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Childless and with money in the bank

Posted in Life & Love

children mannequinsProbably the most controversial post to appear on C&S was the one in which sofagirl explained her motivations behind her choice of not having children, and mused on how irked she was to be asked, often in sequence, why she wasn’t married and why she didn’t have any children. The implication being something was wrong – or terrible luck had played a part.

Even in the short three years since the post appeared, I have seen the cultural mores shift more than a bit: the European common practice of living together without officially tying the knot is becoming more prevalent in urban areas of the United States too, and society is adjusting to the idea that many young people choose singlehood altogether. In less than ten years, the median age of marriage inched up from 22 to 27. Children often come even later. If at all.

I noticed I get questioned less often on the choice of not having children, although, in fairness, I was always able to deflect it by saying I had step-children that, tangentially, welcomed me in the motherhood club.

Countries with a strong Catholic influence, like Italy and Spain, are finding themselves dealing with rapidly aging populations and, if on one hand economic circumstances are hampering the proliferation of families, such statistics also reflect the choice of many women to remain independent until much later in life and to forego procreation altogether.

A different approach on the part of Land's End
A different approach on the part of Land’s End

Not all parts of society move in lockstep. A recent article in the Business section of the New York Times pointed out something that women my age, who are single and/or childless, have known for a long time: manufacturing companies and their advertisers don’t recognize our purchasing power.

I decided to analyze a sample of tv ads on a random Tuesday night and, as stated in the article, most everyday goods were targeted to mothers, families or women who were, by implication, mothers. Cars had children in the backseat; food ads featured happy families gathered around tables; household products were the domain of toddlers, animals or housewives.

Mothers are indeed the largest spending consumer group in the United States but part of the problem is also how to portray a childless woman who might be buying for herself or for her extended family which, incidentally, might include children. Just not hers.

Some companies are trying. Land’s End put a woman with two children on the cover of their 2014 catalogue, with the caption “Being their aunt means when we’re together, there are no rules”. Apparently, it was a success.

Even if they are not the largest spending group, childless women spend twice as much on beauty products than mothers do, they travel consistently more, and shell out a lot more for groceries. Maybe marketing a roll of toilet paper to them doesn’t make sense but including them in ads for cars, food and other commonly purchased products could prove a successful angle. And motherhood is not all-encompassing – a woman with children is very likely to carve out time for herself separate from her kids and will recognize herself in ads not marketed solely at her.

Give women some credit, no?

“Childless at Fifty? What is wrong with you?”

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13 Comments

  1. Hello camparigirl
    I’m catching up on all your postings of about 3 months or so!!
    I really enjoyed this one and the older one by sofagirl. It’s always great to hear that one isn’t quite so alone in one’s zero-child state.

    To be perfectly honest, I’m glad that I’m not a big target for business/marketing/ads. I’ve downsized my life considerably since leaving the corporate world and don’t consider myself a “consumer” at all. That being said, my “luxury” spends are on books, movies and travel – all of which I can find for myself without having to be tempted by ads!

    September 17, 2016
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  2. Thanks SO much for this post, especially the link to SofaGirl’s earlier masterful missive. . . loved it and the excellent, heartfelt comments. Whew, so much to say on this meaningful, toothsome topic. . . but many of my thoughts and feelings have already been expressed quite eloquently by others. I have no children but am a bountiful auntie which is fine now. And yes, there were times (as you said, around 38) when I thought seriously about having children but, alas, the “right person” was not around (a whole other subject). Later, when there was such a person in my life, it was in fact biologically too late. I am hard on myself about this because of society in general and my family and friends with children in particular, but only momentarily . . . basically I feel happy, content and fulfilled with the wonderful life I have and given my recent cancer scare, I relish each day with gusto! Thanks again for your brilliant posts.

    July 16, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Please. Even for a moment, don’t be hard on yourself. Others, and society in general, are already so busy being hard on us. On a cancer aside, women who didn’t have children, are more likely to get uterine or breast cancer than mothers. Oh well. Thank you for your thoughts Meri.

      July 17, 2016
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  3. While I absolutely love my kids, it might have been better had I not succumbed to the pressure to join the mama club. Not everyone is suited to having children and it’s thoughtless and cruel for people to harangue those who know themselves well enough to not get sucked in. I say to those women…BRAVO! I applaud your courage. ღ

    July 16, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I have friends who always knew they wanted to be mothers and some to whom it just happened, unplanned. Once children are here, they deserve the best of circumstances and boundless love, whether planned or not. Some think that not having children is a selfish choice but I counter that we give back to the world in other ways.

      July 16, 2016
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  4. I feel like I want to write so much in response to this and the earlier post from 3 years ago – mostly that I agree with a lot of what you and sofagirl wrote. When I tell friends that I don’t think I want kids (let’s be honest – I’m not really sure), they’re usually surprised. They ask why, and tell me I’d be a great mum; and I think that makes me wonder if I’m making the right choice.
    But it’s good to be reassured that it is a valid choice (although sometimes not a deliberate choice). It was also good to read all the comments on the original post. Thanks for sharing it. It’ll be interesting to see what things are like in another three years or more…

    July 15, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I think each woman should feel no pressure in deciding what to do in this matter. Sometimes children come by accident and women, after some trepidation, are elated at the experience. No matter the circumstances of having or not having children, we should not be made to feel bad or pressured one way or another. And if a partner is involved, it should probably merit a conversation early on in the relationship.

      July 16, 2016
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  5. Very interesting article. I wish I’d seen it the first time around, but that was before I started following C&S, so thank you for the link to it.

    At 54 I don’t regret my choice to not have children. Not only did the time or the partner never seem right, but I always had a niggling fear that I would be a bad mother because I had no maternal instincts whatsoever.

    Only once – at age 38 – did I wish I had done things differently, and that was from purely selfish reasons. At the time I felt that I had ruined everything else in my life, so what did I have to lose by trying motherhood? Perhaps – I thought – I could have a child that would be more successful than me if I poured all my failed energies into raising it? Fortunately I didn’t, because burdening your children with your own failures seems to me now to be one of the worst possible reasons to procreate. I have seen so many pushy parents forcing their children to do things like playing soccer or riding horses only because they – the parent – didn’t get to do that when they were young. Some parents bully their children into studying things in which they have no interest – “Be a lawyer!” “Be a doctor!” and so on. Living through your kids is one thing, but forcing on them the life that you would have enjoyed is just wrong.

    I’ve always loved being an aunt, though. Long live fantastic aunties, I say!

    July 15, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      38 must be a magical hormonal number! That is the age I questioned myself on the subject of children and the only time in my life when I briefly, very briefly, considered the possibility of having a child. I never felt very maternal either nor did I have any desires to see myself in another human being and I never looked back. I think there are a lot more women who feel like us than we thought. For a long time, our feelings would have been considered anathema.

      July 15, 2016
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  6. winston moreton
    winston moreton

    Cool rerun from SofaGirl. Watch the next Secretary General of the UN trail blazing too…

    July 14, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      For now, all the top posts in the United Kingdom are filled by girls. How cool is that? (although I am not so sure about Theresa May – isn’t she the one who got Glenn Greenwald’s boyfriend arrested and seized all computers from the Guardian?).

      July 15, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I am so glad you posted this. I was not aware – not that I was a customer of Land’s End before but I certainly won’t be now. I am now finding shopping a political minefield. I recently found out the owners of Home Depot donate heavily to pro-life organizations, so off it goes the list of places I shop. Standing up for what one believes takes a lot of work (and time).

      July 15, 2016
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