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Childlessness author Kamalamani explains why she’s ‘Other than Mother’

By Kamalamani 

I always said I would have children ‘by the time I’m 30’ and warmly anticipated motherhood. It wasn’t until I was 27 that I realised that it wasn’t compulsory to have them. It was a shock realising that I hadn’t really known that I had a choice, given that I was independent and free-thinking!

That realisation made me see the pro-family, pro-natal message we grow up with as girls and I became increasingly interested in exploring the growing phenomena of voluntary childlessness. I also provisionally decided to not have children just for a year, to experience what it would be like to not think of myself as a mother-to-be. This was both liberating and nerve-wracking.

My 30th birthday came and went, and it felt fine not to be a mother. I worked as a development worker in sub-Saharan Africa and as a university lecturer. I was also in the midst of beginning training as a counsellor and in training for ordination as a Buddhist, so my life was full and fulfilling; work-wise and spiritually.

At 31 the moment came when I realised that I definitely wouldn’t be having children. Lunching with my longest-standing friend Vicky, she shared the happy news of her first pregnancy. That night I had a dream which clarified for me that Vicky and I would be taking different paths, and mine would be without child.

The next day I searched for a book about choosing childlessness. I was looking for something which supported my decision to not have children. I wanted to honor life without producing an earthling. Whilst I found a few interesting books on this subject, they weren’t quite what I was looking for. In the face of fruitless online searching, I decided I would have to write that book.

Nearly 14 years later and it’s about to be published by Earth Books. It’s called ‘Other than Mother: Choosing Childlessness with Life in Mind’ and my aim is that it’ll support other women making the decision whether or not to have children and to open up more creative dialogues.

Writing ‘Other than Mother’ has helped me to clarify my decision over the years. I’ve faced those stereotypes I’ve internalised, for example, worrying that I’ll regret it, or feeling I’m a lesser person because I’m not a mother.

Writing this book made me face the sense of lack which so often shrouds the subject of childlessness. I discovered a sense of personal lack – which I still feel, at times – in not being a mother, even though I’ve chosen a life without children. There’s the sense of lack of not being a mother in society’s eyes, with the identity of a woman still so associated with child-bearing and motherhood for many folk.

It’s also difficult to write about something you’re not doing, so facing that sense of lack made me realise that life is about choosing, not about not-choosing, so I re-structured ‘Other than Mother’ with that decision-making process in mind. I realise, however, that not everyone can choose to have children, so it’s a term which is not without its difficulties…

Because it matters so much in my own life and decision making, I write alot about not having children with environmental and ecological considerations in mind. This is a hot topic, and one which, sadly, isn’t talked about all that much.

Stephanie Mills has been an inspiration to me. She’s a US-based ecological activist and author who kindly wrote the foreword to ‘Other than Mother’. In 1969, moved deeply by the 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, she announced to her collegemates: “I am terribly saddened by the fact that the most humane thing for me to do is to have no children at all”.

When my writing was floundering and it was hard to finish ‘Other than Mother’ Stephanie’s example would come back to me. I love her message about choosing whether or not to have children in a You Tube film from the Post Carbon Institute:”Search your conscience and follow your heart” she says. Wise words indeed.

For information about Kamalamani’s book please visit the Earth Books. You can also follow her on facebook and twitter: @kamalamani

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