Science Fiction Author Wendy Metcalfe’s Story: Choosing to remain childfree cost me my marriage

Wendy Metcalfe

Wendy Metcalfe

I decided I wanted to be childless at the age of twelve. That was when we kids worked out what sex and babies were about back then. In 1979, at the age of 23, I married. At the same time I started studying for a law degree, and moved to London. I had a long discussion with my husband well before we married, in which I made it clear that having children wasn’t for me. So you can imagine my annoyance when, eighteen years later, he said he wanted children. This was major decision time for me. Did I stand up and be counted, stick by my beliefs and values, or did I give in to his demand to have children?

I could never imagine being burdened by the requirement to care for children. So I told him the answer was no, and we divorced. That was nearly eighteen years ago, and I’ve never regretted my decision.

Being single and childfree put me in touch with myself, helped me to discover who I really was, and what mattered to me. And I discovered that what mattered to me was the natural world, preservation of the world’s wild places and its wild creatures.

I walked out of my ‘day job’ a few days before the death of my second parent. And I never went back. Now I’m a full-time writer, living simply and doing what I love. And I’ve found that the solitude, the chance to get in touch with myself, has helped me to clarify what contribution I wish to make to society.

Being a full-time writer is much easier without the distraction and demands of caring for children. I don’t get my train of thought disturbed by children coming into my workroom and demanding my attention. This kind of interruption is a major problem for writers with children. Instead, I can remain inside the fictional world I am building for many hours. I work far harder as a writer than I ever did at any of my paid jobs. So far, I’ve written 26 novels and over 200 short stories, and without the peace and freedom I get from my childfree life I would never have been this productive.

I have a passion for big cats, especially lions and cheetahs, and I’m always watching wildlife programmes on television. The common message from these programmes is that there are too many humans on planet Earth, and that our demands for housing and food are squeezing out wild creatures from their habitats. Part of my purpose as a writer is to draw attention to this situation, to question and challenge the culture of “family”.

My Panthera books (Panthera: Death Spiral and Panthera: Death Song) have a wildlife conservationist as their main character, and through her I’ve managed to make many points about human impact on the natural world. My short story collection ‘Otherlives’ challenges human chauvinism from a different angle. The stories are all about alternative forms of intelligence, and include a story about sentient trees, and a character who talks to the consciousness of the universe.

In my writing I challenge human assumptions that we’re better than any other species. I also try to make the point that overpopulation is threatening the survival of planet Earth and her other creatures. It’s a tricky thing to do well within a story without preaching to my readers, but I think I’ve succeeded.

Being childless feels like a coherent part of a whole for me; a whole that is concerned with my environmental impact on the planet. Now I’m glad I resisted my husband’s demand to have children. It was definitely the right decision for me.

You can find out more about Wendy’s work via her blogs:

Would you like to share your story? Send it to: [email protected]

First published on April 12, 2015

Wendy Metcalfe


  1. Hi Wendy, thanks for sharing your story. I feel totally inspired by the strength and courage you have showed when having to choose between staying true to yourself and having children. I often talk about how being happy requires a lot of courage and your story is an example of that courage.

    Many people are living inauthentic lives and then are surprised that they aren’t happy. To be happy requires that people know what they want in life and stick to it even when the pressure is put on them to change course. Many people want to fit in with the rest of society even if they know deep down that what it takes to fit in does not make them happy.

    Something else I felt inspired by is what you said about living a simple life. That touched me deeply. Living a simple life brings me so much peace and joy. Again, in a world where people feel like they have to keep up with everyone else around them, being confident enough in oneself to live a simple life takes courage.

Speak Your Mind

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap