Review by Lina Orsino-Allen
This short and easy-to-read book is one I had wanted to read concerning my childfree life for a long time. Rather than be overtly psychological or fact based, this is a light-hearted collection of anecdotes and collated experiences, collected by the author through a select group of women who have made the choice not to have children.
The Alternate Fairy Tale
Jervis begins the book by reminding us of the typical romantic fairy tale we have all grown up with. A princess rides off into the sunset with her prince, but then, with a fat dose of reality, reminds us of the awkwardness of the conversation a person wanting to remain childfree has to have when they meet someone who could be a keeper.
“I love you so very much, my darling! I simply can’t wait for our lives to begin together to begin. Oh before I forget, I’ve never wanted kids, so why don’t we let some of those poor people we’ve just ridden past come and live in our massive castle instead?”
The prince agrees and they go on to live their happily ever after with “no nappies to change, teenage tantrums to appease, or school fees to pay…”
Nodding in Affirmation
The book is split into eight easy to work through chapters, with topics such as Media, Friendships and Work, all identifying the areas where owning your childfree status can provoke a less than ideal reaction. As soon as I read the first quote of the book I was saying ‘Oh yea’ out loud and nodding my head regularly like a nodding dog toy on the back shelf of a car. From very early on I could have seen my own name on many of the quotes, with many of the women’s experiences matching my own. Yet Jervis speaks to a range of women for their stories, of different ages and cultures, such as Columbian-born Sara, who explains how there is no acceptance of her choice to remain childfree in her home community and it is still considered a fact that she will go on to have children one day. Then there is Amanda, who talks about the guilt she sometimes feels towards a friend who has tried unsuccessfully to have children, something I could completely resonate with.
But the book also taps into the lack of support available for people who choose the childfree life, albeit in an easy-going manner, pointing out that there are support groups for those who have not been able to have children, or who have lost them. Other support groups offer parenting help and ways to find parenting friendships and allies who understand the trials and tribulations of raising a family. National Childbirth Trust classes in the UK are well documented as being the foundation for parent friendships which can last a lifetime as they prepare for impending parenthood together. But where is the group for the like-minded childfree folk? I’ve had the thought many a time of setting something up where I live, yet it always felt like a crass thing to do when so many others struggle to have children. Yet Jervis quite rightly addresses this, with childfree people a “…forgotten group when it comes to ‘insider’ support and solidarity…. There are no cosy coffee groups for us…”
Jervis states that she intends her book to be a “supportive acknowledgement – not to mention a celebration – of the everyday childfree life” and it certainly feels successful in its mission. It acknowledges the trials of parenthood and the friendships that can be established between parents and non-parents by choice, so the book could also be a great, light-hearted read for anyone who has children, but maybe has a childfree friend and would like to understand the decision a little better without being too heavy drawn into the psychology of it all. And if like Jervis and the fantastically candid contributors, sometimes you have a day where you felt like you had to justify your position just a little too much, or more awkwardly defend it, this is a great book to have and dip in and out of when you need some positive affirmations that yes, this is a ‘normal’ decision, way after you’ve read it first time. I know I will.
Lina Orsino-Allen is a UK-based British-Italian photographer shooting high energy weddings and events with her husband Tom. When not travelling the globe for work or pleasure, she loves researching either the next trip or the next tattoo with her cats cuddled up by her side.