When this headline came across my Twitter feed, I couldn’t resist taking a peek: Some New Jargon for You: Motherhood vs. Otherhood, written by Maggie Lange.
Otherhood? I thought. Hmm, sounds like me.
Turns out otherhood is me, according to Melanie Notkin, the woman who coined the term:
“It’s a word to describe the 38 percent of the women of childbearing age (20 to 40) in the U.S. who don’t have kids.”*
Yes, I am that newly-christened otherhood, which even my MacBook didn’t want to acknowledge judging from the number of times it auto-corrected “otherhood” to “motherhood.” (Um, LEARN SPELLING, then LEARN MEANING!) It’s is an ironic technological interference since for the last 15 years, family, friends, and even strangers have tried in vain to change my otherhood into motherhood.
It didn’t work.
But it’s a good segue into some excellent points made in a Shades of Otherhood video by DeVries Global that Lange included in her article. I’ve embedded the video below because it clearly needs more air time; I’ve experienced every one of the stereotypes and misconceptions in the video at some point during my childless, “child-bearing years.”
Come on people, it’s the 21st century! As the opening of the video points out, “There is a problem. We act as though women have only one path: Motherhood.” Um, no.
Shades of Otherhood cleverly communicates common misconceptions about childless women of child-bearing age. I want to reiterate a few of those, and add some of my own…
- Not having kids is selfish. Yes, it is, in a way. But having kids and then pawning them off on others because you still want to travel/party/find yourself is even more selfish. And damaging to the little ones.
- I must hate kids since I don’t have them. I don’t hate kids. Sure, occasionally a misbehaving, obnoxious kid will irritate me…and everyone in his vicinity…but I don’t hate kids. Quite the opposite: I love babies. I love cuddling them and caring for them…they are so, so sweet. And I adore my niece and nephew, who are both under age 10, and I see at least weekly. I absolutely loathe child neglect, abuse, and exploitation.
- Aren’t I worried about being “alone” when I’m older? Honey, you don’t have kids to babysit you. You have them to give them a life of their own. And just because you have them, doesn’t mean they will have the time, means, or inclination to take care of you when you are old. A good retirement plan and community will alleviate any potential pangs of loneliness, I promise you.
- Don’t I want to leave a “legacy” behind? I don’t need to leave a “legacy” behind in the form of a child. I’d rather my legacy be something that helps animals, or others in need. Maybe this blog is my legacy. Maybe I’ll write a book. Maybe I’ll be blessed enough to donate a million dollars to my favorite charity. And if there is no “legacy,” that’s OK too, because I had fun while I was here!
- I don’t understand how hard motherhood is. Oh-yes-the-hell-I-do! Why do you think I’m not one? It’s INSANELY difficult. It’s terrifying, really. I babysat my nephew weekly from a couple of months old to about a year old. I know it’s tough, and it just gets tougher. Packing the school lunches, getting them into the bath, protecting their little bodies and minds from the bad people…like I said. It just gets tougher.
- I’ll regret not having kids later. You can’t regret what you never wanted. I can honestly say that never once in my life have I ever felt the burning desire to have a child of my own. That biological clock? Er, it never worked. But if for some crazy reason I suddenly feel extremely maternal, there’s always adoption.
- I’ll change my mind once I have one. You know what more than one parent (including my own, sweet mama) has told me? If they could do it over, THEY WOULDN’T HAVE KIDS. Now that’s a mind change, isn’t it? I’m just learning from the life experiences of others.
- A child will give my life meaning. So you’re telling me that my life has no meaning without a child in it? As a individual child of God, I mean nothing? What about women who can’t have children…are their lives meaningless too, or is that somehow different?
Are any of you readers in otherhood by choice or otherwise? How do others interact with you when they find out you don’t have children?
* Lange, Maggie. “Some New Jargon for You: Motherhood vs. Otherhood.” The Cut. 8 May 2014. http://nymag.com/thecut/2014/05/some-new-jargon-for-you-otherhood.html.