Otherhood – An overlooked demographic – the Childless and Childfree Women and Singles (links)
The book Otherhood: Modern Women Finding A New Kind of Happiness by Melanie Notkin is available for sale on Barnes and Noble, and other sites.
From a page about the book:
- More American women are childless than ever before—nearly half those of childbearing age don’t have children.
While our society often assumes these women are “childfree by choice,” that’s not always true.
In reality, many of them expected to marry and have children, but it simply hasn’t happened. Wrongly judged as picky or career-obsessed, they make up the “Otherhood,” a growing demographic that has gone without definition or visibility until now.
Disclaimer: I am not anti-motherhood, nor necessarily against people taking their mothers out to brunch on Mother’s Day.
I am, however, against the onslaught of syrupy Mother’s Day hoopla on and before the day, and the church services that honor mothers because:
- Some people (women included) were abused by their mothers and so find the holiday awkward or painful,
- some people had or have mothers who are/were cruel or overly-critical,
- some people’s mothers are dead and they miss them terribly,
- some women desire to be a mother but cannot because they are infertile, their spouse is infertile, or they are single and cannot find “Mr. Right” (and don’t believe in getting pregnant outside of marriage, or don’t feel they could support a baby alone)
- some women choose to be child free, but feel excluded or shamed by church and secular staggering emphasis on motherhood on the holiday
Some Christians have turned motherhood (as well as fatherhood and marriage) into idols, which they should repent of.
This post discusses “Otherhood” (women who delay motherhood for years, or who are infertile, or ones who were open to having children but who’ve not met “Mr Right,” and for whatever reason, do not want to have a child while single, but would prefer to be married before having kids)
- Melanie Notkin wanted love, marriage, and then the proverbial baby carriage — in that order.
By the time she reached her early forties, the entrepreneur and author was still single and appreciated the likelihood that, despite wanting desperately to be a mother, she might never give birth to a child on her own.
Like many women her age, Notkin, 44, a Montreal native, expected to reap all the social, economic, and political equality that her mother’s generation didn’t have. At the same time, in addition to her education and her career, she anticipated a traditional family track.
In her new book, released today, “Otherhood: Modern Women Finding A New Kind of Happiness,” Notkin uncovers the personal stories of women like her, who are part of a growing demographic trend and suffer what she calls “circumstantial infertility.”
Often, people presume that when a woman like Notkin is childless, it’s probably by choice. But many of the childless women in their thirties and forties simply want to do it the “old fashioned way,” she says, and find the right relationship before making a lifetime commitment to have kids.
Q. Who are the women in the “Otherhood?”
The “Otherhood” is made up of well educated, happy and financially independent women who find, that as their fertility wanes, they are still single and childless.
There’s this myth that women in the Otherhood are overly romantic, and waiting for the fairytale or prince charming to come along, that we have this naiveté about our fertility.
But that’s not so.
Women in the Otherhood are holding out for love and we hope that some day, we will get married and have a baby, before it’s too late. In the meantime, we’re nurturing friendships, building careers, and are active in our nieces’ and nephews’ lives. These are not women who sit around and feel sorry for themselves or wait for life to happen to them.
Q. We hear about the pain of infertility, but you say single women who are not actively trying to get pregnant can also experience the same emotions?
Yes! This is the crux of what the women in the Otherhood feel and we’ve been taught to hold it all inside, or what psychologists sometimes call disenfranchised grief.
It’s as if the only people who suffer from childlessness are married couples who are trying to have a baby.
But single women can feel the same kind of sadness and loss over not being able to be a mother.
Like I say in my book, there’s the pain of trying to have a baby and you can’t, and then there’s the pain of not even being able to start trying.
The single woman’s infertility grief is “circumstantial” — she hasn’t met the right partner yet—and it’s entirely unacknowledged.
Q. What’s your response for women who get told “you’re just being too picky” and that’s why you aren’t married yet?
That’s another one of the common myths that women in the ‘Otherhood’ get all the time, that they don’t know what a huge compromise and sacrifice marriage is, or that we should just settle already or that we would have if we really wanted to be a mother.
I say, be honest.
We are never going to change the conversation, if we keep following the same script.
Answer from your heart and express your authentic desire. For me, that means saying, I’ve always had the expectation of love, and marriage, and motherhood, but I’m unwavering in my desire to find the right person and I don’t want to have a baby on my own.
…Q. Isn’t that [wanting marriage and a baby with a spouse, as opposed to freezing your eggs to have a kid as a single parent] anti-feminist?
Not at all. If you go back to Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique,” ground zero for the feminist movement, it was never meant to eschew love, marriage and children if that’s what a woman wanted.
Feminism was meant to give women the freedom to live our lives to our fullest potential.
And I defend any woman who wants to remain child-free or who wants to have a baby on her own, but for me, there is this emotional bias towards a traditional experience when it comes to love, marriage and motherhood.
- by BY SARAH BOESVELD, POSTMEDIA NEWS
It’s time they got some respect. “The rise of childless women may be one of the most overlooked and underappreciated social issues of our time,” Notkin, 45, writes in the book’s introduction. “Never before have so many women lived longer before having their first child, or remained childless toward the end of their fertility.”
She spoke with Sarah Boesveld:
Q: Our society reveres motherhood. But what is Otherhood?
A: Otherhood is a cohort of women, mostly generation X – the women who were born expecting that they’d have the social, economic and political equality our mothers weren’t born with, but that we’d have the husband and kids that they got.
So many of us are among the most well-educated, the most financially independent – some of us are the most fabulous women – and remain single and childless as our fertile years wane.
They’re looked at as so other than mother, as if they have career aspirations that overtake their desire for love or whether they’ve somehow delayed this idea, that collectively we all held up our college degrees and said ‘Let’s co-conspire not to have children until the very last minute of our fertile years.’
And of course, that’s not true.
Just because love didn’t fit into that window that society expected of us, doesn’t mean that
a) it won’t come, or that
b) we’re making the wrong choice in waiting for it.
Q: ‘Choice’ is such an operative word in all of this – people saying “You made your choice” as a kind of admonishment.
A: People want to somehow quantify the value of our choices and put them on a timeline as if there’s this warranty on them – “You better go back and rethink those choices.”
Because choice is a positive word that comes out of the feminist movement, it means that we can choose to wait for the right man.
But what it flips to is “Well, you’ve taken the choice too far – you’ve waited too long, clearly you’re making the wrong choices, you’re being picky, maybe you’re not picky enough.”
And finally it’s this idea that we’ve chosen this path on purpose – that we have chosen not to find love, or that we’ve chosen not to have children.
But the majority of North American women and men want marriage.
Q: How did that happen? Fallout from feminism?
A: A lot of movies show the man as a boy that never grows up.
So the boys stay boys and women – 28, 29, 30 – are starting to get anxious and want to get married, and men are like 38, 40, 42, all of a sudden now they want to do it.
It’s a decade later. But we’re considered ‘desperate’ in our 30s.
I wanted to talk about the existentialism inherent here. ‘Other’ is a very existential word. Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex talked about women second to men.
Now the childless woman is second to mom.
We have this mom-opia, this mom-opic view of the world, even though there are fewer moms now.
So if a woman is to measure her life based on what society expects of her, what she expects of herself and she isn’t living her true authentic self, if she doesn’t have that self-actualization, she’ll never be happy.
So the book turns this on its head and really asks her to take another look at who she is and move forward toward that self-actualization. Before I created Savvy Auntie (her lifestyle brand), I remember literally saying ‘I’m stuck.’ I didn’t know what to do.
(Link): OTHERHOOD – Why We Should Be Celebrating Other’s Day by Melanie Notkin
- by Melanie Notkin
… Yet, despite not becoming a mother, I find myself remarkably happy this Mother’s Day. While I recently turned 45, it’s the not the kind of happiness that may come from being on the other of grief over my childlessness, although time has been healing this womb, it seems.
I’ve found my happiness because of what I now know through the research and writing of my new book, Otherhood: Modern Women Finding a New Kind of Happiness, and through and my work with DeVries Global PR on their unprecedented national research study on moms and non-moms, entitled: Shades of Otherhood.
…There is what I call a “Mom-opia” in the media, a myopic view of womanhood as motherhood. It’s as if the “W” for woman was inverted to the “M” for mother and every woman is seen through mother-colored glasses.
The irony of this mom-opia is that there are no more mothers today than there were a generation ago. In fact, in 1975, 35 percent of women in their childbearing years were childless. Today, that number is 47 percent. And when most women do have children, it’s later than ever, if at all. Twice as many women end their fertile years without become mothers today (19 percent) than did a generation ago (10 percent).
The focus on motherhood as success and the norm can make women without children feel less-than, as if they only fully become women once they are mothers. Childless women are often sidelined in the media as the frivolous “Carrie Bradshaw” type or the incomplete “Bridget Jones” type.
The infantilization of grown women who are childless by circumstance, by biology, or by choice can have the effect of feeling unnatural, left out or left behind, and of feeling less valuable in society.
Studies have shown it can also make a woman feel less feminine, as having children is what society believes a woman does. Yes, she may have other things in her life, but becoming a mother is her raison d’etre.
…When childless women label themselves “career women” as if we made a choice between paying the rent and falling in love and having children with a partner we love, we are continued to be labeled “career women” in the media, i.e. women who are too career focused to feel any maternal emotion.
…And yet, I don’t know one woman who has spent thousands of dollars and gone through invasive treatments to freeze her eggs just to get ahead in her career. Women who freeze their eggs outside of a health issue are waiting for the right relationship before motherhood, and in the meantime, insuring their fertility.
Plus, we don’t have to make a choice between motherhood and career.
There are many successful married mothers who have careers. Besides, men who work are not labeled “career men.” No one suspects they have made a choice to work instead of finding love, marriage and fatherhood.
… If not too focused on our careers, then we are scolded like children for being too “romantic,” waiting fruitlessly for a fairytale “Prince Charming” who doesn’t exist.
We are not waiting for a man in tights to show up on his horse.
We’re grown women more than capable of taking care of ourselves.
We don’t need a man, but that certainly doesn’t mean we don’t want to be with one we love.
Some will say that we’ve “delayed” marriage and motherhood. In a 2011 report, the U.S. Census referred to single, childless, college-educated women in their thirties part of a so-called “Delayer Boom,” as if we had some sort of co-conspiracy to hang up our diplomas on the wall and declare in unison not to get married and have children until the eleventh hour of our fertility. We are simply finding it difficult to meet men who want marriage and parenthood at the same time we do.
Some assume all childless women never wanted children, or didn’t want them enough, and speak of us all as “childfree,” the term used by those who choose not to have children (and I absolutely defend and champion that choice).
When those of us who are childless by circumstance — and the majority of childless women want or wanted children within the context of a relationship — don’t speak honestly about our experience, we continue to remain the silent majority.
Childless women are spending a good part of their lives looked at as second to mothers.
And when these women believe they are “other” to mother, they will always think of themselves as second-to or less-than mothers.
And the media will agree. It’s up to my cohort to speak of our experience so that the media echoes it back to us and to the rest of society.
…I am happy today, as Mother’s Day comes, because I know that I am not less-than “mother.” …
This is the next era for feminism: Equality for childless women.
- by Barbara Thau – Contributor
Some of the biggest marketers in the U.S., from national retail chains to consumer products giants, make them feel invisible.
No matter that they account for a whopping 38% of women in their childbearing years in the U.S., are 19 million strong (and growing) and wield significant spending power.
As retailers and consumer products companies lavish attention on mothers, not only in the run up to the big holiday, but year round, women without kids are often left out of their advertising narratives.
But in ignoring this demographic, marketers are leaving money on the table, revealed “Shades of Otherhood,” a new study conducted by public relations firm DeVries Global that was inspired by “Otherhood: Modern Women Finding a New Kind of Happiness,” a book by author/entrepreneur Melanie Notkin.
The study surveyed 1,000 20- to 44-year old non-moms from diverse backgrounds who are single, married, straight, gay living with a partner, divorced, widowed, etc., as well as 1,000 moms.
The Purse Power Of The Otherhood
Among the salient findings of the study, women of the “otherhood” are “thriving career-wise,” and 75% of them had some college education or above, compared to 67% of women with kids, according to a report on the research.
Indeed, “otherhood is a sign of social progress … and empowerment,” said Hannah Seligson, a contributor to The New York Times who has become a voice for Millenials and collaborated on the study, during a recent panel discussion in New York on the topic.
And the otherhood has ample earning power.
The others outspend moms on beauty, personal care and household products, the survey showed.
They spend nearly twice as much a month on beauty and hair-related products, ringing up to nearly $1,200 per year. (They are more likely than moms to shop in a drugstore versus a big box retailer like Walmart or Target .)
What’s more, women without kids spend an average 35% more per person monthly on groceries than moms.
Just like women with children, members of the otherhood enjoy shopping and cooking, yet food-related advertisers, from grocery chains to suppliers, often depict a traditional family around the table, the survey said.
These non-moms “are not just ordering from Seamless every night,” Seligson said. “They’re cooking and building a home.”
Carrie Bradshaw: A Reductive Cliché
When it comes to apparel and accessories, the others spend on par with mothers, contrary to the cliché of the single, frivolous career woman burnished by the Carrie Bradshaw character in “Sex and the City,” who squandered a $40,000 down payment for an apartment on shoes, panel members noted.
Indeed, by and large, the others are financially responsible shoppers, the survey found.
“She’s not the spinster old maid and she’s not Carrie Bradshaw,” Notkin said.
Panel members debunked the oft-trotted-out notion of the career woman who chose work over marriage and family.
“I have never said no to a man who proposed to me, with whom I was madly in love, for a conference call I had to take,” Notkin said.
And the clichéd depiction in popular culture of the cold careerist who’s clueless around children persists.
By contrast, the survey found that children play an active role in 80% of the lives of the others, such as nieces, nephews and friends’ children.
Although the majority of the non-moms surveyed said they wanted children, most said they could picture a happy life without them.
The non-moms surveyed include women who have chosen a life without kids and those who’ve faced “circumstantial infertility,” said Notkin, who falls into the latter group and spoke with a compelling candor about it.
“I have grieved deeply for my childlessness,” she said. And when marketers “assume we are mothers, many of us tend to feel less than. It tends to affect our psyches.”
Tips For Marketing To The Others
Marketers would be wise to woo the others with inclusive advertising messages that cast them as equal to – not less than — mothers, panel members said.
That means “celebrating the values of being a woman” that go beyond motherhood, said community psychiatrist Dr. Janet Taylor, during the discussion.
While this sounds deceptively simple, the belief that meaningful womanhood must involve motherhood is commonplace. And it’s one that’s often baked into consumer marketing and advertising messages.
To that end, in reaching out to the others, marketers should first assess their internalized assumptions about this group. The fact of the matter is, “We all buy toilet paper and paper towels,” said Rebecca Eisenberg, deputy editor of content curator Upworthy, during the discussion.
Some takeaways for marketers:
•Depict the others as a hero to her nieces and nephews. “They are a big part of her life,” the report says.
And as a general proposition, recognize that you “don’t have to give life to enjoy life,” Dr. Taylor said.
Related posts, this blog:
(Link): Do Married Couples Slight Their Family Members as Well as Their Friends? / “Greedy Marriages” (Studies show that Married Couples (and ones with kids) are more selfish and self absorbed than Childless or Un-Married People)
(Link): Totally Obnoxious Parent: Childless Couple Who Donates to Childrens Charities Lambasted by Snotty Adult Sister for Not Showering Her Kids with Christmas Presents – Parents Who Discriminate Against the Childless or Childfree