Childless and childfree women come in lots of shapes and sizes. We are all colors, all cultures, and all ages. As much as we have in common, we are also very different. Some people say it is strange to define ourselves by things that we are not, so let’s determine what we are instead. In this series, childfree blogger Laura LaVoie interviews women bloggers without children who answer the question, “If you’re not a mom, then what are you?”
Marianne Kilkenny is the Founder, Grand Nudge, and Trailblazer behind Women for Living in Community. She currently resides in Asheville, North Carolina, in a shared household. She is a speaker and consultant who helps others build community and think differently about the way we age. As a NotMom, she has thought about the question, “Who will take care of me?” and has found a solution.
Tell us about yourself and your blog.
I started my website and blog to capture those women like myself who are entering our second chapter and who want alternative to the current warehousing of elders called Nursing Homes, Retirement Communities or Continuing Care Retirement communities (CCRC).
Since I launched my website in 2008, the national media has caught on to the concept and early in 2011 named me as one of the women living like The Golden Girls. That type of living arrangement was easy for the media to understand, and meant something to the general populace.
It’s funny that I started to say I wanted to live like The Golden Girls long ago. As a woman in her 50’s, after my parents died in nursing homes I wondered what would happen to me. I have no children. Who would come to my “rescue” or advocate for me?
A scary thought. I decided I better get busy and start making alternative plans for myself. I did that and more. Continuing on my adventure and quest, another community is in my future with many of the components I have now in my shared house. To assist others like myself in starting the journey, I recently wrote and published Your Quest for Home: A Guidebook to Find the Ideal Community for Your Later Years.
Do you feel that being a NotMom was a big influence on Women for Living in Community?
The fact that I didn’t have children was the main reason. I am very motivated! There are many women and men who think that their kid’s job is to take care of them in their old age. Did they tell the kids this? My folks had 2 daughters. Yet, we couldn’t take care of their significant physical needs, nor did they want us to. I had a 60-70 hour/week job in Silicon Valley and my sister had a family and a job.
Those of us without that supposed safety net for our caregiving are the ones I talk to the most. Because of divorce, and often, choosing not to partner, that means we look at the benefits of living together in some model of community as a solution. The benefits are great and the motivation is time-stamped.
How do you feel you are treated as a woman without children? Is it different today than when you were 20 or 30 or 40?
Yes! There are many more of us who have made the choice to be NotMoms. Back in previous decades, it wasn’t as popular or accepted. I was a bit of an anomaly. Then there are my friends in my age group with teenagers and aging parents that feel stuck in the middle like a nasty sandwich of needs. I cannot imagine a more difficult life.
When I was younger, it was assumed that if I married, I would have children. When I divorced, the question was always, “Do you have kids?” As if I wouldn’t consider divorce if I had kids, and since I didn’t that transition would be easier. That conversation always troubled me.
Now, I see many younger women who are choosing not to have children in those age groups and it seems more acceptable. Not being in their shoes, in this era, I don’t know what the conversation is like.
What advice would you give to other NotMoms as they think about aging?
We (the women in my cohort) are laying some groundwork, much like we did for the women’s movement. By the time you get to be my age, there will be alternatives to a bunch of old women drooling in the corner of a gray room in some institution. My battle cry!
Aging is the common denominator for all of us; NotMoms, parents, men, women, straight or gay, rich, poor etc. My advice: Think about your future, and put things in place to allow you to live your life and enjoy it. That may look like having a “Plan” which may include a care plan with advocates in place for you, the necessary documents to assist those helping you age with grace, and most of all, a network, tribe, or group that supports you and “gets” you. They are the ones who will truly care for you, and you for others. That is the best way to live and thrive.
Do not wait, hesitate or ponder too long. That assurance of the bonds with others allows you to relax and enjoy your life now. When asked, “You have no kids, who will take care of you?”, you can say, “Me…. and my posse of friends. Aren’t I lucky?” And mean it.
How do you feel that advertisers treat NotMoms?
Better now than they used to. There are many of us NotMoms in my age group. Look at the AARP ads, and financial ads for banks, and you’ll usually see women. I am not sure I pay attention to the NotMoms as I do women in my age group and how we are treated in media. For example, only gray-haired women can be in their 60’s or portraying The Golden Girls type of shared housing. Yeah, like me.
What do you want readers and advertisers to understand about being a NotMom?
We are a force to be considered. Women now, including NotMoms, have financial clout and means that no other women have ever had in history. We are no longer apologizing for not having children. We have the time and the money that those with children don’t. Pay attention.
We would like to thank Marianne for taking the time to speak with us. Her message about aging is important, especially for women like us without kids. Now it is your turn. If you are a blogger who happens to be childfree or childless, contact us to share your story.