Review by Ali Hall
In the new book, Women Without Kids: The Revolutionary Rise of an Unsung Sisterhood, author Ruby Warrington artistically and elegantly picks apart the default presumption that every woman yearns for motherhood. Ruby boldly suggests, “Not being a mother makes me more like a man” in terms of her ability to seize opportunities and follow her own interests without being compromised by motherhood. She also points out:
“Every woman without kids, regardless of our circumstances, will have been subject to similar stigmas and prejudices about the fact we are not mothers. Will have grappled with similar feelings of shame, otherness, and self-doubt.”
Like Ruby, I have known since a very young age that I didn’t want to have children, and reading about her childhood confusion with society’s obsession with babies resonates with me. She skillfully stitches together areas of vulnerability, her family of origin dysfunction, lived experience, research, and musings to create a wonderful patchwork quilt all sewn beautifully together.
At 225 pages and nine chapters long, Ruby has created an engaging journey through a feminist filter covering vital topics such as patriarchal motherhood, the politicized manipulation of women to be mothers, community creation, personal exploration, and society’s need to stigmatize non-mothers while pitting mothers and non-mothers against each other.
Ruby has a knack for flipping the cliched questions such as, “Why don’t you want children?” to “Why do you want children?” and explaining the damage of the deeply entrenched binary notion that mother equals goodness and servitude and non-mothers are synonymous with bad and selfish.
Women Without Kids also serves as an interactive workbook. Thought-provoking questions are interspersed throughout the chapters, encouraging the reader to undertake a journey of self-discovery. The questions also make effective journaling prompts and are helpful tools for those currently undecided about whether to have children. From the book’s start, Ruby makes readers feel comfortable and at ease. The warmth and celebration she holds for all women are immediately apparent. Despite the book being from the lived experience of choosing not to have children, it is inclusive and respectful of all women, whether parents or non-parents, by choice or circumstances.
Much to my delight, Ruby discusses a “Motherhood Spectrum.” I’ve written about a childfree continuum before, so this idea fits nicely into my thinking. We are encouraged to review our feelings and determine where we sit on this spectrum.
There are times I felt utterly exposed through Ruby’s words. She talks about feelings of not fitting in, certain emotions around children and their loving families, and what can be an excruciating isolation of swimming against the tide. I viscerally understand her words, and I can still feel discomfort I have had from feeling like I don’t belong anywhere.
Ruby uses the term childless-by-choice, and while I’m not one to gatekeep language, I think language matters. I prefer childfree or childfree by choice, but ultimately it didn’t cause me any adverse effects. She also discusses the workings of pronatalism, encourages us to accept it, and “tend to our wounds “ instead. In my experience, tending to our wounds begins with understanding pronatalism’s influence on our own beliefs and attitudes about our reproductive choices, and how it relates to why we think we have these wounds in the first place.
I also question her uncited estimate that only ten percent of women without kids are childfree by choice, while ninety percent are childless by circumstances. For example, results from a Pew Research study suggest childfree women are more prevalent than the suggested ten percent.
Women Without Kids is an essential read for all women, no matter where they position themselves on the Motherhood Spectrum. I am confident that Ruby’s words will resonate with thousands of women worldwide and educate many more. At her encouragement, I stand proud as a member of the unsung sisterhood, grateful to know I am not alone, and honored to acknowledge how “revolutionary it is to be a woman without kids.”
Thank you, Ali!
Ali Hall is the face behind the childfree by choice Twitter account. She is a freelance writer with a popular portfolio on the childfree choice. She views kindness as her superpower and dogs and nature as her oxygen. Find her running long distances on the hills and trails in Scotland and Ireland.