What it really means to be single and childless

By Nina Steele 

A decent and well-mannered man I know has been single for many years and now in his 60s, he has given up on finding love and says he is happy being on his own. Had he married, he says, he would have had children, or at least he would have tried. Instead of being resentful and bitter about his situation, he has embraced his life wholeheartedly. He is actively involved in his community, has a network of friends that he is in regular contact with and being financially secure means that he can afford to live well.

On the other hand, a woman in a similar situation has been affected so much so that she has had to have counselling a few times. She is in her early 50s and on the face of it, you will consider her a good catch. She is good looking, owns her own house and has a job, yet she seems unable to find love. She has never been in a serious relationship and as she herself put it, it just never happened. She too is resigned to the fact that she will never become a parent. I believe that giving up on having children has had a far greater impact on her than finding love, although having both would have been the ultimate achievement.

We often talk about the stigma attached to not having children, however, to be single as well is without doubt an added challenge. A friend of mine who was once married but is now single, tells me how threatened other women feel whenever she is invited to parties. These are the same friends she mingled with when she was married. Back then, she was one of them, however, as a single middle aged woman, she is now viewed with suspicion. Older, unmarried men are viewed with suspicion as well, however, I believe that women get a far worse treatment.

The ideal of the nuclear family is present wherever you look. Supermarkets barely cater for families of two, let alone singles. I can count on one hand adverts that do not either relate to nuclear families or couples, so imagine watching those adverts as a single, childless person.

Sex and the City (before some of them had children) gave the impression that being single and childless was always fun and carefree, when the reality according to those who are, can be anything but fun. Someone referred to it as akin to being a minority within a minority.

I suppose it is fair to say that being single and childless isn’t the problem, it is society’s expectations that ultimately is the real issue. Governments, big businesses and the church, for their own personal agendas, have made the nuclear family into the model that everyone should aspire to with devastating consequences.

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