Childlessness in books survey…The Results

Summer is practically over, the world is starting to return to some sense of normality (even though the threat of coronavirus still casts a dark shadow over us all). I’ve been busy all summer working on my website and other side hustles, but now it’s starting to get colder and feel more ‘hot chocolates and fluffy blankets’ than ‘bikinis and mocktails’ here at Casa Kissane. And that means, of course, more time to read!

Some of you may have come across a survey I’ve been conducting which I have been using to help me find suitable books for the NoMo Book Club. This is my online book club which highlights books by and about women who don’t have children—for whatever reason. It’s not an anti-motherhood club, but it has become increasingly clear to me that so much literature is tailored toward the ‘nuclear family’ and there are so many other stories that should be heard. If you want to add your voice to the survey, it’s still open and accepting replies, so click through here and have your say.

THE FINDINGS

A huge thank you to all who have participated—I have received almost 100 responses already! So, without further ado, let’s see what I found…

Of the women who completed the survey, only 8% were childless by choice, with 92% identifying their childlessness as something they did not choose. I had responses from all over the world although the majority (63%) were from my own little cluster of islands, the United Kingdom. 

A staggering 68% of the respondents said that being childless has in some way impacted their relationship with reading. This ranged from those who felt they had more time to read, to those who no longer find comfort in books because of the strong focus on motherhood. Over half had stopped reading a book because of triggers. Here are just a few of the comments…

There are so many potential triggers in fiction and it would be almost impossible to predict what will and will not affect someone whilst reading. However, there are a few areas which were found to be particularly difficult to read about. I’d like to thank all the recipients for their honesty, this wasn’t an easy question to answer. These triggers can change, become stronger or weaker on any given day, week, month or even year. Grief can lay dormant before catching us unawares when we least expect it. Below are the most selected triggers found by the survey; with this information at hand, I can better select suitable picks for the NoMo Book Club as well as knowing which triggers to highlight so that women who may be affected are informed.

I found the process of conducting this survey enlightening and empowering; watch this space for more opportunities to add your voice to future research, or better yet, sign up to the NoMo Newsletter—here’s where you’ll be informed first of the monthly book picks as well as a host of other resources and articles from myself and the childless community.

a note to writers and the publishing industry

It’s true that many people dive into literature as a way of escaping or simply being somewhere else for a while. It may seem that this motivation would generate a desire for more ‘happy ending’ stories—and by this I mean stories where the only ‘happy outcome’ is for a character to have a child—but the findings from this survey tell a different story. 

Statistics show that in 2018, 19% of women over 45 were childless (ONS 2018). This is more than double the percentage of their mothers’ generation and continues to grow. With a population of over 66 million people, 29 million of whom are over 45, it’s clear that the number of women in the UK alone who are ageing without children is a huge demographic. Add to this the men who are also childless, and you have a significant number of people around the world who are looking for themselves in literature and finding it sadly lacking. 

There is a market for women who want to read about childless women. Not the depressing side-plots where a baby didn’t happen and the woman leads an unfulfilled, miserable life. We want more stories about women who are celebrated because of their achievements outside of the ability to procreate. We want happy endings that don’t centre around becoming a parent. Help us to reframe the cynical narrative around childlessness—give us a protagonist without children who has worth. I promise you, we’ll read it!

IF YOU HAVE WRITTEN OR PUBLISHED A BOOK THAT INVOLVES CHILDLESSNESS OR CHILDLESS WOMEN, PLEASE GET IN TOUCH AND I WILL BE HAPPY TO CONSIDER IT FOR THE NOMO LIBRARY.

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