This is an expanded (and regularly updated) version of the resources section at the back of my book,
Living the Life Unexpected: 12 Weeks to Your Plan B for a Meaningful and Fulfilling Future Without Children (2016 Bluebird/PanMacmillan).
If you have any recommendations, corrections or suggestions, please leave a comment at the bottom.
Thank you, Jody x
How do I meet other childless women in person?
- Join the free, private Gateway Women meetup group in your country and come along to an event. And if there isn’t an event near you, you can suggest one. You need to be a member of meetup.com first, then apply to join one of our free, private country groups.
- You can see a list of all meetups across the world here
UK & Ireland http://www.meetup.com/gateway-women
NEW ZEALAND: www.meetup.com/gateway-women-nz
How do I connect with other childless women online?
- Gateway Women Private Online Community on G+ (Global) To apply for membership of the ‘best online community for childless-by-circumstance women’ (that’s a review, not me!) go to ‘Join Our Community’ to fill in the application form. The first month is free, after which there’s a very modest monthly or annual fee or free memberships for those who need them. All applications are vetted for member security and privacy.
- Gateway Women ‘NOMO TRIBE’. This is a private online community for those women who have ‘graduated’ from the main GW+ online community by virtue of the fact that they are through the worst of their grief and are now actively embracing the life unexpected! Open to all current and ex-members of the GW+ community, and to new members if you are in a ‘good place’ with your childlessness these days and would like to connect with likeminded women. You will need to join the main GW+ community first (to clear ID and admin) http://www.gateway-women.com/community
- Gateway Women Adoption Group: free, private discussion group for women considering or goign through the adoption process. This is only open to current or past members of the main GW+ community as ID and confidentiality is paramount.
- The Dovecote Community (UK): www.facebook.com/groups/thedovecoteorg Kelly da Silva runs a closed Facebook group for involuntarily childless women. There’s also a new community, Dovecote for Men: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1558482934478197/
- Life Without Baby (US) http://lifewithoutbaby.com/ A wonderful private online community run by Lisa Manterfield, author of the award winning, ‘I’m Taking My Eggs and Going Home’.
- Childless Stepmothers (UK) www.childlessstepmums.co.uk Being a stepmother can be very challenging, being a childless stepmother uniquely so. This UK-based internet forum describes itself as ‘a sanctuary for women thrown into an instant family of often angry ex-wives, resentful stepchildren and guilty or mourning fathers’.
- Childless Mothers Connect (CMC) and Childless Mothers Adopt (CMomA) (US) www.cmoma.org/cmc Psychotherapist Dr Marcy Cole’s website, organisation and community for ‘Childless Mothers’ (by both choice and circumstance) and her project (CMomA) to connect children-in-need with adoptive or foster mothers. Marcy is a childless-by-circumstance woman herself.
What about men? Is there a ‘Gateway Men’
- As of February 2016, there is now an online support group on Facebook for involuntarily childless men started by Kelly da Silva (The Dovecote.org) and Robin Hadley. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1558482934478197/
Academic research into issues of male childlessness
- Robin Hadley – PhD candidate at University of Keele on men who wanted to be fathers. You can follow him on Twitter and read this interview with him in Daily Telegraph ‘I know all about broody men, I am one’. His research page: http://www.wantedtobeadad.com He also took part in very moving audio story by Viv Oyolu A Discussion on the Journey Through Childlessness featuring two men and two women which offers a very rare insight into the male experience of childlessness.
His website is: http://www.wantedtobeadad.com/
Support groups for childless men
- Dovecote for Men: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1558482934478197/
- MoreToLife is a support group for men/women/couples after unsuccessful infertility treatments http://www.
- Mensfe – this is run by a man called Pip O’Rielly. It is for men pre, during, or post, male infertility issues http://www.mensfe.net/forum/
Blogs by men with infertility
- Few Pieces Missing from Normalcy: http://
How do I find a counsellor or therapist to help me with my childlessness?
- You might want your prospective therapist if they have experience with childlessness-related grief as many of us have found that therapists are not immune to the same unconscious prejudices as the rest of society.
- In the UK you could also try Wellbeing’s ‘Find A Therapist’ questionnaire designed to help you identity the therapeutic approach that may work best for you. http://welldoing.org/find-a-therapist/
- If you have experienced infertility, you may like to find someone via the BICA website (British Infertility Counselling Association). They are aware of the work of Gateway Women and I have spoken at their events.
- In the USA and Canada you can search using the Psychology Today listings.
- If you are feeling in deep despair about your childlessness, I really recommend contacting The Samaritans if you are in the UK. YOU DON’T NEED TO BE FEELING SUICIDAL TO CALL THEM. They have a 24 hour number 08457 90 90 90. Sometimes the feelings of grief and hopelessness that childlessness can bring up can be very deep and talking to someone can really help. The middle of the night, weekends, Christmas and other holidays can be an especially tough time for childlessness so please don’t feel you’re being melodramatic…
Research, statistics and media relating to childlessness
- Gateway Women Resource Centre on Listly (Global) http://list.ly/l/13P An online library of articles and resources of relevance to childless-by-circumstance women from online resources globally. At the last count over 300 articles and resources. Browse and feel free to add your own too as you come across them and let’s curate the web collaboratively.
Childless and Childfree Women Role Models
- Gateway Women Gallery of Childless & Childfree Role Models on Pinterest (Global) http://pinterest.com/gatewaywomen/gateway-women-childless-childfree-women-role-model/ Portraits and mini-biographies of childless and childfree women role models. 400+ women from different cultures and times, with more being added as I hear about them. Take a look and suggest your own too by becoming a Pinner to this board.
Life after infertility support organisations
- The Daisy Network (UK) www.daisynetwork.org.uk A UK charity that supports women who have experienced premature menopause or premature ovarian failure as it’s often referred to.
- The Lotus Network (UK/Online Support) A blog and support forum set up by Nia Fisher to support those experiencing premature menopause www.thelotusnetwork.com
- More to Life (UK) www.infertilitynetworkuk.com/more_to_life A UK charity that provides online and face-to-face groups for women and couples moving on after infertility treatment.
Recommended blogs on coming to terms with childlessness
- The Pursuit of Motherhood (UK) www.thepursuitofmotherhood.com A blog by Jessica Hepburn, author of the bestselling infertility memoir ‘The Pursuit of Motherhood’. Jessica and her partner are childless after taking their IVF attempts almost into double-figures. Her writing is funny, candid and moving without being sentimental.
- From Forty With Love (UK) www.fromfortywithlove.com A blog by British journalist Katherine Baldwin about her journey of being 40 single & still hopeful of having a family to working through her ambivalence, finding love (with a man who didn’t want children) and coming to terms with her childlessness.
- Childless by Marriage (US) https://childlessbymarriageblog.com Writer and musician Sue Fagalde Lick’s book and blog about life as a childless stepmother and now as a childless widow living on her own. One of the very few 60+ voices writing publicly about childlessness.
- Infertility Honesty (US) http://infertilityhonesty.com/ Sarah Chamberlains funny, wry, honest and powerful blog about her life after infertility.
- Life Without Baby (US) www.lifewithoutbaby.com Lisa Manterfield’s blog, online community, online courses & resources for women coming to terms with life as a childless woman. Lisa is the author of ‘I’m Taking my Eggs and Going Home’.
- Savvy Auntie (US) www.huffingtonpost.com/melanie-notkin Melanie Notkin also writes movingly for Huffington Post on being a single, childless woman in her mid-40s.
- Silent Sorority (US) www.silentsorority.com Pamela Tsingdinos’s blog was one of the very first I found and her sane, compassionate and wry voice gave me hope that life after infertility was indeed possible. She has since become a powerful voice speaking out in print and in public about the dubious practices to be found in the unregulated US ‘ART’ industry (assisted reproduction technology). Also the author of the award-winning 2010 Silent Sorority: A (Barren) Woman Gets Busy, Angry, Lost and Found. USA: Booksurge Plc.
- The Bitter Babe (US) www.thebitterbabe.wordpress.com An anonymous blog charting the outer and inner life of a forty-something single childless woman. Frank, insightful and culturally astute, this is the very best writing I’ve seen on the issue from a personal, sociological and cultural viewpoint. I hope she writes a book soon!
- Gateway Women website www.gateway-women.com
Jody Day’s Gateway Women website full of articles and resources for childless-by-circumstance women. UK based, global audience.
- Gateway Women Private Online Community
To apply for membership of the ‘best online community for childless-by-circumstance women’ (that’s a review, not me!) go to www.gateway-women.com and click on ‘Online Community’. All applications are vetted for member security and privacy. Free trial and then either a modest membership fee or free, depending on your circumstances. Open to women who are ‘still hopeful’ as well as those who are ‘moving on’.
- Gateway Women Meetup Groups www.gateway-women.com/meetup
Private social Meetup groups for childless women who wish to meet up in person. Groups in UK, Ireland, Europe, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa.
- Gateway Women Resource Library on Listly bit.ly/gw-library
An online library of articles and resources of relevance to childless-by-circumstance women from online resources globally. At the last count almost 700 articles and resources.
- Gateway Women Gallery of Childless & Childfree Role Models on Pinterest bit.ly/gw-role-models
Portraits and mini-biographies of childless and childfree women role models. 500+ women from different cultures and times, with more being added as I hear about them. Take a look and feel free to email me with your nominations to add.
- Bella de Paulo’s ‘Community of Single People’ (Global) bit.ly/single-community
This is a closed Facebook group for ‘Single people who want to live single lives joyfully, and free of stereotyping and stigma’. This group is for all genders, and includes single parents. It has nothing to do with dating. Bella de Paulo is a academic and writer who writes on the prejudices experienced by single adults, and coined the term ‘matrimania’.
- AWOC.org (Ageing Without Children) http://www.awoc.org
Jody is a founding member of this not-for-profit campaigning and supporting the 20-25% of adults in the UK who will be ageing without children, and the millions who already are.
- BICA (British Infertility Counselling Association) http://bica.net
The BICA website has a list of registered infertility counsellors in the UK. It is an organisation that is very aware of the support that men, women and couples need to move on with their lives after childlessness. It has been very supportive of the work of Gateway Women and Jody has both written for their journal and has spoken at their annual conference.
- Campaign to End Loneliness (UK) http://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/about-loneliness/
This is both a campaigning group and also provides support. Lots of ways you can get involved, whatever your age or situation.
- Give Sorrow Words (UK) http://www.gilltunstallcounselling.co.uk
London-based counsellor Gill Tunstall runs regular ‘Give Sorrow Words’ ceremonies. These are non-denominational memorial ceremonies for anyone who has experienced losses associated with fertility or unwanted childlessness. They are based on the work of Meredith Wheeler.
- Childless Stepmothers (UK) www.childlessstepmums.co.uk
Being a stepmother can be very challenging, being a childless stepmother uniquely so. This UK-based internet forum describes itself as ‘a sanctuary for women thrown into an instant family of often angry ex-wives, resentful stepchildren and guilty or mourning fathers’.
- The Daisy Network (UK) www.daisynetwork.org.uk
A UK charity that supports women who have experienced premature menopause or ‘premature ovarian failure’ as it’s often referred to.
- From Forty With Love (UK) www.fromfortywithlove.com
A blog by British journalist Katherine Baldwin which began when she was 40, single and still hopeful of having a family and how this came about. Now in her mid-forties, she’s busy creating her Plan B and continues to chart her journey from ambivalence towards a life of joy and meaning.
- More to Life (UK) www.infertilitynetworkuk.com/more_to_life
A UK charity that provides online and face-to-face groups for women and couples moving on after infertility treatment.
- Saying Goodbye (UK) http://www.sayinggoodbye.org/
Saying Goodbye organise non-denominational services of remembrance in Cathedrals across the UK. The services are for people who have lost a child at any age or stage of pregnancy, at birth or in infancy, whether it was recently or many years ago.
- Center for Complicated Grief (US) http://complicatedgrief.org/
Part of the Columbia School of Social Work in New York, The Center for Complicated Grief has resources for both professionals looking to understand ‘CG’ better and train in their 16-session treatment programme, and for those looking for a therapist. They also have lots of really helpful reading material and resources on their website.
- Childless by Marriage (US) http://childlessbymarriageblog.com
Writer and musician Sue Fagalde Lick’s book and blog about life as a childless stepmother and now as a childless widow living on her own.
- Childless Mothers Connect (CMC) and Childless Mothers Adopt (CMomA) (US) www.cmoma.org/cmc
Psychotherapist Dr Marcy Cole’s website, organisation and community for ‘Childless Mothers’ (by both choice and circumstance) and her project (CMomA) to connect children-in-need with adoptive or foster mothers. Marcy is a childless-by-circumstance woman herself.
- Gateway Women USA Meetup Group http://www.meetup.com/gateway-women-usa
Free, private social Meetup group for towns and cities across the US. To join, first join Meetup.com (if you’re not already a member) and then follow the link below to apply for membership of the Gateway Women Meetup group.
- Life Without Baby (US) www.lifewithoutbaby.com
Lisa Manterfield’s blog, online community, online courses & resources for women coming to terms with life as a childless woman. Lisa is the author of ‘I’m Taking my Eggs and Going Home’.
- Our Spirit Babies (US) http://www.spiritbabies.org
Interfaith community events for people who have been affected by pregnancy loss, whether by miscarriage, abortion, stillbirth or for any other reason. Those mourning not being able to have children for any reason are also welcome. The website also has some beautiful photos of shrines and alters created at their events.
- Resolve (US) http://www.resolve.org
The US National Infertility Association with many local groups and a fantastic website.
- Savvy Auntie (US) www.savvyauntie.com www.huffingtonpost.com/melanie-notkin
Melanie Notkin’s US site for women without children who are aunts, godmothers or in some way ‘childful’. Also has a busy online community. Melanie Notkin also writes movingly for Huffington Post on being a single, childless woman in her mid-40s.
- The Bitter Babe (US) www.thebitterbabe.wordpress.com
An anonymous blog (no longer active, but all blogs still accessible) charting the outer and inner life of a forty-something single childless woman. Frank, insightful and culturally astute, this is the very best writing I’ve seen on the issue from a personal, sociological and cultural viewpoint. I hope she writes a book soon!
- Femme Sans Enfant (French Canada) http://www.femmesansenfant.com
Blogs, articles and video interviews with childless and childfree women (and men) across the Francophone world. Started by Catherine-Emmanuelle Delisle who is childless due to early menopause (age 14), it won in the 2014 ‘Activism and Social Justice’ category in Canada’s ‘Schmutzie’ Weblog Awards. Also a Meetup group.
- Femme Sans Enfant Meetup Group (Montreal, Canada) http://www.meetup.com/femme-sans-enfant
A French-speaking Meetup group organised and run by Catherine-Emmanuelle Delisle of ‘Femme Sans Enfant’
- Gateway Women English-speaking Canada Meetup Group http://www.meetup.com/gateway-women-canada
Free, private social Meetup group for towns and cities across Canada. To join, first join Meetup.com (if you’re not already a member) and then follow the link below to apply for membership of the Gateway Women Meetup group.
- Mothering Your Heart (English speaking Canada / Global)http://www.motheringyourheart.com/
Email programme and group for support after infertility and baby loss. Based in Canada but with global access.
- Gateway Women Australia Meetup Group http://www.meetup.com/gateway-women-aus
Free, private social Meetup group for towns and cities across Australia. To join, first join Meetup.com (if you’re not already a member) and then follow the link below to apply for membership of the Gateway Women Meetup group.
- Caroline Thurling (Melbourne) offers workshops around Australia for those coming to terms with involuntary childlessness. Childless not by choice herself, she is someone I have got to know through GW and would recommend. http://carolinethurling.com/
New Zealand Resources
- Teresa Woodham Workshops http://teresawoodham.com/
Teresa Woodham is a psychotherapist who has been running workshops, groups and private sessions for childless-by-circumstance women in Auckland since 2012. Having corresponded with her regularly, I feel very comfortable recommending her work.
- Gateway Women New Zealand Meetup Group http://www.meetup.com/gateway-women-nz
Free, private social Meetup group for towns and cities across New Zealand. To join, first join Meetup.com (if you’re not already a member) and then follow the link below to apply for membership of the Gateway Women Meetup group.
South African Resources
- Gateway Women South Africa Meetup Group http://www.meetup.com/gateway-women-sa
Free, private social Meetup group for South Africa. To join, first join Meetup.com (if you’re not already a member) and then follow the link below to apply for membership of the Gateway Women Meetup group.
- Gateway Women Europe Meetup Group http://www.meetup.com/gateway-women-europe
Free, private social Meetup group for towns and cities across Europe. To join, first join Meetup.com (if you’re not already a member) and then follow the link below to apply for membership of the Gateway Women Meetup group.
- Femme Sans Enfant Meetup (Paris, France) www.meetup.com/Paris-femmesansenfant-com/
Organised by Catherine-Emmanuelle Delisle, the Founder of the Canadian site www.femmesansenfant.com this is a regular Paris based meetup. I met the organiser of the Meetup at a UK event in 2016 and she was lovely, so do go along! (Both French and English speaking women welcome).
- Not About Kids (Paris, France) http://notaboutkids.com
A social and campaigning group for men and women without children by choice or not. Also a Meetup group.
On social & cultural aspects of childlessness
- Cannold, L. (2005) What, No Baby? Why women are losing the freedom to mother and how they can get it back. Freemantle, Australia: Curtin University Books.
A thoroughly-researched book suitable for both the academic and general reader. Includes the perspective of women who are childless because of ‘social infertility’ as well as for other reasons and with a great many first-person stories as well as a strong systemic/cultural look at why so many Australian women are childless-not-by-choice.
- Carroll, L. (2012) The Baby Matrix: Why Freeing Our Minds from Outmoded Thinking About Parenting and Reproduction Will Create a Better World. USA: Live True Books
An excellent and very provocative book that blows the lid off pronatalism and suggests really interesting alternative ways of thinking and behaving around having/not having children.
- Erikson, C. (2015) The Mother Within: A Guide To Accepting Your Childless Journey. USA/Global Kindle e-book. This soulful, compassionate and practical guide to owning and honouring your experience as a childless-not-by-choice woman contains the social and cultural aspects of being a childless woman in our currently motherhood-obsessed society. As well as this, it includes topics that will ring true for many of us, including dealing with our self-blame and shame, coping with the judgemental and hurtful assumptions of others (even complete strangers), and finding a way to come to terms with our destiny and move forward. If you’re like me, your head will be nodding on every page!
- Holmes, M. (2014). The Female Assumption: A Mother’s Story, Freeing Women from the View that Motherhood is a Mandate. USA: Create space. A mother of three, Melanie Holmes has written a frank and moving book about the assumptions and sacrifices of motherhood that really blows the lid off the ‘motherhood myth’. Well researched and is about one-third research findings from interviews with mothers and childless/childfree women; one-third self help (for those ambivalent about motherhood and those childless/childfree who want to make peace with their life) and one-third warts-mall motherhood memoir
- Slevin, D. (2015). UnPregnant Pause: Where Are the Babies? One woman’s journey to understand why our daughters are not having children. If you wanted a book to give to your mother, this is it! Debbie Slevin is a mother who longs to be a grandmother, and yet has watched her children (son and daughter) struggle to date, mate and become parents. Debbie interviews men and women of all ages as well as every kind of sociologist and specialist you can think of in order to get her head round why it’s so different for this generation. Although there’s little here that those of us living this will find new, it’s refreshing to see one of ‘our’ mothers learning why our reality isn’t a quick fix, how structural, economic and ideological factors weigh in, and how and why finding a mate and having a family is no longer a given for many women today, even if they want it.
On the solo childless experience
- Cagen, S. (2004) Quirky alone: a manifesto for uncompromising romantics. USA, NY: HarperSanFransico, HarperCollins Publishers Inc. A book that started a movement! Sasha Cagen’s book is part autobiography, part social history of those who ‘enjoy being single but who are not opposed to being in a relationship’. It doesn’t present solos as somehow in need of a ‘solution’, nor does it gloss over the difficulties of a solo life. The book is laid out in a quirky style with lots of old adverts and clippings and interviews with solo men and women which isn’t that easy to read in one go, but is great for dipping into. Cagen has built some great ideas around this initial book (Tango holidays anyone?!) and her website is well worth exploring.
- DePaulo, B. (2007) Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After. USA, New York: St Martin’s Press. Bella DePaulo is an American academic and writer and the most respected voice in the world of ‘solo’ thinking. Singled Out was her first book written for a non-academic audience and is, as she describes it: ‘a myth-busting, consciousness-raising, totally unapologetic take on singles and their place in contemporary American society’. A ground-breaking book. Her website is packed full of articles and resources and she also hosts a private community for singles (nothing to do with dating) on Facebook.
- Eckel, S. (2014) It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single. USA, New York: Perigree (Penguin Group). Sara Eckel’s wonderful book based on her ‘Modern Love’ column in the New York Times debunks every common myth about why you’re single, from ‘You’re too picky’ to ‘You’re too needy’, etc. Sara is childless by circumstance, having married late, after long term singlehood. I recommend this book to everyone who is single, and all parents or well-meaning coupled friends of solo childless women!
- Feldon, B. (2003) Living Alone and Loving It: A Guide to Relishing the Solo Life. USA, New York: Simon and Schuster. Barabara Feldon is an actress (now in her 80s) and she wrote this wonderful book after what she describes as ‘a relationship impasse’ left her living alone and without the emotional or social skills to do so. It’s an excellent book which covers all the main topics and hasn’t dated at all.
- Notkin, M. (2014) Otherhood: Modern Women Finding a New Kind of Happiness. USA: New York: Seal Press. Melanie Notkin, now in her mid-forties is well known as the Founder of SavvyAuntie.com – the website for women who love the children in their life but don’t have them. In ‘Otherhood’ she reveals her own story as well as that of other women that she interviews – one of wanting to find the right partner to have children with, but it never quite happening. The first two-thirds of the book have a the same strong and compassionate tone as her Huffington Post articles, with the final third being a bit more ‘Sex in the City’ with lots of stories of dating and parties in Manhattan. This book has taken ‘social infertility’ into the mainstream and is well worth reading.
On choosing whether to have children or to remain childfree
- Kamalamani (2016) Other than Mother: Choosing Childlessness with Life In Mind: a private decision with global consequences. UK, Alresford: Earth Books (John Hunt Publishing). Written by a British Buddhist psychotherapist, this thorough, philosophical and helpful book explores the authors own decade long exploration of her choice whether to become a mother or not. She herself decided to remain childfree, but it was by no means an easy choice, and she does not promote it as the ‘right’ choice for everyone. Highly recommended for its inclusion, without any kind of preaching, of the environmental aspects of the decision to parent. Recommended to those also looking to make peace with not having had children, not by choice.
- Carlini, D.L., and Davidsman, A. (2016) Motherhood: Is It For Me? Your Step by Step Guide to Clarity. With a Foreword by Mardy S. Ireland. USA, PA: Transformation Books. This book is much needed as it addresses one of the core social taboos that make having a frank dialogue about this so difficult – ambivalence. As a society, we’re only just beginning to create a space and a language for how to navigate these choices, and this thorough, intelligent, empathic, non-judgemental book takes us a big step forwards. Whether you wish to explore and be sure of your reasons for choosing to live childfree, or to understand what’s blocking you from actively pursuing the path to motherhood, this book will be your friend and guide. I know many women who will wish it had been around twenty years ago, and I am grateful to Denise and Ann for making it available to the generations of daughters that come after us.
- Leibovich, L. (Ed) (2007) Maybe Baby: 28 Writers Tell the Truth About Skepticism, Infertility, Baby Lust, Childlessness, Ambivalence and How They Made the Biggest Decision of Their Lives. USA, New York: Harper. With a Forward by Anne Lamott. The book is a series of essays, ranging from stories of ambivalence, of choosing to remain childfree and of going on to become a parent. The range of voices is inclusive and frank and two-thirds of the book applies to those of us who don’t have children. The section on becoming a parent is worth reading too, as some of the essays bust open the ‘most meaningful thing I’ve ever done’ pronatalist mantra.
On midlife and growing older without children
- Athill, D. (2009) Somewhere Towards The End. UK: Granta Books. Memoir of advancing into old age as an unmarried, childless woman. Unsentimental, intelligent, unflinching and uplifting.
- Gross, J. (2011) A Bittersweet Season: Caring for our Aging Parents – and Ourselves. USA, New York: Random House. Jane Gross is an American journalist who wrote a memoir of caring for her ageing parents, and how it changed her. Childless herself, she then went on to create ‘The New Old Age’ blog at the New York Times which, although it’s now ended, is still available to read and highly recommended.
- Karpf, A. (2014). How to Age. UK, London: School of Life, PanMacmillan. A wonderfully accessible, modern, short and erudite read on the issue of ageism (and its history) as well as many wonderful resources and organisations to check out and get involved in. Anne Karpf is a British sociologist and won the award for ‘best independent voice on older people’s issues’ in 2014. Highly recommended for anyone planning to get old! I’m not sure if she’s a mother or not, which is refreshing in itself.
- Williamson, M. (2008) The Age of Miracles: Embracing the New Midlife. UK: Hay House. As the Baby Boomers move into their elderhood, many have a new attitude to ageing which is quite different to what went before. Williamson has a daughter but is interested in the whole range of what it means to be a middle-aged and older woman not just from the perspective of being a mother.
On grief & loss
- Beattie, M. (1990) The Language of Letting Go. USA, Minnesota: Hazelden Publishing. This is a pocket-sized book of daily readings on ‘letting go’. It was written for co-dependents, but I find it incredibly useful for dealing with loss, change and grief. I’ve been referring to it regularly for over ten years.
- Beattie, M. (2006) The Grief Club: The Secret for Getting Through All Kinds of Change. USA, Minnesota: Hazelden Publishing. Apart from the (to me) astonishing omission of childlessness except due to abortion, miscarriage, stillbirth, infertility or bereavement from a list of more than 500 ‘losses’ in her ‘Master Loss Checklist,’ this is an excellent book from a woman whose writing has taught me so much about grief work and self-compassion. The website that accompanies the book has a grief forum which is free to join.
- Biziou, B. (2006) The Joy of Ritual: Spiritual Recipes to Celebrate Milestones, Ease Transitions, and Make Every Day Sacred. USA: Cosimo Books. Includes a very beautifully thought-through ritual for ‘Grieving the Unborn’.
- Chodron, P. (1997) When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. UK, London: Element / HarperCollins. For me, this is one of the best books to turn to when you don’t know where to turn. It was the very first ‘spiritual’ book I ever read and it’s still one of the best. You don’t need to be a Buddhist to find great comfort in Pema’s wise, funny and compassionate writing. I also recommend audio book versions read by her – she has a wonderfully warm and self-deprecating style and yet conveys great compassion towards her own, and all, our frailties as human beings.
- Cleantis, T. (2015). The Next Happy: Let Go of the Life You Planned and Find a New Way Forward. USA, Minnesota: Hazleton Publishing. This wonderful book takes therapist Tracey Cleantis’ experience as a infertility survivor and turns it into a no-nonsense, wise-cracking book. Suitable for everyone who’s ever had to give up on a dream and find another reason to get up in the morning. Highly recommended, not least for her ‘Movie Rx’ sections at the end of each chapter where she recommends a movie to help you deal with your situation.
- Kübler-Ross, E. and Kessler, D. (2005) On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss. London: Simon & Schuster. This book is an excellent, humane and moving guide to the experience of grief. Although it doesn’t address childless-related grief directly, it helped me to understand Kübler-Ross’ Five Stages of Grief model.
- Manterfield, L. (2014) Workbook 1: Letting Go of the Dream of Motherhood (Life Without Baby Workbook Series) Amazon Kindle. In the first of a four-partLife Without Baby series, Lisa Manterfield guides you through the process of letting go of the dream of motherhood and moving towards accepting a life without children. Sharing her own story and wisdom gained from the worldwide Life Without Baby A short, helpful and reassuring read from a fellow nomo-warrior! (The other 3 books are excellent too, having had sneak previews of them all!)
On understanding and embracing your Inner Bitch
- Ahlers, A. and Arylo, C. (2015) Reform Your Inner Mean Girl: 7 Steps to Stop Bullying Yourself and Start Loving Yourself. USA, New York: Atria Books / Simon and Schuster
A jaunty ride through the many different faces of what I refer to as your ‘Inner Bitch’ but which Amy Ahlers and Christine Arylo call your ‘Inner Mean Girl’. If you’re new to working with this side of yourself, it’s a great introduction, and a lot of fun. They also have some great online courses and videos.
- Brown, B. (2010) The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. USA: Hazelden Publishing. This book contains quite a lot of references to parenting (slightly too many in my opinion!) but it’s worth seeing past that to explore how Brené Brown, with her decades of research into shame and vulnerability, explores how to become a more ‘wholehearted’ person and work with our imperfections.
- Cantopher, C. (2003) Depressive Illness: The Curse of the Strong. UK, London: Sheldon Press. Recommended to me many times, Christopher Cantopher’s book reframes and reinforces depression as a physical illness, and not any kind of ‘character defect’ or ‘weakness’. Cantopher writes that, “stress related depressive illness is essentially a blown fuse’. It’s funny, insightful and has helped many Gateway Women struggling with those blown fuses and looking for intelligent, compassionate and practical support.
http://bit.ly/cantopher-pdf Short overview written by Cantopher
- Ford, D. (2001) Dark Side of the Light Chasers: Reclaiming Your Power, Creativity, Brilliance and Dreams. London, UK: Hodder. A truly terrible title for a truly wonderful book! Debbie Ford brought the Jungian concept of the ‘Shadow’ into the modern day with her work. Reading this book was the beginning, for me, of building a functional relationship with my Inner Bitch, and embracing my darkness as well as my light.
- Goldstein, E. (2015). Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression Through Mindfulness and Self-Compassion. UK, London: Simon and Schuster. This is a chunky book and packed with exercises to teach its principles. Dr Goldstein has suffered from clinical depression himself and existential meaninglessness, so he knows what he’s writing about. The combination of both self-compassion with mindfulness is basically a lot of proven Buddhist meditation techniques by the back door and is great for those who find spirituality a bit suspect but are looking for genuine relief and improvement in how they think and feel.
- Neff, K. (2011) Self Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind. UK: Hodder and Stoughton. This book is an excellent guide to why beating yourself up doesn’t work, why we do it – and what to do differently. Informative, practical and easy to read and implement. Kristin Neff also has excellent free downloadable meditations on her website, as well as exercises. I think she has a really lovely voice too.
On forgiving your body
- Brown, B. (2007) I Thought It Was Just Me: Making the Journey from “What Will People Think” to “I Am Enough”. USA: Gotham Books. Brené Brown’s first book and a very thorough and helpful analysis of both what shame is, and how to develop ‘shame resilience’. More academic in tone that her later writings but still suitable for a general audience.
- Brown, B. (2012) Listening to Shame [Online Video]. Only 20 minutes long but Brené makes such a difficult topic funny and affirming.
- Roth, G. (2011) Women, Food & God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything. UK: Simon and Schuster. If you’re an emotional eater, Geneen Roth’s work is very illuminating. I also like her earlier book, When You Eat At The Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair (2006) and When Food is Love (1992).
- Wolf, N. (1998) The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women. UK: Vintage Books. One of the main reasons I stopped reading women’s magazines over a decade ago.
- Zackheim, V. (2007) Ed. For Keeps: Women Tell the Truth About Their Bodies, Growing Older, and Acceptance. UK: Avalon Publishing Group. The real deal – real women’s stories about real women’s bodies.
On meaning, purpose, happiness and choices
- Beck, M. (2001) Finding Your Own North Star: How to Claim the Life You Were Meant to Live. London: Piatkus Books. This is an overlong and rather frenetic read but has excellent exercises. Martha’s blog is really worth subscribing to as well – I find her work is actually more digestible in smaller chunks.
- Frankl, V. E. (1946) Man’s Search for Meaning. London, UK: Ebury Publishing. I’ve read it so many times and gifted it even more. A truly inspirational and life-changing book that can be read in an afternoon.
- Frankl, V. E. (1947) Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning. With a Forward by Claudia Hammond (2011) London, UK: Rider, Ebury Publishing. Viktor Frankl gave a series of lectures to a group of a dozen Viennese intellectuals in 1947, which was then published in German, and 25 years later in many other languages. It is a systematic exploration of the thinking that was behind his thoughts and behaviours written about in his memoir, Man’s Search for Meaning. It is a great book to read to deepen your understanding of his extraordinary contribution to coping with human suffering.
- Hollis, J. (2005) Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: How to Finally, Really, Grow Up. USA, New York: Gotham / Penguin Books. A book that explores what happens when the choices we’ve made don’t add to a life we feel we can live for the rest of our life. Erudite yet accessible, full of wonderful literature references (James Hollis was formerly a literature professor before he became a Jungian analyst in mid life), this is a deeply enriching and rewarding read.
- Ricard, M. (2006) Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill. London, UK: Atlantic Books. An excellent guide to both spiritual and scientific approaches to understanding why happiness eludes so many of us and what we can practically do about it.
- Salecl, R. (2010) Choice. London: Profile Books. A short and very readable book on why choice, which is considered to be such a ‘good’ thing can also make us anxious wrecks!
An animated version of a Salecl RSA lecture in London: bit.ly/130f4Nl
- Ditzler, J. (1994) Your Best Year Yet: The 10 Questions that will change your life forever. London, UK: Harper Element. A short but rambling book about a rather brilliant system for working out what’s working in your life and what’s not, and how to set goals for the next 12 months to get yourself back on track.
- Dickson, M. (2010) Please Take One: One Step Towards a More Generous Life. London: The Generous Press. The book that launched a ‘generosity movement’ from the Founder of The Rainmaker Foundation in London. Simple ways to make the world a better place and yourself a whole lot happier.
On developing your creativity (and dealing with your resistance)
- Cameron, J. (1995) The Artist’s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self. London, UK: Pan Books. Perhaps the very best book for getting going again if you want to rediscover the creative part of yourself. And we all have a creative part! Fantastic exercises, really well written and organised, tested over time and loved by millions of readers. Also a great online course available to work through the chapters.
- Lamott, A. (2008) Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. USA: Scribe Publications. My favourite ‘how to write’ book and the one that got me writing again after my divorce. Wise, irreverent and brief – so you can’t use it as an excuse not to get on and write…
- MacLeod, H. (2009). Ignore everybody: and 39 other keys to creativity. USA, New York: Portfolio (Penguin Books). A short, pithy and funny book, illustrated by the cartoons on the back of business cards that became Hugh MacLeod’s signature. A reminder of the many pitfalls that our Inner Bitch may have in store for us when we bring creativity into our life again – and how to hopefully avoid them.
- McNiff, S. (1998) Trust the Process: An Artist’s Guide to Letting Go. USA: Shambala Publications. A practical book with an esoteric flavour to help you get your creative juices flowing again. Examples from the visual arts, dramatic arts and writing but don’t let that put you off. If the week-by-week approach of The Artist’s Way is a bit too structured for you, try this.
- Pressfield, S. (2003) The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. UK: Orion. If you like your creative advice to be a bit ‘muscular’ and ‘just do it’ then Steven Pressfield is the writer for you! His concept of ‘resistance’ has been very helpful for me in understanding why sometimes I’ll do anything rather than get on with my writing or other creative projects. Lots of resources on his website too if you’re looking for procrastination material.
On connecting and reconnecting to source & self care
- Beck, M. (2011). Finding Your Way in a Wild New World: Reclaim Your True Nature to Create the Life You Want. USA, New York: Simon and Schuster. Don’t be put off by Martha’s trademark ‘wacky’ writing style – this is an astonishing book where she distils many of the practices and techniques of shamanism in order to teach how to ‘reconnect’ with our ‘wild selves’. Practical, entertaining and practical, this is a manual for connecting directly to source without any religious or spiritual dogma involved. Highly recommended.
- Ban Breathnach, S. (2003). Romancing the Ordinary: A Year of Everyday Indulgences. USA, New York: Simon and Schuster. A book of mini-essays, packed with ideas and inspirations for self-care for all times of the year. The author is a mother and does occasionally mention it, but it’s not too often and the book is too good to miss for this reason!
- Kempton, S. (2011) Meditation for the Love of It: enjoying your own deepest experience. Forward by Elizabeth Gilbert. USA, Boulder, Colorado: Sounds True Inc. Having read a lot of books on meditation, this is my current favourite. Sally Kempton is instructive without being prescriptive which is a rare writing gift! I love her voice too and her interviews on the Sounds True podcast ‘Insights from Edge’ and audio recordings are excellent.
- Macy, J. and Johnstone, C. (2012) Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re In Without Going Crazy. USA, Novato, CA: New World Library. If connecting to source involves reconnecting with nature, it may be that you might want to know more about Joanna Macy’s work, and how we can support our culture as it makes its transition to a more sustainable way of life. If you’re feeling like you’d like to ‘do something’ but don’t know what it is, read this book.
- Plotkin, B. (2003) Soulcraft: crossing into the mysteries of nature and psyche. USA, Novato, CA: New World Library. Reconnecting to the ‘wild’ aspect of our psyches through immersion in nature is an ancient human tradition, but one which we have mostly loss access to in the developed world. Bill Plotkin leads wilderness retreats in the US and has written an extraordinary book and the power of reconnecting with what he calls ‘Soul’. For childless women, I believe a reconnection with nature be a powerful reminder that we are still part of it.
- Prendergast, J. J. (2015) In Touch: How to Tune Into the Inner Guidance of Your Body and Trust Yourself. USA, Boulder, Colorado: Sounds True Inc. Learning how to listen to our body again is often a key component from childlessness recovery, but how do we go about it? John Prendergast has developed a series of very simple techniques that really work. Also check out this interview with him as part of the Sounds True ‘Insights from the Edge’ podcast series which explain his process.
On thinking about changing your work/career as part of your Plan B
- Krznaric, R. (2012) How to Find Fulfilling Work: The School of Life. London, UK: Macmillan. In the crowded field of ‘career advice’ this book stands out as a thoughtful yet immensely practical addition. I’ve read a lot of books in this area, but would recommend very few. This is one of them. bit.ly/178AZ8a www.romankrznaric.com
- Williams, J. (2010) Screw Work Let’s Play: How to Do What You Love and Get Paid for It. London, UK: Pearson Business. John Williams’ book is the first one I recommend to Plan Bs who say they ‘don’t know what they want to do’ and that ‘they don’t have time to do it’ – usually in the same breath. His online ‘30 Day Challenge’ is a really fun way to kick-start and test-drive a new idea without leaving your job or buying a camper van. Doing the challenge in 2011 gave me the impetus I needed to create the first version of the Gateway Women website. bit.ly/18dvNEG www.screwworkletsplay.com
- Williams, N. (1999) The Work We Were Born to Do: Find the Work You Love, Love the Work You Do. Kent, UK: Balloon View Publishing. Generous, wise and inspiring, this is a really helpful book if you are interested in working as an entrepreneur in the area of ‘human potential’. http://bit.ly/born-to-do http://iamnickwilliams.com
Other women’s stories
- Black, R. and Scull, L. (2005) Beyond Childlessness: For Every Woman Who Wanted To Have a Child – and Didn’t. UK: Rodale Books. An early and important book from two British authors who between them interviewed countless others. bit.ly/12waGnK
- Brooks Froelker, J. (2015) Ever Upward: Overcoming the Lifelong Losses of Infertility to Own a Childfree Life. USA: Morgan James. This is a personal memoir of how Justine and her husband Chad redefined their lives for the better after the heartbreaking losses of infertility and their subsequent decision not to adopt. It’s worth reading JUST for her honesty on the subject of NOT adopting, which is something that those of us who do or don’t choose that path are challenged on by friends, family and strangers over and over again. Also, her honesty with regard to how friendships are affected by the infertility journey is comforting to all of us who thought that such things must only have happened to us! Recommended for couples at any stage of their infertility journey, and for their family and friends to help them understand. bit.ly/ever-upward http://everupward.org
- Carter, J. W. and Carter, M. (1998) Sweet Grapes: How to Stop Being Infertile and Start Living Again. USA: Perspectives. This book was written by an infertile couple who took the decision together to ‘stop being infertile’ and instead to embrace a ‘childfree life’. It’s been recommended to me many times. bit.ly/11Wkn59
- Comstock, K. and Comstock, B. (2013) Honouring Missed Motherhood: Loss, Choice & Creativity. USA, Ashland, Oregon: Willow Press. Kani Comstock was the director of the Hoffman Institute and wrote the book ‘Journey into Love’. Discovering her infertility at 26 during the 1960s changed the course of her life. Her sister, Barbara is childfree. Together they have interviewed 12 other women. The book also contains many resources for self-guided healing, rituals and ceremonies. bit.ly/missed-motherhood www.missedmotherhood.com
- Daum, M. (2015). Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision NOT to have Kids. Edited and with an Introduction by Meghan Daum. USA, New York: Picador (Macmillan). This collection of 16 essays by childfree people (14 women, 2 men) who show that the decision to become and remain childfree is a far from straightforward path, and often involves wanting children at some point. Highly recommended to open our minds and hearts to the experience of our childfree sisters away from the usual media narratives. http://bit.ly/daum-selfish http://www.meghandaum.com
- De Ridder, N. and Nick W. (2013) Just The Two of Us: Giving New Meaning to Our Lives Through Dealing with Infertility. UK: Epubli. This book was written by a couple a few years after stopping infertility treatments. It’s a guide for couples struggling to pick up their normal lives again. The book is both honest and uplifting and being so recent, resonates with a lot of readers. bit.ly/11IhTC7 www.facebook.com/PastInfertility
- Fagalde Lick, S. (2012) Childless by Marriage US: Blue Hydrangea Productions.
Writer and musician Sue Fagalde Lick’s memoir and blog about life as a childless stepmother and now as a childless widow living on her own in her 60s and with a unsatisfying relationship with her deceased husband’s children.
An excellent insider’s view of a very difficult situation that so many childless-by-circumstance women are expected to take on the chin without minding!
- Hepburn, J. (2014) The Pursuit of Motherhood. UK: Troubadour Publishing.
A frank and funny infertility memoir by British theatre director Jessica Hepburn. If you’ve had IVF, you’ll welcome seeing your experience written about in this way. If, like me, you didn’t do IVF, you’ll learn a lot! Jessica writes about how the experience impacts her relationship with her partner too, which I found helpful and not too excluding to those readers without partners. Jessica has since gone on to swim the English Channel to raise money for IVF charities and is working on her second book, ’21 Miles’ about that.
- John, Y. (2016) Dreaming of a Life Unlived: Intimate Stories and Portraits of Women Without Children. UK: Blurb Incorporated. Yvonne John is a graduate of the Gateway Women Plan B Mentorship Programme and created this book of stories and portraits as part of her Plan B work. It contains stories about objects that women (such as myself) would have liked to have passed onto our children, and uses these as stepping off points for sharing our stories. Moving, intimate, surprising, diverse and vulnerable, this book records the stories of a group of women who each found themselves childless when it wasn’t the plan.
- Leigh, J. (2016) Avalanche: A Love Story. UK, London: Faber & Faber. This is a gripping, heartbreaking visceral read from an Australian novelist. I could not put it down. As someone who has not experienced the baffling world of fertility treatments, I was shocked and appalled by Leigh’s experience, which I now know to be fairly unremarkable outside the regulated fertility sector of the UK. What this novel also does is to show how fertility treatments invade every aspect of your personality and waking life, affect your intimate, family and work relationships, and how devastating failure can be to a woman’s sense of sanity and self-esteem. If you ever wanted anyone to understand the nature of IVF/ART, this short, beautiful, powerful novel will do it.
Jody’s review: bit.ly/gw-avalanche
- Manterfield, L. (2010) I’m Taking My Eggs and Going Home: How One Woman Dared to Say No to Motherhood. USA: Steel Rose Press: This award-winning memoir of surviving and thriving after unsuccessful infertility treatment is bold, frank and gutsy. Lisa also went on to create the ‘Life Without Baby’ website and runs online workshops and an online community. www.lifewithoutbaby.com
- Mahoney Tsingdinos, P. (2010) Silent Sorority: A (Barren) Woman Gets Busy, Angry, Lost and Found. USA: Booksurge Plc. An award-winning infertility survivor’s memoir – an ‘alternative to the momoir’ as Pamela puts it. A wry and intelligent read about infertility – and after. bit.ly/silent-sorority www.silentsorority.com
- Walker, E. L. (2011) Complete Without Kids: An Insider’s Guide to Childfree Living by Choice or by Chance. Austin, USA: Greenleaf Book Group Press. The first book I read on life without children and a good introduction to the very different mindsets of childless vs. childfree people. Its strength is how many stories and interviews it contains. bit.ly/complete-without-kids www.completewithoutkids.com
- Yvette, P., Ann, R., and Lynne, J. (2012) Being Fruitful Without Multiplying: Stories and Essays from Around the World. Seattle, USA: Coffeetown Enterprises. This book is a mixture of childless and childfree women’s stories from the US and other cultures around the world, although the emphasis is more towards childfree-by-choice women. bit.ly/without-multiplying http://coffeetownpress.com