend Tobey says, 'I think a pregnancy at my time of life would be life-threatening--to the father.' " There are lots of fun cartoons by Loretta Gomez. Some compare the virtues of dogs, cats, cars, and stuffed animals to babies. There's really no serious information here, but it's fun and it's quick. Finally, something light on this heavy subject.
The Childless Revolution by Madelyn Cain, Perseus Publishing, 2001 Cain has written a well-organized, thoroughly researched study of childlessness in the 21st century. It truly is a revolution as we move toward a society in which a large percentage of women never have children. The book is divided into three main sections for different types of childlessness: 1) by choice--don't want kids, religious choice, such as becoming a nun, environmental concerns; 2) by chance--illness, infertility, being gay; and 3) by chance, the rest of us who somehow planned to have kids but married guys who didn't want them or somehow got involved in other things and let the opportunity pass us by. I like the clean, clear way this book is organized and written, and I appreciate the thorough notes and bibliography.
The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World is Still the Least Valued by Ann Crittenden, Owl Books, 2001. Moms don't get no respect. Or money. That's the gist of this book. Crittenden says she was inspired to write The Price of Motherhood when she became a mother and discovered that employers don't take kindly to women who want to work fewer hours or just reasonable hours to be with their kids. She also found that caregivers, usually women, work just as hard as their husbands, but government and society don't consider it work, and that changes need to be made to make things fair, especially in the case of divorce. Moms nearly always suffer financially while the dads seem to live at nearly the same standard as always. This is a well-written book, with lots of research, lots of statistics, lots of anecdotes. I think she's right in most cases, although it's not just moms who struggle to survive in today's workplace. Too many American employers don't allow for anything outside work, not just children, but other family members, hobbies, church, physical needs, whatever. It's not an easy read, but an important one.
Baby Boon: How Family-Friendly America Cheats the Childless by Elinor Burkett, The Free Press, 2000. Okay, so Crittenden says moms don't get any respect or money or breaks at work. But a year before she published her book, Elinor Burkett published her tome, which insists the opposite is true. The mommies get all the good stuff--tax breaks, time off, tuition help, and the adoration of all civilization--while the childless among us are treated like dirt. They don't get the extra benefits, and they do get to take over the work left undone while the moms are off chauffeuring their kids to soccer practice. Although somewhat bitter and one-sided, this is a well-researched and well-written book. I can't quite buy Burkett's view that childless women have become an oppressed minority akin to blacks, gays and the handicapped, but she makes some good points, notably that in most people's minds, woman equals mother. Certainly that is often true. However, ladies, let's try to find a middle ground. Moms are not mindless resource-sucking breeders, and non-moms are not selfish, spoiled and unnatural. Worth reading and particularly interesting read back to back with Crittenden's book.
Bearing Life: Women's Writing on Childlessness edited by Rochelle Ratner, The Feminist Press at The City University of New York, 2000. This anthology is a mixed bag of prose and poetry. Some pieces touch directly on childlessness, such as Mary Mackey's "This is a Question I Do Not Answer" and "Jodi Sh. Doff's "Tie Me Up, Tie Me Off." Other writers speak of the loss of children they had or hoped to have. Diane DiPrima's brief poem "I Get My Period, September 1964" is a powerful statement. In "In the Garden," Grace Paley writes of a mother whose children have been kidnapped. Others take varying slants on the subject, including Margaret Atwood's eerie "Hairball," about the ovarian tumor she had removed and kept as if it were a child, Nikki Dillon's light-hearted "Chick Without Children: The Latest Celebrity Interview," and Bell Hook's and May Sarton's journal musings on the incompatibility of motherhood with art.
Families of Two by Laura Carroll, Xlibris, 2000. Carroll has published a collection of interviews with couples who have chosen not to have children and are happy with that choice. As she says in her introduction, these couples value their freedom and independence and believe that the responsibilities of parenting would severely limit their lives. Put simply, children didn't fit into their lifestyle. This book is important because it exemplifies an increasingly popular point of view, one that is driving the birth rate downward. However, the 15 couples all look and sound alike. If Carroll could have found more diverse people to interview, she might have made her point more effectively.
The Mask of Motherhood: How Becoming a Mother Changes Our Lives and Why We Never Talk about It by Susan Maushart, Penguin, 2000. Motherhood is really hard. That's the message Maushart offers, unveiling a conspiracy of silence that keeps the truth about motherhood under wraps. She pulls the covers off morning sickness, depression, loss of identity, exhaustion and frustration. Read it along with I'm Okay, You're a Brat to get a full dose of this side of the story.
I'm Okay, You're a Brat! Setting the Priorities Straight and Freeing You from the Guilt and Mad Myths of Parenthood by Susan Jeffers, Renaissance Books, 1999. All the verbiage about motherhood being fulfilling, miraculous and an experience one should not miss is a crock, according to Jeffers. Giving birth is life-changing but not necessarily in a good way. Jeffers' book debunks the happy myths of mothering and tells what it's really like. She challenges readers with a 10-point test to determine whether they're really ready for parenthood. Women who read it are likely to run screaming to their gynecologists for contraceptives. In the end, her message is two-fold: If you're a parent and hate it or if you have chosen not to have children, it's all right. And, it is okay to love your children, but hate taking of them. Jeffers' philosophy is that whatever happens is what is supposed to happen, but it isn't fair to keep the dark side of parenting a secret from those who are thinking about having children.
China Doll by Barbara Jean Hicks, Thornedike Large Print Christian Fiction Series, originally published in 1998 by Multnomah Publishers, Inc. This is a novel about a couple in which the infertile photographer, Georgine, often called George (wasn't that one of Nancy's Drew's gal pals' names?) desperately wants a baby. Just when she decides to adopt an infant from China, she falls in love with Bronson, a foreign correspondent who does not want children. Now she has to choose: a child or the perfect man? That's the plot. One look at the 1960s-style cover, and you'll know how this one turns out. This is a pleasant read, but it's corny and clichéd. It's just not quite believable all-round, but it's easy reading. A chunk of the action happens right here on the central Oregon Coast, mostly in Depoe Bay. However, warning to authors using real cities: Hicks has Bronson hanging out at the Depoe Bay library. Depoe Bay does not have a library. Also when she finally gets down to where the so-called Depoe Bay house is located, I think she's actually describing the tiny community of Otter Rock. But she gets the aquarium, the Factory Stores, and the Tidal Raves restaurant right. Should you read it? If you feel like adding a little Koolaid to your diet, why not?
The Parenthood Decision by Beverly Engel, Main Street Books, 1998. This covers the same territory as Dell's book, but more thoroughly, really digging into questions about why women want to have children, the sacrifices required of mothers, and whether the timing is right. She offers a self-help guide to deciding whether or not to procreate.
Pride and Joy: The Lives and Passions of Women Without Children by Terri Casey, Beyond Words Publishing, 1998. This is a nice anthology. Politicians, teachers, artists, executives and others show how one can have a full life and contribute a great deal to society without having children. It especially appeals to women who are certain they never want children and are looking for support in their decision.
Wanting a Child, edited by Jill Bialosky and Helene Schulman, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1998. This is a wonderful anthology of writers describing their experiences with childlessness, adoption, infertility, stepparenting, etc. There are beautiful, poignant stories here, including enlightening chapters on grief, stepparenting and adoption. Anyone interested in the topic of childlessness will want to read this book.
Paradise, Piece by Piece by Molly Peacock, Riverhead Books, 1998. Peacock, who is known for her poetry, ventures into prose in this book to explain what she says in her first sentence and how it has played out in her life. She says she decided at age 3 that she would never have children, and she didn't. It's the memoir of a childless woman, but it is so much more. This is a wonderful story of survival, love and reality. Peacock's father was abusive, her mother escaped into her work, and young Molly was left to take over the mother role for her father and her little sister Gail. It was tough beginning, but as the book proceeds, she really does work it out piece by piece. The writing is beautiful, the story as gripping as any work of fiction. And yes, there are some valuable insights into the decision to live without children.
Without Child: Challenging the Stigma of Childlessness by Laurie Lisle, Ballantine Books, 1996. Lisle looks at how "barren" women have been viewed throughout history. Her focus is on women who are "willingly childfree" as opposed to "inadvertently childless." Lisle has done her homework and covered the most important issues, but it relies mostly on hearsay and secondary sources.
Why Don't You Have Kids? Living a Full Life Without Parenthood by Leslie Lafayette, Kensington Publishing Corp., 1995. Lafayette is the founder of the ChildFree Network. Her one-sided book pushes the group's message, which is that it's okay to choose not to have children. In fact, for most of the people she quotes, being "childfree" is wonderful, the best decision they ever made. In addition to interviewing lots of happily childfree women, she talks in considerable detail to men who don't want children.
Younger Women Older Men by Beliza Ann Furman, Barricade Books, 1995. Being in a May-December marriage myself, I expected to find this book fascinating, but most of it centered on very young women married to very rich men and their lives in high society. Trophy wives. Even for a 13-year-old book, so much of it rings excessively sexist and dated. We need to cater to his desires so he will support us and dole out his money to us? Come on. I did find the chapter regarding younger wives who give up having babies because their older husbands don’t want them to be very accurate. I could also identify with the financial issues and end-of-life concerns. And yes, some of the bit about stepchildren seemed a bit familiar. However, the writing is bad, filled with clichés and frequent grammar gaffes. Furman, who started a support group called W.O.O.M., Wives of Older Men, and often calls her members Woomies, has done her research, but I would hope for a better book on such an important topic.
Barren in the Promised Land: Childless Americans and the Pursuit of Happiness by Elaine Tyler May, Harvard University Press, 1995. May has written a very interesting overview of childlessness in America throughout history. She writes in an academic style that makes for slower reading, but it's worth the effort. Her chapters on how childlessness was viewed before the 20th Century, the rise of eugenics--selective sterilization of people considered inferior--and the craze to procreate during the baby boom are fascinating. May brings us up to date with the "childfree" movement, new reproductive technology for the infertile, and the tendency to delay parenting until later in life.
Unwomanly Conduct: The Challenges of Intentional Childlessness by Carolyn M. Morell, Routledge, 1994. This book, based on interviews with women over age 40, emphasizes the reasons for deciding to remain childless. One reader calls it "an affirmation for the child-free woman." That pretty much says it. This age group, now all over 50, decided to be childless at a time when they faced considerably more prejudice than young women making that decision today.
Dear Barbara, Dear Lynne: The True Story of Two Women in Search of Motherhood by Barbara Shulgold and Lynne Sipiora, Addision-Wesley, 1992. For a while, this was THE book to read on childlessness, but now it's dated and out of print. The book contains three-years of letters between two infertile women. It is an engaging, heartfelt story with a happy ending. The letters talk about fertility treatments, failed adoption attempts, and other efforts to become mothers. Like many of the books on childlessness from a decade or two ago, the emphasis is on the tragedy of being unable to conceive and the need to be a mother no matter what it takes.
Childless by Choice: A Feminist Anthology edited by Irene Reti, HerBooks, 1992. Many childless women, including me, consider themselves feminists, but the emphasis here is on choosing not to mother and defending that choice. Stories and poems address female stereotypes, abortion, the danger of overpopulation, grief over losing a child, and the need for freedom to follow one's muse. Childless by Choice's offerings are often beautiful, poignant and heartbreaking, but its overall mission is to conquer the stereotype of the cold, selfish childless woman. It is well-written and interesting.
Never to Be a Mother: A Guide for All Women Who Didn't--or Couldn't Have Children by Linda Hunt Anton, HarperCollins, 1992. This is basically a psychological self-help book. It offers 10 steps for dealing with childlessness. The focus is on grieving and gradually accepting the loss of the children one will never have. It may be hard to find, but will be helpful to women dealing with the loss of the children they'll never have.
Childless But Not Barren by Kristen Johnson Ingram, Magnificat Press, 1987. It's exceedingly preachy, more than a little corny, and the fictionalized Bible stories are filled with errors, such as expecting Mary's cousin Anna and her husband to write notes to each other. Anna would have been illiterate. Nor would she had thought, gee, my husband is a half hour late getting home. However, this Christian book for childless women touched me more than once, even inspired me in places. Ingram offers stories of nine childless women from the Bible and nine women from real life and shows how their faith in God led them to live fulfilled and valuable lives. The first three women of both eras conceived late in life, their trust in God satisfied. The next three raised other women's children, and the last three worked for the glory in other ways, one as the "mother of Israel," another as a prophet, another as a spiritual guide. Ingram's moral: trust in God, put him above all things and don't waste your life moping about not having children. Use the life you are given and the mothering skills you have to care for others and spread God's light in whatever way you can.
Childless is Not Less by Vicky Love, Bethany House Publishers, 1984. Love writes from a fundamentalist Christian viewpoint. Her own personal story is interesting, but she sidetracks so frequently into the Bible that is difficult to read. In Love's view, childlessness is a tragedy to be overcome, never a conscious choice. She does not give any space to my premise that some women who would have and could have been mothers give up their chance for children to be with men who are unable or unwilling.
Second Wife, Second Best by Glynnis Walker, Doubleday and Co., 1984. This book, purchased in hope of new insights on the question of childless second wives, offers very little on that subject. Most of the book is filled with bitterness, sexism, and legal "facts" that are so out of date they're useless. Walker operates on the premise that the second wife is universally treated as a second-class citizen, never as good as the first wife. She is burdened with the children and financial garbage of the husband's first marriage, has no legal rights, and gets no respect. The laws and the culture have changed tremendously since she published this book, but I became a second wife in 1985, and very little in this book is true for me. Unless you're an unhappy second wife looking for someone to share Walker's bad vibes, forget this book.
Copyright 2012 Sue Fagalde Lick