Earth Books, 2016
pbk: 288 pp
Reviewed by Joan Angus
‘A private decision with global consequences’
This book is intended to help those who are involved in making the decision whether or not to remain childless and includes all genders, creeds, cultures and the different reasons for considering this. It has occurred to me that if we used these techniques in all our decision-making; marriage, divorce, changing jobs, moving house, etc, how much more effective and appropriate our lives would be.
Kamalamani is an Embodied-Relational Therapist. She has been practising Buddhism for seventeen years and was ordained in 2005. She has used all these skills in her sensitive study of the process of making this choice.
The author begins by acknowledging the expectations of society. Children arrive, or don’t arrive, as a matter of course. In her own decision making process she set aside conventional attitudes, and was courageously independent of social pressures. In meticulously researching the subject of intentional childlessness she encountered some challenging attitudes in those she interviewed. She refers to countless books written on the subject and gives quotations to illustrate her points. Her greatest inspiration came from Stephanie Mills’ graduation speech, during the time when the population explosion began to cause concern. Stephanie said, I am terribly saddened by the fact that the most humane thing for me to do is have no children at all. (Mills quoted in Hymas 2010). Stephanie has written the forward to this book.
The chapters are short, dealing with each aspect carefully, and are often followed by a ‘reverie’ or a ‘pregnant pause’, giving the reader time to mull over what she/he has read, from a personal point of view.
Kamalamani has divided her book into three parts. The first covers the pros and cons, the pulling in opposite directions and taking a balanced approach to the question whether or not to remain childless. She describes how her upbringing played a large part in her motivation to make ground-breaking decisions. The first was to become a vegetarian when she was a teenager. Being drawn towards Buddhism was the next life-changing course. She was already learning to belong to minority and marginalised groups.
Part two is an account of her decision-making, in which Buddhist teachings and philosophy play a large part. She gives lists of the pros and cons and examines each one. She asked herself, ‘Why not?’ Her answer was that by that time in her life she didn’t actually want children. Her life as a Buddhist and her profession were already taking up all her time, and to have a child would have meant giving one of these up, so that she could concentrate on the upbringing of the child. She gives a quote from Bartlett, 1994. …the childfree raise the status of parenting as they do not view it lightly; seeing it as a precious vocation…
Kamalamani advises a ‘brewing time’ in which to sit with the decision and watch the signs and indicators as she calls them, such as synchronicity; what the ‘worldly winds’ bring in life-changing events.
The third part deals with living with that decision. There are now new horizons, new projects to start. She has more time and energy to honour her creative processes. Her identity has changed, and she says it is a shame that childless mothers are still judged as career women in a negative way. She talks about occupying the body, being connected with the Earth, and reconnection, and draws on Joanna Macy’s work with grief.
Each of our lives has an effect on the wider world. We are all different. We need to bridge those differences by talking together in order to care for the future generations, and ceasing the harm caused to other-than-human life.
Kamalamani’s conclusion is a beautiful description of how her life is now, entitled ‘A child of all life.’