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Why Mum’s not the word for some on Mother’s Day

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Media Release

WhyMum's not the wordfor some on Mother's Day

New book lays bare the truth behind childless and childfree women

With Mother's Day approaching (31 March), statistics show that an increasing number of women remain childless: currently around 20% in the UK. Who are these women and what are their stories?

Mum's not the word by Denise Felkin is a new book sharing stories of birth control, choice, freedom, regret and pain in a series of 50 photographic images, each one of a different woman lying naked on a duvet in the foetal position. The women all have one thing in common - they do not have children.

British photographer Denise Felkin says it is a project she has been waiting to tackle for nearly half a lifetime. When Denise was nineteen, she told her mother that she did not want children. Her mother immediately dismissed her admission, and said she would feel differently when she was older; she never did. Now aged 51, Denise has conceived a book of images of women who do not have children and, in doing so, challenges negative stereotypes: women without children are not selfish, half-women, spinsters, crazy cat ladies or barren.

Gateway Women founder Jody Day summarises the power of the book, "Each naked portrait is tender, vulnerable and raw, and the accompanying participant commentary is by turn shocking, illuminating, refreshing and heart-breaking.

"These women are literally laid bare, and this somehow gives them a greater right for their truths to be heard. Whether the women are childless due to infant loss, through motherhood ambivalence leading to a happy (or regretful) life without children, failed infertility treatments, clear-sighted self-awareness, unchosen singleness or other complex factors, they lie here and challenge us to appreciate for a moment what life might be like in their skin."

The women featured come from all walks of life and are different ages. Cover girl Ellen simply says, "I never had a good relationship with my mother." Kat explains how positive parenting influenced her decision, "When I was a child I dreamed of being a volcanologist, not a mother. I never wanted to be pregnant; I've never been broody. I have never felt incomplete. I have so many more reasons why I wouldn't have a child than would. With hindsight I thank my parents for raising me without stereotyped expectations of what I would become."

Sexual stereotyping and the emphasis afforded by society to motherhood as opposed to fatherhood is an issue particularly applicable to transsexual Kit, who is transitioning from female to male, but appears in the book as their female persona and says, "There are so many reasons I chose not to be a mother that it would be more like trying to find a reason to have a child."

Others, like Jolie from Brighton, speak about the experience of IVF, "My husband and I did IVF three times, trying for six years before deciding enough was enough and to move on with our lives. The universe clearly had other plans for us because the moment we walked away from that unbelievably painful hunger our lives began to flourish. I'm now a theatre maker, published author and international jetsetter. "

Anthea echoes the feelings of many women who may have missed the chance to have their own children: "I never thought I would get to 45 years of age with no children or partner. Sharing my childless experience on my Youtube vlog helped me immensely, but whenever I think I'm over it, someone posts their new baby pic online and my heart aches. I don't think that will ever go away."

Hanna from SE London has a slightly different take: "I have mourned the children I never had. When I realised having children was no longer an option, I had doubts about my decision, so taking time to reflect was important for me. I say all this in the context of the fact I never actually wanted kids, but wanted the choice. Like I might suddenly wake up one morning and think, you know, I think I will have that tattoo on my face."

A common theme among many of the women that clearly influenced their decision not to have children was the environment. Tamara says, "The idea of having my own child has always filled me with dread. There are too many people on the planet already and I fear for future generations in light of our rapidly changing climate." And Veronika: "When I was younger my friends were always talking about their future kids. I was never interested in this subject. My answer was and always is ‘I will not have kids. Not in this society.' Today, I think the same."

Mum's not the word: Childless Childfree, published 21 June, 2019 by Earthworld, an imprint of Veloce Publishing Ltd, RRP: £19.99.

Further details: Geraldine Cetin, Veloce Publishing E/: ; T/: 01305 260068. To order advance copies, visit: .

For further press information, case study interviews, hi res images and preview copies of the book (available May 2019) please contact: Jane Adkins, A Head for PR, E/: or T/: 01935 813114; M/: 07960698089.

Editor's Notes


Denise Felkin is a British photographer. Her work migrates between creative portraiture and documentary photography. She is driven by research-led projects, and collaborates with her subjects to create cutting-edge images that speak about current issues, to reveal a truthful voice, and promote unity, equality and compassion.

Denise Felkin is an award-winning photographer: finalist Sony World Photography Awards 2016, National Open Art 2017, Honourable Mention Julia Margaret Cameron: Women Seen by Women 2018.

The book launch and an exhibition of Denise's photographs will take place at The Phoenix Gallery, Brighton on 21 June 2019.

January 2019 (MNTW 01)