Like Jennifer Aniston, I am no less of a woman because I am childless

I may not be a mother, but I have a happy and interesting life

Share

When Jennifer Aniston complained this week that she was tired of seeing her value as a woman undermined by her failure to have a child I was tempted to embark on a little victory jig around the office.

She spoke for so many women over 35 who either never wanted or were just never able to have children – be it through fertility issues or so-called circumstantial infertility (being unable to find a suitable partner during their fertile years).

Jennifer, 46, insisted that her success was in no way reduced by her failure to ‘birth a child.’

"I’ve birthed a lot of things, and I feel like I’ve mothered many things,” she said “And I don’t feel like it’s fair to put that pressure on people.”

Her experience mirrors the prejudice the rest of us so-called ‘nomos’ (non mothers) frequently tackle.

Recent figures show that one in five women now reach the age of 45 without having a baby, and that figure is likely to rise. Yet we who fail to breed are often regarded as a desperate minority group – impossibly selfish and unnatural.

I have certainly felt like the deviant outsider during formal family occasions, social gatherings, office water-cooler moments and, depressingly, on dates with mature men who are quick to issue warnings about not wanting (new or additional) children themselves.

It doesn’t seem to matter whether you have ‘birthed’ great friendships, love affairs and positive life experiences. Unless you’ve had a baby you are not deemed a real woman. You could be on the board of a city bank, save lives, do bundles of charity work, bake like Mary Berry – or simply have a happy life in the suburbs. Regardless, if you are a childless woman over 35, you are likely to encounter people who view you with pity and suspicion.

I recently fought off a series of very personal interrogations at a dinner party dominated by married couples. They could not come to terms with the fact I was (still) single and childless in my early forties.

‘I suppose you are just not very good at relationships,’ said one thrice-married woman, as she threw down her umpteenth glass of Chardonnay.

But my life has been anything but tragic. Twenty years ago I embarked on a career in journalism which brought me into contact with people from all walks of life, most of whom I found infinitely fascinating. I’ve interviewed rock stars, soap stars, politicians and the hugely-inspiring survivors of rape, bombings and plane crashes.I’ve travelled the world and had exciting love affairs.

The truth is I would have liked to settle down and have children in my early thirties but the right man never came along and I didn’t see the point in settling for a loveless marriage. Still, it was a bit of a shock waking up one day and realising, as my late thirties sped by, that my chances of becoming a mother were dramatically receding. Like many women, I went through a period of adjustment and I dare say considerable grief as I realised the future I had imagined with a husband, dog and 2.5 children was never likely to happen.

A huge part of my coming to terms with my child-free status came via Jody Day’s Gateway Women - a support network for childless women over 35. (www.gateway-women.com). Jody (whose marriage failed after repeated attempts to get pregnant) is passionate about helping other childless-by-circumstance women grieve their losses and restructure their lives. Her book Rocking The Life Unexpected helped remove the guilt and shame I felt about my childless status and I would urge anyone struggling with these issues to grab a copy (Ms Aniston included).

Nowadays, I can honestly say I do not dwell on my childless status. I love my nieces and nephews and I’m actually pretty baby mad - but that doesn’t mean I need to ‘birth’ my own child.

I may not be a mother but I can honestly say I have a happy and interesting life, and at 42 there is precious little I would change. While things probably haven’t turned out quite the way nature intended, I accept that the best-laid plans often go awry. Survival is about adapting.

My own view is that the secret to a successful life is finding a lasting sense of contentment – and there are so many promising paths to fulfilment for today’s educated, sassy and independent women.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Shia LaBeouf is one of Brad Pitt's favourite actors in the world ever, apparently  

Shia LaBeouf to Luis Suárez: Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Ellen E Jones
Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay's Chris Martin “consciously uncoupled” in March  

My best and worst stories of 2014

Simmy Richman
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015