It’s a so-called social and societal norm – marriage, family, kids. So when a destiny without children presented itself to Naomi Menahem, she took a deep dive into what the reality of childlessness means for women – and the results have truly touched her.
I come from quite an Orthodox Jewish background where having children and a family was always my destiny, and always something I thought would happen. So it was a surprise to me when it didn’t.
I grew increasingly curious about my childlessness. What is my journey now, as a woman without children? So I thought, well I’m going to speak to women who are way ahead of me in their journey, and see what I can learn.
I had a number of false starts. I thought about starting a blog and pondered a few different avenues to understand and build a community. Every six months I’d kind of revisit the idea.
Then, as a bit of a nerd and having studied many times before, I grew curious about delving into the reality of childlessness from a philosophical perspective.
And so here I am, doing a PhD on childlessness. And the journey has just started.
I thought I’d be the first person to ever write a word, let alone do research on it. But as it turns out there is research out there and, surprisingly, it does go back quite far in history – sometimes entwined with the waves of feminism, and other social and political nods to the times.
What became clear, however, is that there is not a lot of research done with women later in life – where there is distance and that beautiful opportunity to reflect, which only time can offer.
So far in my research, I have been so blessed to be an ear for many women as they reflect on their own personal stories.
And I have to say, I am incredibly touched by the honesty of these women talking to me. I’m incredibly touched that it’s the first time they’ve reflected. I’m incredibly touched when they say to me, “Nobody has ever asked me about this before.” I’m incredibly touched they come so willing and happy to share.
What is interesting to me is hearing the conversations extend beyond childlessness to include grandchildlessness, which is a phenomenon I hadn’t contemplated before.
Also this cohort of women grew up at the peak of the sexual revolution. And yet while the sexual revolution was happening, children born out of wedlock were still listed as illegitimate on their birth certificates, single pregnant women were still being sent away to have their children and, for the most part, their mothers had to stop working when they got married.
So the mantra of having to be married to have children was so strong then. Whereas today when you think of what you can do if you want to have a child on your own, it’s a completely different dynamic.
These women are so special. They’re so amazing in what they went through, and how they grew up in a world very different to now. And their stories are important to share.
So why am I doing this?
There are, of course, a number of reasons: to continue to shine a light on this often-forgotten cohort of women; to continue to promote childlessness as a legitimate way of being in the world; and to give women a voice to share their experiences. And the fourth reason is really so I can go on an exploration of myself and help make sense of where I have ended up in life.
And hopefully, by the time I’m finished, I can bring a new perspective to the topic of childlessness – a phenomenon that is becoming increasingly common in First World countries – and leave a legacy for future generations to come.
Would you like to share your story about being a woman with no children?
I have already spoken to a number of women about their childlessness. Most are single. To help balance my study, I am now seeking to speak specifically to those women are still partnered, aged 60-75, identify as a woman who does not have children, and live in or around Sydney. If you meet that description and would like to explore the possibility of participating in this study, I would so appreciate you connecting with me please. I can be contacted on 0414 673 957 or firstname.lastname@example.org.