It never occurred to me that I wouldn't become a mother. "I'll have kids by the time I'm 30" I would say when asked. I was 27 when I realised – with a jolt – that I had a choice. I was shocked that I'd been so shaped by pro-natalism that I hadn't even realised I had a choice, despite being an independent woman. So I decided provisionally, just for a year, that I wouldn't have children. I wanted to see how it felt and consider other pathways. That was a disorienting and liberating process! I began researching the subject of elective or voluntary childlessness – I worked as an academic back then.
Turning 30 with no children felt fine; I had a rich working life and a deepening practice of engaged Buddhism. Two years later my best friend Vicky shared the happy news of her first pregnancy. That night my dreams made it very clear that I wouldn't be becoming a Mum - my decision finally made itself. The research morphed into my second book 'Other than Mother: Choosing Childlessness with Life in Mind,' published by Earth Books last year, aimed to support others in this decision-making process.
I feel very fortunate to hold spaces and meet those who are childless by circumstance, happenstance and loss, as well as the childfree by choice. I am finding ways of bridging between the childless and childfree – there's often a huge grey area between the two groups – given that we face the same pronatal forces and are unhelpfully stereotyped. I've lately been encouraging the reclaiming of our longings and legacies as we take our places and become more visible – I long for the day when we're no longer judged because of our choices or circumstances around procreation and we're freer to narrate our own stories. – Kamalamani Palmer
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