Very soon it will be the UK’s third National Fertility Awareness week which is being organised by Infertility Network UK, the British charity which supports those undergoing infertility treatment. Cue lots of ‘miracle baby stories’ in the press about couples that despaired of ever having a child but who managed thanks to the help of this amazing science. The week even ends with the annual hopefest that is The Fertility Show at London’s Olympia, an entire exhibition hall filled with stands from fertility clinics and associated industries looking to ‘educate’ (sell to) potential new ‘parents’ (customers).
But what I bet we won’t hear about during the week will be about the many women suffering in silence with a type of infertility so shameful they can hardly bear to talk about it. It’s called ‘social infertility’ and it’s affecting a huge number of women in their 30s and 40s in the UK.
‘Social infertility’ refers to those women who are single, childless and unable to find a partner to have children with whilst it is still possible.
1 in 5 women in the UK born in the 1960s has turned 45 without having had a child – some by choice but many by circumstance, this is double what it was a generation ago. Although not having a partner features in many of the stories of those of us born in the 1960s (like myself), it doesn’t compare to the frequency with which those born in the 1970s seem to be experiencing it. The UK Office for National Statistics has a fairly blunt recording tool – live births by the last day of a woman’s 45th year – so it won’t be for another decade that we’ll have the full data. However, amongst those women joining the private online GW Community born in the 1970s, it seems that social infertility is increasingly prevalent.
The private and personal pain of being both single and childless is so extreme that within the GW Online Community we have a special name for it – ‘DoubleWhammy’. The fact of having never been married or in the kind of long-term partnership in which the opportunity to try for a baby arose, seems to be a double discounting of femininity.
Often women in this situation don’t even want to share their stories because they don’t feel ‘entitled’ to their pain, grief and despair compared to those women who’ve suffered miscarriages, failed to conceive or who have experienced unsuccessful IVF. There is sometimes a sense of deep unworthiness, of being right at the bottom of some invisible pecking order of childless women and not quite ‘full members’ of the childless club, and so therefore not quite due their share of understanding, support and empathy.
DoubleWhammy seems to be a black hole of shame, sucking women into a silent vacuum of excruciating grief and self-condemnation. It’s as if all the promises of equality and feminism are vanquished by the impending event horizon of being both single and childless. Of not being ‘chosen’ for either partnership or motherhood.
In my book, Living the Life Unexpected, I explore the new ‘spinster’ stereotype:
Whereas just a generation ago, being an unmarried mother was to be the social outcast, now it’s the single, childless woman over 40 who carries the weight of shame. Yet, for some women this is not a situation they chose, but rather one that they’ve ended up in because they’ve made intelligent, honourable choices and behaved with decency and morality towards others. Many of them have cared for vulnerable family members through their fertile years, have refrained from getting pregnant ‘accidentally’ without a partner’s consent and have worked hard as members of their families, workplaces and communities and have contributed to society as taxpayers.
I know some of these ‘spinsters’ personally and have met many others through Gateway Women, and a wonderfully kind, funny, attractive and diverse bunch they are. But having been made the scapegoat for some of the unexpected consequences of the huge social changes of the last 45 years, many of them seem to bear their situation as a mark of personal failure – and until they join GW, nobody seems to have ever helped them out by explaining that it’s not their fault. Just as with medical infertility, everyone is free with advice, but there’s very little genuine empathy:
- Have you tried internet dating? (Erm, I’ve been on three different sites for five years and have been ‘dating’ weekly… of course I’ve tried it!)
- You can’t give up now! It’s a numbers game… you’re bound to meet someone soon! (Do you have any idea how soul destroying it is to be treated like a number? You met your partner at work, got to know each other, fell in love and have been together ever since. Don’t tell me about ‘giving up’. You couldn’t last a week of the humiliation I’ve been dealing with for the last five years!)
- But I don’t understand why you’re single? You’re lovely! (I know you think you’re helping, but you’re just making me feel helpless. I have a job, my own home, my own teeth, speak 3 languages including emotional intelligence and have worked so hard on my ‘issues’ that I’m the most ‘developed’ person you’re ever likely to meet. But none it makes me 33 again and I’ve now found out that it’s the only number that really matters in the dating game at this stage.)
- Don’t worry – you’ve got plenty of time. I read about this woman the other day who had a baby in her fifties! (Why the f*** do you think that’s what I’m hoping for? Another ten or fifteen years of hell followed by having a baby on my own when you’ll be having grandchildren!)
- Well, I guess you always were more of a career woman… (No I’m not! I’m a woman with a job, not a career woman! We used to work together, remember? And just because you got married and I didn’t suddenly I’m a ‘career woman’ like it was some kind of choice?!)
- But there’s no rush… why are you so worried? Just chill out. You mustn’t get bitter. You’re not going to find anyone if you’re bitter. It’s not that bad anyway… you’ve got so much freedom! Enjoy it! (How would you have ANY IDEA what it’s like to be the joke of the century, the misfit, the problem daughter, the maiden aunt, the spinster? To sit at home weekend after weekend watching all your ‘old’ friends on Facebook meet up for family holidays together? To dread Christmas, birthdays and New Year as yet another year marking your failure to progress to the next stage of life? You have no idea what it takes to cope with all my ‘freedom’ – which 75% of the time is actually crushing loneliness and alienation. You’ve just been added to my list of friends that it’s impossible for me to spend time with right now!)
It can be hard too, for concerned parents and coupled-up friends to understand that the dating scene around the age of 40 is not ‘fun’. It’s a brutal, Darwinian fight for the right to reproduce and once a woman is over 35, the numbers are stacked against her both by biology and social selection.
Think about it, if you were a single man in your forties looking to ‘settle down’, would you choose to date women your own age who may already be unable to conceive naturally (or at all) or would you set your ‘age criteria’ box on your dating selection to meet women several years younger than that? Friends and family tell their single friends to just ‘get out there’ and suggest ever more and more bizarre (and undignified) suggestions of how to meet a partner (things that they would never dream of doing) without realising that they’ve tried it all.
And frankly there’s only so many knocks a normal, healthy ego can take before it needs to call time-out for a while to regroup. And time is the one thing that’s in short supply.
For me, once I accepted that I was never going to be a mother, I lost interest in dating for a few years. I realised how babymania had been what sustained me through the endless hope/despair cycle of internet dating and once that was gone, so was my appetite for internet dating. I dipped my toe back in the water early this year for a few months but I was relieved when my ‘three month trial’ was up. I did meet a couple of interesting men but one was too ready and one not ready enough and well, that was that. As someone who works for herself and runs a women’s organisation, my life is pretty testosterone free and very nice that is too! The great thing about being out the other side of my grief and rocking my Plan B is that there’s no hurry anymore. Because even if I remain single till the day I die, life looks wonderfully rich and full from here. I’ve found my mojo, and she’s very good company!
If I had known that it were possible to feel like this, that not becoming a mother were something that I could get through and recover from, it would have made a huge difference. But there were no role models in the culture – only stories of women so desperate that they were still trying to have babies in their 50’s and beyond. A full and meaningful life as a woman who wanted children and it didn’t work out? Non-existent. Which is one of the reasons that I now curate a Gallery of Childless & Childfree Role Models on Pinterest.
The ticking clock of babymania feels more like a bomb when you’re living through it as a DoubleWhammy. You’ve heard every piece of advice, countless times. You’ve even tried some of the stuff you thought you’d never do. Now, astonishingly people are suggesting you ‘do it on your own’ as if it were an ambitious DIY project that you just need to pluck up the nerve for. Single-motherhood, unless you’re very well set up with a home, an income and solid support from friends and family can be one-way ticket to depression, isolation and poverty. And without those things in place, you’re also ineligible to adopt or foster, although that doesn’t stop everyone suggesting it, like it’s never occurred to us!
To be 40, broody, single and childless is to be in a great deal of pain and be faced with a series of rock-and-a-hard-place choices. Alone. DoubleWhammy doesn’t show up in fertility statistics except as a negative space. Spare a thought this week during #NIAWUK for what it’s like to live in that negative space.
And whatever piece of brilliant advice it is that you think you’ve got for your single friend, your daughter, your sister or your colleague – just don’t. Only for this week if that’s all you can manage, but preferably never again. We know you’re only trying to help, we know you mean well. But please stop and actually start treating us like grown-up women again, not an embarrassing problem to be fixed.
If you are someone who wants or wanted to be a mother and it isn’t or didn’t work out (for whatever reason) please come and join us in the our private, global, Gateway Women Online Community. It’s a fatuous-advice free zone.
Jody Day is a writer, social entrepreneur, training integrative psychotherapist and the author of #1 Amazon best-seller ‘Living the Life Unexpected: 12 Weeks to Your Plan B for a Meaningful and Fulfiling Future Without Children’ (Bluebird/PanMacmillan). She set up the Gateway Women friendship and support network in 2011 to support, inspire and empower childless women as they develop meaningful and fulfilling lives without children. Jody runs private sessions and 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’. 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 on “Creating a Meaningful & Fulfilling Life Without Children” in under 10-mins, with jokes!
For information on Gateway Women Workshops and Events click here
To apply for membership of the Private Gateway Women Online Community, click here
I find it so sad that this burden seems to be so heavily felt by women and not the millions of single childless men in their forties. I came to this to see if there were alternative stories we can tell ourselves about this situation and to embrace the fact that being on your own without children is not some sort of emotional death sentence. I can empathise with those people who really do and did want children and I share my love towards you for the grief you will be in now, but please let’s also embrace our own gifts and fully manifest the fact that in 2019 women do not have to keep retelling this story about themselves. I’ve been so enlightened by my gender queer friends about how restrictive cis gender stereotypes are and how much damage they do to us. After a very toxic relationship and at the age of 37 I decided to get out of it and save myself, I knew that this was the so called ‘last chance’ and it really left it’s mark on me, but in the past 7 years I’ve really had to work very hard on knowing more about myself, what triggers me into thinking negative stuff about myself as a woman and how this effects our self esteem. I also learnt the hard way that you don’t have to work yourself to the bone or be business woman of the year to find value in yourself. You just need to be you. Vulnerable, strong and present. Because the real diversity of humanity is found in our differences and for every moment I question my worth as a woman I remember that I’m more than my womb and beyond being a woman there are many many ways that my personality and experiences go beyond this and make me able to navigate the spaghetti path of life. I hope we can find more positive stories to tell ourselves xx\
I am 42, single and childless. Last year I had surgery which means I will never have children. I have given up on finding a long term relationship, in truth I wouldn’t know how to be in one as I have never been in that situation, too damaged by my horrendous menstrual torture. Throughout my life I have had friends and lovers who could be described as butterflies – they come into my life, feed off me and then fly away. In my really low moments I feel used and bruised. Then last week, in my sole moment of open grieving with my acupuncturist I finally saw what my purpose in life is – To be the tribal mother and wife. My purpose is to be the flower that offers sustenance to those butterflies when they need it. Every year I blossom and bloom, refreshed and replenished to give. Many of my friends have children and I have the honour of sharing their lives with energy and vibrancy then returning to my home to rest and recuperate before sharing the next moment. I have many married male friends who are able to talk honestly and openly to me about their relationships. Again, it is an honour that they share concerns, find their own answers and return to their homes energised and with appreciation of what they have in their lives. It sounds cliched, but I have too much love in my heart, energy in my soul and flight in my wings to be restricted to one man and a couple of children. I can now see how happy I can be as the pollen rich flower that constantly blossoms to feed butterflies that will go on and prosper, I can watch with pride in my heart knowing how I helped them on their journey to success. To be a woman is to nurture, to be a childless woman is to nurture without boundary or guilt.
Dear Donna – I’m so glad you feel that you understand your role in life; that is a gift. I would like to see you also getting sustained and nourished, as the flower is by the earth. You deserve that too. Hugs, Jody x
44 in 4 months, just rejected again by someone I really liked but just wanted to sleep with me and feel like I have already actually died when it hit me that this really is the end now. Had a check up with the gynaecologist in October who told me my hormones are still normal for any women of child bearing age and cried when I left because I know I have no one to try with. Tired of being told I’ll find a nice guy because I’m so nice and also pretty when the only men who are interested in me (other than perhaps for a one night stand) have nothing I am looking for. Just wanted to meet someone in the same age group of a similar level of intelligence that I find attractive but I can’t and realising from the men who contact me on internet dating finding a suitable partner is as unlikely as having a child. Don’t think I’ll ever get over all the pain, multiple rejections and heartbreak
Dear Elizabeth, I’m so sorry to read your post and I understand where you’re coming from. I am (just turned) 47, single and childless. I’ve tried online dating on and off and while I met some decent guys there wasn’t enough in terms of connection to move things on. It’s odd because in a sense it should have probably hit me sooner about not having kids but it’s really just in the last 2-3 years that I have really struggled. I came from a large family but of all of us, mainly girls, only 1 went on to have kids. I’m generally a confident, optimistic and warm person but I increasingly find myself stuck in negative thought patterns and then in tears thinking that I’ve totally lost the opportunity to have what I grew up with and loved – family chatter around the table, shared experiences, banter and love – not rose tinting it there were plenty of sibling fights and stand offs but it was a very warm childhood with fabulous parents both sadly passed etc. For the online side, I now get ‘likes’ from guys in their 65+ !! Seems that once you move beyond 45, mentally you are parked as a total has been. Friends have given up on asking about my relationship status which seems to be permanently single- it’s a sort of implicit kindness on their part because they don’t want to put me on the spot but that makes me feel more than ever like a has been!! One friend also talked about another friend who met a guy in her early 50s and then adopted. I know this can happen but there is a grieving about not having a biological child. Then there is the whole area of step parenting which, if you venture into anything online talking about it sounds like a pretty tricky and sometimes thankless area. I’m rambling, apologies. I just wanted to say that I’m struggling with the pain and heartbreak too and from one woman to another I wish you courage to find a way through and for only positive things, in whatever form they take, to come into your life as well as joy. It can feel like horrible dark days with multiple body blows but I just want you to know that there are people out there hoping that the current picture changes for you and this year moves the needle to a feeling of optimism and joy in your grasp – the very best to you. Karen
I am 42 this year and feel the same. I recently and very unexpectedly fell for someone who I totally connected with both emotionally and physically. This has come to an end and although never spoken about I knew he could have given me what I wanted but he had his own demons so it came to a devastating end. So find myself childless , single with a crappy job I hate. I can’t seem to connect with anyone on my level. Their paths are so very different. I would rather be alone than to attempt dating sites again. It really is the paradox of choice out there. It’s a joke. I feel your pain x
Wow. Thanks Jody.
Well, I’m now 61. Grew up in the seventies and watched many of my friends and also myself embark on the new liberalism for women – or so they called it.
Living with a man didn’t mean commitment, pregnancy didn’t mean Commitment either – abortion was the answer, even though secretly many carry that loss for a lifetime.
I saw so many women – and also men – really damaged emotionally by the unrealistic way things were.
It’s like the world forgot that people have emotions and not all wounds heal.
Many of my friends, and me too, ended up alone and childless and pretty heartbroken too.
Some of the best people seemed to have the hardest experiences.
It was shocking to me for a long time how invalidated and un acknowledged this pain is – even by once friends and by family too.
It shames you into silence.
I have wanted to write about this myself, write the stories of people I loved and what I saw happen, write my own story.
it really does sicken me how insensitive others can be – you have to be twice as understanding and forgiving as the average person just to keep from getting bitter.
I know I missed out, I’ll never deny that. I would have loved to be a mother and experience that kind of love.
But you don’t learn nothing from not being a mother either. You learn a lot about the world, about yourself, about grief, about integrity, about love.
You learn how to navigate and manage pain and you learn to live in an “unworldly” way as living in the world is too dam painful!!
It’s a harder road for sure, but it’s a shame the wisdom learned from not being a mother isn’t also honoured and shared. The world needs it!!
Should we all really be bringing more children into this world we’ve created now anyway? It’s a hard world to be happy in.
Thanks Jody for being that person that opens the door for everyone else to talk about it!!
I know I haven’t written much of my own personal story. I can’t do it just now
The worst is going through all these emotions and dealing with being single at 43, trying to be patient, hopeful, etc. Then hearing and seeing an ex, happily married and suddenly is now attending at your church. I was just considering freezing my eggs and looking for a guy in a book so I don’t have to worry about finding someone and having a baby. I don’t want to lose out on being a mom!! I hate being challenged and in this position while it seems so many have the big thing I have always wanted, a family!! I feel defeated, angry, annoyed, and a huge lump in my throat after seeing him today.
Dear Beth – It sounds so hard to see others getting what we want I can really appreciate why you are hurting right now. The likelihood for a successful IVF pregnancy (which is what a frozen egg pregnancy would have to be) at 43 are extremely low (around 3%) so please do your research before you part with any money for freezing your eggs! Clinics in the US are unregulated (unlike the UK) and will offer you all kinds of false hope to get your cash. The fact is that after the age of 35, it’s not considered worthwhile freezing your eggs because of their poor quality and likelihood of surviving the vitrification process. Do read this article here on my website to learn more about the realities of egg freezing. I know it’s hard to consider such depressing data when you’re looking for a bit of hope, but know that if you don’t have children, you’ll be OK too. It absolutely IS POSSIBLE to get to the other side of this grief and create and meaningful and fulfilling life without children. I promise. Hugs, Jody x
Am I wrong to be a little hopeful – single and childless at 43 – that I could still meet a man and have my own baby? How do we know when to give up hope? Relationships have no age barrier – but can I give myself one more year to hope for a possible pregnancy?
Like so many here I never thought I’d end up both single and childless. As my 40th birthday approaches I feel like that’s it. There’s no more chances for me. I followed all the rules and yet still ended up here. I wasn’t really afraid before because I had my mom but she passed away last year. Now I have this constant pain. Her loss and my loss kind of bleed into each other in a way I can’t talk about to anyone I’m close to.
And then there’s those moments of hope. When I think maybe there’s still a chance. And I really really hate it when that thought creeps in.
Two women I know recommended this site to me and I’m glad they did, although it feels very painful being here. I’m 34, single and don’t have children. I have done online dating on and off since I was 28, and as a sensitive, introverted soul have find it usually ends up being pretty brutal on my heart and soul. I have dated quite a lot since I was a teenager and have had several boyfriends over the years, and was always sensible with protection so as not to get pregnant. Now I find myself envying single mothers who had children in their teens and part of me wishes I’d done the same!! I guess I’m idealistic, and always thought I’d meet a wonderful man, fall in love and have a family. I feel so sick and scared about it. The men online mostly seem to be rude disrespectful, arrogant and lazy and they just seem to want to have sex with lots of different women with no commitment. I find it incredibly soul destroyingly depressing. The ones my age set their age ranges from 20-32 which is painful and scary to see, as if I have missed the boat, simply by not finding a good man to settle down with before I hit 32. I still dream of ‘my man’ but I don’t know if he exists, or if he does, where to find him. I think I could cope with being childless better if I had a partner, because at least then I’d have a kindred spirit in my life to share my life with, go on adventures together etc.
Last year I briefly felt incredibly hopeful, as I met a man online who at first seemed wonderful. He seemed very keen on me, and I had a short relationship with him, which I had to end when I realised he was lying to me, cheating on me, gaslighting me and abusing me. Amongst many things he joked about killing me and put his hands around my neck then later angrily denied doing this. He fits the description of a psychopath with no empathy, guilt or conscience. The relationship was all a lie and the most terrifying, painful experience of my life. In the past I have had a lot of treatment for anxiety and depression, and this has really set me back. I couldn’t believe I would be so unlucky to meet someone like him, after all my years and difficulties. To be single yet again at 34 feels crushing, and like I have less chance of finding love than ever. It definitely feels so unfair that some women meet a wonderful, good men and get married and have a happy family life, and others have to settle with none of this and deal with loneliness, isolation and a society that looks at them with pity and curiosity. I’ve always been told that I’m pretty, I’m educated, slim and have been trying differing groups, activities, sports, hobbies for years but I only ever meet retired women, women in their early twenties or married men at these events. One married man I met tried to get me to be his mistress by asking me on a date and lying about being ‘separated’ which turned out to be false. I have no idea where all the good, honest, kind single men are or if there is just a shortage of them, and if we can’t get one then it’s tough luck, like some awful competition where you have to go out and aggressively grab whatever is in short supply. I hate seeing attractive couples when I go out each weekend, it just rubs it in my face and makes me wonder what is so wrong with me. So depressing. I often feel suicidal, I hope I can keep moving forward and figuring out my path whether it involves a man and children in the future or not.
You got this. Dont give up.
Thank you for this article. Its a little comforting to know I’m not alone. The pain I feel has turned me into such an angry person. Reading this, it’s like I wrote it myself. Those inner responses to the things people say to us are dead-on. As each year passes by I lose more hope and become more depressed. The holidays suck. Period. Every woman reading this who is in the same boat knows the various factors that especially come into focus during those times. I’m sick of people telling me that I’m just putting too much emphasis on the matter. Of course these are all people who have no idea what it’s like to be in this predicament, because they are not. The way you explained how it’s sort of like a degradation of your femininity, you hit the nail on the head with that too.
I’m in an office full of women (unfortunately) and I have to hear day in/day out about the activities with the kids and the family, all the weekends they spent doing this and that. ‘The husband took me here for my bday… ‘ It drives me insane. Talk about being the outcast. While they chirp mercilessly about their normal lives they have no idea that the co-worker, staring at her computer because she can’t chime in, is choking back tears just having to listen to it all. They leave work with a pep in their step, off to reunite with their families, and I drag ass out the door to the same mundane routine of aloneness. How can I have so much love to give and qualities to share and yet, be here? So I let myself go in the last several months because I’ve been so depressed. Obviously that doesn’t help the situation but sometimes you just reach a certain point of self pity and give up. I feel ugly under the circumstances but I know I still have some looks left. I’m in decent shape and told I look young for my age. But that hasn’t helped me to suddenly meet anyone. I never imagined this would be my life. To add to it, as a couple others mentioned, the older I get the less men my age want someone my age, and I just turned 39. My heart is breaking every single day. Every “single” day…yeah. No pun intended.
This article nailed it…thank you through tears.
I also found this page by googling “single, no children at 40.” I turned 40 last summer and at first it felt like a relief — I finally made it to 40 after a couple years of pure agony, online dating like crazy, looking into having a baby on my own (went so far as to buy the sperm) — but I’m back to feeling hopeless and wondering why my life is turning out this way. I know it makes no sense to ask “why?” There is never an answer as to why people’s lives turn out unexpectedly. I just don’t know how to go on. I am also not a “career woman” as others have expressed here, but I went back to school and just finished my teaching degree so I can at least have a decent career I care about. But it’s not enough. I have no one to talk to about all the funny/crazy school stuff when I get home each night, and let me tell you when you are a teacher, you get asked “do you have kids of your own?” quite often.
I also am so exhausted by being the odd woman out: the one who goes to my friend’s holiday dinners alone, the one teacher who can’t talk about what she did with her family over the weekend, the one woman who dreads running into old friends and being asked, “what’s new?” It’s so uncomfortable having to say, “Nope, still single. Nope, never did have kids. Yes, I did want them.” And it’s hilarious the responses: “It’ll happen when you’re least looking for it,” or worse, “You’ve got time.”
At times, like others have said here, I have felt like I’ve wanted to die. Life feels like pure drudgery. No family vacations or girlfriend vacations to look forward to (they’re all partnered/married); no weekend fun; no summer hikes with my children; no family movie night. Oh sure, I hike, I see friends here and there, I enjoy reading, etc. But most of my fun stuff is done alone. And no thank you, I’ve joined a million groups in the past. I’m sick of groups. It’s no longer fun.
I honestly don’t know what to do. I’m not ready to accept, “OK, this is my life.” I know I should work on acceptance, but accepting feels like hammering the last nail in the coffin. Ugh.
You are so right. It is absolutely exhausting. I wish people would understand that attending other people’s events is not fun. Mostly because it’s simply not what I want to be doing, or feel sorrow not having MY person there to share it with, or it just feels empty and unsatisfying. (And I HATE when that is then called “depression,” as if I am incapable of feeling joy. Sorry – no. At this stage of life, doing those things solo is the opposite of joyful. But on top of it, to pull yourself together and be a good sport, and show up – only to be shamed or poked at for being single and childless.
“Are you dating anyone?” “What are you going to do about that?” “Didn’t you want kids?” “Never married at your age? That is so unusual.” Or an endless recap of every person they know and their little sister who is engaged. “Everyone’s getting married.” Gee, thanks. So glad I came. Feel so much better.
As you wrote, I’ve joined a million groups. I have friends. I can more or less make “plans” any minute of the day. Just not things that are my idea of fun. One of my biggest pet peeves is to be told to go volunteer. I actually do volunteer, for my own reasons. But being told to go volunteer at holidays makes me crazy, as if any of my married friends with children would prefer a day at the domestic violence shelter to laughs and bbqs with their family.
I don’t think many realize just how isolating it is to always feel like the odd person out, to be pitied, to be made to feel less than, on top of being deprived of a loving partner and a family. I feel like my life is so stuck. I actually walk around feeling shellshocked half the time, unable to believe this is actually my real life.
I couldn’t have said that better myself.
Oh, I feel just that way. So alone and stuck in time watching others my age talk of their marriage of 10 or 20 years. teenage kid. When they say they live for their spouse and children and grand children. I don’t have any goals now and no direction. And yes, I am more depressed than when I was younger. It was then that I could dry my tears with the light of hope in my mind and heart. Now I am 57.
Hi Alexandra – yes, ageing without children is HARD, and doing it without the comfort of a happy relationship doubly so. Are you aware of the work of the organisation Ageing Without Children? It’s based in the UK and I was one of the founding members and it’s doing really important work that I believe will be copied by other countries. You can find out more at http://www.awoc.org Hugs, Jody x
I can totally relate to you on getting out and doing things. People are always saying you don’t need a family or a man to do stuff, but that’s not really the point. And anyway I’m done doing things alone. It’s good to have some independence but on the other hand it’s not healthy to always feel singled out and have that emptiness either. I want partnership in my life. I want to make memories and have connected experiences. I want to live LIFE. And the vision I had for my life was so much more than this. I can’t accept it either. From someone in the same situation just about, I say Don’t accept it- not yet. We really just don’t know what the near future holds and staying hopeful is everything.
I just feel like I can relate to everyone here. I want to reply to everybody because I feel a sort of sisterhood here just by reading all the comments.That doesn’t happen in my everyday life – ever. I feel so alone. It’s too bad this isn’t a real live group. We could have wine, shed some tears and get the emotional support we need 🙂
I try so hard to stay positive, but I feel awful.
Huh. Got me pegged.
I am 41 years old and my wife passed away 2 years ago after 15 years of marriage she was 35 … We didnt have children because she was diagnosed with and autoimmune disease that eventually took her life… I dont see anything for single, widowed, and childless at 41 anywhere… The last two years so many nad things have happened when I tell people there head spins… You have some advice for this situation?
Hi Kevin – I’m so very sorry to hear of your loss, and the devastating double loss of both your wife and the children you wished for. As it’s now 2 years on from your wife’s death, I’m guessing that others are imagining that you ‘should’ be starting to feel a bit better, but grief isn’t that simple… and perhaps others think that as you’re a man, you can find ‘someone else’ to have kids with, not appreciating that it’s not ‘kids’ you are grieving, but the children you and your wife wished you’d had… Often, what we need in our grief is someone to talk to (and online is good too) who ‘gets’ it. Perhaps you might like to take a look at the resources for men list on my website here. Hugs, Jody x
This is the first article I have read that accurately reflects how I feel being 40 and still single. I’m so fed up of coupled up people who have never known loneliness telling me “join a group”, “it will happen”. I’m sick and tired of people getting together around me and I’m left wondering what’s so terrible about me that I’m not worthy of any damn happiness. I’ve started taking painkillers to ease my mental pain, they lift my mood when I feel helpless and hopeless. I wish I was dead.
Hi Sarah – this is a very rough time of year to be both single and childless not by choice. I’d really recommend you join our private online community as an alternative way to ease the anguish you are feeling. Many of us have been through periods of wishing that we could escape this pain and have found solace and comfort from each other. Hugs, Jody x
Just to say that I empathise with your comment so much. I also turned to strong painkillers at one stage. I’m nearly 50, childless and single for the past ten years or so. My old friends are all in longstanding relationships and even though I could see that it wasn’t plain sailing for them all the time, I was so envious of them that I cut ties with most of them.
Sounds awful, as they were good friends who didn’t, in fact, keep on at me to do internet dating or whatever but even so, I just couldn’t visit them anymore and be surrounded by their family and feeling like an outsider all the time, all the while thinking ‘how come I don’t have this too? The rough and tumble of family life: hurrying kids into cars to go somewhere, the husband going off for the takeaway as we sit in the kitchen chatting’ – I hope you know what I mean?!
Both my parents are dead and I was an only child so I often get invited to people’s houses for Xmas. I used to go but, again, that feeling of being an outsider, of watching a family celebrate but they’re not ‘your’ family was just awful, so upsetting, that I now stay at home for the duration. I tell people that I’m having duvet days from 24-26th December! And I’ve been much happier since.
As Jody said, this time of the year is very hard, and I just wanted to say to you Sarah that you’re not alone in how you feel and I hope that helps a bit? I’ve read many articles on this site and they’ve helped me, so thanks to Jody and all the commenters,
I soooo can appreciate this about the holidays. It feels worse for me to be around other people’s families.
I totally get it, and I feel the exact same way.
Hi Sarah. I hope you’re feeling better today. I’m married, but I still know how you feel. It’s not true that being married means that you’ll never be lonely. I turned 40 last November and I don’t know whether I should let my dreams go & embrace plan B. I don’t even know what plan B is. I get those thoughts of ‘what is the point of my life?’ ‘maybe I should just end everything?’ Because we’re still trying the natural way, those negative thoughts go into overdrive every time I get my period.
I don’t have any advice for single women but I’m glad I found this place to share.
I am a professional woman (with a doctorate and all but still I do not consider myself a “career woman”), sitting here in my office wondering what I did so wrong too to have ended up in this situation. I am in tears at my desk right now (and most days, it seems) about where my life has ended up. Like someone else said, most of the time it’s like I am wandering through life just shell-shocked at my reality.
I feel the same way, Sarah. I was the “good girl”, followed the rules and now it looks like it has all amounted to a big pile of nothing. I take no joy in any of my so-called accomplishments if they don’t include a family of my own. I cannot enjoy life. I have just been existing. I too want to die but I don’t know how to make it happen without any complications. So, for now, I continue to exist in this torment, this unending pain, anguish and misery over the life that I have been afflicted with. I am about to turn 38 next month. I have had only 1 boyfriend my entire life and that relationship ended back in college, at age 20. Nobody is interested in me and I have spent so much time trying to figure out what exactly is so horrible with me so I could fix it, assuming it is even something fixable. I don’t understand how the universe decides how it would dole out rewards and punishments in this life…for sure, the life I have feels like the ultimate punishment given how much I want a husband and children of my own. After years of patiently waiting for someone, last year summer, a co-worker whom I had known for years asked me out. I thought that this might have been the universe finally giving me a chance. After 2 dates he went cold on me. We would see each other at work and he would talk to me like normal…so normal that it was like we had never ever gone out. I thought the dates had gone well as we were getting to know each other better. A few weeks later, the proverbial scales fell off my eyes and I understood why he was behaving that way towards me when I saw him out on a date with another co-worker – an overtly sexy younger woman. That was the cruellest trick that the universe could have played on me. Why give me even a glimmer of hope just to take it away from me? It would have been better for the guy to have skipped me altogether and just gone straight for what he really wanted in the first place, which was clearly not me.
More than a year on and I am still dealing with the emotional and psychological aftermath of that experience and the disappointment that it represents to me. At nearly 38 now, I know that I am not on any man’s radar for a meaningful relationship. And more and more too, I feel like the mothers in my cohort keep finding ways to throw their good fortune in my face, making my double whammy sting even more.
Given me age, I may well have another 3 or 4 decades of life ahead of me to deal with this mess…the regrets over my choices (such as being raised with strong morals and values and my decision to be a good girl!), the disappointments, the crushing loneliness, the lack of fulfillment, lack of joy, lack of self-esteem, lack of self-worth, the insecurity, the anxiety over my future, the feeling of being a failure as a woman…I could go on but you get the point. How am I supposed to endure another 40 years of that? What value does my empty life have that is worth living? The road ahead seems unbearable and I don’t know what to do about it.
I have been having therapy since June of this year. Already I want to stop because I do not think it could truly help me. My therapist is working to help me change my thinking about my situation. I do not want help to change my thinking so I can feel better about the life I have. I want the life I have to change for the better so I can feel good about it and about myself. We often hear that we have to be willing to make the necessary changes to get the life we want. If it pertains to getting a better job, I could always study to improve my skills. But what steps exactly am I supposed to take as an almost 38-year-old single, childless woman to improve this aspect of my life? What?
I just got a notification about your comment in my inbox, because I wrote a comment on this thread a few years ago so occasionally still get notifications.
I can definitely empathise with you because I’m 36, single and have no children. However, my perspective about marriage and children is a bit different now so I wanted to share it in case it helps you too.
A few years ago I was back on a dating site and I was to be honest, desperate to find a man to settle down. The quality of men on there was very poor and I felt depressed since I felt it was because of my age, as when I’d done online dating in my 20s I got hundreds of messages from good looking men. I had some dates with men who turned up unclean, had bad teeth, turned out to already be married and were all round duds. Then, I met my ex. I was losing faith at this point and when I met him he was clean shaven, polite, attractive, well dressed, smelt nice, he was polite, a good listener and seemed like an all round great guy. I started dating him and it became a very fast moving romance, and I felt like I was the luckiest woman alive. Those early honeymoon days lasted about a month before his personality seemed to change or more accurately, the real him was revealed. He was aggressive, couldn’t accept responsibility, liked violent films and video games and got angry if I got upset by them, started mocking my appearance, my weight, my appetite despite the fact that I’ve always been slim and at times underweight. He was like Jekyll and Hyde. Sex was initially great then it became cold and clinical and sometimes it hurt but he would shout at me for moving. He made jokes about domestic violence, would go quiet then snap at me for all sorts of apparent wrongs I was doing, and throughout all of this he was monitoring me by asking where I was and who I was with. He was rough with my body and I ended up with a lot of bruises which he said were my fault. He didn’t like me going to the gym and was suspicious and jealous. Eventually he threatened to hurt me with a raised hand after I’d said something he didn’t like. I knew then I wasn’t safe and had to get out of his house quickly. I rang the national domestic violence helpline, told them everything and they said I was in an abusive relationship. I left and he then stalked/harassed me and I had to go to the police. That was a few years ago and it’s not as bad now but I still have some symptoms of PTSD, he was sadistic and frightening.
The whole experience changed my entire life outlook. I joined a forum and spoke to 100s of other female survivors of domestic abuse and lots of them are still trapped. I had no idea about this problem, and learnt that in the UK two women are killed every single week by a partner or former partner. Abusers often use the children to continue the abuse if the woman does leave, so it can be years of trauma for these women.
Basically, I learnt that having a partner and children is not the be all and end all. We as women are capable of leading very fulfilling lives without a man. I think society and the media brainwashes us into thinking we need a man to be happy. We don’t! I’ve been so much better since leaving my ex. I have no plans to date. If I met a genuinely good man then I would consider it, but I’m now planning my life around the idea of being single. I love animals and love being a mother to my cat. There is so much peace in being a single animal mother! I know society absolutely mocks ‘cat ladies’ but I am certain it’s because society doesn’t want women figuring out that it’s actually often better to be single for women. Studies back this up too.
I’m not saying this is your path too, I just wanted to share a different perspective, since we only usually hear the despairing one. That being single is a million times better than being with an abusive man. Having children is also often not the be all and end all. I used to always want children and my perspective on that has changed too. I now don’t think I do. I think we need to look at all areas of our lives such as our job, hobbies, friends, pets, homes and other goals because if we are unhappy single, a relationship won’t fix that. If we work on our lives so that we feel at peace, happy, fulfilled then if we do meet a man to partner up with it’s a bonus, but we are not broken waiting for a fix. I say this as someone who very much was looking for a man to take away my pain and loneliness. It didn’t work, I learnt the hard way.
Please seek out communities of women who are doing great things like volunteering, setting up charities, rescuing animals, travelling, mentoring young people, running businesses etc etc. Lots of women don’t have children and are leading awesome lives. Also look up radical feminism, I’ve started reading about it recently and found it really interesting and it has helped me view things a bit differently. Finally look up love addiction as well as attachment trauma and codependency. I absolutely can relate to love addiction and codependency and it has helped me a lot to learn about it.
I am a 33 year old woman who is divorced and childless. I also suffer from anxiety and depression. I live in a small town where everyone is either married with kids or with either/or. I have a full time job, own my home and car. I too get comments like “how is a pretty girl like you single?”. It makes me wonder what is so wrong with means it really plays a role on your level of self esteem. I wish there was someone I could talk to that is in the same boat as I am because I feel so alone.
Having just had the idea to type “coping with singleness and childlessness” into the search box on Yahoo, this is where I’ve ended up! It’s a bit like hitting a hole in one, really. Don’t know why it didn’t occur to me sooner to search such a phrase. I’ve been fairly miserable for almost three years now. Got through my 30’s pretty well, but the 40’s have slammed me to the ground. I’ve wanted to reach out for help so many times, but didn’t know where to go. And the older one gets, the harder it becomes to talk about this with family and friends. I never imagined how ashamed I would feel. That I would feel worthless. That I would feel angry (at myself!). That I would feel grief. Being childless and alone (ie. unwanted) makes me feel almost invisible. I cycle through self-pity over what I don’t have, to gratitude for what I do have. And I realize that I have my faults (including struggles with depression, anxiety, and social phobia – the anti-nirvana trifecta…:-), but I’ve always told myself that even people with mental illness issues fall in love and get married. And I don’t online date, but I don’t live under a rock, either. The worst part is knowing that my parents now realize that it’s too late for me to have children, and I suspect that it breaks their hearts, too. And I don’t like to upset them, so I try keep my pain to myself. I talk to the Lord about it, but honestly feel I must sound like a broken record (and yes, I know He hears me, and I know He’s with me – but the difficult things in life still have to be walked through). Why can’t I get over this? That’s what I keep asking myself. It’s like being in prison. There’s a stripping away of all the assumptions of youth, including the idea that it will “just happen” for you, as it seems to for everyone else (not true, of course). And when it doesn’t, then what? The worst is when married men ask me why I’m not married yet, followed by, “a pretty girl like you? What’s wrong with all the men out there?! Don’t worry, It’ll happen…” Wink wink, nod nod. Somehow, when you’re in your 40’s, this type of exchange no longer seems appropriate. I’ll be 45 in November. I think it’s going to signify some sort of threshold. I feel like it’s the number after which I know that I absolutely have to put all hope aside. I have to let it go. But how? And where does hope go from there? I feel like I’ve been in this waiting phase for my entire adult life – now what? Whatever the answer may be, I feel better for having read all of the comments from so many other women who are going through the same thing. I don’t feel so alone now. Thank you, Jody, for providing a place like this for women like us. May God bless you for your boldness and kindness.
Katryna, I’m 45 and hitting that number was hard. People don’t even try to match me up anymore because they were matching with guys I had zero interest in (like single dads). I used to get “don’t worry it’ll happen” but now get “nothing wrong with never marrying”. People who are married look at me suspiciously thinking I’ll take a married man or there’s something wrong with me. I’m returning to school in the fall to switch fields and honestly feel a career is all I’ll have my life.
I also typed “coping with being single and childless in your 40’s.” I turned 40 this year, and came to a realization after 6-7 years of unsuccessfully trying to online date that I probably will never be able to have kids. I think I just decided to give up. Unfortunately, I’m also dealing with depression, too, and have tried to motivate myself to lose the 15-20 lbs I’ve gained in the past 5 years, am ashamed to say. Ending up alone does scare me, and mortality is made more evident with every passing year. Sometimes, I did think of ending things, but I couldn’t do that to my parents and brother. I’m sorry for the depressing thread. .just venting here. Just found out my Dad will be having open heart surgery soon. . and I pray that he will be ok. I’m closer to my Dad, than my Mom. . not at all close with my younger brother.
I am 46 and have never been married. I never thought I would end up alone. The one thing that I wanted more than anything else in the world was to be a mom too. However, I had to have a partial hysterectomy in my mid 30’s. The fact that I am unmarried and childless has really hit me hard this year.
I can relate to the others who commented about feeling depressed. Sometimes, I wish I was dead but I would never do it. I often left out from activities involving my married friends and even from my own family. It makes me feel like a social leper. My only brother has 3 yr old twins and is always the first to call me if he needs a babysitter but never invites me to join them in a family activity. This 4th of July weekend, they rented a camper and made plans with my sister in law’s family to go camping. Her parents, brother and wife, brother and expecting girlfriend were all going together. A total couple outing. They often get together with her family. However, my mom who is divorced and myself are never included in any plans to join them. They do stop to visit my mom and they come for holiday dinners but it is never reciprocated. They have not 1x in 3 years invited either of us for dinner. My own sister in law had the audacity to ask didn’t I want children and why didn’t I adopt. It made me feel even worse because I can’t afford too. Then, went on to tell me I should online date.
I think I would feel happy about being single and childless if it were not for other people’s misconceptions that something must be wrong with you. As a full time nanny for 2 children, I often meet other mothers who treat me differently after they find out. It as if they know longer have any interest in getting to know me.
I try hard to stay positive and pretend everything is okay. In reality, I am lucky to have my health and I know it. But I worry about my future and aging alone. My mom has never made me feel less and is always there for me but someday she will not be.
Mary I can relate. I am also never married and I am 45 and people treat me like a freak. I work with kids at church and a few moms (it’s always moms who are bullies)made comments that I shouldn’t be doing it because I am childless. I’ve tried online and always failed. In fact in my last go around I put that I was only seeking men around my age give or take 10 years either way, who didn’t have kids and were seeking marriage. Guess how many responded? several hundred but easily 90% were over 60. The few that were my age had kids and I have zero interest in being a stepmother (I would consider if there was no mom but rarely the case). By the time I deleted the old men and the dads I was left with very few. It was depressing. I contact men I like on dating sites but they never like me.
Hi Dawn, thanks for responding to my post. It helps to know that others can relate and understand. Sometimes, I feel like the only one but I know that is not true.
I am blessed to have a few wonderful friends who are married and value my friendship. They take time to get together with me and don’t make me feel less of person. I actually meant them later in life too. They still took the time to get to know me even though I have never been married or had children. However, they are an exception.
As you mentioned, I agree that mom cliques can be the worst. I am sorry that the women at your church made you feel bad. I went through the same thing with a mom group at the Y where I am a member. I became friends with a very popular instructor who also a taught mommy aerobics. She was part of a group of moms from the Y who always got together. They did not like that we became friends. If I was talking to her and a few came over they would start talking as if I was not there and exclude me from the conversation. Other times, I would say hi as I walked by a few in particular and they would ignore me. The worst was when one of them invited her right in front of me to their get together. It really hurt. My friend was oblivious and I never said anything because I would look bad.
The worst are the people who ask why aren’t you married? As if something is wrong with me. One mom acquaintance even had the audacity to ask if I had a bad childhood? I was dumbfounded. In reality, all married people have a 50% chance of being single again because somebody is going to have to die first. People can be so ignorant.
I have never been one to judge friends or people based on their marital status, whether they have children or their economic status. I value people for who they are on the inside. It was not until my 40s that I started to feel people were really judging and excluding me from things.
It depresses me. Especially, that I feel it from my brother and sister in law. Unless, the need a babysitter of course.
Mary, luckily it’s only a few women and they aren’t the ones in charge so that’s good. The women who do the most tend to have older (usually grown) kids and are from another generation (mostly baby boomers). They don’t have the attitudes of younger women. The younger women (40’s and below)either look at me with pity or contempt while the older women tell me I am smart not to have kids or be married. But yeah mommies (not moms), the ones who only have a life with their kids (basically stay at home moms)are the worst. The moms with careers aren’t nasty usually. Not all of the stay at home moms are like this but the ones who are tend to be stay at home moms. Honestly I think some of them are jealous because I have a career and my own money and two degrees. I’m going back to school to switch fields which would make them jealous too.
I hate when people have pity on me. I’m always having people wanting to match me up with people because to them a bad match is better than nothing. The worst are when they want to match me up with guys previously married with kids and get mad when I say no. Their thinking is I can’t do better but why would I want to date someone who already had the life and for some reason doesn’t? Why would I want to end up supporting his family? Yes many times it was a tragic situation (like his wife started cheating or became abusive)but more often than not it was a situation of a guy not choosing wisely in the first place. Or the man being a poor choice to begin with and the ex realized it. Then these guys expect me to want them because it’s them or no one. What they fail to realize is to many of us no one is preferable to them.
I have witnessed so many obviously bad marriages and people who are unhappy in them, that the fact of their being married doesn’t bother me. Because at least I am not them. And if they are mom-cliquey, they are definetely not worth your time. I find them boring, frankly. All they do is talk about nappies and support tights. It’s hardly the Holy Grail…no, don’t get me started on mommy brain…
Yeah the mommy brain is something else. I was recently blocked on FB by someone and couldn’t figure out why. She lived by me, and we had a good relationship, or so I thought. Turns out she blocked me because I made a comment about the moms group. The moms group is where moms bash others (including other moms)and were bashing me. I mentioned briefly in a sentence that I knew someone being bashed by this group. I didn’t even mention the mom’s group’s FB page (I don’t know it)or even its proper name, just that it’s a moms group. She saw that and blocked me from being FB friends.
Is this website turning into a “lets bash married women” site? Generalizations you women are making are no better than the generalizations that those married women make about you. I also find it insulting that you say “stay at home moms are the worst”. I was a sahm until my only son passed away and never once did I think anything negative about single women. Yes, I am married, and many of us gateway women are. I thought this was a site for women who are childless? We are in enough grief already, there is no need to bash women just because they are married. I’m stunned such comments are allowed here.
Hi Isadora and thanks for your comment. I agree that generalizations about any kind of ‘women’ can be unhelpful and reductive. I’m sorry that in this case, Mary’s comment touched a nerve with you. I like to think that Gateway Women is a space where childless women can say speak truthfully about their experience, and often the way some of us have been treated by individual married women (not ‘all married women’) has been particularly hurtful – and yet apart from GW there’s really nowhere to articulate those experiences without being censored. I am so sorry you lost your son and I hope that you still feel OK enough about GW to get the support here that you need. Hugs, Jody x
Well, I can agree there, and I sympathize with Mary and Dawn- I’m aware of the mom cliques but there are snobby cliques in every circle of life, starting from junior high. I don’t believe childbirth or marriage causes this. I believe it’s just classic “a-hole syndrome” of their mothers not teaching them any better. People with advanced degrees can act like that as well. Thank you for your classy and eloquent reply though, Dr Day. You really have a talent for bringing down walls and bridging the gap between married/unmarried women, mothers/nomos. Maybe you can write a book on this someday, as I think many of us can use the help. Thank you.
I am reading all of this and it reminds me of me. I am 45, never married and childless. I was never that strongly attached to having a child but figured it would happen. I’m okay with not having kids but not okay with not having a partner. I’ve been trying for many years to no extent. I’ve gone to singles group, did online and asked to be matched. The only guys I was attracting were men I had no interest in (different morals for example). I have a male friend who I am attracted to and has the same background as me except he has a drinking problem. People always try to match me up with the lowest of the low (like criminals or men with multiple baby mamas)then tell me I can’t be picky due to my age. What really hurts is I am starting to see people young enough to be my children get married. Here I’ve done everything to meet a decent guy with little baggage and no success yet some of them are lacking in morals yet are married and I’m not. People look at me with pity or suspicion and I’ve even had women start fights thinking I want their husbands.
This article articulates so clearly how I have felt for such a long time. My 45th birthday is next month and every year since my 40th birthday, I have been filled with dread of one more year of bitter dissapointment. So many times I wonder how I ended up here. It’s like my girlfriends and sister all belong to this exclusive “mommy” club that I get to observe from the outside but never get to be a member. It’s not for lack of trying- I was married, mis-carried twice and got divorced. I was also a step-mom and currently I’m in a relationship with a man that has three teenaged children. It’s not the same- at all. I am not a mom and being a part of someone else’s kids’ lives as a “stand in” parent hasn’t been the same. It’s taken years to try and “accept” that I will never be a mom. And- I wonder what my life will be like as an old woman. I’m close to my sister’s 4 children but they have a mom and a dad- I think they see me as a bonus auntie. Every time my sister had a baby- I was thrilled but secretly had my own heartache. I’ve stayed away from so many events and parties just because I feel like the outcast or the one that everyone looks at and thinks,” I wonder what happened with her.” One of my girlfriends said to me that her life turned out so much better than she had ever thought it would be because she had no expectations as a young woman. I think that was the catalyst for me- I definitely had expectations and no doubt that I would get married, have babies and at 45 years old- I’d be the soccer mom. Anyway- it’s obviously a rough morning for me- but it helps to know I’m not the only woman who feels these things.
I’m sitting here pondering life and becoming as close to suicidal as one gets. I am alone, single and no kids and 44. My ex who was awful got married and had a kid and still puts me down on social media when he was the bad one Here I am alone and wanting family so badly. I wanted my child to have the best which included a father. I wanted a good partner So I sit here alone and it hurts so so so much ;(
Hi Kate – I hit my lowest point at 44 too – it’s a tough time because we really can’t kid ourselves anymore that we’ve ‘still got time’. Your desire for a good father for your children was a deeply maternal and responsible one, and choosing not to have children with your ex most likely came from that place. Your story is one that many women can identify with. Come and join us in the private online community and stay off whatever social media your horrible ex is on! (click here to join: http://www.gateway-women.com/community )And if you are feeling suicidal (and I remember when my grief felt that bad…) do reach out to a telephone helpline such as The Samaritans in the UK (call free on 116 123) or in the US the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You don’t have to be actively contemplating suicide to call these services, they are there for those of us struggling with intense distress and suicidal thoughts/fantasies too. You might also find reading Karla McLaren’s wonderfully empathic understanding of what the suicidal urge is trying to tell us: namely that SOMETHING in our experience has to die – it just doesn’t mean WE do. http://karlamclaren.com/lets-talk-about-suicide/
Sending you a big hug – it is possibly to get through this honey – but you can’t do it alone. I’m so glad you’ve found us. Come and join us in the online community asap and let us support you. Jody x
Hi Kate, I am in my late forties and not met anyone that I would consider marriage material. Needless to say, I’m single and have always wanted to fall in love and have children. I too have been feeling very suicidal and depressed about my situation. You are not alone. 🙂
Ashley did you ever consider going it alone at any point ? I don’t know if I can
The past couple of months I have been really considering it. I’ve been thinking about all of the pros and cons. It is definitely not something that I would have imagined for myself when I was younger. The alternative is to keep hoping that Mr. Right comes along and to give up on my dream of becoming a mom. When I think about what my life will be like in my 70’s or 80’s without children and still single, it brings me back to those suicidal thoughts.
me too Ashley. I understand. It’s strong feelings on both ends. Deciding to go alone or giving up. No perfect answers
I am female, will turn 30 this year. I don’t think I want children but am not sure about it yet. I can feel the pain of some women since I am struggling to find a suitable partner but because I don’t think I want children, in that sense it’s not really a time-sensitive issue. However, I realise that the reasons for me not being able to find a partner are mainly due to circumstances. Circumstances I have the power to change. I will hopefully finish my PhD in a natural science this year and have been in education for as long as I know. Spending countless evenings in the lab and the stress of PhD interferes with my energy to go out and do other things. In addition to that, my university happens to be in a city which doesn’t have a social scene I like; only bigger cities have galleries, events, clubs and parties catering to my taste in music, lifestyle and social scene. I realise that my study and my location make me stressed, have a lack of energy and put me in a geographic location that isn’t going to help me meet a suitable man. However, I made the choice to come here (albeit it a few years ago before I knew how much I would not enjoy this city). After my PhD, I want a position with less stress in a city that I know will cater to my social needs and I want to have more time to spend with friends and to date.
I know that some women are in a situation over which they have no control, but I do think that women who know they want children, should make finding a suitable partner (if that’s a requirement for them to have children) the main priority apart from their job. I could have chosen not to do a PhD, hell, not to do a Master’s, and then at 22 would have been able to find a job, taking more time to get fit/look pretty and get out there more. At that age I’d have a much larger pool of single men to meet than at my current age and I fear it’s only going to get tougher. I feel that I want to meet a ‘quality’ man, whatever that may be, but when I look at education/profession, there are only a small percentage of men educated to match my education, so if I would want a man with a PhD (or someone who excels at their profession in law, banking, consultancy, design), then I’m looking at probably 5 % (or so?) of the general population. Then taken into account that I am looking for men that are about 27-37 years old with no children, non-smokers and without an alcohol/drug problem, who are single, that shrinks the pool even more. Then other important life views need to be compatible and physical attraction needs to be there. That leaves probably a handful of men in a city of reasonable size, if at all. However, I may need to ‘rethink’ what I am looking for in a partner. I hope to get a reasonable job after completing my PhD, so I don’t need a partner to make enough money to support us both. So I should be fine with a man with an ok job. Looking for men with an ok job will include much more men. However, a ‘fancy’ job is attractive to me to some extent, and I wonder how attracted I would be to men who have not done any/much higher education or who have a relatively boring job. Just thinking out loud here, but these are things women need to think about. Is it really important the man is of ‘amazing’ quality? If so, the older you get, the smaller your chances of getting involved with one. I’ve found that most men probably don’t care about my (soon to obtain) PhD in a natural science from a very respectable university. My Bachelor’s degree would have been ‘enough’ for them. I wouldn’t say I have true regrets at this point, but I do realise that I am spending the second half of my 20’s in a basement lab focussing on my education which is at the expense of me socialising and finding a partner.
And yes, I have tried on-line dating ;)!
Well. Turning 40. Single and no children. I don’t have a good career; well unemployed and rubbish career, although have a really good education. So no one can point in my direction and call me selfish for having a career over kids. Nevertheless, I get people who know my Mother and me, asking way to many questions “Do you have boyfriend or married?” I find that so rude and it can be annoying when asked continuously, especially having people want to set me up with someone. One Asian Filipina women wanted to set me up with a Chinese man, only because he wanted someone to get him into the country, I picked that up straight away. Disgusting behaviour! Interesting enough I still get from some people the old fashioned stupid attitude of “old maid”, which is just so out dated, which came from my cousins mouth. It’s really no one’s business if we ladies have no kids or are not married. For me personally, “so be it! If this is to be, then it is!”
Today I woke up more distraught than ever. I heard about another pregnancy last night, this time it is my stepfathers 22 year old daughter who was up until last week a serial dater. Also her older sister was in town with their 2 tots and husband and she’s 34 and that sent me over the top. I’m 43,never married, single, no dating prospects and honestly I’ve lost all hope. I suffer from depression and have been abusing my Ativan and alcohol because I’m downright angry. I talk to a therapist now but I’m in so much pain internally over my issue that when I talk to her I only see the fact that she’s married with children and I get more mad. I’ve been to countless gynecologist because I suffer from cysts that come and go. I’ve had hormonal tests that come out ok yet I still get no period. Doctors think it’s stress. To add fuel to the fire my older sister has 4 kids and she can’t really relate to me on any level. We are estranged and that hurts me also. I try my best to reach out. She is a bit jealous of my life of being single and has said so. My mother has been married 5 times and talking to her about my predicament always turns into an argument because she usually ends our conversation with “I know how you feel.” She couldn’t possibly. I love her dearly but come on let’s be realistic here. My friends that I grew up with all have children and slowly faded out of my life after they had their bundles of joy. When I go on Facebook to reach out to them, I view their photos where their new friends are women on the PTA who are happily married with 2 and 3 kids. I watch in angst of how hard this has affected me inside and I have no one who understands where I am coming from. So I came here for some guidance because I feel alone. Hearing about my stepsisters pregnancy was the straw that broke the camels back. I am happy for her. I feel babies are a blessing but I feel like the one who was never chosen. I have other things that make me happy like photography, travel, music, writing and foreign films. My only purpose wasn’t children as I got older. I also wanted a partner to share my life with. The last relationship I was in I was emotionally abused and that has been a constant theme throughout my life. To my family and friends I am sweet, giving, worldly, unique and a joy to be around. This is my usual character but lately I’ve been so depressed that I can’t see straight. I’ve honestly lost hope. I’ve been to plastic surgeons, acupuncturist, life coaches, churches, Buddhist monks and other spiritual healers to find out what is really wrong with me. I just want to know if it will get easier and if I’ll be alone forever. Everyone always tells me “Just live your life and it will happen.” What happens if you’ve gotten so past all of this and forgotten how to live? That’s where I’m at. Any advice would be appreciated. I don’t mean to be a Debbie downer but my goodness I feel like I’ve been duped.
This was brilliant and your question-and-answers had me in stitches…I didn’t realise how frustrated I was with people’s ‘well-meaning’ suggestions until I read this…it’s all so true! Esp the one about ‘u still have time, I heard about this 50 ur old…blah blah’… And yes even though I have decided to try and get pregnant on my own I still feel sad and desperate and jealous of everyone’s rolling FB feed of baby and marriage pics!
Hi Evelyn – thanks for your comment. Sometimes a little dark humour is what we need to get through the candy-coated bullshit we have to listen to from others on this topic! Hugs, Jody x
Hello – thank you for this articulate and assertive description of what it feels like to be in this peculiar, involuntary situation. I am about to turn 42 and seem to go through phases regarding how I feel about my childlessness – I suppose I am sadder about not being in a relationship: the last one I had ended last year, it was fiery and fairly brief and dented my self-confidence big time.
What has brought both these issues to the forefront again for me is that my younger sister has just become pregnant – with twins. It feels surreal. We are very close but she lives very far away and the thought that she is now going to start family life in a way that I won’t be able to participate in properly just makes me feel sort of hopeless. I wish that I had been able to build up a relationship, steadily, as she has and – one thing leads to another and kids come into the mix. I have not been able to achieve (and I’m aware that the word ‘achieve’ may be wrong in this context but that’s how I feel) these things in my life – things that many people assume are basic rights. I am not so sure they are basic rights and I have spent many years questioning if I would be an ok parent. My own parents are quite cold and completely unsupportive and we have no other relatives, plus the fact that both of them are foreign – from different countries. All this has left me feeling very unrooted and I think this is why I have had difficulty building a relationship in a way. But the upshot is that what I have really wanted – the sense of home and the support of a family network – still eludes me. This makes me very sad and causes me quite a lot of pain. I have friends who say: ‘You’re like family’ but this is not the same as actually being family and being part of something, whether it’s blood relatives, a common culture, language, upbringing, background. I feel I am floating around and find it hard to work out what I want beside a relationship. It is very lonely and the lack of affection is difficult for me. I think, also, having to make all the decisions on your own, not having a sounding board or someone to build a life with or support you in various situations is very difficult. I find that the older I get the more antisocial I feel – I think most people feel a bit like this. But it is particularly difficult when you don’t have a partner to fall back on or keep you company or plan with. I find it quite strenuous sometimes going out socially and have been avoiding it a lot in recent years. I often think – how am I going to find my way back to “normal” interaction with friends and colleagues. I feel like a complete weirdo sometimes. I completely relate to that feeling, come Christmas, New Year, my birthday when I see my situation hasn’t progressed and here I am on my own. It does make me feel ashamed. I often worry about my future – is this permanent? How am I going to accept it as I grow older? I do have a lot to give and it feels like it is going to waste. I am also, however, fairly intolerant in some ways and I know this means that I have not been able to envisage myself getting married to or having children with the majority of men I have been out with.
I want to add one more thing and, written down, it’s going to sound very stark and perhaps make me sound like a lunatic. I have had depression for most of my life – this has manifested in my being charismatic and fun and full of energy sometimes and then , from one day to the next, not being to cope in quite a serious way. Depression also makes me feel deeply ashamed. I can’t help but feel it is my fault, or at least “a fault.” I just cannot accept it. I have spent a very long time trying to improve myself in this respect and I have come a very long way. I spent a long time thinking there is no way I should be allowed to have children because a) I might ruin their lives and b) I wouldn’t wish my depression on my worst enemy, it is so hard to live and cope with. But I didn’t choose to get depression, even though it has had a knock on effect on my ability to have relationships. My last relationship was with a much older man who I adored but I am just too sensitive to cope with the kind of guy I seem to be attracted to – this guy had a very big ego and was very successful but also with mental issues and a relationship with his ex wife that, in the end, I didn’t think was appropriate. Another woman would have just bided her time, I always think. And now I really regret ending it. Then again, he was very jealous and … Being very lonely now means I am constantly second guessing my decision to end it and feel completely rejected by him – which is sort of irrational.
Anyway, the hurt that this has caused has dented my self-esteem so badly. It is hard for me to admit that I am also so hurt because I’m b**** 41 and should be a “grown up” by now regarding relationships.
What I find difficult about being single and childless is hiding these feelings of shame and sadness while not being able to hide the fact that I am actually single and childless! I relate also to a previous poster’s feelings about being on the sidelines. I find it very difficult to have a clear sense of myself and, objectively, where my life is at. I am much mentally healthier than I have ever been, and worked through so much but now I reach a point where, despite this, my life is not what I want it to be and I don’t know what to do with it. I find other single childless friends almost the worst to talk to about “our” situation because they are single and childless by choice and say things like – “but your sister is having children so you will be able to be part of that,” or “why do you care so much?” or something cynical like “All men are cheats and will betray you.” I am not cynical about love at all but maybe that’s my problem. I never talk to anyone else about how I feel about being childless or single. I do feel ambivalent about the childlessness as I still worry that I wouldn’t be able to cope, especially given I have no back up in terms of relatives who might have been able to help support me or babysit or something like that.
So many more thoughts… but I think I’ll stop here.
Thanks for listening.
Thank you so much for expressing what I have been and still do carry and feel. I relate to much especially having a sister being pregnant. The amount of so called helpful comments, how ever sincerely intended eats me up inside as its so condescending, not supportive as most of those saying have no true idea of what it’s like to be single at 39, childless, have physical and mental health matters nor able to work, low income, a non home owner and not feeling part of this world contributing. It’s hard work working stuff out. It’s only recently have I begun to realised how much my situation is actually a problem for others ie ‘friends’ who have partners and families. It’s like I’m expected to fit a certain of thinking to fit within their comfort zone otherwise I’m the one who’s a monster, bitter, not liking children, selfish, in considerate and so on. They remain me how much of a failure I am to society and myself. The saddness and anger is ovwrwheming inside of me yet I carry it quirtly for many reasons. In short I relate to tonnes of what you and the many others who have written here and I’m relieved to finally see that I’m not the only person going through all the daily challenges we single childless women are faced with along side the difficulties and lost. I am still lost in life wondering how to figure out a plan b. Hope to learn how to cope better with accepting my circumstances whilst confronted with constant people who will never understand. There’s so much I could write yet so many are saying exactly how I feel about so many similar frustrating and hurtful situations. It’s the isolation and loniness which causes me harm and the only way I am going to bravely change this is by reaching out right now to you all. To maybe make new like minded friends – so how about it then?
The best way to make like-minded Gateway Women friends is to join our private online community. As you are on a low-income, you’d be very welcome to one of our free memberships, once your initial first free month is up. Do email our community manager Helen at firstname.lastname@example.org to set that up for you. Hugs, Jody x
I’m 35, intelligent, creative and driven. I’ve worked hard and was hopeful my entire life. I am out in my community and beyond interacting every day. I am now falling apart with absolutely no friends, no family and no relationship prospects. Wanting people and not having them is the most painful thing one can experience. It kills your spirit and eats your soul. It is the worst hand to be dealt. I wish I had a friend or anyone I could reach out to. Please be this person for someone you know.
Beth – welcome. I hear your pain and it’s hard when we ‘follow the script’ our society sets for us as ‘good women’ yet somehow our dreams get left in the dust… I’m so glad you’ve found GW. Hugs, Jody x
Having just discovering this blog and reading this post and comments tonight after randomly googling “childless women” because it is now after midnight and was feeling a terrible loss and lonliness I couldn’t claim outloud… I now feel some hope.
My rational self should have known that I am not the only single, childless woman- but I have always felt like a deserted ghost ship in a sea of families. To read the stories of others is just so incredibly validating to my existance. I am not invisible- I am not alone…I am still taking it in.
I am constantly told to stop saying sorry all the time- but it is like a compulsion to apologise for my existence – that I am a “left over person” underfoot and in the way of “real people” with far more important things to do than me because they belong to families.
Please indulge me in my pity party when I share with you my feeling of being a ” Triple Whammy” of being no one’s mother, no one’s partner AND no one’s daughter. My mother passed away when I was in my early 20’s- and I have always felt I have been in a state of arrested development since that point. Now at 43 don’t feel as though I have the right to claim a space to exist. If the ship were sinking there is no one. who would save me a seat on the lifeboat.
I long to belong.
Maybe my Plan B is to learn how I belong to myself and that is an exciting prospect.
I am overflowing with gratitude to you for offering a glimmer of a lighthouse beam- maybe I am not doomed to sink afterall. Thanks xxx
Dearest Fellow Traveller on the Single, Childless Road. I started this blog in 2011 feeling like the only childless woman in the world; having others write back to me in the comments from all over the world gave me the same feeling as you describe – one of immense relief and validation that I was not alone in this experience. Even though I would never have wished this pain on another, to know that ‘out there’ someone understood (and no one in my life seemed to) felt much like the lighthouse beam you describe.
Welcome! Do consider taking a look at our private online community and get even more of this feeling, as often as you want or need it, and begin to build your tribe. You’ll find other ‘triple whammies’ as you describe yourself too. Hugs, Jody x
Tears flow freely and people say all the clichés that you are intended to make them comfortable…..leaving you more heartbroken and quiet. Thanks for shedding light on the tough encounters. I am approaching 41 and though I am considered “that girl” who always has a guy and a line of willing courters…its never been the right guy to take that step or it just didn’t work out. I am beginning to dread the conversation and the questions but know isolation is not the answer but being the person who is careful never to hurt or be inappropriate its hard to face others that don’t have the same empathy for humanity and the pain that is very much a part of it. Somehow you managed to express what so many of us feel. Be well…..
Hi Charlarella – I’m so sorry that things haven’t worked out so far for you. The questions can drive you nuts, can’t they?! I’m glad you’ve found us and I hope knowing that you’re not alone in this experience helps a little bit. Hugs, Jody x
Thank you so much Jody!
I’ll try and get on the site later that is so kind of you x
I can’t wait to get chatting to other women in our predicament x
You are amazing 🙂
Couldn’t seem to reply directly to your comment so I hope you get this x
Thank you soooo much!
I actually can’t say how much this means to me and I’m too afraid to say so but it brings a tear to my eye too.
I just looked up another post on the same topic on another site and some of the replies were shockingly unkind saying they had no sympathy whatsoever and basically urging people to ‘go on!have a baby! It’ll be the best thing you ever do…’ As if. We actually have that option.
Your post is the most heartwarming thing I’ve read in ages.
Sorry to reply twice.
Hi Sarah – you are welcome to respond as often as you like – I’m just so happy that you’ve found a place where your experience is understood. The shockingly unhelpful things that are said about single childless women (sometimes to their face and sometimes online) can make us wary of trying to get any understanding at all! With hugs, Jody x
You’re truly Incredible Jody!
You’re a massive inspiration!
Since just reading your post and some of your replies iv felt this massive surge of power and I actually even feel quite proud to be a single woman!!
I felt so understood as soon as i read your post and am soo greatful to receive such an empowering reply.
So much Thanks!
At last I’m not alone and I shall be watching this thread and any other relevant posts on this site! 🙂
Hi Sarah – you might find that the way to continue the conversation is to join our private online community – that’s where you’ll find us all 🙂 https://gateway2012.wpengine.com/community It’s a mixture of women who are still hopeful and those like myself who have come through the pain of coming to terms with our childlessness and finding our own ways towards a happy and meaningful life. Hugs, Jody x
thanks for the invite to the site. can i just do the trial membership and then see cos I have money problems ?
btw i think it’s an amazing thing you’re doing the site!
just what this world needs! x
Hi Sarah – you are welcome to the free trial and to stay on as a free member afterwards if you like it – we don’t want anyone not to be there for purely financial reasons. Hugs, Jody x
I am only 31 but already feel this complete social unacceptance of worth due to social infertility.
Such a beautiful BRAVE post!!!!
This is True woman power!!!!!
I know this post was written awhile ago, but I just want to say thank you SO much for perfectly articulating exactly what I am feeling. I hesitated to comment on your blog, as I’ll be 30 next year, and I’ve never been in a relationship. But being single and childless when seemingly everyone around you is married with kids is hard at any age. I have had all of your empathy comments said to me multiple times. I decided to post because your words brought me to tears with the truth they speak and a realisation that there are so many other wonderful aspects to being a woman than being in a relationship and/or a mother. Words cannot describe how thankful I am that I found your page. xx
Hi Aussie Girl and thank you for overcoming your resistance to comment on my blog! Being a single and childless women in Western civilization has become surprisingly problematic (if you download the free intro and first 2 chapters of my book you might find chapter 2 very interesting!), partly as a reaction to women’s emancipation over the last 50 years. So many women throughout history could only dream of our power and freedom, yet interestingly by making it a ‘problem’ and that ‘something is wrong with us’, the paradigm of patriarchy has found a way to make us feel imprisoned by our freedom. Argh! Thank you for what you are doing with your blog to articulate what it’s like to live with these restrictions! Also, if you haven’t yet found it, I urge you to read and follow Sara Eckel http://www.saraeckel.com – her book “It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single” is soulful, funny and fantastically helpful. Hugs, Jody x
OMG this really hit home for me. I just got done crying buckets earlier pondering my life alone at 43. I just don’t get it. All my friends are married with children and here I am. Currently I have zero desire to date because I’ve been hurt so bad. My self esteem is shot. The scenarios above were spot on! I experience that all the time. No one ever knows what it feels like until it happens to them. I don’t think anyone I know could be as strong as I am in this Situation. It’s almost like a joke. I’m waiting for someone like the guy from Candid Camera to walk in at any moment “Haha jokes on you!” But to no avail I’m reminded that this is real. I’m reminded everyday by families I see walking down the street with their kids. Or I’m reminded on television about a new star that just had a baby. I’m bombarded online with stories of upcoming pregnancies or marriages. Some days I say “I can get through this”. But today I’m having a bad go of it…Again. I’m happy I found this site. This delayed my next crying for a few days at least.
Hi Kat – so glad you’ve found us. I’m sorry this is hitting you so hard and that the people around us just DON’T GET IT!! You’ll find a lot of other amazing women are in the same boat, so please don’t let anyone convince you that this is anything about you. You might like to come and join our online community – it’s good to be able to share privately without being seen as being ‘too sensitive’ or any of the other labels we have to deal with when we try to talk about our reality. Hugs, Jody x
Childless and single at 44.
A lot of what is above is horribly familiar. I have without doubt become the embarrassing friend, though thankfully others have now given up trying to “fix” me. But it is still shocking just how thoughtless people can be, and what crass, cruel statements they can make, when they genuinely believe they are being helpful and consoling.
I don’t know where it “went wrong” for me and to be honest I don’t really care anymore. I had a breakdown a couple of years back, about this and other stuff too. I’ve since had a lot of therapy and I can see that overall I’m not in such a bad place. In fact things would have certainly been a lot worse if I had gone for it with a couple of my ex-boyfriends. But like another blogger put it I was trying to be responsible by taking care not to get pregnant, and be sensible in waiting for a suitable partner. It just turns out he never came along.
I’m more at peace now but life is certainly not easy and I’m still the target of casual insults – like the ex who recently told me that he still hopes to get married and have children one day – and added a smiley emo on the text message.
(He is my age BTW!)
I’ve had it all with the “You’re so lovely I don’t understand…”, “You need to get out there more. Have you considered salsa classes, pottery club, skydiving …??”
But what I know now is that if I am going to live for myself i want my life to be a good one and I want to make the most of the freedoms and opportunities I have as a single, educated woman with no ties. And I am far less willing to accept the unspoken assumption that my life is of less value than people with kids and partners. And as I get older, I am quite annoyed by the suffocating nature of the mummy culture we have, with the weekend supplements full of angsty middle class mums stressing about everything from their nutribullet blenders to childrens’ personal development classes. I’m quite relieved none of that applies to me.
The only thing I can say is that there are more women like me about now – and those people who assume their marriages are for good and their kids are their old age insurance policy may be in for a shock one day. At least I’ve had my pain now.
Hi Catherine – thanks so much for your comment and I’m sure many women will identify with a lot of what you’ve written! I agree that now I’m through the worst of the grief over my childlessness, I’m able to look at the realities of mother’s lives with less ‘fantasy dust’ in my eyes and see that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be either… The stigma applying to women who are both single AND childless is appalling, and I often think that much of the misogyny that it’s no longer acceptable to express about women has settled solely on the single, childless woman. We are, if we think about it, patriarchy’s ‘leftovers’ and therefore ‘fair game’. However, now that I’m no longer ‘invested’ in patriarchy myself, I’m beginning to feel the very freedom that those patronising and shaming comments are designed to keep us from enjoying… and I tell you… it’s good!!
I was in a loving, supportive, 8 year relationship in my 20s, but left it at the age of 27 as i wasn’t ready to settle down (or prepared to work at the problems in our relationship). I thought i had loads of time to meet somebody else. Hell, i did have loads of time! 10 years later I am still trying to forgive myself for that decision having never met anybody else i could have started a family with and now having to come to terms with the fact that children may never happen unless i meet someone pretty soon (ideally tomorrow!). I seem to have started my grieving process much earlier than others at 33 when a new relationship didn’t work out and i had some kind of breakdown and ended up in counselling. Shortly after, i developed vitiligo and am losing my skin pigment creating an interesting patchy effect all over my body, which is not condusive to the brutal world of internet dating! So it often feels like a TripleWhammy. I do struggle with self pity and jealousy of friends, many of whom now have partners, children and the life i always hoped i would have. But i do my best to fight those destructive emotions, to pick myself up and carry on online dating/getting out there/blahblahblah. I almost look forward to being 45 when i can finally give up hope! However, the journey i’ve been on during my singleton 30s has also been rich and rewarding. And in the last year, i can now finally say i quite like my life! I know myself so much better now, i’ve made wonderful friendships, and am a more sensitive, compassionate person – at least i like to think so. I have come to terms with the fact that it may never happen, and whilst i fully anticipate a fresh wave of grief once the door finally closes, i have learned that i can make a contribution without a partner, children or becoming Mother Teresa. I am so happy to have found your site Jody and to see that we childless women are not the social misfits that it often feels like, but that we can have a voice, too.
Thanks so much for your comment and I’m really happy for you that you are moving out of the darkness. I’m so glad you found us and, crazy as it might sound, having started your grieving process ‘early’ you may find that you are able to ‘recover’ a little quicker. I know that for me, my last few years of being ‘still hopeful’ were definitely the most painful – unable to ‘move on’ as there was a tiny bit hope to be honoured, yet also longing for it either to happen or be over! An almost impossible dual-reality to exist in and you can see the power of denial to protect us from it… it’s v. v. hard. You sound like a lovely, thoughtful woman and it’s a pleasure to hear your ‘voice’. Welcome, Jody xxx
Thanks for this article. It articulates some of my feelings as a childless, single woman who feels entirely worthless in today’s society which seems only to venerate successful procreation. Married friends or those with partners dismiss any feelings/problems I might look to them for support on because “you should try it with children/husband/partner it is so much more difficult” which makes me feel not only invisible but not even entitled to have feelings. People with families say that single people are selfish but I disagree with this – i think those with families can be much more selfish as they only think of their own family’s needs.
Hi there and thanks for commenting. I’m glad that the article spoke to you, and the bizarre moment that we are living in culturally where to be childless and single is to be at the bottom of the social pile. How is it that in one generation, society’s most ‘shamed’ female sterotype has gone from being an unmarried mother to a single woman 40+ without children? There’s so much more going on here than personal choice and individual circumstances – this is part of a much wider social shift and it’s making a lot of people uncomfortable, hence these ‘backlash’ moments such as the shaming of unpartnered women. I agree that families can be selfish and surveys consistently show that single, childless women make the largest contribution in terms of time & money to their local and the wider community, with parents making the least. It is very hard that our coupled-up friends and family refuse to hear our own struggles – I’ve found that the way to remedy this is to find other childless women to share those experiences with, which then takes the heat off our existing close relationships and gives them a chance of surviving! You might want to join one of our local groups or our online community – take a look at http://www.gateway-women.com/resources for more info. Hugs, Jody x
It is so lovely to hear others speak my feeling exactly. I am 48 now. It wasn’t until I was 39 I felt strange. I didn’t know what it was, and then I hit 40 and realised the dream of marriage and children was just about over. I tried to convince myself that everything was OK, and that I would be fine, and I tried so hard to be positive and that God had another plan for me and he may have had and have, but it still hurt and as time went on it hurt more and more. It got worse when family looked down at me, as though there was something wrong with me. It was so heartless. The thing, I couldn’t just marry anyone, because if a man showed affection towards me and I didn’t feel anything for him, my body would go dead. I couldn’t go through with it. I could not do what so many other people do and just marry for the sake of it. I knew then, life and destiny is not always in our hands and if we are to get married and have children it will happen but if it is not meant to be or it is to be late, then that too will take place. Life circumstances are not always due to our control but because that is the life we were meant to lead and anyone that says, we chose such a life, is wrong. We don’t, and although we have a choice regarding our re action to the circumstances, we do not always choose what happens to us.
Jody – this article resonates with so many aspects of my life. I am childless by circumstances, having been in one or two very difficult relationships and have often felt a complete failure because of this, believing that I have no right to express any sadness about it because it is all my fault.
I especially loved your list of ‘helpful’ comments from people. I have learnt to completely shut up and not say anything about my regrets because I will inevitably get a barrage of advice ranging from sleeping with ‘anyone I can find’ (in the days when I was single) or spending what little savings I had on freezing my eggs (when I was single, had just given up my job and was about to work overseas for 8 months).
A few years ago, I expressed to an acquaintance that, although I was very happy that my beloved sister was just about to have a baby, that I was also sad that this hadn’t happened for me as well (I had just come out of a very difficult marriage). The woman I spoke to ended up bellowing at me in the street that ‘I was too passive’ and that ‘I needed to take some action’ and that there were ‘grandmothers as old as me’ – this was at the age of 38. I have never forgotten the humilation I felt that day, as everything about me was reduced to whether I could procreate. Around that time, I remember reading hurtful comments on fb, from someone congratulating my sister now that she had ‘joined the gene pool unlike her sister’ (meaning me). When I challenged that person, they responded in a patronising tone, telling me to ‘be patient’ and that ‘I would meet the right person someday’.
The other day I had a male work acquaintance telling me ‘I was too lovely not to be a mother’ and that ‘life isn’t worth anything without children’. I am often too polite to these sorts of people because the hurt and anger I feel is so great that I feel I might almost explode. I therefore keep it in and answer in very measured, and diplomatic tones.
I also get the same ongoing advice that ‘if I really wanted it, I would do anything in my power to make it happen (including the suggestions above) and that I ‘obviously don’t want it badly enough’.
All this makes me feel that I don’t have a voice and that my feels of disappointment are invalid.
That is why I am so glad to find the website. I found it though reading your fantastic article in the Guardian yesterday.
Thank you Jody for giving women like me a voice – like you so wisely point out – there are a myriad reasons why we don’t end up having a family – no one reason is more valid than another – heartache is heartache – I can’t know what is going on in someone else’s head, so why should I judge?
Ive just found this site and yours was the first response to the article i read. Thanks for being so candid. I do wonder if my being to decent in this new smash and grab world has left me standing and you sound equally ‘nice’ (remember when that was a quality not a disability?) As i type though, my 42 year old friend is on a flight to New York on business because she spotted the hunky ten years younger guy picking up pizza in a restaurant we were in and instantly departed our dinner to stand outside in the darkness – ambushing him with her phone number when he emerged unsuspecting. He’s now on the verge of leaving his 31 old girlfriend of 7 years with with a 1 year old daughter. Men mostly are just freaked out to be given any responsibility. I seriously don’t believe its an age problem, i think its our sudden lack of confidence problem.
Ah someone who shares my sentiments. I am in my late 30’s, never married and childless, not by choice, and I’m quite sad and grieving over this issue at the moment. And yes there is a VERY distinct lack of catering to singles in my church, we’re basically non-existent, sorry to say this but that is the truth of my experience, nothing less than this. Loneliness is the worst, feeling sometimes like an outcast. It is a sad existence when you do not choose this route in life but by sheer incidence you are. I have become slightly bitter and depressed even though I’ve always been the opposite, but suddenly realizing a potential future without a husband and children is just hitting me now. I guess there aren’t many men at my church, and the ones’ that are, are married already. I never thought it would happen. But I will have no choice but to focus back on my path with The Lord and what He’d like me to do instead.
Thank you for your excellent post, it completely resonated with me. I’m single, childless and catapulting towards 40 with dread, something I’ve been trying hard to reframe with little success. I want to start feeling grateful for the little I have, instead of feeling lonely, humiliated and self-conscious.
I’m not a career woman, I’ve never put my job before a meaningful relationship. I just chose to be single rather than staying with someone for the wrong reasons. And I worked out far too late in life who I was, what was important to me and what my values were. If I’d known that sooner, I wouldn’t have wasted so much precious time on relationships that were going nowhere.
I read a quote recently that said life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you choose to react to it. I really want to turn my situation around, in my head at least, because I can’t turn back time. I’m very grateful to have found your inspirational blog and look forward to reading your book.
Thanks for writing this blog. It is very painful, shameful, socially embarrassing, to be single, childless and over 40. Most days I feel or am made to feel like a complete failure in all areas of my life. There are very few people I can even relate to because a high percentage of women on GW at least do have a partner. I am fully aware that having a toxic partner can actually make you feel even more lonely than when you are alone, so I do feel for those women tremendously.
It’s just very hard and I for one am so afraid of words like spinster etc I just avoid meeting new people in order to not have to explain my situation at all as I just want the ground to swallow me up.
As a childless and single 45 year old woman, I sometimes feel ‘society’ is a separate sea I’m detached from. But this is rarely in a negative way. I look at public institutions, also media – the coldness, shallowness, competitiveness and incompetence and it looks like insanity to me. And I feel I talk from experience since I’ve worked in a few of those institutions! I’m very happy to make my living from being an artist – it feels like a luxury to step outside of a large part of society, and it makes me feel less subject to its mad rules and judgements.
These articles have given me so much food for thought and I find it impossible to only say a few words so here are my musings –
One of the main reasons so many women are now childless and single is contraception, the choice that gives, and the fact that men are no longer obliged to ‘do the right thing’ by pregnant women – so finding a man willing to have a family is not so easy, hence why quite a few of my female friends are single mothers. We are responsible for our bodies, therefore men don’t need to take responsibility, apparently. It’s easy to see how that lessens the number of babies considerably, and it’s tough being a single parent as any single mum or dad knows.
My parents got married because of pregnancy despite not being in love. My Mum left after ten years for another man and it was absolute chaos – emotionally and financially, for us all. We grew up with my dad, and in many ways he set a precedent that very few men I know could live up to – a solid presence, a man who cooked great food for us, took us on holidays, yet enjoyed all the usual male things – time with his pals,cars, fishing, outdoor adventures and the like. Not many like him!
Surprisingly, I found my thoughts about contraception echoed by the author Martin Amis in his book ‘The Pregnant Widow’, where he questions the effect contraception had. Choice and control of our own bodies is of course good, but what was the 60s revolution other than that? I’d agree with Amis that it was also a male-dominated shallow shag fest! I wonder if it’s partly true to say that satisfying relationships and parenthood are not such an easily available option because of this shallowness. I do believe women in the past upheld the role of ‘moral compass’. That shouldn’t be our responsibility and knowing some very decent men, I know they exist, but just look at the differences between male and female sexuality. We all seek love, male and female alike, but men still enjoy and seek out strings free casual sex more than women – for whom casual sex is often a source of misery. I know I don’t speak just for myself when I say that at times I’ve felt conned into sex with the promise of feelings that didn’t exist on the man’s part. The sex in the moment might be great, but the aftermath can be disturbing and sad. And it’ not just a case of ‘waiting for the right time for sex’, for many men it would seem sex is the goal in itself. So, after a few months of pursuit, you have sex then it’s thanks and bye bye. Controversial as this thought is – I don’t think this would happen so much if there were still the same danger of unavoidable pregnancy from a casual fling, I think it would cut down the number of men who pursue meaningless sex.
When I look at the way sexuality is portrayed in the media it’s a sorry affair. It would of course be worse to go back to ancient Christian values which meant women had zero autonomy, but it strikes me, and I know millions of other women, that feminism is still in its infancy. Why are so many women still buying into these infantilised, weakened and shallow images of women? Plastic surgery, starvation diets, revealing clothes, twerking..! I believe the message this sends is that we’re up for meaningless, casual sex. I couldn’t agree more with Sinead O’Conners recent advice to Myley Cyrus.- ‘You obscure your talent by overt sexual images of yourself that make more money for your producers than you, they don’t care about you’.
I often feel judged for not having my tits half hanging out or not wearing high heeled shoes, but I dress attractively, and I am attractive, so why should I advertise my sexuality when for me that’s a private matter between me and a lover, once we get to know each other?
And if this means I get less offers, so be it. I refuse to have my life ruled by these ideas, I can have sex with myself (I’m great in bed!) I love painting and the pleasure it gives other people, I love my family and friends. I might feel lonely at times, but I also felt lonely during my one long term live in relationship. I don’t want to have my thoughts and feelings dictated by a somewhat sick society’s ideas of what’s ‘normal’.
Thanks for expressing your thoughts on this, which help to validate my own, rather similar feelings.
It sounds as if your admirable father gave you really valuable standards by which to assess the men who crossed your path and good reason to decline inferior offers, as well as a great role model for living independently. I could almost wish that my rotten mother had run off early, rather than outliving my own, equally admirable if less self-sufficient father.
Having left the legal profession without any real regrets but still using what I learned to live life better (if less comfortably), your path into life as a practising artist has familiar echoes, too.
Do stay in touch with the Gateway Women community: mutual support is invaluable for us all.
It’s great to escape the rat race isn’t it?! Even though as you say life can be trickier. I’d take the up and down finances any day over a mind numbing soul destroying 9 to 5
I’ve met just one guy who had that level of commitment and naively thought I’d meet more like that and have kids, but as you say I had to decline some relationships, or put more accurately I was sorely disappointed! I think it’s rare to meet the right person and I believe many people choose partners they don’t truly love or respect
I must say that I have no gripe with my Mum – if the pill had been available in 1965 she’d have never had kids, then of course I wouldn’t be here! Anyway, whatever the chaos at the time, we’re all friends now
SIGN! I am totally with you there. I believe the pill was an important step to help women control their lives themselves, but it had also the unforeseen effect that men STILL don’t take responsibility when it comes to sex and family planning. In the old times a woman could be let down by a man once she was pregnant. Society would still blame her. In our times, a woman (like me) can still be let down by a man when it comes to making a baby, and society will still blame us.
Too true, I find it strange that despite all the apparent wisdom at society’s fingertips, so many men and women fall into cliched thinking. We’re all so trapped in this prison of ideas about our gender!
Great article! I was double whammy until I was 40 (now married and infertile) and had to deal with all of those issues. I had confusing feedback from one person, who on one hand would say I was being too fussy and then on the other, would say she would rather I were single than be in an unhappy marriage. Go figure!
I also had one person who would build up my “career” image to herself and to others in order to feel better about my single and childless status, when my “career” was only a job in which I continued to further educate myself.
Jody, Great article! Pithy, real, and humerous too. It tells it like it is. To me your blog vividly conveys the feelings that many who find themselves in this situation are overwhelmed with.
In time, we then have to learn to cope with these feelings, and at times we can achieve states of grace, creativity, and empowerment! But in the beginning, we start with telling it like it really is, “warts and all”. Thank you, Jody.
Jody, thank you so much for this blog. Like some of the others who have responded, I’m not single but have several single childless friends and your words have deepened my understanding of their situations.
I was thinking earlier today about what a pioneering venture Gateway Women truly is, enabling thousands of us to find a voice to talk about our childlessness, to know that we are not alone, to connect with each other online and, increasingly, in person. For the first time, it feels as if there is a counterweight to the childcentric conversation which makes up so much of our public discourse. It’s very exciting – the prospect that we may be understood better in the wider world.
Whilst I understand the comments about negative/positive messages, I think one of the reasons GW appeals to so many of us is that you tell your truth in such an articulate and passionate way. Yes, we count and we rock, but what’s so helpful about your approach is that you understand that most of us need to go through pain and despair before we can come out the other side – and that the world as it is at the moment actually contributes heavily to the pain and despair we feel, by not always treating us as fully valid human beings. I think that’s a message that needs to be heard.
Your work is helping me to learn how to hold the pain of childlessness, which I think will never completely go away, together with the joy of becoming who I am without children. Thank you so much.
Jody- you bring the image of the struggles of single and childless so vividly- although I have my husband to share my childlessness with, your post made me think of my double whammy girlfriends, who are so brave in their relentless pursuit of happiness regardless. I can’t wait to read your book and share it with my friends. Much love, Irina
Jody, I am a bit in two minds. I have followed your activities closely here and on facebook.
I am exactly,at age 41, in the “double whammy” situation. And of course I am thankful that someone puts our feelings into words. That someone lets the world know that these situations exist. That someone points out to the world that it isn’t our own individual “fault”. That you draw attention to social infertility as something people didn’t even want to realize, in our age of technlology and constant self-improvement (physical, mental, career-wise….), did even exist. So I really really appreciate and thank you for your work.
Yet over the last few blog entries, it seems to me that despite the motto of your website – we are here, we count, and we rock – your talking about us is filled with the negative: Pain, despair, feeling like being at the bottom of the pecking order, feeling like an outsider in society…. And I am not sure this is a good way to communicate about Gateway women.
Sure: I know all these feelings. They happen nearly every day. For example when I go to a conference connected to my job – which is to do with children and young people – and the keynote speakers keep referring to their own children (instead of their knowledge as experts). Or colleagues ask me if I have children to make small talk. Or friends tell me how little sleep they had last night because of their little one and how nice it is for me to be able to sleep in. All these moments are constantly nagging and tearing at me and sometimes I get exhausted. That is when those feelings of being no-one and nothing without a child get strongest.
But if I am trying to tell my self that “I count and I rock”, I cannot dwell on them. I need to accept them, yes, but then move on. To found out how and why i DO count and rock.
Moreover I think with the increasing media coverage you get there comes a greater responsibility (to quote Spiderman 😉 ) to consider how you talk about us. Since you make yourself the speaker of entire groups, maybe it is not so easily possible anymore to speak from your own most private feelings.
I am not sure If you get what I mean. I don’t mean to attack you. With this issue specifically, the “private becomes political” and I thank you for making it public. It is not an easy balance to find, to speak from your own disappointed and complicated feelings, and at the same time to make a public statement. I acknowledge that. Just something I noticed and wanted to point out to you.
To me the blog should be about the disappointment. It’s the place where women feeling the same way search the web to find solace. It’s the hook into the bigger feast that is the community on Google+. That’s where the positive support and group energy really lies.
Are you a member?
i’m not in the community since I don’t want to sign up for google+. I’m in too many online communities as it is already 🙂 I can see what you mean. Still there remains the question of how do we talk publicly (and the blog is public, not the community) about ourselves.
I think she should talk about the pain and disappointment, because many of us aren’t given the permission to publicly grieve because society feels like we shouldn’t feel bad about our situations – when many of us are hurting. Many women talk about how they are happy to be single and “child free” but many of us do hurt and I thinks it’s great for Jody to talk about the “other” side – the side that many of us aren’t allowed to express.
Thank you -A. I am a positive person by nature but I see nothing wrong with ‘telling it like it is’ when it’s honest and relevant. We are allowed to be sad about how things have turned out, if that’s where we’re at… and to be able to express that allows us to find the support and company we need to ‘move on’ and embrace the ‘good stuff’, when we’re ready. Hugs, Jody x
I understand the points you’ve raised but from a personal perspective it’s been really important to acknowledge the many struggles childlessness can bring. Had GW been entirely focussed on positivity and how fantastic life can be without children I would probably have run a mile. That’s just not where I was when I joined and I wouldn’t have been able to connect with that at all. It was so important to me that the feelings I had were validated. I’d spent years in denial about how deeply it affected me and that denial was hurting me on so many levels. Having someone articulate what I was struggling with was crucial, it made it okay to feel those things and it gave me hope that there was something beyond that.
It is such a personal journey and we all need different things. Some of the things Jody writes about don’t necessarily apply to me but I still take something from her writing; It doesn’t focus solely on the negatives, it acknowledges the tough stuff and then encourages you to believe that there is a life beyond that. The G+ community is full of positivity and inspiration, as well as heartache. That’s what makes it such a special place.
I second your reply, Elena. Whatever age we are, why (especially as women) should we feel, or feel that people are trying to make us feel, anything less than? That is negative self talk. You are only as good as you allow yourself to feel.
Thanks in particular, Jody, for expressing everything that a single woman, who’s no longer even in her 40s, ever wanted to say to the supposedly sympathetic idiots making unhelpful remarks on how to solve her chronically single state.
Maybe we should all give up politely turning the other cheek to that stuff and shout a lot louder about it, until society learns how to treat our issues decently.
I think of Voltaire on this: “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” I think it’s stop to stop pronatalism ruling us and start answering back! Nothing’s going to change unless we do.
You summarized all the annoying advice quite well. Many of us who hit our forties still single are now experts at dating, but we are often given advice or judged by people who married at twenty-five and know nothing about the modern dating world.
I saw a huge difference too in my dating experiences at 39 (when I was still hopeful of becoming a mother) and at 48 (happily into my Plan B) in the way I was expected to be ‘grateful’ for any attention I got. My (perfectly reasonable) expectations were seen as foolhardy… but I challenge that … it’s only foolhardy if you’re NOT prepared to stay single rather than be with a partner not your equal. Being single is tough in our culture, but it’s better than it’s ever been, so I choose to focus on the positives – and stay single!
I’ve had that experience to– that I should lower my (reasonable) expectations– and I have chosen to remain single as well.
I like the comment of “anonymous”October 29, 2013 at 10:09 am. She preserved herself from many dangers when she was young. The good girl was a wise girl, and she should be proud of herself today.
I went though plenty of struggles during my youth but still was able to reach many of my objectives. I’m now well educated, healthy and full of energy at 50 to continue the fight. I do not regret the time and energy I spent improving myself. It would certainly be nicer to have a family today. However, I would not be the person I am today if I had become a mom and a wife.
The good girl with personal difficulties I once was was not very attractive. Today, I believe that I am an attractive and an interesting single woman. I’m sure many men are interested in single-childless women because we come with little baggage, and we had time to solve many personal issues.
A question for Jody: Is there as many childless-single men than childless-single women?
(English is not my mother tongue, please, forgive me for any mistakes)
In my book, I look at the seeming disparity between available ‘good men’ and ‘good women’ in the ‘shock absorber generation’ (those of us born in the 60s and 70s) and I think there is a disparity. The increased number of women going into higher education and the professions was NOT matched by a similar increase of men… so we now have the position where it’s not that there is a shortage of ‘good men’… but an oversupply of ‘good women’. We are living through a huge period of social change and this has not worked its way through yet… our generation is the one having to make a lot of adjustments and compromises… the whole concept of ‘marrying up’ is one that is creating a lot of issues… but it’s also related to the structural inequalities of patriarchy and the fact that motherhood is (often) a career killer. So, in short, it’s a complicated answer to a simple question!
Thanks Jody. Today’s blog totally resonated with me. I’m 46, never married, no children but like to consider myself grounded, well respected and full of passion for life. My friends can’t believe that after nearly 25 years of trying different ways of hopefully meeting a partner to settle down with and have a family, I still get back up on my feet and start again but it is draining. I have always worked full time so I feel my taxes have contributed to an economy that only seems to benefit families of all shapes and sizes, but I am not eligible for one single benefit.
I was at a function recently where everyone present had a child. The whole conversation revolved around babies and children. When I tried to contribute, the conversation automatically redirected back to the kids rather than engaging the topic I was bringing to the table. Every example of empathy you listed, I have experienced.
Thanks again Jody for reminding me that I am normal (and not alone)
Sue, Melbourne, Australia
Sue – I was at the BBC 100 Women Conference last week as I was selected to be one of 100 Women chosen to represent women’s voices today. I was on a panel debate about whether motherhood is a barrier to equality, and the whole debate got completely hijacked by the ‘motherhood is the most meaningful thing you can do with’ trope. My point of view – and the wider points of view I wanted to make about creating a fairer society for EVERYONE’S children to inherit were completely drowned out by sentimentality. Until mother’s learn to stop banging on about motherhood at every possible opportunity, we’re not going to be able to reach full equality. We have to stand up for ourselves and start pointing out to mothers that they are not doing mothers or nomos a favour with their baby-obsessed talk. I’ve been at functions like yours, and the alienation is extraordinary. It didn’t used to be like this – it’s a cultural moment – it WILL pass. So glad you’ve got us to talk to! (And yes, the taxes issue is one I’ll be tackling once I’ve got the GW Foundation going!) Jody x
Two words for you Jody – love (!) and gratitude, that such a forum exists to air these views and actually empower people to do something about their issues:-)
On a slightly different topic, I just finished reading an article making the rounds on the interwebs lately about the celibacy/childlessnes epidemic in Japan amongst my generation (40 and under) , something that may end up transpiring in the West as well . Very sad and disturbing, less so because of the childless aspect than the sense that there seems to be ever-dwindling optimism/human connection/ meaningful relationships going on in that society (Obviously many factors at play there, cultural, environmental and economic to name a few, but you get my drift I hope). Then I read about what the GW community is up to, and I start to have hope again for the future.
The core of our humanity is the connections we forge with each other, the love we can generate, whatever shape that love takes. And for increasing numbers of us, that life-force of love will be channeled through “plan B” lifestyles that can be just as fulfilling and meaningful as more conventional couple/ family unit – based configurations.
We NEED forums like this, and leaders like you, to remind us of the bottomless potential of the human heart. Thank you.
Thank you! Comments like yours keep me going when I struggle to keep afloat financially as I create GW! Motherhood is not the only way to contribute in meaningful, fulfilling and productive ways to society. I found the article about Japan utterly compelling and it’s a prime example of how socio-economic policies can distort human impulse to the point that young people can’t even be bothered to look to create relationships anymore. I can definitely imagine that happening more and more in the UK as the cost of living continues to rise extortionately whilst incomes are suppressed and work becomes more stressful & less secure. The post-war economic bubble has definitely burst in the West but a lot of people can’t bring themselves to accept that and somehow think that if we all work harder, and “lean in” (excuse me whilst I barf) we can make it all OK again… I truly believe that those of us who are the accidental pioneers by being childless and who are therefore ‘outside’ the system can see much more clearly what’s going on… and have the time, energy and compassion to embrace that chance. In 20 year’s time, the stuff we Nomos are experiencing and talking about will be mainstream… and we’ll be the elders with the wisdom of how to navigate it!
Thanks Jody, finding this site has made such a difference to me, given me confidence that I am not alone and helped me smile inside when the women I work with rabbit on endlessly about their children and now grandchildren – I know you are all there too and I can growl inside knowing you’d all be growling too! I was single for years and feel very blessed to have met my partner at 36, glad to have him in my life and I am grateful because I remember well years of the ‘double whammy’. I also was very careful not to get pregnant as a younger woman and sometimes regret those careful and fearful choices. I am 45 now. Oh well, we are where we are. I am very grateful to you for your work, I used to feel like an outcast, a failure, someone who hadn’t tried hard enough in society and missed out on the experience of parenting. Now I know I am not alone and there is you and lots of other intelligent, articulate, funny and powerful women alongside me! Thank you all.
PS I love your ‘why don’t you just adopt’ article – just read it aloud to my bloke – and the dog. Both agree.
Thank you for such an excellent article and to all the Gateway women who have commented. Although I am no longer single I spent most of my thirties single and childless and the way in which single people are treated has not been forgotten.
I agree that there is very little support for single women who wants to be mothers. INUK, of which I was member for a couple of years is very focused on couples having fertility treatment and I found very little evidence of support for people outwith this cohort. My husband and I haven’t gone down the IVF route and while I would adopt my husband doesn’t want to.
It is true that many people do just give advice and very few empathise when you tell them you didn’t choose not to have children. Aargh! It can be hard to maintain one’s dignity and identity beyond whether or not you have children.
Gateway women really has addressed these issues so thank you
thank you, jody. some days it is the singleness that breaks me down, some days it is the childlessness. the worst is when it is both.
i thought i was the only one in the world to hate weekends. i wish they didn’t exist, i hate that feeling of loneliness as everyone goes back to their families.
i also regret being a “good” girl and not getting pregnant by accident. their “accidents” become their whole lives. and no, i’m not eligible for adoption either.
Hey Jodie – fellow childless sister! We are so different in many ways yet scarily alike in some others. I see certain echoed experiences there of my own. And I so agree with you that dating over 40 is so not fun! It’s why I tend to want to stay single! I like to spread out in my bed too and am now a menopausal monstrosity filled with rage at the drop of a hat! It helps me to know I am not on my own in this dilemma which sometimes feels like a barren desert (no pun intended there). But obviously only partially. I have to face myself in the mirror – you cannot fool yourself in middle age and I cannot say I have always made intelligent choices in terms of career, men or morality. However, far worse, less deserving people than I have become parents. I will, I think always feel that tinge of regret at not having had a child. It’s something I always wanted and I did become pregnant twice, but miscarried both times. I don’t look down on upon anybody that never got pregnant. It just doesn’t happen for some people. When all is said and done – the end result is still the same. I don’t think having a partner will ever make a difference to how I feel to be really honest with you. My heart feels as empty as my womb is – to be brutally honest. I really don’t have much love left to give. You do get tired and despondent and the world does not understand. It is much safer in some respects – to close your door and hide that pain away. I have found in your website a safety net if you like to express these feelings and also to connect with others (whatever their story) and so not feel quite so isolated. I don’t know if I would be eligible for fostering or adoption either as I have a history of depression, for which I take medication. I have to admit that I too, however dislike the term “social infertility” it sounds so extreme. I was quite a social butterfly in my youth. I met people from all walks of life and I don’t regret that. It is just different when you are older and if you don’t have children – well I don’t even have to tell you the impact that it has on the whole blueprint of your existence. It’s like a full stop at the end of the sentence. The last line at the end of the novel. It just feels like you are over. Keep up the good work sister. We do love you – you know xxx
Oh my goodness, being a social worker and soon applying to hopefully adopt – as a well-informed, positive choice at 42!!!!- depression and taking meds for this is NO barrier to adoption at all!!! The process has changed as of 2013 and is much more user-friendly! Please think about it if u feel it may be for u!!! 🙂
O my you so echo my feelings.. I am 50
Excellent article, Jody! Double whammy doesn’t exactly apply to me because I have had 2 significant relationships (one that I’m currently in), but neither partner wanted kids. So, we always used birth control.
I’m a 70s baby. It is going to be interesting to see how childlessness statistics for those born in the 70s will compare with what we know already about 60s babies..
Jody, I applaud you for shining a light on single women who wanted to be mothers. IMHO, women get way too much of the “blame” in the media & generally if they wind up in their 40s, single & childless. Nobody is writing about the role that men have to play in all of this and why they seem to be slower to commit to adult relationships and fatherhood. I know many women who invested years in a relationship, only to have it break up (sometimes over the issue of having children). And too often, the men then go on to marry a younger woman & have children with them. Ouch.
That said — the term “social infertility” or “socially infertile” makes me cringe. Maybe because I am truly, medically infertile. It’s difficult enough these days to get people to understand what infertility is about and that it is a true medical/health issue, just like cancer or diabetes. I think to say you are socially infertile confuses the issue — and I’m not really sure why anyone would want to call themselves infertile when they really may not be by all the usual accepted definitions. It’s a valid issue, certainly, and it’s related to infertility, in that infertile people have difficulty with family building too — but to call it infertility? — I don’t know.
Just my $.02 on the matter.
Hi Lorabeth…It is so true that men play a part too. I don’t think society ‘obligates’ them to ‘settle down’ as it did for the majority of their forefathers. As Jody says later I think this is also a really big sociological change. Attitudes of both men and women plus economic factors, life expectations, and the role of technology too. These changes are sweeping across globally . The label ‘social infertility’ seems a bit harsh, but I think the social barriers can be just as powerful as physical ones for some of us as we get into our 40’s. I find less there are less opportunities to meet a possible mate on all fronts as friends couple up and there are “family” occasions in the home where there used to be open socialising in public places.
Thank you, Jody, I wish I had the guts to share your articles, maybe one day… 🙂 xx
Hole. In. One. This just says it all perfectly, Jody. Thank you. Now I need to pluck up the courage to share it on Facebook. It’s pretty much everything I so often want to say to people but rarely have the courage to, because I dread the advice that some will give, the pity of others and the embarrassment I feel about admitting how much I hate being in the “Double Whammy” situation.
Karen – once you realise that you’re part of a huge period of social change rather than an individual ‘failure’ you can start to cut yourself some slack… and hold your head up high again. The stigma of being a spinster is a ridiculous throwback to the ‘olden days’ and I hope that together, as Gateway Women sisters, we can vanquish it forever! Share it on Facebook – you might be surprised how many other women it helps. And how many friends, siblings & parents it gives a moment of reflection to…
If people out there are broody and childless and 40, why are adoption and fostering seen as the last thing they want to do?? In the UK there are over 4,000 children waiting to be adopted, over 9,000 children waiting for the security of being in foster care. As Gateway Women is scarily ‘childless and proud’ I’d kind of hesitated to put my head over the parapet, but next week is National Adoption Week. Of course the stories about the ghastly process are legend – but things have changed and are still changing and quite frankly being approved for adoption and fostering is SO much less grief than fertility treatments plus you give love and security to a kid who’s life chances of coming through the care system unscathed will be a miracle.
Childless by circumstance and choice is the reality – all power to you all. If there’s a little hole in your heart which still migh want to parent, please support National Adoption Week’s Thunderclap campaign so more people know that they can. Without the expense of fertility treatment. Doing some good for a kid who’s had a rough start in life. Single, over 40, gay – you’ll be welcomed. Please do it NOW! http://www.nationaladoptionweek.org.uk.
p.s. you were walking on the river path on Sunday by the Black Lion. We yelled at you, but you were in deep conversation and didn’t hear!
Many of us have been turned down for adoption, or would fail to meet adoption criteria in the UK. I would fail.
Have a listen to this interview I gave on exactly this subject last week on BBC radio “Outlook” and an article I wrote on the subject last year: Why Don’t You Just Adopt?
I did try to get the ‘Adoption Czar’ to engage in dialogue, but he wasn’t interested.
Perhaps BAAF might be open to hearing our point of view and perhaps working towards making adoption less of a pipe dream for single, childless women?
Sorry not to have seen you on Sunday! Hugs, Jody x
Did you hear the interesting item on non-standard adoptions with someone from Coram on Woman’s Hour yesterday morning? Over-40s (or much younger people) and singles need not despair of being considered for adoption, it seems.
Just commenting on this…”Yet, for some women this is not a situation they chose, but rather one that they’ve ended up in because they’ve made intelligent, honourable choices and behaved with decency and morality towards others.”
Thank you…I had spent my good college years trying to avoid sexually transmitted diseases like the plague and of course, years prior to that avoiding pregnancy. I thought I was doing the right things and now I feel punished for it. The burden is so intense, this double whammy…it is exactly that…you feel “not chosen”…or like “rejected goods.”
Why can’t the people around us understand how hard this is? If one more person tries to be helpful and tells me to try this or that or that they want to be single or that I have all this free time, I may just say something that I should not.
Perhaps you might like to forward this article to a few of the most persistent offenders! Sometimes this can be a really good way to open a new (and more helpful) kind of dialogue with our friends and family. Hugs, Jody x
Jody – your writing is so powerful. I’m not in the doubly-whammy category but this brought tears to my eyes. Can’t wait to get your book (holding out for paperback).Sue xx
Sue – thank you. My final proof copy of the book will be with me this week and so hopefully (goddess willing!) the paperback will be available to order on 1st November!
I’m in my early 50s. Not married and childless. It is very difficult because over the years I have tried to meet nice guys and it is been really horrible. Very nice things about having values tomorrow and I get guys writing. Sending pictures with their pants pulled down and private parts. It is very sad to me that over the years. This is mostly what I’ve experience and I have dated very little as a result. When I went to events to meet people guys wanted to just sext pictures. I can’t believe so many years, so gone by, and I just couldn’t meet quality… So have to accept not having a partner and no children. It’s very lonely, not having a family and I’m very concerned. I also got pulling over the years. By mail, saying that I had no value except for my body parts. And I was also called names because of my age and told that I should just except having an fwb. I don’t understand what’s wrong with the values of people today. I’ll stop because I’m a decent person that I would meet another decent person. I’m having a really hard time accepting never having a family and children.