Yesterday we heard from Jody Day, founder of Gateway Women, a friendship and support network for women who are childless by circumstance. Today, member Maria Hill shares what it's like to be in (what would have been) her grandmothering years without children, and how it affects her sense of age.
I am 66 years old and have no children. Circumstances and an unwilling husband closed that door for me.
As I age I find that I have a different experience of the process than my peers and family. I am told that I do not act 66. I do not feel like I am 66.
I plan to continue to work and therefore I work on my health so that it’s possible to do so. I know I’ll have to be self-reliant as I age because I do not expect anyone to be there for me. Getting older can be frightening for childless women because we may have less access to resources of support.
I find that because I do not have children I also do not have the story of life that goes with being a mother. It makes it difficult for me to connect with other women and many men who hold traditional views of the female role.
Women without children receive so many messages that we are failures. I feel shut away against my will because I do not fit the accepted definition of what it means to be female. In the United States, my home, the story of motherhood dominates the female story.
However, I feel free at the same time. I feel that at this point in time we are on the threshold of redefining what it means to be a woman since so many women are finding themselves in my situation. Carving out a new identity is a challenge because like many of my childless peers, I have difficulty formulating a new sense of a story for myself. I can create a new work life and am doing so by coaching highly sensitive people and by becoming an artist. However, it does not seem like it is enough. I want my own story – and it cannot be the one that the cultural system wants for me. At 66 I am embarrassed to admit that I do not have a clear sense of that story, just a clear sense of what it is not.
I am not willing to just sit in a corner and age silently. I am not willing to wither in silence. I intend to contribute as much as I can to the transformation that is going on right now in our complex human species. It is time that we acknowledge and celebrate the richness of women and allow them the full expression of their humanness.
Thanks to Maria. You can read her blog on highly sensitive people here.