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Childless and Miserable? You need to get off Facebook!

Sunny holidays, funny moments with her kids, her lover taking her away somewhere special for her birthday so that they can have some time, ‘alone’…

How come her life worked out and mine didn’t? What about me?

How to meet your soul mate, arranging the perfect hen-night, your dream wedding, what to expect when you’re expecting, keeping the passion alive in your relationship…

Where’s my soul mate? Isn’t there meant to be one for everyone? Where do I exist in women’s magazines? Where are the articles about coping with a lodger in your 40s just to pay the electricity bill? When did ‘life-work balance’ come to mean ‘family-work’ balance? Doesn’t my life count? What about me?

One Born Every Minute, Call the Midwife, 16 and Pregnant…

Where am I on TV? Where are the single and childless or childfree women in their 40s and 50s? Where are the couples who couldn’t have kids and who have come to terms with that and are moving forward with their lives in exciting and fulfilling ways?

What about me? Don’t I exist too? Am I not a part of this culture, this world, this life?

From the moment we wake up, we are bombarded with images of mothers, mothers and children, ‘fertile’ (ie: young) women, grandmothers, nuclear families. In fact, US academic Martha M Lauzen reports that

…women in their teens, 20s and 30s are 39 percent of the population, yet are 71 percent of women on TV. Women 40 and older are 47 percent of the population, yet are 26 percent of women on TV. […]  There’s actually an academic term for that. It’s called ‘symbolic annihilation.’ 

What about me indeed!

It’s hard to feel good about yourself when the only messages coming back at you are that your best days are behind you, and it looks like you screwed those up anyway.  But you were there, you made those decisions to the best of your knowledge. Other women you knew made what looked like much worse decisions at the time, but they ‘ended up’ with a family and are now considered to have ‘got it all right’, whilst your role seems to be some kind of cautionary tale for younger women…

This is toxic thinking that overvalues motherhood and undervalues womanhood. It doesn’t help mothers either, who are meant to be having it all, and loving it. All they’re allowed to say about motherhood is that it’s the most meaningful thing they’ve ever done. Maybe. But every day? All the time?

No one ever has a shit day on Facebook.

Looking at Facebook when you’re childless by circumstance and not yet OK with this is an act of self harm. You need to ask yourself what possible good could it do you? Even if you found a cure for cancer you’d get might get less ‘likes’ that day than a flipping pregnancy announcement. We’re living in a pronatalist bubble, it will pass. (Read Laura Carroll’s book The Baby Matrix if you’re not sure what I’m on about). 

It’s time to take control of what messages you consume:

  • Look for positive role models in the culture. You’re unlikely to find them in mainstream media, so you might as well stop bothering with it.  Check out my Gallery of Childless & Childfree Role Models, and I’d love to hear your suggestions too.
  • Hang out with your childless and childfree friends. If you don’t have any yet, get some here. They’re not as weird as you think, that’s just internalised prejudice talking. In fact, in my experience, they’re actually pretty amazing women. There’s nothing like running up the down escalator of life to make for an interesting person…
  • Stop watching TV shows about dating, marriage and families. This pretty well much only leaves nature programmes, detective shows and vampires so you might want to try giving up watching the TV altogether for a week and doing something else to see what happens. Start creating something. Anything. Giving birth isn’t the only act of creation a woman is capable of.
  • Give up reading women’s magazines, colour supplements and avoid as much advertising as you can. Listen to the radio instead (if you can get a commercial free station, goddess bless the BBC!) or podcasts. Start reading some of the fantastic blogs and websites for women who want to see things differently. I enjoy The Vagenda, Salon, Feministe, The Bitter Babe, From Forty with Love. I’d love to know what you like to read that makes you feel good about yourself and excited about your life again…

The status quo can’t see us, we’re invisible. You can feel that space as emptiness, or you can begin to see it as possibility. It might feel uncomfortable at first, which may be why you’ve been trying to fill it with TV, magazines and Facebook. And bitter daydreams of what could have been, if only…

We cannot control the world, and we have less control over our lives than we’d like to imagine. But we can choose how we think about it, how we feel about it.

stop the shame

It’s time that we, the invisible women of this world, stopped worrying about what others think about us.  The fact is, they don’t. And therein lies our power, once we have the company and encouragement we need to take advantage of it.

I dare you. Take your life back from those who’ve convinced you you don’t have one. Because the last laugh is always still up for grabs.


To join the private Gateway Women Online Community, click here


Photo of Jody Day, Founder of Gateway Women (UK)

Jody Day is a London-based writer and the Founder at Gateway Women. She set up the Gateway Women 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 groups, workshops and retreats for hopeful mothers-to-be who are ‘running out of time’, as well as for those women reluctantly coming to terms with the fact that motherhood didn’t happen for them. Jody also consults with individuals and organisations and she regularly speaks out in public, in the media and online about issues and prejudices facing childless women in our society today. 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!

Click here for the latest schedule of Gateway Women events including talks & drinks, workshops & groups.

37 Comments on Childless and Miserable? You need to get off Facebook!

  1. Hello. I’d like to enter my comment here. Most of my friends have got grand children at an early age, their forties. Some of them also had teenage pregnancies. I don’t have any physical condition. I ovulate and I menstruate. I am a black poet and an artist but I’m not very good at meeting men. I was depressed for a while and have lived a long time in supported housing which often isn’t very nice and full of crime like domestic abuse, drugs, and alcohol abuse, sexual harrassment and women having continuous abortions. I wouldn’t want my children to suffer basically, but I’m upset that I’m in my forties and I haven’t had any children.

  2. I was just feeling pretty good about my life: ended an unhealthy relationship, started a new school program and have some real goals in mind. But now I’m visiting family and it all seems like nothing next to my sister and her kids. I feel pretty invisible. It hurts even more as I would love to have a partner and kids and it’s hard enough for me to live for what I DO have going when I always thought I would have that and don’t. Nothing here is as exciting or worth saying (or listening to, apparently) if it is not what your child said or did or some related thing. It feels like my mother has to try really hard to even pretend to take anything I say seriously- she is simultaneously checking facebook to exclaim over someone’s baby. I begin to feel that I shouldn’t even come here. It feels too bad. My sister with kids is everything. Family and kids is all, and very blatantly. I begin to have to bolster myself and feel like I’m crumbling. It’s hard to be a person in an environment which is not interested in you. And of course I feel I am just being a baby, this is some personality defect in me. Meanwhile, while I was sleeping this morning at 6am, my sister was as loud as usual, so were her kids, and there was not one “shhhhh… someone is sleeping right across the hall…” I begin to really feel invisible.

    • Hi Gwen – I’m so sorry to hear the way your family are treating you. If it’s any comfort at all, it’s not JUST your family, but that rather this is how we have been conditioned in society to view mature women without children – as worth less than mothers. It totally sucks. I really recommend joining our private online community where you can get some support from other women how to deal with situations like this, and who will help you hold your head high in a society that has gone baby-crazy! Hugs, Jody x

  3. Perhaps we can change the trend. I have to scan Facebook as part of my job, so I thought since I have to be on this darn thing anyway might as well post the link to this website.

  4. This comment is right on the mark. I do have nieces and nephews that I love to bits and love to see pictures of them. But if I see one more affirmation of how much your son/daughter loves you, how mothers are goddesses and one more ultrasound that looks more like an alien creature than the baby it is, I might just go postal.

  5. I’m on Facebook a lot and my Facebook friends vary in terms of marital status and having children. Some of the ones who have children don’t use Facebook to show them off, some do and others give detailed information about how difficult it is to raise children especially the single mothers with children with severe learning difficulties. Mostly politics and pets are discussed in my newsfeed.

  6. Following this article I took the plunge and de-activated my Facebook account. So far I haven’t fallen off the side of the planet, my head is clearer for not having to deal with all the superfluous information that is on facebook and my real friendships have deepened.

  7. I’m not on Facebook. I have never been on it and the points u raise in your post are exactly the reason why. I feel woefully inadequate most of the time anyway, having found myself childless thru circumstance, without hearing how people’s children are so wonderful/amazing/the second coming!! During my sane days I realise that people’s lives can’t possibly be as perfect as they portray online, but during darker times I find myself wondering if I made the right choices. Thank u so much Jody for making me realise that not being someone’s mother is not actually the end of the world & I’m not the only person on the planet to find myself in this position. Xxxx

  8. I am childless and 48. I am engaged to the man of my dreams and realize there are many risks involved and things to consider about trying to have a baby at this age, and we have decided against it. Part of me is sad about this, and part of me is just happy to finally be with such a wonderful and supportive partner, and of course, our awesome dog! Thanks for such an uplifting article. I’m looking forward to being a part of the Gateway Women online community.

  9. Perfect timing as always, as I looked at my e mail & saw…. ‘Billy just fell asleep while eating….. whatever” & I thought – oh I really must stop getting these e mails, just how boring is it? Then scrolled down & saw your post. Yes I will deactivate. & I will stop reading those magazine articles. Thanks, again & again & again

  10. Great piece Jody – in fact I’ve linked to it on an article I’ve written before on “Quitting Facebook” and the many reasons it can be good for our mental health (in more ways than one).

    I’ve gone on complete Facebook “vacations” from time to time when it gets to be too much for me. I sometimes wish I could give it up completely, but unfortunately it’s the ONLY form of social media/communication online some of my actual dear friends choose to use – so if I want to keep up with them at all, I have to tolerate Facebook at least to some extent. I’ve just come to learn how to filter and moderate my involvement with the site to “protect myself” – largely by hiding/filtering out/flat-out unfriending people who talk about nothing but their children (unfriending only for those I realize I have no friendship with anyway, or who have been outright rude in response to my childless/IF related posts).

    And yes, it is just one part of how media and society seems to make childless/childfree people invisible or feel lesser-valued than those with offspring. I do what I can to support media that bucks those trends and showcases women accomplishing things with their lives beyond being mothers.

  11. I make sure I post my work about not having children to Facebook – not everyone ‘likes’ it but if the arena is there for people to post about having children then I don’t see why they shouldn’t also read about what it’s like to not have them within our pronatalist society – then we are helping to provide a broader view of reality to be established. If people who don’t have children leave FB it will help to make the situation worse – although I can see why people should leave it if they are finding it too painful. I have actually found it quite connecting to post about not having children on FB – as a result I have found some solidarity with women from my past who also didn’t end up having children and I find that a comfort.

    Another good book: Mother of all Myths by Aminatta Forna I did so much underlining when I read that!!

  12. The start of your article is spot on. I’ve almost had to give up reading and watching TV – all the things I love, basically, because I can’t handle anything relating to families, which is pretty much everything you see or read.

    The trouble is, being part of mainstream culture is an important part of who I am, and I really, really want to portray that impression to other people. Not least because as a young person I was into ‘alternative’ things and became embarrassed by them. I can see how easy it is for people to think ‘Oh, she was never into ‘normal’ life so no wonder she never had children’. In reality, all I’ve ever really wanted, all my life, is to “be normal”. Surely there has to be a way to be part of mainstream culture without committing self harm every day?

    • Hi Matilda and thanks for commenting.
      You raise a REALLY interesting point “Surely there has to be a way to be part of mainstream culture without committing self harm every day?”
      In my experience, no, not at the moment.
      And that longing to be part of the status quo only perpetuates our sense of outsiderness, of not belonging.
      You have to find a community you feel part of (you’ve found it!) and create your own ‘normal’.
      In a few years, the philosophy of Gateway Women will be part of the mainstream – and the more women who embrace it now, the faster it will happen.
      The sooner you stop giving a damn about what what ‘other people think’ the better. They actually think about you far less than you realise… and allowing yourself to be controlled by your fantasies about what they (don’t) think about you is a hell partially of your own making.
      If the culture wants to ignore us, excellent – it means we’re on track according to Ghandi:
      “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
      Come and join our private online community – once you have your sisters around you, it makes it SO much easier to cope!
      Hugs, Jody x

  13. Thanks for speaking out loud and clear about the symbolisch annihilation. I don’t agree with some things about the media, though. I Love Vampire- , Fantasy- and Detective- stories both as Books and movies but sometimes they catch me unawares with fertility- and mothering-stuff. FB, on the other hand, is where I connect with people who share my hobbies or interests and that includes 25-year-olds whom I talk to about obscure Metal Bands or 60 year old Men who discuss Folk Music or simply people I know through my job. Friends who do nothing but mommyjacking (Love that word found on the STFUParents-Blog) are easily unfriended or hidden on fb.

    • Hi Elena & thanks for commenting. I too am very partial to Miss Marple & Hercule Poirot detective stories on TV as well & don’t mind the occasional vampire story! The “fertility and mothering stuff” doesn’t bother me as long as it’s a relevant human part of the story, and not the WHOLE focus! I’m glad that FB works for you, and that you’ve set it up to do so. It’s not just the mommy-jacking that bugs me on FB, but the fact that almost all interactions are trivial and rarely ‘lead’ to anything. People ‘like’ something but ‘do’ nothing; they RSVP ‘yes’ to events they have no intention of attending. Urgh. Loving G+ much more! Jody x

      • I agree with both Jody and Elena’s comments about FB. I have hidden many a mommyjacker from my news feed. Going off piste a little bit…quite apart from the mommyjacking I too also struggle with some of the insincerity of FB. It’s very easy to press like or comment on some-one’s post. It takes a bit more effort to pick up the phone and talk to them or meet up with them…which is real contact.

  14. Spot on. I really liked the line “But you were there, you made those decisions to the best of your knowledge.” And having a term for the exclusion is useful. One tiny thing – the programme I always try to avoid (and that I wish my mother would stop mentioning!) is in fact named “Call the Midwife”.

  15. Another cracking piece, Jody! I was particularly struck by some of the stats you’ve quoted, and the term “symbolic annihilation”, which I hadn’t heard before but which speaks volumes. I find it quite empowering to have a phrase which so clearly describes this phenomenon of invisibility and reading it made me realise just how ****ing fed-up I am with the fact that we are so ignored. It’s so wrong. How many of us are there? Enough to start some sort of peaceful revolution, do you think?

    • Hi Tracey – thanks for commenting! Yes, the term ‘symbolic annihilation’ really struck home for me too and I go into this in some depth in my book. And yes, there are enough of us to start a revolution – in fact, you’re already a part of it :)) Jody x

  16. Thank you for all of your great posts! I always seem to receive one just when I need it. Just wanted to say that two of my favorite tv shows have been “The Closer” and “New Tricks” because of the great female leads. Also, you may want to add Julia Child, Katharine Hepburn, and Myrna Loy to your list of childless women who had successful lives.

    • Hi Rerah – thanks for commenting. I’m glad that the timing of my blogs works so well for you! Julia Child, Katherine Hepburn and Myrna Loy are already in the Gallery – do have a look around and if you can think of any who aren’t there, I’d love to hear more suggestions. Thanks, Jody x

  17. Hi Jody and thank you for another great article for all of us Childless By Circumstances out here! Having lived through my anger, bitterness, disappointment and a whole host of other less than positive emotions about not being married with children by my 40s (yes, Society, how very dare I?!) I’m now in a much happier and more settled place, thank goodness. My recipe for getting to a calmer point in life? In no particular order – avoid FB like the plague and get onto Twitter if social media is your thing, attend one of Jody’s superb courses, do the tough but essential grief work, reach out to the rest of our community for support and friendship, accept that life didn’t turn out how you hoped but by reframing your expectations it can still be awesome, deal with your Mid Life Crisis (it may or may not be linked to your fertility/ Nomo challenges), find opportunities to laugh or at least smile every day (live comedy, meet a friend, get out in the sunshine), find a job you love and last but not least go find a Toy Boy who makes you laugh (it worked for me!) Oh did I mention join the Gateway Community on G+ and attend one of Jody’s courses?!

    • Hi Debs – thanks for your gorgeous, upbeat and supportive comment! I’m so glad that GW has been such a catalyst for you and I’m really excited to see all the changes that are happening in your life. So good to hear what a good place you’re in now. Love, Jody x

  18. I am childless by circumstance and have known it will never happen for me since I was 25 ( I am 42) I love the comment about feeling invisible. I have stopped looking at Facebook because I was feeling inadequate compared to all my friends who are mothers. I also feel that most magazines don’t include me, and although I have ared subscription I tend to only read the stuff relevant to my life. I am lucky though and after 8 years am finally engaged to a lovely man and plan to make the most of my life with treats and great holidays! I didn’t think anyone else understood how I feel by you quite clearly do. I only wish I still lived in London so I could come to the meetings.

    • Hi Sue – thanks for commenting. Yes, our invisibility is shocking but when we find out it’s not just us, but it’s ALL OF US it begins to feel like something that we have to do something about. I’m so glad you felt understood by me. Do join our amazing private online community – click “forum” above to apply for membership. If you’re not in London it’s the next best thing! Jody x

  19. Spot on article as usual – thank you! I would really like to watch Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s documentary, “Miss Representation.” As a woman working in TV I am now feeling partly responsible for this ‘‘symbolic annihilation”. If I find out how to get hold of it I’ll post the info here. Unless anybody else knows already!

  20. Spot on! If my business didnt rely on FB so much I would deactivate my account now.
    This is also why I have unsubscribed to Red magazine.
    In face fuck it, Red magazine need to know why their readership is dropping, lets do an article for them. It’s about time we all stopped feeling ashamed, grabbed the proverbial infertile bull by the horns and took control!! I refuse to be invisible, ashamed, on the perimeter of society, that was never me then and it won’t be now…where’s the number for the editor of Red?

    • Hi Jules – thanks so much for commenting. Yes, I need to stay on it for GW, so I know what you mean! I’m tackling RED magazine this summer, I hope, with the hope of a friendly freelance journalist… Watch this space… Hugs, Jody x

  21. I just took plunge! Couldn’t quite bring myself to delete it but I have deactivated my Facebook account. Here’s to filling my brain’s timeline with positive messages rather than pictures of other people’s babies, what they ate for dinner and invites to endless gigs!

    • Hi Jenny – thanks for commenting. I’m so impressed you’ve deactivated your FB account. Do let us know how that feels?! And what you find you spent your time doing instead. Come and join our private community on G+. It’s empowering, informative, fun & supportive. And it’s not on FB!! Jody x

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