My Secret Grief. Over 35, Single and Childless by Melanie Notkin
This author goes on quite a bit about motherhood, but this editorial could equally apply to women who desire marriage but are still single past the age of 35.
Like her, I get very offended by the negative assumptions people make over adult singlehood. The assumptions by people, but especially Christians, that if you are still single (and / or childless) once you’re in your 40s, it must be because you are too flawed to attract a spouse, or you must be career-obsessed, or whatever.
A lot of women, such as myself, stop going to church (and even stop being Christians) because never married, childless adults are not made to feel welcome. Most churches cater to married couples who have children.
- … The grief hit me in my mid-thirties without warning.
By all appearances, my life was fantastic, or pretty close.
… The sadness I’d feel around my period was deeper than hormonal. I was mourning the loss of one more chance at the family life I always dreamed of.
And I grieved alone.
Grief over not being able to have children is acceptable for couples going through biological infertility.
Grief over childlessness for a single woman in her thirties and forties is not as accepted. Instead, it’s assumed we just don’t understand that our fertility has a limited lifespan and we are simply being reckless with chance.
We’re labeled “career women” as if we graduated college, burned our bras and got jobs to exhibit some sort of feminist muscle.
Or, it’s assumed we’re not ‘trying hard enough,’ or we’re ‘being too picky.’ The latest trend is to assume we don’t really want children because we haven’t frozen our eggs, adopted or had a biological baby as a single woman.
This type of grief, grief that is not accepted or that is silent, is referred to as disenfranchised grief. It’s the grief you don’t feel allowed to mourn, because your loss isn’t clear or understood. You didn’t lose a sibling or a spouse or a parent. But losses that others don’t recognize can be as powerful as the kind that is socially acceptable.
Let me be clear. When you’re over 35 and heartbroken over a breakup with the guy who you hoped would be ‘the one’ or haven’t had a good date in a while or watch your close friends go on to their second or third pregnancy, it’s hard. It’s disarming. And sometimes, it’s unbearable.
… Turning 40 helped. Just the anticipation of turning 37… 38… 39 and remaining single was creating more anxiety than anything else in my life. Once I hit 40, I realized that despite my dreams (and deep biological and emotional desire to be a mother), I was still happy for all the other things in my life.
… I’m 42 now, and I’ve quietly moved on.
… The grief over never becoming a mother is one I will never get over, like the grief over losing my own mother 23 years ago. But like that kind of grief, with time, it’s no longer constant or active. Yes, there’s still hope I’ll meet a man who has the desire to have a baby with me and will be prepared to be with me through the treatments I may need to make that happen. Or grieve with me should they not work. But mainly, I just keep going, looking for love. Thankfully, there’s no biological time limit on that dream.
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(Link): How American Christians Were Influenced by 1950s American Secular Propaganda to Idolize Marriage and Children and Against Singles and the Childless -and how over-emphasis on “family” and lack of respect for singleness started a backlash against both – [both = marriage, having kids] (excerpts from ‘Pornland’ book)