never married, over forty, a little bitter


I want to empathize with women who struggle to find a partner they trust enough to go with on this journey of parenthood. Because, now that we removed the pathetic excuse of not enough money, the only possible thing that would stand in the way of any rational woman’s desire to whelp a litter is lack of a man. But honestly I just think that these women are gun shy after probably growing up in a broken home. Live a little ladies! Have some faith! Life’s an adventure and without children you are totally missing out! If you’re in a relationship that has these kind of trust issues then nothing will clear that up like a screaming, squalling, demanding infant. I had a baby with my man and everything turned out alright. Hell, I had two. What are you afraid of?

And all you single ladies? It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a partner to help you, the only thing that matters is that you experience the joys of parenting. (But only if you’re ready for it of course. After all it is the hardest job in the world.) Of course given that I am married and have no idea what it is like to be a single mom I’m kind of talking out of my ass here. But nevermind that. Just have babies! What are you waiting for?

the new normal

While childless Xers certainly sympathize and support the special challenges facing parents, they would like their lives outside work celebrated too – or, at least, respected. Some of our interviewees lamented the difficulty of caring for a dog or getting to the gym when kids provide the only legitimate cover for leaving the office at a reasonable hour. “I don’t begrudge my colleagues with children,” one financial services professional admits, “but I’d like someone to acknowledge that I have a life outside work, too.”


As choosing not to parent becomes “the new normal” for Generation X, their employers need to make sure that childless Xers aren’t relegated to second place in the war for work-life balance. Otherwise, they risk losing the fathers and mothers of their own future.

two is enough

Sylvia Ann Hewlett, founder of the Center for Work Life Policy told the Huffington post: “It’s also true that whether it’s extreme jobs, or the financial pressure on this generation, many individuals decide they want to do two things well, and not three things badly. Those two things are their relationship and their career.”

Some Gen X women who want babies and feel they can support them, go ahead with or without a partner before it’s too late. However, the number of women who remain childless grows whether because of the lack of a suitable partner, having education loans to pay off, or fears of jeopardizing job security or advancement.

x marks the (tough) spot

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Gen X, born between 1965 and 1978, might be called the “wrong place, wrong time” generation. They were hit by an economic triple whammy: college- related debt, multiple boom and bust cycles (including the 1987 stock market crash, occurring just as Gen X entered the work force), and the housing slump. As a result, Gen X is the first generation not to match their parents’ living standards.


A surprisingly large proportion of Xers are delaying or even opting out of parenting: 43 percent of Xer women and 32 percent of Xer men do not have children.

Among non-parents, 60 percent of women and 36 percent of men feel their personal commitments are perceived as less important than those of colleagues with children.


I’m an Xer and pretty well described here:

One out of five American women over 40 is currently childless. Generation X is even more likely to decide against parenting; as many as one-in-three may skip parenting.


If there is a large group of women who could go either way, then their childbearing choices will likely be strongly affected by the opportunities and constraints of modern life. First, there’s the pull of childlessness, its draw. For middle- and upper-class women especially, childlessness may be attractive because it offers them the freedom to do other interesting things. This is a still rather new opportunity for women. Only since the women’s movement of the ‘70s have women had the opportunity to excel in challenging, respected and high-paying careers. For women who have access to these occupations, childlessness is a tempting choice precisely because having children is no longer the only way for women to feel like they’re doing something valuable with their lives.

And then there’s the push, the realization that having children may incur financial and psychic costs that a person can’t or doesn’t want to pay. The conditions for parenting today are, in many ways, incredibly averse. Whereas for most of human history, children contributed to households and communities, today they are a financial burden instead of a help. Alongside this development, the amount of time parents are expected to invest in children has skyrocketed, as have the demands on workers. The bars for good parenting is set higher than ever, spending significant amounts of time at work is non-negotiable for most, and social and state support has been waning. This turns life into a macabre version of the old spectacle of spinning plates.

It’s likely a life with which young women are all-too-familiar. Young women today are the second generation facing these conditions. They may remember their mothers struggling to balance work and family, their parents’ relationship straining under the burden of two jobs and a family, the fiscal struggle as they tried to make ends meet. They may have watched their mothers sacrifice career ambitions or experienced the economic tragedy that often comes with divorce. A third of single moms are in poverty; motherhood is the single strongest predictor of bankruptcy in middle-age and poverty in old-age. By the time these women are adults, some think that skipping the kids and focusing on the self, the job or career, and their partner, if they have one, sounds like a pretty great life.


In the meantime, the government is doing little to entice women into parenthood; we treat childrearing like a hobby, not the reproduction of the nation (which is what it actually is).


It’s easy to become defensive: “I didn’t do it — it happened to me.” But being stuck in this “I’ve been cheated” mind-set only traps you in an endless cycle of bitterness, like a hamster on a wheel.

If you seem unable to achieve your life goals, examine your role in this. If you never get what you want, you probably hold at least partial responsibility. Becoming aware of this lets you feel more in control of the future. Nobody ever has supreme control, but it’s possible you can seize more control.

The second half of life is a stage when many people re-evaluate their priorities. Make time to do things that feel generative and creative — writing, painting, traveling, studying, or whatever else makes you look forward to the future.