Ruby Warrington never wanted to be a mother. Now she has written a book for women like her.
Ruby Warrington never wanted children. Not when she was growing up in England and not later in life, a commitment tested by an unplanned and rare pregnancy – she was then using an IUD – when she was 23, shortly after graduating from the London School of Fashion. She had an abortion.
She switched to magazine journalism after studying fashion and was Styles editor of The Sunday Times in London, before turning her attention to books (her first being “Sober Curious”). Today she lives in Miami with her husband of 20 years.
In her fourth book, “Women Without Kids: The Revolutionary Rise of an Unsung Sisterhood”, published in March, Ms Warrington, 47, writes that women who have no children “are no longer pariahs or misfits, but a natural part of our evolution and collective healing, as a woman, as a human being and as a global family.”
Ms. Warrington spoke to The New York Times about this new landscape in the edited interview below.
Is there a term you use to refer to yourself? Some people believe “childfree” is celebratory and “childless” sounds draconian or judgmental.
I’ve played with “areproductive,” to describe myself, as “asexual.” “Childfree” and “childless” certainly served a purpose, but they’re sort of binary.
Mother’s Day is just around the corner, the fourth in a pandemic that has been exposed a childcare crisiswith women taking it up three times as much childcare as men. What do you say to exhausted mothers who may envy your freedom?
By being loud about this, about being a woman without children and our reasons, we often reject motherhood, because motherhood looks very hard. It looks ungrateful. It looks risky. So in a way it sheds light on how hard it is for mothers. I am aware to recognize that there is nothing to worry about if you find this difficult. You’re right.
The system was not set up to support mothers. If it’s hard for you, it’s not because you’re weak. It’s not because you failed. That’s because the scales are still so uneven. I found that many mothers received that message from the book and were very grateful for it. It has helped them feel less flawed.
Non-moms are often expected to show up for their friends when they become mothers, but how can women who have kids show up for their friends who aren’t?
I think that often when a woman becomes a mother, the lion’s share of her energy, focus, attention – not to mention love – now goes to children and family life. And women without children can feel left out or left out. We still want to belong.
How have your friendships evolved with mother-to-be women?
What I’ve noticed in my friendships with moms is that I’m valuable as someone with whom they become the woman they were without their children. And that is so important to me role within any kind of family structure or community.
According to a recent report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, birth rates in the United States have fallen declined over the past five decades. Where do you see this trend going?
Gen X women are the first generation of women born with this message: “You can do, be whatever you want in your life.” And I’m talking about Gen X western women. It is clear that this message is not available to women in many countries.
This is the first generation that has lived our entire reproductive life with that message. That is why we see such an increase in the number of women without children. We will see a steeper decline as Gen X women and Millennial women reach menopause, having not reproduced – the impact of the past 50 years on women’s attitudes and choices when it comes to reproduction.
Speaking of that change, your book calls for a “sexual evolution,” a “total reinvention of our sexual selves.” What could be the environmental impact of more sex without reproduction?
The human population is growing to a point where we are placing a heavy burden on the Earth’s natural resources. if reproduction a conscious choice? What if there had never been a religious and cultural heteropatriarchal ideology about sex? If people had been allowed to engage in sexuality in whatever way felt right, we might have just the right number of people on the planet.
Is getting older without kids to potentially help with your care something on your mind?
This is the #1 question that made me question my instinct that motherhood wasn’t for me, this idea of who will take care of you when you’re older.
First and foremost, I have my own retirement savings account. I am preparing to be active in my career as long as I am physically able. The idea that older women in particular need people to take care of us, which ultimately means we have to get paid when we’re old, I think we’re turning that around.
And then I hear a lot of conversations between myself and my friends without kids about how we can build support networks to care for each other. I’ve had so many conversations with people about, “Where are we going to live?” Throughout our lives we have relied on our found family ties for our sense of belonging and support. Now we will continue to invest in these found family networks.