What does it mean to be a woman who doesn’t want children?

Erin Lane challenges maternal exceptionalism and its myths.

How do we make meaning beyond motherhood? What is at stake for women—both childbearing and child-free—and for society if we do not? These are the questions Erin Lane poses in her second book, Someone Other than a Mother.

Raised in the 1980s on “white bread and Jesus” and taught to be “fervently pro-life” as a Catholic in the American Midwest, Lane was aware that she had more reproductive choices than the generation of women before her and cognizant of the growing anxiety about these choices in conservative Christian circles that touched her life. Her pious childhood led her to a master’s degree at Duke Divinity School, training as a retreat facilitator with Parker Palmer’s Center for Courage and Renewal, and writing about contemporary faith and culture. It also gave her the resources to articulate more deeply the prayer she’d known since childhood, that she wished to be a “soul before a role.”

There was only one problem: maternal exceptionalism. It was deeply rooted in scripture, Western philosophy, and US political rhetoric. It dripped from the tongues of nearly every woman of childbearing age, as well as those who had aged out but fulfilled their procreation duties: Children are a gift. Home is the highest duty. Family is the greatest legacy. You will regret not having kids. You’d make a great mom. It’ll be different with your own. You don’t know love until you become a mother. Each chapter of Lane’s book is devoted to a myth that everyone with a womb has heard.