Check your ‘cat-lady’ preconceptions about childless women
- “49% = Number of women ages 40 – 44 who are voluntarily childless”
“More women choosing a childfree life”
Editor’s note: Kelly Wallace is CNN’s digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life. She is a mom of two. Read her other columns and follow her reports at CNN Parents and on Twitter.
(CNN) — Women without children like Patrice Grell Yursik, who just celebrated her 12th wedding anniversary, get the same questions all the time.
“I can’t even tell you how many cab drivers in Chicago, in New York, in L.A., have asked me, ‘So any kids? No kids, why no kids?’ It’s just the way that people engage with you,” said Grell Yursik, 35, of Chicago, creator of the beauty and lifestyle blog Afrobella.com.
She and her husband have not decided whether they want to have children.
Laurie White, a 43-year-old writer and social media manager, who has referred to herself over the years as “accidentally childless,” said people always come up with solutions for what they perceive as her “problem.”
“Why don’t you just parent by yourself? Why don’t you adopt? There are so many kids who need homes,” White, of Olney, Maryland, said people tell her. “It really discounts whether or not that’s something a) that I want to do and b) whether that’s something that’s really wise for me to do as a single person.”
Kitty Bradshaw, creator of an online destination covering lifestyle in Los Angeles and New York, said, “More and more guys are saying ‘Oh there must be something wrong with you if you are 35 and you’ve never been married and you’ve never had kids.’ ”
Bradshaw, White and Grell Yursik are not alone by a long shot; 47% of women between ages 15 and 44 don’t have children, according to 2010 U.S.
Census Bureau data, an increase from 35% in 1976.
That’s a massive group comprising nearly half the women of childbearing age, and yet this demographic remains misunderstood, poorly portrayed in the media and nearly invisible to Madison Avenue, many women without children say.
Best-selling author Melanie Notkin, 45, coined the term “The Otherhood,” the title of her newest book, to refer to women like herself who don’t have children either by choice or based on life’s circumstances.
In her case, she experienced what she calls “circumstantial infertility … the pain and grief over not having children” because she’s single.
Too often society perceives women like herself as making a choice between having a career and having love, marriage and children, she said.
“This implication that we have chosen a career as opposed to falling in love is, as I say in the book, about as preposterous for me as having an elephant as a household pet,” Notkin said at a recent panel discussion hosted by DeVries Global, a public relations and social media agency.
“I have never said no to a man who proposed to me with whom I was madly in love because I had a conference call to take.”
Pop culture certainly doesn’t help, Notkin and other women say.
Think about how women without children are often portrayed in television and film.
There’s the singularly focused career woman (think Peggy Olson on “Mad Men”), the frivolous fashionista waiting for Mr. Right (Carrie Bradshaw on “Sex and the City”) or the crazy cat lady, who sits home, with her cats, depressed and lonely.
“If you are single with no kids, you’re desperate, you’re in a house, you’re living with your parents, you’re overweight or you’re not a pretty girl. It’s just very negative and in most cases, that’s not the case,” said Kitty Bradshaw.
Now 35, she said she always dreamed of having children but heeded the advice from people who said she had plenty of time to wait.
“I also listened to the old saying, ‘Don’t go looking. It’ll come.’ So I didn’t go looking and it never came,” said Bradshaw, who recently moved to Los Angeles to actively look for a husband.
… Of the women without children, “almost half of them, 46%, actually want to eventually have children, 18% were on the fence and 36% … said no” they did not want kids, according to Michael De Cicco, senior director of research and analytics at DeVries Global. (Since the survey was conducted online, it may not represent the views of women who are less tech-savvy or don’t like answering questions online about such personal issues.)
.. Attention marketers: These women have power
What the survey also found is these women are a consumer force that marketers have not yet reckoned with: “Women without kids spend on average 35% more per person per month on groceries than moms,” according to the DeVries report. They also “spend on average nearly twice as much as moms on beauty and hair related products,” said the report.
“I think a lot of the brands that make advertising decisions still very much see the world through kind of a ‘Mad Men’ lens of womanhood,” said Grell Yursik, the married blogger who now has an annual conversation with her husband about whether they’ll have children.
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