Triratna News

Birth of a book: Choosing childlessness

Posted by Munisha on Tue, 3 May, 2016 - 23:51
Munisha's picture

Kamalamani writes from Bristol, UK about her new book: Other than mother: choosing childlessness with life in mind.

In my late teens and early 20s I used to say that I would have children by the time I was 30. It was only on a Going for Refuge retreat at Tiratanaloka (in Wales) when I was 27 that I realised child-bearing wasn’t - and isn’t - compulsory. This realisation encouraged me to think and reflect carefully about the pro-natal nature of our conditioning as girls and young women. I decided to sit with the decision not to have children, just for a year, ‘trying it for size’, as it were. 

My 30th birthday came and went, and I was happily without child, engaged in the ordination process, and spending my time between England as a university lecturer and sub-Saharan Africa as a development worker. As both my Dharma practice and ecological awareness deepened, particularly inspired by the Bodhisattva ideal, it became increasingly clear to me that I wouldn’t be becoming a mother after all. I wanted to live creatively, without creating an earthling, a nurturing woman without becoming a mother. When I failed to find the book I was seeking, affirming my decision and supporting this going forth, I realised I would have to write one! Fourteen years later, here we are…

Other Than Mother explores the decision-making process around not having children; a private decision with global consequences. It is in three parts, with each part broadly reflecting the Before, During and After aspects of this decision: 

Part I, ‘The Worldly Winds’ explores the backdrop to deciding whether or not to have children, including the cultural changes brought about by a rise in voluntary childlessness.

Part II, ‘A private decision with global consequences’ explores the pros and cons in the decision-making process, including ecological and environmental considerations. 

Part III, ‘New horizons and baby-sized projects’ explores living with the decision.

Other than Mother was published by Earth Books last week, available world-wide.

Find out more, read reviews, and buy the book. 
Follow the book on Facebook.
Visit Kamalamani’s website.
Twitter: @kamalamani

Read about Karunagita’s (Sarah Burns’) book on family as a Buddhist practice: 
A path for parents.

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james murphy's picture

Hmmm interesting…. Would like to buy this. …. “the pro-natal nature of our conditioning as girls and young women” - But is personality (such as it is!) merely a social construct? Is the maternal instinct in women exclusively conditioned by society? I doubt it. Is not the body we choose in returning to this life an expression of our desires? Do we not, as Buddhists, believe there are much deeper forces at work? Where is karma in all this, I wonder? I trust the author makes the necessary, subtle distinctions between social behaviourism and spiritual conditions….. We shall see!

claire70's picture

I would say yes, the maternal instinct is often (perhaps not always) conditioned by society (as is a paternal instinct, of course). And some of us women don’t have it at all!

james murphy's picture

The disputed phrase here must be (as far as I am concerned) ‘often conditioned’. I doubt it. I doubt it sincerely. The body - that old ancestor which haunts us on a daily basis - unquestionably has much to answer for in supplying women with a pscyho-biological compulsion, a ‘maternal instinct’ to conceive and bring to birth. It is scripted into the animal part of the female DNA. To deny such appears wilfully evasive to me. Indeed, you might as well say animals themselves are ‘socially ‘conditioned’ to mate and breed as to suggest that the female body plays no (or little) part in the process. This is not, of course, to dispute the fact that some women don’t possess said instinct at all. I fully concede that. Nor do I know why that should be the case. Such a disposition remains, however, the exception that proves the rule.

Vajracaksu's picture

Very pleased to see this book published Kamalamani for spiritual and ecological reasons. Social and cultural pressure in Turkey to get married and have children is enormous. I have heard of very, very few examples of ‘voluntary childlessness’ here. Maybe just 3 or 4 examples in 13 years!

Kind wishes