I was struck by something the writer Kiran Millwood Hargrave recently posted on Instagram: 'I want to read about these people, these uncertain people for whom not being a mother isn’t a tragedy or a triumph but rather something that happened."
I'm in my 30s, and childfree, by choice. I know in my heart of hearts that having kids of my own isn't for me.
Of course I'm all too familiar with the 'what a shame/one day you'll change your mind' refrain. This offhand, uncouth and extremely patronising response is a mere irritant to me, but I see it land like a gut punch among friends who long for children they have lost, or cannot have.
It is long past time for us to make a space for childfree life, to recognise it as equally rewarding, valuable, worthwhile as the alternative. Let us make space for myriad kinds of womanhood, for womanhood without motherhood, for conversations of (in)fertility, abortion and chosen family stripped of shame.
Here are some books that carve out or celebrate just such a space, including a few novels that feature contendedly childless women. (I will caveat this with the fact that women in the 40-to-60 range don’t get much of a showing as main characters in literature generally, let alone as contended or childless ones, but here's a start anyhow... maybe another list to follow?