by Terri Casey
Beyond Words Publishing, 1998
201 pages, $14.95 paperback
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Terri Casey is one of the kindest, most generous people you'll encounter. (Her most recent gift, to a troubled friend, was a spa vacation.) But she refused to attend her friend Susan's baby shower.
"No, I just can't celebrate that way," she declares. Terri has found a different way to honor the arrival of a new life ' one that she believes honors the woman herself and her child. That sums up Terri: she'll challenge preconceived notions for the sake of enriching us all.
At 44 years old, Terri has just authored her first book, Pride and Joy: The Lives and Passions of Women without Children. It's a collection of interviews with 25 women who chose not to have kids. Although happily married for 11 years, Terri made this very choice so she could be free to pursue other interests and be a more active member of her community.
Terri is not unique ' many women are making the same choice. According to the US Census Bureau, in 1975, one in 10 women in their early 40s had not had a child, by choice or by chance. In 1995, this statistic changed to 1 in 5. This means that in the US today, 2 million women in their 40s do not have children. By the year 2015, the US Census Bureau estimates that 1 in 3 women might have a "childfree" lifestyle. Armed with these statistics, Terri wants her book to validate this choice and hopes it can serve as a decision-making tool for those still struggling with such choices.
"What would it mean for our society if women without children were valued and celebrated as much as mothers are?" she asks.
Terri believes it would be presumptuous for her to suggest what women ought to do with the time they would otherwise spend on childcare. But from the interviews she conducted for Pride and Joy, she witnessed childless-by-choice women devoting themselves to improving their communities, deepening relationships with those around them, and im-
proving themselves personally,
intellectually, artistically, and spiritually. She wrote the book because she was tired of people assuming that her choice meant she was selfish, didn't get along with her mother (or husband!), and that she didn't like kids.
On the contrary, Terri enjoys kids. She's an active aunt to her eight nieces and nephews, who range in age from six to 30. Over the past 10 years, Terri has volunteers as a Big Sister and has taken class photos at a school for homeless children. She's currently an online mentor to a 16 year-old who aspires to a journalism career.
As Terri travels throughout the country speaking about her book, she has been surprised by the number of parents who ask, "What would one do without kids?"
What would one do? Terri is amazed each time she hears the question, because her own list of things to do is so long. She says the secret is knowing oneself well enough to understand which experiences you want most and which you don't mind foregoing. What she finds fulfilling involves being active in her community; making plenty of time for her family, and friends; gardening; reading; and writing.
But this month, Terri won't be attending the traditional baby shower for her friend Susan. "At baby showers, women swap stories about how long they were in labor and which of their children were colicky ' it's a cool bonding experience for women who are interested in being mothers, but it's not the most meaningful way for me to celebrate a friend's pregnancy," she says. "I'd rather take Susan out for a delicious dinner, talk in depth about what's going on in our lives, and have some special gifts for both Susan herself and for the baby. That's a much more satisfying connection for both of us, and satisfying connections are what most of us really want, after all."
Reviewed by Ann Krumboltz , executive director of the Brainerd Foundation, based in Seattle.