I don’t like using the word childless to describe women or men without kids, even as a term for those who have longed to become parents. This is because to me childless woman sounds so desolate, so bleak, so final. But the thing is, for many, this subject position is wrought with grief.
In case you have yet to come across this TEDx talk or missed it when I shared it on The League of Fabulous Women Facebook page– below the text in the post is Melanie Notkin founder of Savvy Auntie and the women who coined the term P.A.N.K (professional aunt no kids).
Melanie gives a genuine and heartfelt talk on her own experience of being a ‘childless’ woman or what we might call childfree by circumstance (or that vile term we don’t really like to mention ‘socially infertile 😬). That is as opposed to being childfree.
There are poignant moments early in her talk about the very real sense of disenfranchised grief women who hoped for children of their own as part of a loving partnership feel, Notkin included. Women who didn’t just want kids, they wanted the whole shebang -a family unit. These women who experience a sense of loss and heartbreak at the lack of children of their own, because it is something they day-dreamt of, expected would happen and yearned for when it did not.
I think this talk speaks to so many women who haven’t found the right person or circumstances to realise their desire of becoming a mother. They didn’t deliberately delay motherhood as a specific life plan or strategy – it simply didn’t happen for one reason or another. And this is genuinely very, very sad. And, actually, if the stats are correct, being childless is a much more common occurrence than women who are childfree by choice.
Notkin also discusses how society in her view is what she calls ‘Mumopic‘. Being a mum is still revered as the ultimate form of identity and path to self-actualisation for women. The idea that ‘having it all’ or being successful and happy is mostly directed towards mothers having work/life balance and a career as well as bringing up children. Ergo -society’s notion of what a whole or successful woman looks like sadly still excludes women without kids. Childless women, Nokin explains, are other.
She also rightly points out not all childfree women are lounging around sipping cocktails, spending money on frippery, or irresponsible party girls, flakey ‘Along came Polly‘ types or hard-nosed driven career women. The discussion on stereotyping is nothing we have not heard before, yet it doesn’t hurt to point out again aloud, because basically…it sucks that childfree or childless women still get pigeonholed like this. And we need to keep calling it out.
I won’t spoil the whole thing as Notkin makes so many more valid and interesting points on being a childless woman in her short time, but I will let you know… it ends on an optimistic and motivational note!
It’s a sincere talk and I thoroughly recommend a watch/listen and hope you will share a link with your friends who might need it.