Hosted by Jody Day, founder of Gateway Women and author of Living the Life Unexpected: How to Find Hope, Meaning and a Fulfilling Life Without Children (Bluebird/PanMac) with special guests Rachael Lloyd of eharmony UK and Melanie Notkin, founder of SavvyAuntie.com
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Sometimes being a single and childless woman can feel like a double-whammy in a society that privileges the rights of couples and mothers over the millions of wonderful women who are neither. And never has that felt more obvious than in this pandemic…
For this Gateway Women Masterclass Webinar, we’d like to explore the idea of ‘owning’ your single and childless identity as a way to reclaim your identity from the negative opinions of others (and maybe yourself too…)
“It promises to be a validating and empowering hour which will hold space for the sadness and difficulties arising from these mostly unchosen situations, as well as hopefully introducing you to new and supportive ways to make your peace with them.
Many single, childless women live their lives as if they are on ‘pause’ until real life begins; what would it be like if you could instead learn to celebrate and value your life today as well as holding space for a possible future partnership, should you wish that? And what if that is unlikely, undesirable or impossible for many different reasons? How do we affirm our worth in a society obsessed with what social scientist and singles-researcher Bella dePaulo has termed ‘matrimania’?
My guests for this webinar are two wonderful women I’ve known for years and who each bring their own personal and professional experiences of being childless due to not meeting the right partner as well as unchosen singleness. Both of them are shining examples of how to make peace with the way many modern women’s lives are turning out, without sugar-coating how hard that can be some days…
- Rachael Lloyd (UK) is a Senior PR and Communications Manager with eharmony UK and a long time supporter of Gateway Women, having reviewed Jody’s book for the British press. She is childless-by-circumstance and currently single and will share her own philosophy of how she makes that work for her. And with her eharmony hat on, she will also share insights into some fascinating research commissioned by e-Harmony about how online dating has changed during the pandemic – for the better, you’ll be pleased to know! You can also find Rachael on Instagram @love_by_rachael
- Melanie Notkin (US) is the founder of SAVVY AUNTIE: A Celebration of Modern Aunthood – a multiplatform lifestyle brand for cool aunts, great-aunts, godmothers and all women who love kids and a foremost expert in the U.S. on the emerging demographic of childless, often single, women. Her data and insights focus on the PANK (Professional Aunts No Kids) – the influential and growing female cohort she uncovered and coined in 2008. Melanie is the national bestselling author of Savvy Auntie: The Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers, and All Women Who Love Kids (Morrow/2011). And her reported memoir, Otherhood: Modern Women Finding a New Kind of Happiness (Seal Press/Penguin Canada 2014) received a Booklist Starred Review. You can find Melanie on Instagram (and most other social media platforms) @SavvyAuntie
If you would like to explore more about being single and childless and get support around that, here are some more resources:
- Gateway Women hosts a very busy ‘Single Life‘ subgroup in the Gateway Women Online Membership Community
- Two of our members, Joss (50s) and Julie (60s) were interviewed for this Full Stop Podcast episode ‘Single & Childless in a Pandemic’
- Shani Silver of The Single Serving Podcast interviewed Jody in January 2021 – listen and/or read the transcript here
- Living the Life Unexpected, Jody’s book, includes a section on ‘Grieving Alone: Solo Women’s Grief’ in Chapter 4 which has been expanded in the 2020 2nd edition. Find out more here
- The Australian author Donna Ward was interviewed by Jody about her book, ‘She I Dare Not Name: A Spinster’s Meditations on Life’ Watch/listen/read transcript here
- Jody’s blog ‘Forty, Single & Childless – Dammit!’ here
- Jody’s blog: ‘Double Whammy: Single and Childless’ here
- Jody’s blog: ’40, Single & Childless, Dammit!’ here
I have watched this amazing webinar for the second time, taking down my notes, pausing and rewinding to hear the fabulous thoughts of the three speakers again and again and again. I’m an Indian woman in her 40s, married and childless by circumstance. My second marriage, when I turned 30, was a lot to do with the fact that I wanted children. And when it didn’t happen, I was shocked and tried to assess my marriage from a new lens altogether, realising that there were going to be cracks that would be emotionally hard to seal.
The society was regressive and shockingly some of my own friends subjected me to terrible emotional abuse saying the meanest things to me. I found more support and understanding from my work colleagues who were actually married and very loving mums themselves. I came across Jody’s book in a bookstore in New Delhi when I was going through a lot of depression at my attempt at adoption getting shot down. People in my family who had supported me initially refused to support me and eventually I realised I didn’t want to do it alone. I gave up beautiful twin girls in the process and went through depression and terrible guilt of not being brave enough to script a different story altogether. In retrospect, I think it was best for the girls to get a better home than mine.
Like Rachel, I have “mixed feelings” about it till date.
Just yesterday, I went to a crematorium to be with my friend who lost her very young husband of 34 years very suddenly. It was traumatic, considering they were married for less than two years (a week from now would have been their second wedding anniversary). While my friend was in a state of shock, quietly sobbing, the boy’s mother screamed and kicked and hugged her boy’s lifeless body tight, refusing to let him go. She shrieked, screamed (a piercing scream that will haunt me for the rest of my life). In that moment, however, I identified with that scream, with that helplessness, with the final numbness that follows the madness of anger. I had let out a similar scream six years ago when I realised, finally, that I will never have children in this lifetime. And I love children, I always wanted my own to raise, to feed, to nurture… my friend’s dead husband’s mother had a panic attack that I “identified” with… I still don’t know what to make of it but I wanted to share it, especially while watching the webinar.
I love what is talked about not being “second sex within your own sex” and how we are constantly fed this narrative of “not being good enough if we don’t have children”. Thank you for this amazing initiative. This forum has really helped me evolve. In a society such as mine where typically women are only taught to succumb, sacrifice and stay silent, marry and have children, and take the brunt of whether they’ve eventually raised them well or not, for a “pushover” that I was, I’m glad I eventually found my voice. Literally. I was a very good singer when I was younger and I now nurture music as my baby. I quit my full time job as a production editor to focus on music — I continue to learn music from my gurus while teaching children (many of them my friends’ kids with whom I’m building a beautiful, healthy relationship.
Everything that happened in my life was to get me closer to music — my confused childhood, my failed relationships, my failed marriage, my childless by circumstance status… it was all heading in a direction to allow me to fully nurture music and raise it as the baby that I am proud of.
It came at a cost — I was depressed, jealous, suicidal — and I still wonder where I will be headed eventually but each time a kid comes online and happily shares with me everything about her day, and we sing together for 45 minutes, I feel like my journey has been worth it.
Thanks once again for the lovely webinar and namaste from India 😊🙏
About to turn 49, and the full physical and psychological symptoms of Menopause as a woman who very much wanted biological children and had the chance, are hitting me. My situation is complicated by being diagnosed with a personality disorder aged 45, moving to semi-rural Ireland from my home city of London on a whim, and after a lifetime of depression, feeling at peace with the idea of not hanging about to turn 50. Tough thing to write and read, but that is my reality right now. I have no doubt becoming an auntie again over Christmas, and being asked to step in and help care for the baby whilst also experiencing the beginning of hot flushes, has been yet another body blow to a fragile psyche. With all the other stuff to deal with, singledom is the least of my woes at this point. But I will attest that, yes, it is a double whammy. So much more to say, when this is all less raw I will do. Anonymous woman, Ireland.
Dear Lambeth Gal – I’m so sorry to hear that the grief of childlessness and menopause are coming at you simultaneously – this is something so many of us experience and it’s DAMN HARD. You might like to read my article back from 2014 on ‘The Childless Menopause‘ and maybe my recent interview in the menopause book “Still Hot” where I write about this. I’m sorry to hear too to read about your mental health issues and how hard it might be to be around babies when you’re grieving your own. Hugs, Jody x
Thanks Jody for the reply. I had just written the whole story, but not sure this is the place for it. I have been following and occasionally contributing on GW for almost 9 years now. For various reasons, it hasn’t got easier. Living first in a small town here and now in the countryside, it definitely feels much more isolating than when I lived in London. I know I could reach out to other GW women in cities, but because my life has been so ’empty’ and unconventional in many other ways besides my childlessness, I feel that I don’t fit in anywhere. It is what it is, but I am thankful to be able to take comfort at least online from your platforms. Claire x
Hi C – we have an Irish sub-group in our private online community that meets regularly on Zoom for a ‘Gateway Gathering‘. It could be a way to ease your isolation? Hugs, Jody x