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


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. ( 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

Database Administrator

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: The role could involve w...

Science Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualified secondary s...

Deputy Head of Science

£22000 - £36000 per annum + MPR / UPR: Randstad Education Southampton: Our cli...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £35000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nigel Farage has urged supporters to buy Mike Read's Ukip Calypso song and push it up to the No 1 spot  

My limerick response to Mike Read’s Ukip Calypso

Simon Kelner
The number of ring ouzels have seen a 30 per cent decline in the last 10 years  

How the sight of flocks of ring ouzels helps to turn autumn into the new spring

Michael McCarthy
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London