Below is the reprint of an article I wrote for HuffingtonPost this week.
At a dinner party with some “friends” a few years ago, there was a longer than necessary conversation about “what’s wrong with Eleanore” (me) because I’m not married and I have no kids. I’m a spinster. A pretty amazing one, but a spinster, nonetheless. An active participant in the conversation was a woman who had just gone through her third divorce. Apparently I was the only one in the room who thought the conversation should really have been about “what’s wrong with Sharon?” I’m thinking to myself, “Why does this woman keep getting married?”
I am fascinated by this notion that marriage is still thought of as a must-do in modern-day society. It’s not. At least it shouldn’t be. Same thing with children. There’s no reason why every adult should procreate and I know that we can all think of an example or two as to why this is true.
Here’s the real truth: Marriage and kids are not for everybody and we should all stop acting like they are. What I mean by this is that, despite the high divorce rate in this country, the growing number of single people and the decrease in birth rates, people still appear to be surprised or confused when they meet an adult who is not married, has no kids and is ok with it. Single women are still grilled about why they’re not married and still pitied by those who don’t know better. They act is if being single isn’t perfectly normal.
I’m not making this up. There are statistics that back me up:
• According to the U.S. Census, 28% of U.S. adults were unmarried in 1970. That percentage rose to 47% in 2010, and a 2011 study by the Pew Research Institute found that the number of U.S. adults who are unmarried is now 49%, a record high.
• To be clear, this number (above) includes not only those who never married, but also the divorced and widowed. If we focus on the never married category, that description fit 1 in 5 white women in the U.S. in 2010 and 2 in 5 black women. (U.S. Census Bureau)
• Perhaps even more interesting, more women than ever are choosing not to have children. Nineteen percent of women between the ages of 40-44 have no children, which is almost double the percentage from 30 years ago. (U.S. Census Bureau)
• And while I’m mostly focused on this country, this pattern is not limited to the United States. More women today are childless than ever before. According to research from European countries, one in five Western women will end their childbearing years without conceiving, compared to one in ten just 30 years ago. In Germany, it’s one in four. In Japan, the number of childless women is even higher. One in three women are opting out of maternity. With these kinds of ratios, experts are concluding that motherhood worldwide is increasingly becoming a choice, rather than an assumption, with reasons for this trend cited as a mix of relationship breakdowns, career opportunities and, more recently, economics.
Perhaps when this societal myth that marriage and kids are the only path to fulfillment as an adult goes away, all marriages will be truly love-based and all kids truly wanted. This would be a good thing for us all.
Anyway, with all these statistics out in the open, others can acknowledge and accept what I already know: Single life can be pretty good. My money and my time are my own and I get to spend them however I want. That’s pretty special.
There are a tremendous amount of freedoms that come with being single and childfree, some important, some trivial, all good:
• I love to travel. I want to go everywhere and I pretty much can because there’s no one to stop me. He can come with me if he wants (he being the boyfriend) but he really doesn’t have much say about where I go and when.
• I can have a phone conversation, uninterrupted. That is, without continually having to address others in the house instead of concentrating on my caller. (Boy, do I wish this was true for the married-with-children person on the other end of the phone.)
• Unlike my married girlfriends, I don’t know what it’s like to have sex whether I want to or not because the sexual chemistry has gone stale. By the time that happens, I’m gone…
My mission is to remind every unmarried woman out there that her freedom should be celebrated. There is something empowering and rather brave about not allowing oneself to be pushed into such serious decisions. Admittedly, some single women wish they were married but, since they’re not at the moment, I’d like them to focus on what’s good in their lives, with less whining about the non-existent husband who may or may not appear. Instead, they should be indulging their passions, doing all the good they can and having all the fun they want. Because really, every woman probably won’t get married, but every woman owes herself a great life. I’ve got mine…