One week today, on Monday 27th June 2016 I’ll be part of the UK’s second Ageing Without Children conference.
It’s the next hurdle (of many) to face when coming out of denial about not being a mother when you’d wanted to be, and it’s one of the scariest. Because when you add ageism to pronatalism and sexism what you get is not a high score in Scrabble but a cold shiver.
Because who’s going to look after me when I’m old? Yep. That thought.
For many of us, the first time we really start to ‘lean into’ that thought (thanks for nothing Sheryl Sandberg, not all of women have childcare concerns top of our list of worries!) is when we’re involved with worrying about/managing our own ageing parent’s lives. And if you’re (a) a woman and (b) the childless sibling, the chances are that’s there’s an unspoken expectation in your family that this is YOUR job. And perhaps that’s fine with you and it’s something you do with love and gratitude.
But who’s going to be there to do all this stuff for me?
Well, it’s not going to be our children. And yes, I know, parents say “I didn’t have children so that they could take care of me in my old age!” and I believe them, as it never, ever crossed my mind in the 15 years I was trying to conceive. But if you very gently ask them as a follow-up question, what plans they’re putting into place to make sure this doesn’t happen, you’re likely to met with a blank stare at best… Because let’s face it, the public discourse around ageing is so utterly bonkers that even parents prefer not to go there!
Dying along and being eaten by cats or formation skydiving seniors. Hmm. My cat’s way too fussy about her food and skydiving’s never been my thing… So what about me?
That’s why I’m part of AWOC.org, the Ageing Without Children campaign set up in the UK two years ago by Kirsty Woodard and three others (including me). We’re an unfunded UK organisation and the only ones speaking up on behalf of the 1 in 5 (and growing) UK adults (men included) ageing without children. There are solutions, but to generate them first of all we need to be able to talk about ageing without children without hiding behind the furniture!
We’ve got top speakers on subjects such as:
- alternative retirement villages
- legal stuff
- later life careers
- reimagining the dreams of youth
- intergenerational contact
It’s also a great chance to meet other women (and men) who are ageing without children and to see that we’re actually a pretty interesting bunch really, and not the crazy cat/bag ladies, career women and weirdos that we’re often portrayed as (and which sadly we sometimes think ‘others’ like us will be like, hence we don’t attend events like this…)
Not engaging with the subject of ageing is an option for parents and nomos alike. It’s just that the consequences for us are harder to dodge.
If you can’t come along this year, please do consider joining AWOC.org as a member and/or join or start one of our local (UK) groups. We’re four unfunded volunteers speaking up for ALL of us ageing without children in the UK. We’re putting our needs on the public policy agenda. As far as I’m aware (and please correct me if I’m wrong) we’re the first organisation in the world dedicated to this, so if you’re not in the UK, perhaps you could join us and then start something closer to home?
See you at Woodbrooke? I’ve decided to cancel my skydiving with cats lesson that day.