Skimm Reads: Books For People Thinking About Being Childfree

Published on: Jan 14, 2022fb-roundtwitter-roundemail-round
Book covers for "Sixteen Writers on the Decision to Not Have Kids," "Olive," and "Motherhood."

Just because you’re of childbearing age, doesn’t necessarily mean you have  to have kids. Even if that’s what society expects you to do. In fact, many people are leaning toward a life without them

More and more women are  having the conversations about  choosing to be childfree — particularly on social media. There are Instagram accounts that show support through memes (like Rich Auntie Supreme), Reddit threads where people rant about childfree misconceptions, and TikTok accounts that break down the choice to not be a mother and show off the freedom that comes with being childfree

But author Emma Gannon says the childfree-by-choice lifestyle isn’t often featured — at least in a positive way — in pop culture and books. So she helped us put together a list of reads that she’d recommend if you’d like to learn more. Starting with her first novel, “Olive,” which is named after the main character, a childfree woman.

“Olive” by Emma Gannon
“Olive” by Emma Gannon
If you feel like the only one in your friend group who doesn’t want kids...

The book has a scene where Olive and her friend Bea both take pregnancy tests. Both test results are negative. But while Olive cheers, she’s surprised to find Bea sobbing. That moment — and much of the book — is inspired by Gannon’s real-life experiences as the one person who’s childfree by choice in a group of friends who want to be mothers. Maybe you can relate. And maybe you’re excited to root for a childfree protagonist in your next read. (Amazon, Apple Books, Bookshop)

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“Childfree by Choice: The Movement Redefining Family and Creating a New Age of Independence” by Dr. Amy Blackstone
If you’re great with kids but that doesn’t mean you want your own…

Dr. Amy Blackstone, a professor of sociology at the University of Maine, has been studying the childfree-by-choice movement since 2008. She has plenty of insight on why people are choosing not to be parents. And can speak from personal experience as a long-time babysitter who loves kids but doesn’t want any of her own. (Amazon, Apple Books, Bookshop)

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“Motherhood” by Sheila Heti
For when you’re on the fence about having kids. And choosing book genres…

The book, which Gannon calls a fiction/non-fiction hybrid, is about a woman who grapples with whether or not to have kids. While her peers are mostly focused on when to have them. Gannon says it’s the first book about being childfree that she ever read. So it could be a good place to start for you, too. (Amazon, Apple Books, Bookshop)

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“21 Miles: Swimming in Search of the Meaning of Motherhood,” by Jessica Hepburn
If you’re childfree but not necessarily by choice…

 Hepburn writes about how she tried to become a mother for years. But after a decade and 11 rounds of IVF, there was still no baby. So, she gave herself a new goal: to swim the English Channel (which is 21 miles wide in some parts) despite, in her judgment, not being a great swimmer. And she added one more goal: to meet with inspiring women and ask them if motherhood makes them happy. It’s a book that might help someone facing the challenges of infertility. Or anyone who’s looking for meaning and achievement in life. (Amazon, Apple Books)

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“Sixteen Writers on the Decision to Not Have Kids: Selfish Shallow and Self-Absorbed,” edited by Meghan Daum
If you don’t want to take one author’s word for it…

This collection of essays includes entries from authors, essayists, journalists, and a psychotherapist about deciding to be childfree. They offer a diverse range of thoughts and feelings because when it comes to nonparents, they’re not all the same. As Daum writes in the anthology’s introduction, “the common theme is that there is no common theme.” Gannon said she couldn’t put the book down. (Amazon, Apple Books, Bookshop)

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“These Precious Days” by Ann Patchett
If you want to read a book of essays by the same author…

You might’ve thought about reading the award-winning author’s new book of essays anyway. But here’s another reason if you’re thinking about being childfree: a chapter in the book called “There Are No Children Here.” In it, she shares 23 different passages about being childfree. The first one is about the time an author told her she needed to have kids in order to understand love and “be a real writer.” Gannon said the essay was “really hard to read, but I felt very seen in it.” (Amazon, Apple Books, Bookshop)

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"Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert 
For when you’re looking to find yourself…

“There's a reason like 10 million people read that book,” says Gannon about the bestseller, which follows a woman in her 30s who leaves her relationship, her house, and her job to live abroad. “There was something about a woman saying, ‘I don't want any of this. I want to go and be by myself and do yoga.’” If you haven’t read the book or watched the movie, maybe now’s the time. (Amazon, Apple Books, Bookshop)

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We spoke with Emma Gannon about her decision to be childfree and write about it.

Skimm'd by Carly Mallenbaum, Becky Murray, and Anthony Rivas


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