never married, over forty, a little bitter

on the other side

In her book, “Ready: Why Women Are Embracing the New Later Motherhood,” Elizabeth Gregory, director of the Women’s Studies Program at the University of Houston discovered that older mothers are usually more emotionally ready to cope with parenting. Gregory says that “many older mothers have met their career and personal goals so they can and want to focus on family.” Life experience is a boon in terms of translating work experience into running a household. She also notes that marriages among older women, almost 85 percent are married when they become mothers, tend to be more stable. Older, single first-time moms have built a stable support network by the time they have a child.

Although older mothers may face infertility issues, may have more difficult pregnancies, and are more likely to have Cesareans (National Institute of Health), on an overall, the positives outweigh the possible problems for the women over 35 who are fueling the trend to motherhood later-among them, a group called Motherhood Later rather than Sooner, a resource for midlife mothers. Women over 38 using assisted reproductive methods adjusted in almost the same ways to pregnancy as those who were younger, and older mothers scored higher on things like ability to handle challenges and flexibility according to a study conducted in Sidney, Australia further underscoring Gregory’s results.

John Mirowsky, sociology professor at the Population Center at University of Texas who also works with the National Institute of Health says the ideal age to give birth is between 34 and 40. On the plus side he reports that those mothers experience better health, have healthier babies, and are less likely to turn to risky behavior. Much of this excellent news relates to the fact that older mothers tend to have more education and to be more financially as well as emotionally secure.

off the radar

There are plenty of reasons babies are not on the radar for 20-something women: student debt, the ultra-competitive job market, the precarious nature of work, the high cost of real estate, and the uneven ratio of women to men at universities have contributed to marriage and parenthood delays. A culture of self-actualization, which seems to value personal gratification above all, is emphasized in this generation, making the concept of raising a child seem preposterous to many.

“I think that taking the 20s off the table the way we have done if we want to be upwardly mobile at all doesn’t leave us a lot of room,” said Judith Shulevitz, the science editor at The New Republic whose December cover story ‘How Older Parenthood Will Upend American Society’ stoked debate on the possible costs of having children over 40.

“I’m not saying everybody has to go have babies in their 20s because I wasn’t going to. But I think as a society if we take that off the table for anyone who wants to be part of the upper middle class and a woman who wants to independently be there, not reliant on a husband, it’s tough.”

the why factor

the notebook phase

The more I focused on the positives, the negatives moved to my mind’s backburner. “I can’t stand my job, I’m miserable, I am going to crack any day now” became “It’s not a stimulating job, but I’m still okay.” I can also accept my single status, regardless of what other people think. I’m not defective, I’m not a weirdo (not all the time), but I have had obstacles to relationship bliss that I have worked through and that wisened me into the person I am today.

Living solo, I can walk around my apartment half-dressed, eat my lunch standing up, and spend Saturday night with my notebook instead of worrying about planning an outing or a meal that he would enjoy. I like date night, but I like time with my notebook too. I can accept that this is a notebook phase.

I am grateful to live in Oakland, California, the heart of the liberal San Francisco Bay Area, where I’m not considered odd for having never married. Had I stayed in Smyrna, Tennessee, I am certain I would be quizzed daily on “Why aren’t you married?” and “What’s wrong with you?”

Ain’t nothin’ wrong with me, Vicki, not one single thing.

the policies

By the time Jamie is a full-fledged adult, she has likely already gone through economic shocks that have depleted her savings, if she had any, and impacted her personal relationships. Unless Jamie’s family has enough money to cushion these blows, economic and job insecurity either for herself or her partner will take their toll. The moment Jamie starts getting comfortable in a relationship — planning for a future life as a couple and talking about having kids — the prospect of economic setbacks interferes.

Those constantly tossed around by their jobs and unable to find firm economic footing will have challenges getting to the commitment stage. Jamie may decide that given the insecurity of economic conditions, committing to a partner or a family is just too risky. When the future is unforeseeable, and you can’t really know what you’re signing up for, why sign up at all? Another possibility is Jamie may decide that economic calculations are more important than romantic attraction or compatibility in her choice of mate.


In middle age, Jamie will want to feel a sense of usefulness and pride in her accomplishments. But American society is structured to make these things elusive.

Americans can no longer count on a stable career, and unfortunately, we have not set up reasonable policies, like basic incomes, to compensate for this situation. Between deliberate wage suppression, deregulation, unfair tax polices, and austerity measures, Jamie, like so many Americans, may find herself at the mercy of ruthless corporate practices. For Jamie, this means that her strong psychological need for security and stability may keep her from achieving social cohesion and stable family life. With little free time and precious few vacations, Jamie has not had enough time to establish hobbies, connect with nature, or engage in civic activities. She may find herself with little deep involvement in the world.

As a woman, things are especially precarious for Jamie. Recent research by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers suggests that the subjective well-being of American women has dropped both in absolute terms and in relation to men.

little voices

So after all this, I wonder if I even WANT to be in a relationship anymore. Could I stand anyone micromanaging my life even down to what I watch on television? Ugh. Never. I think I love being single but I still wonder what it is that makes me breakdown and post yet another profile on another online dating site. What is it? What is it that stands between me in reality (relatively happy) and that nagging voice that says to me, “you have to find someone and soon! You’re getting old!” I have noticed a direct correlation between my contentedness and how long I have been single and they are positively correlated! Does the little nagging voice come from society? Television talk shows? Commercials? My friends? Is it none of these because it is coming from me? Is it something evolution-related? So I have someone to take care of me but then again, most men are lazy and the last thing they want to do is take care of you when you get old….you are supposed to take care of THEM when they get old, remember?

Ah yes, the little nagging voice that reminds me I am still single and “should find someone.” Am I just afraid to let it go? Why am I afraid to strangle that little voice? I don’t know. Yet.

the cheapening

I did fall in love once with a wonderful man but we did not meet online. We met one another at a botanical garden. He had no agenda. No script for me. No role for me to play. He was funny and when we met, he made me laugh. It was simple. It was fun. I could be myself as could he. We were just two human beings. Not a checklist of characteristics. Online dating cheapens these experiences. Men need to ask women out like in the old days. Men need to look around at the women in their lives and get off the computer. I still remember sitting next to a very appealing man at bar in the Bay area and what did we talk about? Online dating. We laughed about it. Joked about some of the people we met. Then after a few minutes when I could not get my courage up to give him my phone number, he turned to me, laughing, to tell me he was going home to check his online dating site. There I was. A perfectly fine woman…and he was going home to check his computer. This is sad.

Have I found a man in 5 years of online dating? No. I still think the way we should meet our partners is through, God forbid, chemistry. This is the sure fire way and the way our ancestors met as well. Chemistry, pheromones, circumstance, and timing. This has not changed and online dating will never replace this. We need to bring back the Saturday night dances…and we need to summon up our courage. Not hide behind a trend that has turned the pleasures of love into a commodity only to leave the vast majority of us, still alone.


Sorry, bro, but you’re running out of excuses for your ageist misogyny. If fertility issues and birth defects were that much of a concern for your family planning, you would have discovered early on in your Google search that your biological clock is ticking, too.

Furthermore, if society were as hung up on avoiding infertility and birth defects as it claims to be, there would be just as much of an uproar over men delaying parenthood as there is for women. But alas, we’re so accustomed to holding women responsible for all aspects of family planning that there’s no room for new information challenging our conventional wisdom.

There are a whole host of reasons men may seek to settle down with significantly younger women: being insecure, Peter Pan Syndrome, wanting someone who’s easier to control, being disgusted by signs of aging that you yourself have…

the browsers

For once, men are told that they can be too picky (although admittedly the writer makes the single life sound a bit enviable):

The time you’re wasting now chasing women beyond your reach and dreaming of the perfect woman who fulfills every single criteria you’ve fantasized about is precious time you could be using to build a family with a great women…NOW. No, no, no I’m not telling you to marry a woman who you aren’t attracted to and have absolutely no connection with. Seriously, you mean to tell me that you haven’t been attracted to any of the women you dated in the last few years (if that’s the case you might have bigger issues to deal with)? But she didn’t exactly fit what you feel you need…something just wasn’t there…I know the drill.

the indecisive

I have a sense that particularly in New York — though I’m sure it exists this way in Boston and in San Francisco — there is a super-abundance of attractive, intelligent young women whom a man is very unlikely to be worthy of, who nevertheless set a higher value on him than he sets on them. This makes any sort of decision very difficult. Because to constantly be exposed to people whom you are unworthy of to begin with, yet who want you more than you want them, is confusing.


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