Nomo Book Club offers ‘safe’ books for childless readers

Tired of books where everyone seems to have children? Like the book I just read in which one of the female leads has two children, 8 and 14, and the other has a one-year-old and a baby on the way?

So was Lisa Ann Kissane, one of the speakers at the recent Childless Collective Summit. Childless herself, she was weary of childless characters having miracle babies, successful fertility treatments, or being given babies to raise. Bam, you’re a mother, problem solved. So she founded the “Nomo Book Club,” nomo being short for “not mother.”

Lisa Ann reads constantly, looking for books that won’t be upsetting to women who don’t have children for whatever reason. She rates them with a “trigger warning level” from red–don’t read this–to orange–proceed with caution–to green–no worries here. The green ones are hard to find. Male heroes are often childless, but the heroines not so much.

Certain genres, like romance, seem to require that the women end up married with children or at least the promise that that’s coming. But we all know that happy ending doesn’t always happen in real life. Lisa Ann looks for stories that represent how it really is. She warns there is just as much of a danger of creating stereotypes of childless women as there is of women who have children. The hard-hearted career woman, for example.

When I wrote my novel Up Beaver Creek, I wasn’t really thinking about it as representing childlessness, but I guess it reflects my own reality. The heroine, P.D., was unable to have children, and none of the main characters are raising children. A couple of twin boys make a cameo appearance, but generally this is a childfree book. Is P.D. going to wind up with children? No. She has moved on.

As for my previous novel Azorean Dreams, I’m pretty sure the protagonist, Chelsea, will soon be a mother. I wrote it more than 20 years ago and went with the cliché.

Lots of book titles were tossed around during the Summit discussion with Lisa Ann. Among her recent favorites are Midnight Library by Matt Haig, Confessions of a Forty-Something F##k Up by Alexandra Potter, Sourdough by Robin Sloan, and Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata. See her latest recommendations at Kissane’s website, https://lisaannkissane.com/

The featured book for March was Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You by Annie Lyons. In April, she offers a book of poems, The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace. Don’t you love the title?

If you like to read, I highly recommend joining the Nomo Book Club. Have you read some books that you found encouraging for childless readers? Are there others that made you feel bad because they were all about babies? Please share.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Do You Have to Read This Blog in Secret?

Photo by Ekaterina Bolovtsova on Pexels.com

Last week on a whim, I asked whether Childless by Marriage readers felt they needed to hide their participation in the blog, Facebook page, books, etc. I had just had a vision of a spouse looking at the computer and asking, “Why are you reading this crap?” or “Aren’t you over that yet?”

It turns out some of the folks here do have to hide their participation in Childless by Marriage and anything else related to their childlessness. Anon S said it’s her “dirty secret.” Jo, another frequent commenter, said she shares a laptop computer with her husband and can only read Childless by Marriage when he’s not around. She can’t join the Facebook page without him knowing about it.

Holy cow. I don’t know why it took me 738 posts to think of this. I guess I have had the luxury of a private office for so long I forgot that most people don’t have that. I am so sorry.

I have always had my own computer, and my late husband Fred took little interest in what I was doing on it. If I wanted to share something, I called him in or handed him a printed copy. I didn’t start the blog until he was well into Alzheimer’s, so he had no idea. But I’m sure I was journaling and reading about childlessness throughout our marriage. My annual Mother’s Day tantrums were not invisible. I remember him saying “Oh, babe.” That’s all. No further discussion. But I hid most of my tears from him. I didn’t talk much about it with anyone. What good would it do?

Anon S, featured quite a bit in the Love or Children book made from the blog, said she was worried about being found out. She won’t be. Even I don’t know her name or where she lives. With the exception of a few friends from other parts of my life, I don’t know who anybody here really is. All I know is what you tell me, and that’s fine. I want this to be a safe space.

Last week, I attended the first Childless Collective Summit. Most of the speakers talked about infertility. Our main focus here is on our problems with partners who can’t or won’t make babies with us. I feel bad for those with both kinds of problems. I can’t imagine your pain.

Some aspects of childlessness are common to us all—grief, feeling left out, dealing with rude questions, worrying about our future, etc. I wonder how many women attending the Summit, which lasted for four whole days, felt they had to hide what they were doing. If so, it took real courage just to be there, even on Zoom. And God bless Katy Seppi of Chasing Creation who organized the whole thing.

I hate that some (many?) of you have to join us in secret. If we’re ever going to find peace, we need to be able to talk about our situations, admit to our grief and claim our efforts to make sense of life without children. To put it in psych talk, we need to “own our stories.”

In Jody Day’s keynote speech at the Summit, she said that 10 percent of people without children are childless by choice, 10 percent by infertility, and 80 percent by circumstance. That’s us. We need to be free to talk about it and to support each other. Childlessness for whatever reason should not be seen as a dirty secret we need to hide under the mattress like porn magazines. 

Relationships are difficult, especially when you disagree about children. In addition to your partner, you may have stepchildren looking over your shoulder. I can hear them saying, “You’re not childless; you have me.” We all know that’s not the same. We also have parents, siblings, co-workers and friends who just don’t get it. But we have every right to say, “This is my situation. I’m trying to deal with it. I hope someday you will understand.”

It makes me sad to realize you have to hide your reading about childlessness. I pray you can all find space and your own computers, tablets or phones to read whatever you want and the courage to declare, “This is important to me, so I’m going to read it.”

How is it for you? Do you feel free to read and comment or is this something you need to hide? What can we do to change the situation? I look forward to your comments.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.