The Books That Made Ruby Warrington



In this episode of 'The Books That Made Me', Ben Keene (Co-founder of Rebel Book Club) talks to ⁠Ruby Warrington about the nonfiction books that have had a massive impact on her to date and how they have shaped her life leading up to her most recent nonfiction title, Women Without Kids.

Ruby also shares her personal wisdom on the decision so many people grapple with, whether or not to have children. And, the fascinating insights from her cultural and historical research for 'Women Without Kids' which has sparked a much needed global conversation.



Ruby Warrington is creator of the term Sober Curious. Author of the 2018 book of the same title, her work has spearheaded a global movement to reevaluate our relationship to alcohol. Other works include Material Girl, Mystical World (2017), The Numinous Astro Deck (June 2019), and The Sober Curious Reset (Dec 2020).

With 20+ years’ experience as a lifestyle journalist and editor, Ruby is also the founder of self-publishing imprint Numinous Books, and is known as a true innovator in the “Now Age” space. Her latest book, Women Without Kids, was published in by Orion Spring in the UK in April 2023.



Ruby's choices were: 

1. Selfish, Shallow, Self-Absorbed by Meghan Daum

2. You're A Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero

3. Pleasure Activism by Adrienne Maree Brown


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[00:00:00] We are in the grips and witnessing a global reproduction slowdown that's been in progress for at least the past century. It feels like it's gathering momentum, and there's a lot of scaremongering about this. You hear people like Elon Musk talking about the dangers of population collapse. The slowdown that we're witnessing is actually reflective of millions and millions, if not billions, of individual women's very personal decisions - often very conflicted decisions - about whether or not to have children.


[00:00:34] Hello and welcome to another episode of The Books That Made Me. I'm Ben Keene from Rebel Book Club and we're here to meet the nonfiction authors who inspire us, to hear about the books that shaped them as people. And today we are meeting a community builder and a revolutionary reader from the nonfiction world. Ruby Warrington has kicked off not one but two growing communities who are doing things differently.

The first was Sober Curious, people who are looking to leave alcohol behind and carve a new path. And the second book and community that has gained a lot of attention and that we read at Rebel Book Club is ‘Women Without Kids, the revolutionary rise of an unsung sisterhood’.

Now forgoing motherhood has traditionally marked women as other. The quirky girl, the neurotic career obsessive, the eccentric aunt. But instead of continuing to paint women without kids as sad, self-obsessed or dysfunctional, what if instead women without kids were seen as boldly forging a vision for a fully autonomous womankind, as Ruby says.

Or, what if being a woman without kids was in fact its own kind of legacy? So in this conversation, Ruby and I dive into the backdrop of unprecedented global reproduction slowdown, intergenerational healing, feminism, environmentalism, as well as her personal journey. And of course, The books have shaped Ruby Warrington.

This is a fascinating topic that leads in all kinds of different directions and Ruby is a wonderful guide. Enjoy.

Ruby, welcome to The Books That Made Me. Thanks for joining us…


[00:02:13] Thanks so much for having me. It's great to be here.


[00:02:16] First thing we want to know is why is this book, uh, women without kids so hot right now.

And the reason I say that is because we can see you out and about in the world through, through your action on socials and all the PR that you're doing. But we planted this to our members, you know, lunchtime on Monday and our WhatsApp group and said, we're chatting with Ruby this afternoon. Anything you'd like to ask her… an avalanche of, a tsunami of questions, which we haven't got time to go through, but there's a lot of story sharing in the last hour and a half amongst our community. So thank you for sparking that. Why is this topic and your book so hot right now?


[00:02:55] Ooh, well, I mean, I think we are in the grips and witnessing a global reproduction slowdown that's been in progress for at least the past century, but which is, it feels like it's gathering momentum and there's a lot of scaremongering about this… You hear people like Elon Musk on a regular basis talking about the dangers of population collapse. Just this past weekend, Pope Francis teamed up with the Prime Minister of Italy to yet again implore people to stop being so selfish and to start having more children. Um, and I think that this is the, the, the slowdown that we're witnessing in terms of the birth rate is actually reflective of millions and millions, if not billions of individual women's very personal decisions, often very conflicted decisions, about whether or not to have children… at what stage in our lives to have children, um, and how many children to have. And I mean, the, the, the statistics will show that the more access women have to education and to financial security and financial independence, the fewer children we have.

So this, this drop off in the birth rate that many people see as a bad thing or a crisis even is actually reflective of, well, the advances of the women's liberation movement and women's empowerment. And so I think there's such an interesting conflict of interests there, but a lot of people, women predominantly, given the extent that we still see child rearing and family formation is a quote, unquote, “women's issue”, even though obviously every child that is brought into the world as a result of a male and a female, um, which is problematic in and of itself - the fact that we still see it as a women's issue, right?

Um, and then, and then sort of, you know, adding to fuel to the fire in the U.S. we have last year saw, um, the reversal of Roe v. Wade, the revoking of women's right to a safe legal abortion. Um, and then in environmental circles, we see a crisis of overpopulation being spoken about. Um, how actually the number one thing we can do in terms of the climate crisis is reduce the size of the global population.

So you've just got all of these conflicts of interests. Which are centered around what is actually the most important and the most, um, consequential decision that a person can make about their, their life. Um, this is not something that's really been, I haven't seen, there hasn't been a book on this subject.

And I think that the reason it's so, feels so hot. And so like such a talking point right now is because we are at this, what feels almost like a crisis point in terms of the population, a crisis point that's impacting women's lives in a very direct individual way.


[00:05:38] There you go. There you go. A hundred, a hundred things going on in the world, and they all relate to this question right now.

And, what I, what I love about the framing on the front end of, of the book, Women Without Kids, is you pose this question, which is actually a really positive one, as opposed to the, what, what you've just described as this crisis, multiple crises that this all leads, um, centres on, which is ‘what if being a woman without kids was in fact, a new kind of legacy, a legacy of its own?’

So that's the journey that you take us on in your book. Um, the first question that popped up in our conversation with our members on this topic was, how do I figure it out for myself? So the introspection journey, and I know we haven't got the time to go through all of that, but what's the starting point for someone who's asking that question?


[00:06:26] Well, in chapter one of the book, I present a concept that I called the motherhood spectrum and it suggests that rather than motherhood being every woman's biological imperative, any individual's suitability for parenthood is actually going to be dependent on numerous external and internal factors, everything from basic personality to a few a family background, cultural background, religious beliefs, financial situation, relationship status, etc. All of these things will have an impact on whether we want to become a parent, whether we believe we're ready to become a parent, under what circumstances we would ideally become a parent, etc, etc.

So the first thing I want to offer is that if you're feeling conflicted about this choice, or ambivalent about this decision, and you are asking those questions, ‘Is this something I want?’ I would argue that that is actually normative and that the extreme ‘hell yes’ - it's a yes for me, no questions asked, or the extreme ‘hell no’ - it's definitely a no for me (which is more the camp that I've always been in) - those are sort of the extremes. And I actually think the normative position is to be questioning deeply, ‘is this something I want to embark on in my life?’

Given what I already touched on about how consequential this decision is, it's one of the only decisions you can't unmake. And it will not only impact your life indelibly, but at least one other person. That is the life of the child that you may bring into the world as a result. So first of all, I would just empower anybody to take all the time that you need.

Women are also fed this line that, you know, time is always running out. There is a biological clock. It is ticking. It's now, and it gets… and it will come to a point where it's now or never. Um, this is when there can be a lot of fear mongering around, you know, if you don't just do it, you will regret it. If you're questioning it, then you're in denial or you're deluded or you're being selfish or whatever it might be…

Um, and in those instances, I think the really important thing to be questioning is, what do I, rather than thinking about is this something I might regret in the future… how is this going to play out as my life unfolds? Really focus back in on what's important to me right now… What do I need to get done this week? What do I need? What are my ambitions for myself this year?

The future tripping can really spin us out on this question of all questions, which in some ways is the mother of all questions, right? The future tripping: Will I regret this? Who will look after me when I'm old? Um, what will happen when time runs out?

The fact is that nobody knows what the future holds. Nobody knows how our life is going to unfold. And the most we can do when it comes to really, if it really comes down to finding meaning, living a fulfilling life that really feels like it fits us… Focus on building that for yourself now with the things that are in front of you.

Obviously this, it is a huge question. And for many people, you know, the, the term ‘childless by circumstance’ is becoming much more widely used. We've thought before about ‘childless by choice’ or ‘childless not by choice’, who are maybe people who've experienced infertility issues, but this ‘childless by circumstance’ cohort is the majority truly of people who don't have children, people who perhaps under other circumstances… had they been in the right relationship… had their finances been in a different position… might have had children sooner. Um, and I think there's a lot in the book about coming to terms with the fact that, in life we don't get everything that we want. It doesn't always turn out the way we think it should. And that's okay.

It might not feel okay, but that's life, you know, and really working to accept what we've and appreciate what we do have and what we have been able to achieve and the things we have been able to to explore, I suppose, um, that's really what to focus on when it comes to living a fulfilling and purposeful life.


[00:10:10] It's, it's fascinating, right? Because I've sparked so many different thoughts. And one of them is, why isn't this in the school curriculum, or at least some point in like, everyone needs to go on this journey. And literally everyone needs to go on this journey. And we don't, and we, we, we skim over the basics of biology and sex, don't we?

But to consider this the biggest question of all for most humans is, is, is really great to zoom in on. And then that, of course, what's attached to this self, um, this introspection often is this feeling of shame. Um, and how do you, again, appreciate we don't have the capacity to do a whole course on it now, but how do you, uh, how do individuals start to, um, deal with that or explore that feeling?


[00:10:56] Yes, I mean the shame, the shame can come, um, shame is something that's commonly felt among women without kids. Whether it's the shame of feeling like, I don't want to do this, therefore I am cold and heartless and there's something maybe even biologically wrong with me. Those are certainly thoughts that I had throughout my 20s and 30s while I was grappling with this decision.

There can be shame for people who haven't been able to become pregnant because of fertility issues. Again, ;there's something wrong with me’. Um, there can be shame for even feeling ambivalence, especially if you live in a, if you have a family or a community who are very insistent that you should be doing this thing, even questioning, do I want to do this can bring up feelings of shame.

‘I'm not giving other people what they want’. ‘I'm not doing my duty in society’. Um, in my experience. And this relates to my work with Sober Curious as well. Shame sort of breeds in isolation… which is why finding community and finding spaces where we can even just ask the questions and get into conversation about what are the internal drivers behind our questioning, behind our decision making processes, um, where we can meet other people who may be asking some of the same questions as us can be so, so de-shaming, you know… it's how we un-shame ourselves is by finding spaces where we can connect with other people who are sharing the same experiences and just being talking openly, unmasking some of those monsters, you know, um, bringing the skeletons out of the closet, literally, um, is how we can override shame, which I think is such an incredibly important piece to focus on.

Again, sort of in my own experience and just having spoken to so many people walking these unconventional paths that can bring up a lot of shame: of just the shame of being different, the shame of being other. When we're living with shame, it can really prevent us from fully expressing ourselves and from fully living in a way, because we're always feeling that we have to apologize for ourselves. We have to apologize for who we are. We have to apologize or hide away those parts of us that we deem shameful.

When we're hiding and apologizing half the time, we're not fully living and expressing, we're not fully in our creative potential. And so un-shaming ourselves, I think, is a really, really, um, important part of our inner work, part of our work as human beings who want to make a difference and want to create and want to, again, live sort of fulfilling and meaningful lives.


[00:13:27] And when that shame shifts through community, um, and education and connection - then you see people come out the other side in, in a, you know, from shame to celebration, right? Whether it's through sobriety, sexuality, gender, or choosing not to have children… it's, you see the similar paths... when they get that support.

And then of course, for many, and we saw this in our conversation just over the last two hours online, the first thing that people say when this topic comes up is like, I've been questioned by my family, my friends - they just don't get it. And, and of course the question they're trying to figure out is how do I have this? How do I shift the conversations so they start to understand who I am or who I'm becoming?


[00:14:10] Yeah I feel so fortunate that I, my parents never pressured me to have children or questioned this decision. There was some, not even surprise, just sort of. Oh, okay. You know, not disappointment, but just, um, but particularly on my mum part, just a sort of a lack of understanding because she had so desperately wanted to be a mother and found truly her full identity in motherhood that she's literally used those words to describe it to me.

So I think my not wanting to be a mother felt like a rejection of her… of parts of our journey… and we've discussed that and got past that and she fully understands now. It's really interesting that the other night, just the other night I had this really powerful dream about privilege. I dreamt that I was at a big family event and it was a big dinner and it was really boozy and everyone was drinking and eating all this food.

And as a non-drinker, I just felt completely uncatered for. There was nothing on the menu for me when I asked the waiting staff. I wanted a sweet dessert and they're like, ‘oh, people don't drink eat sweets while they're drinking alcohol. We don't serve it’. And then I asked for a cup of tea and they brought me this little pot of tea pot of English breakfast and they brought me this little tiny, tiny thimble sized cup of tea.

And I was like, ‘is that all I can have?’ They're like, ‘yeah, we don't do pots of tea. People don't drink tea’. And everybody else at the table was just sort of looking at me like uncomprehendingly, and I was being completely left out.

And I realized that when you're not in the in group, i. e. when you're not in the privileged group, whose needs, by default of them being the in group, are just automatically met, without any, without question… that that in group never questions the needs of the people in the outgroup, there's an incomprehension that people who are not in that ingroup might have different needs that might be needed to be catered for. And I woke up just feeling like, whoa, that's privilege. That's privilege. Being in the ingroup, having your needs automatically catered for…

And in our society, we live in a pronatalist society. Now pronatalism is the ideology that says ‘parents are more valid than non-parents’. So parents are the in group in a pronatalist society. And so anybody who exists outside of that or who expresses, um, any sort of dissent towards that is going to find themselves uncatered for, misunderstood, um, and in some circumstances really persecuted for their choices.

And so, yes, this is a question in a way about privilege. And so I think that as with all conversations about privilege, it's about giving a voice to the outside group. It's about voicing our needs, voicing our differences, owning our differences and saying our needs are as valid. Our needs, our choices, our decisions, our challenges are as valid as those of the in group.


[00:17:02] Absolutely, and if you, if you become a parent, you see that happening as you're describing it. I'm just thinking about, you know, the last decade of my life and it, the, because parenting is that all consuming experience. Um, especially for a mother, um, then even if you're, you'd like to think you're a conscious citizen and kind and compassionate…  just the capacity to explore how other people, what other journeys people are on… Just out of curiosity, how much of this conversation, um, have you seen in a male space, how many men do you think are asking other men about this in a in a compassionate and curious way?


[00:17:46]  I'm so happy you asked that it's come up a couple of times just in the past few weeks. None - virtually none. Which again, I think shows the extent to which we think of parenting as a women's issue and child rearing as a women's issue and pregnancy and abortion as women's issues when obviously all of these central life sort of circumstances equally apply to men… but in our society, and I think the fact that there are - well, I say zero, I haven't done ton of digging… there may be some male voices speaking on being men without children, or fatherlessness - um, fatherlessness, maybe that's not the word. I don't even know if there's a word, right? Non motherhood, non fatherhood… Um, I think the fact that it's not just not a conversation that's occurring in male circles, again just shines a light on how much we see this as a women's issue...

I think that it does impact men greatly though. This is from conversations I've had with my husband, who shares with me that while it's not covert, it is covert rather, there's a sense that he gets that as a non-father, he is viewed as less than. He is viewed as immature, he is viewed as having sort of shirked his responsibility as a provider, these sorts of things.

So that feeling of shame exists for him as a non-parent also. But I do think it's a conversation that needs to be had in men's circles or male circles also. I don't, do you agree? Do you think so?


[00:19:26]  Yeah it doesn't, it doesn't happen. And I was sharing with Emily, um, before, before we started this call that I was thinking of times with friends I have who haven't had children, male friends… You know, whether I've just assumed that that was either a private fertility issue or whether it was a, uh, to something where it wasn't the right time for them.

I don't think I'd actively thought, well, should, you know, the conversation about, is this a choice? Um, and of course, there's the career conversation with men, which sometimes is of course the aggressive traditional path. And fertility is a different, you know, timeline and so on. So there's so many other issues.


[00:20:05] It is a different timeline. And I will, I will just want to point out that people… much younger couples are having fertility issues. Throughout my 30s, friends were having issues with fertility and having to have undergo IVF treatments and this has become more and more common. Often again it's sort of the woman has failed, like she can't get pregnant. And while it's true that um ovarian reserves I think it's something like ovarian reserves basically it's the number of sort of viable eggs that a woman has at different age in her life has really, um, reduced among younger women.

Sperm counts have actually been halved over the past four decades, so this is largely put down to environmental factors chiefly, um, microplastics in the water, food and water supply. So human fertility in males and females has massively decreased.

So fertility is a big issue for men, but I think because men don't have the don't have menopause looming as this kind of, you know, biological cliff. Um, there isn't the same emphasis on male fertility being an issue for people who, for heterosexual couples who can't have children. Um, and the other thing I was going to point out or mention is that often this question of whether or not to have children can be a sticking point, if not a breaking point for couples, if they aren't aligned.

I'm so grateful that my husband, who I've been with for 24 years now, we were always very much on the same page about this. Um, but I've definitely heard of many couples who've split up over this issue.

But what's really interesting to me is that recently I've actually only been hearing stories. And again, among heterosexual couples, where it's the guy who wants to have kids and the woman who's questioning it, the woman who's saying, wait a minute. And I think the COVID childcare crisis... Having shone a light on the extent to which, despite all of the gains of the feminist movement, the extent to which the majority of the kind of hands on, day to day childcare falls to women. I think that is causing women who are millennials, kind of older gen Zs now, to really question, is that something I want to sign up for?

And perhaps in those conversations, if it was sort of, okay, ‘okay, boyfriend, potential co-parent. Are you, are you up for 50 50 on all of this, 50 50 on arranging the playdates, on changing the nappies, on cooking the food, on doing the grocery shopping, on reorganizing your work schedule, 50 50, are you up for it?’ I wonder how those conversations would play out. If that was a more, if that conversation was being had as, as by default, right?


[00:22:56] Yeah, the male ego would be, would be challenged for sure, but it's a great question…


[00:23:01] Traditional gender roles would be challenged. They are being challenged. Absolutely. And so much progress has been made in that area.

But I think this area in particular. And I think it does come down to the very ancient story about women are biologically hardwired to nurture because women gestate the baby in our bodies. And then because we are equipped to breastfeed children, there's this idea that women are biologically hardwired in a different way to men when it comes to the nurture, particularly of small children.But that belief sort of permeates.. kind of a longer period - like that sort of continues.. we believe that okay, so even beyond breastfeeding years women are more equipped to do the child care work, right? Which I don't know, I question that - and I've spoken to I spoke to evolutionary biologists in my research for the book who also question that.


[00:24:08] Yeah, and that's the nature nurture debate, which is in society and history


[00:24:13] Well, it's the maternal instinct debate, actually, um, which would suggest that, you know, women are the ones who are wired to become overcome with baby fever in our thirties, if not earlier, and want nothing more than to become mothers and to nurture and raise children and men don't experience this…

I think that we're seeing that that's very much a cultural and a social construct as much as it is tied to our biology. And then there were studies were done about 10, 15 years ago, I think. And it was around the time that, you know, there was debate about whether gay male couples should be allowed to adopt.

So they did studies sort of monitoring the brain activity of men who became the primary caregivers for infant children. And there were brain changes… basically the amygdala, which is the part of the brain that monitors for threat, is enlarged when a woman becomes the primary caregiver of an infant.

Hence that I can hear my baby crying, you know, three rooms away. I know it's my baby's cry, right? These same brain changes occur in males who become the primary caregiver of an infant. So it's the role, not the sex.


[00:25:35] Wow. This is so great, it turns everything upside down, which is what we like at Rebel Book Club, Ruby.

Now, because you're such a, you're at the centre of this fascinating conversation, we also want to dig a little bit into who you are, what made you, um, as a human, uh, who's shaking things up. So, we asked you to give us three nonfiction books that have had a really big impact on your life.

So, um, you've kindly thought of those. I wonder if you could give us the first one and why this book is so important to you.


[00:26:07] So the first one that came up, um, given this subject matter is quite an obvious one for me. It's called ‘Selfish, Shallow and Self-absorbed’. It's by, it's an anthology. It's a collection of essays, um, collected, curated by the American essayist and now podcaster, Meghan Daum.

She is somebody who never wanted to have children and I think this was her way of kind of diving into the subject. She invited 16 other writers to write essays about why they had not become parents. It came out in 2015, um, which is around the time. Let's see 2015. I was just turning 40. No, I was 39, and really approaching that moment of like, gosh, this is it, if I'm not going to do it, if I'm going to do it, like this is the time. And honestly, I almost talked myself into it at that stage in my life because the external pressure and the message ‘you will regret it if you don't’ was so powerful.

But I read her book then and it was the first time I had read anything that kind of scratched the surface or got into people's inner motivations around the decision not to have children. And it was so illuminating and comforting to read all of these very varied individuals talk about their very varied reasons, varied and valid reasons for not becoming parents.

Um, and so, yeah, it was a New York Times bestseller at the time. And so obviously really struck a chord. But I can't necessarily say it was the book that made me realize it would be okay not to have kids, but it definitely came along for me at a time when that was really on deck for me, that decision.

Um, and when I was really grappling with, I guess staying true to myself and really listening to my intuition and my inner voice. Beyond all of the kind of external noise and pressure, so yeah, very, very grateful to that book. And interestingly of those 16 essays, I think only two were men.


[00:28:07] But great intuition to pull that book off the shelf. And, you know, we talk about a Rebel Book Club books with good timing that change you. You reached for it, right? You wanted to read that book, but, um, it also found you at the right moment.


So it turns out you don't just need to be a published author to have had books change your life. We see this happen every month at Rebel Book Club, and we're also seeing our members reading habits shift as well towards listening to more books to fit around their busy digital lives on the move. So when we found out about a new audiobook service called xigxag, we were excited to give it a try.

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[00:29:43] So, on to your second book. Yeah. That had a big impact on your life, what was it?


[00:29:43] Yes. My second one is ‘You Are a Badass at Making Money’ - which is not the kind of thing I would typically pick up. I am a little bit allergic to kind of more classic prescriptive self-help. I don't really like being told what to do. If you can't already tell, I'm quite a rebel in my life choices and I like it that way.

Um, but ‘You Are a Badass at Making Money’ came, um, a few years after that… I guess I was probably in my early forties. Um, my second book, Sober Curious had come out. It was a big hit - in terms of everybody was talking about it. It was all over the media. It had sparked this ‘global movement’, but it hadn't sold a huge number of copies, and I definitely haven't got a very big advance for it.

So I was doing tons and tons of unpaid promo work for the book, and I wasn't really earning any money from journalism, because I'd taken a big step away from my journalism career at that stage to make this transition to author and nothing else had really kind of come in to fill the earnings gap. Um, so here I was in my early forties, super accomplished - had published two books, had built this big kind of online platform, had previously had a features editor job at The Sunday Times in the UK.

And yet I was consumed with financial anxiety. Living cheque to cheque. Never really knew where my next, you know, rent bill was coming from. Um, and I had a real moment of like, how did this happen? Like, what did I do wrong you know?


[00:31:11] Yeah because the success, you know, your name was successful, right?


[00:31:15] My name was out there. I had accomplished all of these things. I was busy and working all the time, but I was skint. And I just had to be like, what did I get wrong? And this does tie slightly into, um, Women Without Kids too, which I I'll get into in a sec…but anyway, I heard someone talk on a podcast about this book, You're a Badass at Making Money, which is the second book, I think from Jen Sincero, her first book was You're a Badass.

And that was the kind of everywhere self-help book that I would just never have picked up, but I was in need of some new answers about how to make money at this point in my life. And let's, let's, to be clear, I had chosen a career path that didn't come with a secure pay check, that didn't come with a pension built into it.

I left all that behind when I left the Sunday Times and started working and went freelance basically. So I was, I, I'd wilfully taken that risk, um, but it was a risk that didn't really feel like it was paying off at that point. And I guess, yeah, I wanted to know, I wanted to, to really test, can I make a living, can I make the money I need pursuing this or do I need to just kind of like, you know, call it a day and go and get a copywriting job at a brand or something?

And so I thought I'd give, give the book a go. And it's just fantastic. It's so engagingly written. She is a really, really, um, fun conversational writer. So it hooked me immediately.

And most of the book focuses on really digging into the deeply held beliefs that we have about money. It's another one of those really taboo and yet really central topics that we don't really talk about openly in society because there's a lot of guilt, shame, resentment around the concept of money as well for all sorts of very deep reasons, which I won't go into now, but I realized that I had lots of very, such a cheesy self-help phrase, but limiting beliefs around money.

You know, I'd been raised in a household where I was raised by my mother. My parents separated when I was very young and she was estranged from her parents. Well, her mother had passed away, but she was estranged from her father. And I constantly would hear, I never get any help from my dad. He's cut me out of his will. There's never anything coming to me. He's never been able to support me. He's never been able to help me. He's so selfish. He's so selfish.

And on the other side, my dad's parents were quite wealthy. Like his dad had done really well for himself and had… They had this big house in a fancy part of town that none of their money ever flowed to our sort of little two bedroom flat that I shared with my mum and brother.

So I had these messages from my parents. On the one hand, people who have money are selfish and withholding and mean. And then on the other hand, other people have money, but none of it's for me. So these were two really central beliefs I realized that I held about money. So the book helped me do a lot of kind of just unpacking of all of that. Um, and a kind of an un-brainwashing about money, that belief that people with money are mean and selfish was so deeply ingrained in me.

And of course I didn't want to be a mean, selfish person. So I would never agitate for more money. I'd never push. I was really bad at negotiating fees. I'd always take whatever was kind of, whatever scraps were sort of thrown my way. So I was able to start to turn all of that around and really proactively… Revalue myself and my work in the marketplace from a non-emotional place and it completely turned my earning potential and capacity around.

So today I actually… it helped me actually carve out a whole new career for myself. As well as writing my own books, I help other people write their books and I predominantly work as a manuscript coach and publishing consultant, um, and have over the past sort of three, four years since I read that book, worked with about 30-35 clients and built a really prosperous career for myself, helping other people write their books, which I absolutely love.

It's a fantastic way of using my skills that have been honed over my decades working as a journalist and editor, um, offering people a service, which I can charge a high rate for because it's very personalized, very one to one work that they take huge value from and are able to leverage to help them get the book deals that they want, etc etc. So yeah, it was a really pivotal book and easily written, but really deep in the work that it invites you into.


[00:35:40] I want to hit the cheering sound effect right now, Ruby, because you're telling of your story of money inspired by You're a Badass at Making Money is… It's so good at like role, it's fascinating, but it's also so good at role modelling, taking a book and applying it to life with, with real impact.

So, um, and I can see how that's also probably played a big part in your own writing and work. Um, that's fantastic.

And it's made, reminded me we need to get back on this topic. We haven't done personal finance, which on the surface always sounds quite boring. Yeah. And practical, but underneath it's the psychological sort of like rollercoaster, right?


[00:36:20] It’s fascinating. And again, something they don't teach in school, which absolutely should be part of the curriculum. It's probably the number one thing we should be taught in school is how to approach money, how to make money, how to manage our money. Um, it's so vitally important and it's something that keeps so many people stuck in really dire financial straits. My mother, my mother being somebody who's really had to do a lot of work around that herself as well. So, yeah, it's a fascinating subject.


[00:36:49] Wow, you made it work. And, uh, yeah, don't forget that the first class of the day is on. You know whether to have children or not…


[00:36:55] So yeah, and I will just very quickly add, I don't want to take too much time on this, but it applies to the journey because I, I have always been kind of obsessed with my career and had really put everything into building my career first and foremost as a journalist and now as an author.

And I realized actually that so much of my honestly verging on workaholism was driven of fear from fear of not having enough money and the belief that I must work hard and I must work all the time to get enough. And so that's something else which played into my decision not to have children…

I won't be able to afford to have children because I must focus on my career to earn enough money, which there's some truth in that it's mess. It's kind of very, very nuanced, but working smarter, not harder - which is such a cliche - and actually valuing myself in my work in a different way and asking for what I need and not saying yes to every single job that comes along, has freed up a lot more time, which under under different circumstances in another life I might have been able to apply to childrearing or to having children.


[00:38:03] Um, instead you're leading a revolution. Which is, you know, is a very good thing.


[00:38:09] Which is good enough, I guess, yeah.


[00:38:11] It is more than that. So your final book, which is one of my favorite nonfiction titles I think of recent years. Tell us what that is and why it's so important to you.


[00:38:22] So my final book is ‘Pleasure Activism’ by Adrienne Maree Brown. I really love this title too. I'm a real wordsmith. I've always loved words and playing with words, hence you know, Sober Curious was… it was coming up with that kind of a term, and this is something I help my authors do, you know, what's, how can we, how can we find new language to describe what you want to say in your book? How can we play with words? How can we be surprising with words to express a concept. that perhaps is hiding in plain sight?

And I think pleasure activism does that really well because they're not two words that we necessarily see next to each other very often. When we think of activism, we often think about fight, struggle, um oppression, revolution, going to battle. These are very aggressive and exhausting words…


[00:39:14]  And then reputational risk and all that, right?


[00:39:17] Yeah exactly, anger… Pleasure Activism, with this book Adrian Murray Brown, who's just a brilliant thinker, um, reminds us that we are here as humans to experience pleasure, like our brain science will tell us this as well, right?

We have dopamine receptors in our brain, which wire us to go towards the things which bring us pleasure and away from the things that bring us pain. This is what I learned about in my research for Sober Curious. Why are we so attached to alcohol? Well, we believe that alcohol will bring us pleasure and take away our pain, which it does on a very surface level.

The flip side of it being that it can actually lead to a lot more pain than pleasure when we take it too far. So we are wired as human beings to orient towards pleasure, but there's so much shame around that there's such a pleasure deficit in our society, because again, we've also been fed this story that we must work hard and we must struggle in order to get what we want.

Adrienne reminds us that in order to remember what we are fighting for in our activism, what we are agitating for in our changemaking is a more pleasurable life, ultimately. Whether that means a more easeful life, a more abundant life, a more relaxed life, a more connected life, um, a more orgasmic life. I mean, she really frames it as like the baseline for what we're fighting for, and that in order to remember what we're fighting for, we must experience and prioritize pleasure in our lives.

It's just such an important and surprising and inspiring message. I really love the way she presented it as well in her books. Her books feel like entering into a community because she invites so many different writers to share essays and short pieces and interviews. And she presents all of that in her books.

So you get the feeling when you read her books. Another great one is Emergent Strategy, which is a very, um, again, inspiring sort of manifesto for reimagining what we're, the worlds we want to create. Um, you really feel like you're entering into a movement or into, yeah, at least a community of people who were kind of on the same page. It's really, I love the way she writes.


[00:41:34] And to be, to be clear, the definite, her definition of pleasure is, is way beyond what we would call fun as a sort of driving force for action.


[00:41:43] Yes, I mean, she draws on the work of Audre Lorde, who wrote a very famous essay, um, on the erotic, I can't remember the name of the essay.

Something about reclaiming the erotic so of course we often think about erotic and eroticism in terms of sort of sexual pleasure and sexual desire and Audre Lorde and Adrienne Murray Brown talk about the erotic as actually this sort of life force energy that we feel in ourselves that does pull us towards the things that feel good.

Yes, of course, in our sexual lives, but actually, Adrienne describes it as the sort of orgasmic yes, which just can't be said no to. It's just the things in life, which are just pulling us through sheer delight and pleasure and enjoyment.

And so if we can orient, if we can locate that, yes, within ourselves, the kind of erotic within ourselves, we can apply that to all of our life pursuits.


[00:42:42] Amazing, so we can all wag our tails continuously. And it feels like you're applying this this theory of this book that's had a big impact of you on you, Pleasure Activism, to your work and to build this movement women without kids and I guess the sort of wrapping up question for me would be what do what do you need other than everyone to buy and read and talk about this topic. What do you need with this as this movement goes forward? Have you got plans for building a more structured community around this topic?


[00:43:13] The issue and I've heard this repeatedly from agents and publishers… the issue with writing nonfiction books on different subjects is that you then are sort of tasked with creating this whole world around your book multiple times. Which, as I touched on, when talking about the place of sort of burnout and financial instability I'd reached after doing that with Sober Curious... It's actually a really big ask.

Um, so I'm really I'm really at the moment focused on kind of connecting with other organizations in this space… There's a woman called Zoe Noble who has something called We Are Child Free. She's doing an amazing job of sort of building a community there. I am speaking to her about helping facilitate more sort of just meetups or empowering or emboldening other people to host their own meetups this sort of thing.

There's a woman called Jody Day who has a platform called Gateway Women. Which is mainly for people who are involuntarily childless and have experienced fertility issues.

There's a woman called Christine (something or other) who is proactively on the fight to dismantle pronatalism.

But I also I really you know, I think that this book is connected to, for example, in the U.S., um, the sort of political activism around fighting for paid parental leave, for example. Um, obviously with Roe v. Wade having been overturned, there's a huge amount of work to be done there. So, I'm actively agitating for this book to be taken beyond the personal, ‘Should I have children? How do I make peace with this choice?’... into the more universal: how can we look at the way we are supporting or not supporting people in their parenting? How can we look at the way we're thinking about family formation? How can we look about the things that the children of the future need for us to put in place now, so that people can confidently bring more people onto the planet?

So I really want to find ways to get this book out there into the broader conversation about where we are going in terms of our humanity. I mean, honestly, it's, it is such a huge, to bring it full circle to where we started, it is such a huge subject. So I'll do what I can to kind of hope that the book can spark some of those wider conversations.

But in my life, I'm getting back to, I'm getting back to my, getting back to my desk, getting back to my client work , helping other people birth their book babies into the world.


[00:45:40] I love, I love that the sort of dual, dual mission you've got of like get help, help others, nurture others to come out and get their book babies out. And at the same time, let's look at this, this huge moment in our, in our history of our species, right? Where so many things are going on at once…

And I'm going to tweet the guys who wrote empty planet with, the Canadian authors who I can't remember their names right now, which I read a few years ago, which had a massive impact on me realizing off the back of Hans Rosling's work on populations and how, as you explained early on, how they sort of, they peak, uh, and then start to level off when 12 year old girls, young, young women get educated… And we're seeing this, this real evidence of a story of, of global population slow down, as you said. And that's why these questions are so important. So thank you.


[00:46:31] So important. Yeah, yeah, thank you. You, you touched on something that really is like a, a through line in all my work. I want to start conversations, you know, um, I want my work to start conversations and I can see that happening with Women Without Kids. So thanks for having me on.


[00:46:47] Thank you so much, Ruby, for giving us your time and, um, and more so for your amazing work. And I expect this will be a key topic and theme and book at Rebel Book Club very, very soon.


[00:46:57] So thank you. Amazing. Thanks again.

Hosted by

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produced by

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