Mum's Not the Word

Denise Felkin

'Mum's Not the Word’ is a collection of 50 photographic images of women who do not have children and their reflections on what this means to them as individuals. Raising questions of identity, social constructs, the concept of what it is to be a woman and how stereotyped behaviour is influenced by various factors both external and internal, such as the expectation around having children and the impact this has in an era of environmental crisis.

Supported by The Arts Council

Population Matters

Podcast available to listen to HERE

Artist biography

Denise Felkin is a Photographer, Tutor & Author. She has a BA (Hons) Fine Art Degree from University of Sunderland and MA Photojournalism, University of Westminster.

Denise who is childfree, began working on Mum's not the word in 2015. She was a finalist in Sony World Photography Awards 2016, Julia Margaret Cameron Awards & National Open Art awards 2017. MNTW has been shown at Somerset House, Bargehouse, Chelsea, Blackpool, Doncaster, Cologne, Barcelona, Athens, Paris & Bologna. In 2019, MNTW was released as a photobook by Earthworld Publishing and featured the iPaper and The Guardian weekend magazine.


Phoenix Art Space
10-14 Waterloo Place

2 October–1 November

Thursday 13:00–17:00
Friday 13:00–17:00
Saturday 13:00–17:00
Sunday 13:00–17:00

Mum's Not the Word, Denise Felkin

“ I am the youngest of four sisters born into what became a single-parent family. I observed my widowed mother raising us on her own and realised from a very early age that I did not want to experience the life of a parent when I grew up. When I was 19, I spoke to my mother about this for the first time – she dismissed it, telling me I would feel differently when I was older; I never did." Denise

“ I never thought I would get to 45 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.” Anthea

“ When I was younger my friends were always talking about their future kids. I was never interested in this subject. My answer was always ‘I will not have kids. Not in this society.’ Today I think the same.” Veronika

“ My mother was 18 when she had me. My grandparents kicked her out of the house, and she raised me on her own. I’ve never been broody and never met anyone I loved enough to make such a huge sacrifice for.” Amy

“ If I’m honest I have never felt the want or need to have children. When I was younger I assumed it may happen because that’s what people do, isn’t it? But it’s not for me. I choose not to because I don’t want them. It’s as simple as that.” Sarah Lisa

“ I’d always thought I’d have children and after a long term relationship ended I tried lots of ways to make that dream happen. IVF, a conversation about sperm donation with a colleague; and adoption. That process was long, arduous and intense, so many challenges from an agency who turned out to be very risk averse (not that I was a risk, they were just scared). I got worn out with the whole process and decided to be brave and stop.” Helen

“ I never really expected to be childless at the age of 45. Time just sprang on me, I’ve been having too much of a good time to sit and think about it for too long. I hope I don’t wake up one day with regret. In the meantime I will just keep on entertaining and taking care of my own inner child and continue loving life.” Mel

“ Making a statement about not having children is an alien concept. Not wanting children is part of being me, like enjoying gardening or being interested in art. Bringing up children is an important, difficult and scary job - too important, difficult and scary for me.” Kathleen

“ 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 the light of our rapidly changing climate.” Tamara

“ We had to make the hard decision not to have children because I have serious issues with my back. Suddenly I was living with a heavy black hole inside me. Dark and empty; I was grieving for somebody who wasn’t even there. Our future completely shifted on its axis to an unconsidered outcome, while on the outside we just had to carry on as normal.” Emma

“ 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.” Kit

“ I lost my son.” Stacey

“ I recently made a decision to have an abortion. Hard as it was, I believe it was the right thing for that time in my life. I pray I get the opportunity again to make a different choice.” Ria

“ I always wanted to be a partner and a mum, to raise and love a family of my own, but it just didn’t happen. Instead of embracing motherhood, I’m learning (or not) to live with otherhood: deep grief, sadness, shame and uncertainty.” Naomi

“ I never had a good relationship with my mother.” Ellen