Choosing Childlessness With Life In Mind: A Private Decision With Global Consequences


Published:

Until I was 27 I anticipated motherhood with warmth, accompanied by an inner mantra: ‘I’ll have kids by the time I’m 30’. This was my personal version, I guess, of what Melanie Holmes calls the “motherhood catechism: The schooling of females to assume that they will someday become mothers”. It’s strange to recall that even by the late 1990s it wasn't obvious, to me, at least, that child-bearing was and is a choice — the first time that I had paid attention to the pronatalism of societal messages (pronatalism being the promotion of the belief that child-bearing and parenthood are desirable.)

Aged 27, I provisionally decided not to have children. I remember the moment clearly — lying still, late at night, sleepless, listening to the rain, whilst on a Buddhist retreat in the Brecon Beacons in mid-Wales during a particularly fecund spring. It was something of a spiritual experience, without wishing to sound too highfalutin.

My final decision not to procreate emerged from a dream, the day after lunching with my best friend, Vicky, and her sharing with me the happy news of her pregnancy. My life was taking a different path. The day after that dream I found myself deciding to write the book that I had failed to find, eagerly scanning online booksellers.

What was I seeking, searching the Internet for the book I couldn’t find? Permission, maybe, that it was okay to be 31 and without child, maybe some encouragement in living a creative and nurturing life, without bringing an actual flesh and blood Earthling into the world. Perhaps I was also seeking reflections on childlessness that were influenced by ecological, environmental and spiritual considerations, which were very much on my mind — and still are. I am now 45 and am soon launching my latest book: Other than Mother: Choosing Childlessness with Life in Mind, the fruition of this 14-year-long gestation period.

Childbearing Is About More Than Just Children

Chosen childlessness is a hot, controversial, and invigorating theme. It can touch on issues of identity, gender, societal status, ecopsychology, green living, spirituality and how it is to be a minority — albeit a growing one. Five decades after women were given greater freedoms over our reproductive destinies in the shape of the pill, we are starting to realize the larger ripples from this technological breakthrough and its impact on relationships, sexuality, family life and gender conditioning. With more women than ever not having children —some by choice and some by circumstance — we are in the midst of a huge cultural shift, each trying to find our way.

Debates on these themes can cascade easily into combat and polarisations, particularly on the Internet — easier, I suppose, to hurl abuse when we can’t see a real live person in front of us. The hotter issue — quite literally, getting hotter at this point in life on Earth — is looking at how we choose to live individually and collectively, as we start to acknowledge more publicly the realization that human activity is seriously endangering life on Earth for us humans and other-than-human life. Not just in terms of climate chaos, but in terms of the severe loss of biodiversity, environmental degradation and the growing gulf of wealth inequality. The times of “great turning” which we’re in, to borrow the words of the eco-philosopher Joanna Macy, call for change in how we think and how we live rather than assuming it's going to be business as normal.

Given the times we're in, the choices of whether or not to have children, or whether to have a third or fourth child even, starts to be weightier. If we, in the so-called Western world, could limit our per capita carbon dioxide emissions to 2.5 tonnes per year, or less, at this point in the world's population, life on Earth could be sustained. But with the average American being responsible for 19.8 tonnes per person per year we are, in this anthropocentric age, putting great strain on the planet, our home.

Author Erica Gies points out how a statistical survey from Oregan State University, published in Global Environmental Change in 2009, highlights the environmental impact of childbearing. In addition to the resources a child will use in his or her lifetime, there is the exponential power of population growth. “Under current conditions in the United States, for example, each child ultimately adds about 9,441 metric tons of carbon dioxide to the carbon legacy of an average female – which is 5.7 times her lifetime emissions.”

So our approaches to child-bearing and child-rearing are very significant. Not simply because of population and consumption concerns, but because in order to have a fighting chance of the longevity of the human species beyond the next few hundred years, we are going to have to develop much more resilient communities; communities which will need to adjust to big shifts in how we produce food and eat, how we recycle, how we keep warm, how we travel and move around the place, how and where we work, and how we communicate and organise ourselves.

Childfree Activism

These are exciting times on Earth. We have the opportunity to courageously engage with difficulty, drawing on the immense resource of human creativity and inventiveness in exploring the experiences of child-bearing and being childfree by choice and by circumstance.

Of course, I am simply part of the latest wave of folk who are interested in and concerned by this theme. In California in 1972 the National Organization for Planned Parenthood was founded, later to become the National Association for Optional Parenthood, continuing as a support group until the early 1980s.

Stephanie Mills, the ecological activist and lecturer in bioregionalism, ecological restoration, community economics, and voluntary simplicity graduated in 1969 from Mill College, California. Stephanie delivered a college graduation speech which catapulted her into the national spotlight.

The year before, Paul Ehrlich’s bestselling book The Population Bomb had been published. Mills had been moved deeply by Ehrlich’s message that we humans are facing a future of war, strife and famine — victims of our own reproductive success, and exploiting Earth’s finite resources. Mills announced to her classmates: “I am terribly saddened by the fact that the most humane thing for me to do is to have no children at all.”.

I am but one player in continuing the legacy of keeping this theme alive and in mind, in an era in which there is scarce mainstream attention paid to the ecological and environmental consequences of having children. Since the 1980s, discussions around choosing not to have children with the planet in mind have died down until more recently.

Taboos still surround this seemingly unmentionable theme, for a whole thicket of reasons. So I am not alone in this work. I long for the day — and hope it’s in the not too far distant future — when we can have open, constructive conversations about our life choices, where a woman can be accepted as being childless or childfree by choice without feeling the pressure, even implicitly, that motherhood is the central defining factor in her womanhood. I am excited about the possibilities for those without child, in shaping their own lives, and, for those who are also concerned by ecological and environmental concerns, being ambassadors for Earth.

Kamalamani is based in Bristol, England, where she works as an Embodied-Relational therapist, supervisor, trainer, and author. She loves integrating age-old Buddhist teachings into life as a body psychotherapist, researching ancestry, and weeding her allotment. Other than Mother: Choosing Childlessness with Life in Mind will be published by Earth Books this month. Visit www.kamalamani.co.uk.

See also:
It’s Her Choice
EarthTalk: Is Human Overpopulation On the Decline?

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

October 22, 2018

Aggressive, impatient tendencies are on the rise. For one thing, the Moon is nearing its full phase. Another factor is the Sun’s approaching opposition to unpredictable Uranus. Keep your impulses under control this morning. The swelling Moon is at odds…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

October 2018

October 21 - 22 (Workshop is 10-5 daily) This is one of Sergio's most powerful workshops, where you learn to use the sacred Toltec map of transformation. The crystal skulls symbolize...

Where:
Natick Mariott Courtyard
Natick, MA


Contact Name: Sandy Corcoran
Website »

More information

With Yogi Amandeep How many burdens do you carry? When stress, obligations and responsibilities become really heavy, are you wise enough to let go? Free the mind from burden and experience...

Where:
Yoga at the Ashram
368 Village St
Millis, MA  02054
View map »


Telephone: (508) 376-4525
Website »

More information

Kinetic Chain Release, moxibustion and past life regression at Leapin Lizards. Every third Sunday: 9/16/18 10/21/18 11/18/18 12/16/18 For information, call Leapin Lizards at (207)...

Where:
Leapin Lizards
449 Forest Ave
Portland, ME
View map »


Telephone: (207) 221-2363
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
No Events

The investigation continues… A skeptical ghost hunter teams with a medium to investigate paranormal mysteries. More Ghost Chronicles will provide a unique perspective...

Cost: $10

Where:
Circles of Wisdom
386 Merrimack Street
Suite 1-A
Methuen, MA  01844
View map »


Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Contact Name: Cathy Kneeland
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Six-mile Stonewalk in honor of victims of violence begins in Boston and ends at Boston College on October 24, UN Day. In July of 1994, a contribution was made to The Peace Abbey in Sherborn, MA...

Where:
Garden of Peace
64-98 Somerset Street
Boston, MA  02108
View map »


Sponsor: The Peace Abbey
Telephone: 508-259-8508
Contact Name: Lewis Randa
Website »

More information

Ever wonder why some places are haunted, even new houses or businesses? Or some people? What do you do if your business is haunted? Shamanic practitioner Deb Fate-Mental of Elder Grove Shamanic...

Cost: $40

Where:
Perfect Fit Pilates
85 Main St
Ground Floor
Hopkinton, MA  01748
View map »


Sponsor: Perfect Fit Plates
Telephone: 508-948-0568
Contact Name: Judy Malcolm
Website »

More information

The class is a combination of qi gong, yoga, meditation, and relaxation followed by a cup of healing tea. The class, developed by Korean enlightened master Ilchi Lee, is based on Sundo, a...

Cost: $10

Where:
Divine Paradigm
58b Macy St
Amesbury, MA  01913
View map »


Contact Name: Brad Fanger

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The H.E.A.R.T. Program® (Health Empowerment and Real Transformation) is an innovative holistic curriculum addressing the current health crisis and epidemics of obesity, heart disease, and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilbraham Senior Center
45 Post Office Park, #4502
Wilbraham, MA  01095
View map »


Sponsor: Harmony Way
Telephone: 413-636-2475
Contact Name: Michelle Caron
Website »

More information

Daily practice for peace, healing, Christ mindedness, meditation, awakening.

Where:
Milton, MA


Telephone: 617-696-5685
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

October 26 - 28 14 PDAs! This weekend is a full immersion into the Daoist arts of qigong, meditation, Daoist  philosophy, and tea ceremony. Drawing on Solala’s 28 years of study of...

Cost: Please see our website

Where:
Eastover Estate & Eco Village
430 East St.
Lenox, MA  01240
View map »


Telephone: 866-264-5139
Website »

More information

With Master Glenn Mendoza and Angel Mystic Birkan Tore Learn how to heal with angels in this talk facilitated by Master Pranic Healer Glenn Mendoza and Angel Mystic Birkan Tore. Learn to invoke...

Cost: $97, bring a friend for free

Where:
Homewood Suites by Hilton
145 Beech St.
Chelsea, MA  02150
View map »


Telephone: 877-787-3792
Website »

More information

Alexander Dreyshner, Dima Klim, and Mitch Nur on the world’s storehouse of indigenous musical instruments. This ambient mode soundscape includes didjeridoo, gongs, harmonic overtone singing,...

Cost: $38

Where:
Circles of Wisdom
386 Merrimack Street
Suite 1-A
Methuen, MA  01844
View map »


Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Contact Name: Cathy Kneeland
Website »

More information

Bee Kind Music Class with Carrie Rowan inspires a love to music in little ones. 10am on Fridays for 8 weeks at Playtown Express in Southboro. To register call (508) 480-0022 or...

Where:
Playtown Express
150 Cordaville Road
Southboro, MA
View map »


Telephone: 508-273-2610
Website »

More information

The class is a combination of qi gong, yoga, meditation, and relaxation followed by a cup of healing tea. The class, developed by Korean enlightened master Ilchi Lee, is based on Sundo, a...

Cost: $10

Where:
Divine Paradigm
58b Macy St
Amesbury, MA  01913
View map »


Contact Name: Brad Fanger

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

October 27–28, 2018, 9AM–6PM Unlock your inner healing abilities and learn from one of the only eight master pranic healers in the world! What is Pranic Healing? Pranic...

Cost: $75–$350

Where:
Homewood Suites by Hilton
145 Beech St.
Chelsea, MA  02150
View map »


Telephone: 877-787-3792
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags