This book is not a manifesto for the childfree. It is not shrill, dogmatic or defensive. A reader hungry for encouragement to eschew breeding may feel encroaching disappointment while devouring the first chapters, but a surprise is in the offing: In the course of this well-researched book the author shares her own story, and by the end has delivered a powerful dose of inspiration and paved the way for a more confident and enlightened decision.
Lisle’s account of her journey from uncertainty to acceptance of and even elation in her choice of childlessness provides ample jumping-off points for an exploration of the decision from every conceivable angle. The antecedents of her decision are complex, including elements both negative (her father’s desertion of the family; her painful awareness of her mother’s struggle and sacrifice) and positive (her devotion to her writing; her deep appreciation of freedom and self-definition). She also surveys the history of non-motherhood, its ebbs and flows with cultural, economic and historical conditions, and draws on a wealth of literary sources, from diaries and letters of 19th-century women and pioneering childless couples, to authors like Adrienne Rich, Anaïs Nin and Georgia O’Keeffe (of whom Lisle wrote a best selling biography) to Greek plays. She also has many sociological studies at her fingertips, which answer such important questions as whether nonmothers are lonelier as elderly women (they aren’t).
Desirous of bridging the gap between mothers and nonmothers, Lisle has breached difficult territory and emerged with wisdom which can do much to dispel the hostility on both sides. She takes all of the players in the family equation into account: extended family, the infertile and others who are not childless by choice, even men! Lisle remains generous and fair-minded throughout, while standing her ground and poking holes in narrow pro-natalist attitudes.
Hardback: 273 pages