There is a subgroup of women that has been quietly ignored and disrespected for many years, and that is the woman over 40, who doesn’t have children and may not have ever been married.
Their value and contribution to society is judged and questioned and can leave these women isolated and feeling punished for not following societal norms.
I am one of these women and this is my story.
The desire to not have childhood or get married started in childhood.
My first memory is of watching my alcoholic father hit my mother in the kitchen one night when he came home drunk.
AHe then became an absent father, who spent time at the pub more than at home both before and after my parents divorce.
Even after the divorce the chains continued to bind her and us to a man who was full of hatred and blame.
Seeing my mother trapped in a life with three children she was getting no help to raise, while continuing to be abused by the man she had already left but refused to let her be free.
Financially struggling, having to do whatever work she could to feed her children and keep a roof over their heads.
The stigma back then of being divorced. Honestly, would people have preferred her to stay until he killed us? I sometimes think they would have.
It was tough for her. And we suffered as children too.
Marriage was not a safe bet. One of my first life lessons.
I was blessed in this pain that my mother was able to share the following wisdom with me even if it came from her purely not wanting me to get caught like she did.
The wisdom being you can do whatever you want with your life. You don’t have to get married, you don’t have to have kids. You can be a teacher, you can be a policewoman, you can be whatever you want in life just be happy.
Some may say I took that to heart, and some may say she wasn’t saying that I shouldn’t but combine her words with what I had seen as a child and it’s a reasonable connection to make.
What she was saying, without realizing just what she was saying, was that it was OK for me to put myself first. To find a satisfying life outside of the confines of marriage and children.
Something I sometimes think she wished she had been able to do for herself.
She had no idea that by saying that my future would be laced with judgements from a society that values women on their ability to breed and keep a tidy house, not on their ambitions and desires to make a mark in the world.
The guilt that would arise that I was some who let other people down by choosing to remain child free.
That choosing no kids, when so many women wished they could but couldn’t, and the comments “what was wrong with me? It’s unnatural to not want to have kids when you’re a woman. And your kids would be so pretty/handsome and smart.”
I’ve seen and experienced the judgment and the assumptions that come with my situation. The assumption is that I couldn’t have children or that no man ever wanted to marry me.
Trust me there were a few guys there that I did consider marrying but ultimately seeing what my friends were experiencing in their married life was really enough to keep me steady in my resolve to not marry.
As much as my friends loved their children and loved their husbands, marriage seem to be the place where your own personal dreams and desires went to die
That there was an expectation of martyrdom and of sacrifice which was something that I was not prepared to do
It’s a decision that a lot of people in my past haven’t actually respected.
I was dating a man who ended up stealthing me (removing the condom and ejaculating inside me without permission) and getting me pregnant because he decided that I was wrong, and that I was doing the wrong thing by not contributing to society and having a child.
He deliberately got me pregnant because he felt that was my role in life and the world would miss out if I didn’t have HIS child.
And it was a pregnancy that I fortunately miscarried. And yes I say fortunately because then I didn’t have to make a decision to terminate a pregnancy that I did not want.
I would have though.
Imagine tying your life to a man who had that little respect for what you desired for your life?
But that’s how deep societies expectations of a woman’s worth and a woman’s role in this world are ingrained. A man thinks he has more choice over your body and decisions then you do yourself.
Another reason why I’m a bit sketchy around the whole get married have kids settle down thing.
Seriously struggle, sacrifice, financial challenges, giving up on your education, that’s all I saw it being, and to be honest even in my 30s it still showed up the same.
Give up on my own dreams for myself: no that was never an option.
I was so in love with a man once, he gave me the ultimatum of kids or we end it. I seriously thought about it but was that really the love and commitment I wanted? Conditional on my giving him a child?
CONDITIONAL, no thanks.
Like I as an individual was not enough and only there to provide an heir?
I walked away. It broke my heart.
But it was the right thing for me to do.
And he is now married with two kids and really unhappy.
Sometimes following the traditional pathway and expectations of society leaves you in the shit. Well, it did for him.
But where has this left me, and women like me who have chosen to not have children or get married or both?
At 47 years of age, it’s left me judged by society, a society that deems a woman’s worth is based on her willingness to bear children
It’s left me as questionable as a friend. It’s hard to break into new friendship circles, especially long-established friendship circles when you don’t have children as a common ground.
When women, before they get to know you see you as a potential threat to their marriage because they worry about their husbands wandering eyes.
I actually had a “friend” tell me that she couldn’t have me over anymore when her husband was home because he said I was attractive.
Sometimes it can be a little lonely.
I have been excluded from social scenarios with the reasoning you don’t have children this was something for mothers only.
I mean I’m a cat mom doesn’t that count for anything?
Or (this was in my thirties and to be fair she was more acquaintance than bestie but still) I felt awkward inviting you to the wedding (so I didn’t) because I didn’t want you to be the only single person at the table. Ummmm I’d be ok with that?
Ever been told you’re selfish because you have more time. That as you can decide to go away for a weekend and you don’t have to worry about organizing children, you are somehow wrong?
I mean, I have to worry about organizing my cats but leaving your cats at home for a day unsupervised is acceptable, unlike leaving children at home unsupervised a whole day. I
But seriously for the women over 40 who aren’t married who couldn’t have kids that kind of stuff is like a stab in the heart. Mum’s can get clicky whether they realize it or not, and women like me get excluded.
Jealously, judgement, indifference….. for whatever reason it can really suck.
And I know some of you might be reading this thinking I made my choice not to have children just as others made the choice too.
I would love you to consider this if you are a parent.
Just as much as mums need support and relief from judgement, so do the unmarried and without children in this world.
It doesn’t matter ot me if you have kids, couldn’t have them or chose not to. If you are at a stage in your life where putting others ahead of your own desires is no longer an option and you want help to step into a new you for 2021, book at call here to discuss how that magic can happen! Free Call