Jody Day for the What I See Project ‘Age’ month – May 2014
I’m turning 50 this summer and I’m excited about it – it feels like another powerful threshold that I’m crossing and very different to my 40th when I was still hopeful of becoming a mother.
I look a few years younger than my age – I always have done – and it’s interesting how many women suggest to me that I could ‘get away with’ saying I am younger. I find it puzzling – why would I want to pretend I was younger? I remember when I started calling myself ‘middle-aged’ – it seemed shocking to some that I was happy to describe myself this way, as if it was something shameful that could only be said behind my back.
My young-looking skin is nothing I can take credit for – I inherited it from my mother and it’s never needed more maintenance than a daily application of basic moisturiser. When I was a teenager, I despaired over my youthful looks: throughout my twenties I did all I could to look more ‘grown up’, even wearing fake reading glasses at work for a while! It wasn’t until my late thirties and the breakdown of my marriage that I began to appreciate that my youthful looks gave me a good chance of meeting another life partner just in the nick of time to have a family. I was wrong about that, as many of my generation were. It doesn’t matter how youthful looking your skin is, IVF can’t turn back the clock.
Not having the family I longed for has had a weird effect on the way I feel about my age and I suspect the way others think about me. There are many milestones that I’ll never experience: my child’s first day at school, my daughter’s first period, my children leaving home, becoming a grandmother. I often feel I have more in common with women younger who have yet to try for a family, or childless women a generation older who would have been in their grandmothering years.
Retaining and deepening friendships with my peers as they have taken the path of motherhood denied to me has been challenging, for both sides. I have often resented the security of their female identity as mothers and they have lusted after my freedom. I know that many other childless women have experienced this same dislocation, and it’s an unexpected collateral loss of childlessness – the loss of the majority of your peer group to grow old with. You get left behind in strange ageless no-womans-land.
Ageing without children is the biggest fear for childless women and, because I don’t have a family, it’s something I have the energy and time to commit to doing something about. To that end, the very first ‘Wisdom Circle’ for Gateway Women who would have been in their grandmothering-years takes place in London on 22nd June.
More about the What I See Project (or WISP)
WISP is a global collection of women’s voices coming together to share, connect, and actively shape what it means to be a woman. By asking the question ‘What do you see when you look in the mirror?’, WISP finds different ways for women to reflect on self-perceptions and female identity and becomes a platform for them to add their voice. To get involved with WISP yourself you can watch its Features Series on real female role models (including this short film from WISP Ambassador and Gateway Women Founder: Jody Day) or join Conversations on issues you care about. You can also upload your own short video of what you see in the mirror. (Note: You’ll need to log into Vimeo to watch the video above – it’s free to join)
About Jody and Gateway Women
Jody Day is the Founder of Gateway Women and the author of #1 Amazon best-seller ‘Rocking the Life Unexpected: 12 Weeks to Your Plan B for a Meaningful and Fulfiling Life Without Children’ (Published Autumn 2013). She set up the Gateway Women friendship and support network in 2011 to support, inspire and empower childless by circumstance women (like herself) as they develop meaningful and fulfilling lives without children. Jody runs private sessions, workshops and retreats for women coming to terms with the fact that motherhood didn’t happen for them. She speaks regularly in public, in the media and online about issues and prejudices facing childless women in our society today and is becoming known as ‘the voice of the childless generation’. She was selected by the BBC as one of 100 Women that represent the voice of women today in 2013. Neither a bitter spinster nor a dried up old hag, Jody puts her heart, mind, and soul into lovingly and mischievously subverting the stereotype of the ‘childless woman’. She is living proof that your Plan B can rock too! Watch her talk at the Women of the World Festival in March 2013 on “Creating a Meaningful & Fulfilling Life Without Children” in under 10-mins, with jokes!