Otherhood

Otherhood

Modern Women Finding A New Kind of Happiness

Book - 2014
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Melanie Notkin wants to change our perceptions about childless women. The rise of childless women is one of the most overlooked and under-appreciated social issues of our time. Never previously have more women lived longer before having their first child or remained childless toward the end of their fertility. In the U.S., the level of childlessness of women age forty to forty-four has doubled, from 10 percent in 1976 to 20 percent in 2006. Society assumes that women either are mothers or choose not to be mothers, but waiting for love and marriage--or at least a committed union-- before embarking on motherhood seems to be the least acceptable life choice for the modern woman. Nearly half of North American women of childbearing age are childless, a steep rise from 35 percent in 1976. Nevertheless, childless women are perceived as the exception, not the norm.

In Otherhood , Melanie Notkin explores this modern phenomenon to understand the reasons for this shift, the social and emotional impact of childlessness, and how this "new normal" will impact social structures in the decades to come. Part anecdotal storytelling, part inspirational, part reportage, and part manifesto, Otherhood sets out to get to the heart of the issues, enliven the societal consciousness, and trigger conversation. Notkin offers a very personal take on a trend that affects so many modern women.

Publisher: Toronto : Viking, c2014.
ISBN: 9780670067527
Characteristics: xxv, 291 pages ;,24 cm

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ksoles Aug 20, 2014

Like millions of women in North America, author Melanie Notkin finds herself in "otherhood," a state of desiring children but only in the framework of a loving relationship. “The rise of childless women may be one of the most overlooked and underappreciated social issues of our time,” Notkin writes in the introduction to "Otherhood," her book about this phenomenon. She argues that society views a woman of the otherhood as picky, selfish or career obsessed. But this woman probably "feels that her personal growth has been stunted, that she’s become alienated from her peer group, that she’s fallen short of the expectations...and that a great number of people around her presume, falsely, that she’s chosen her lifestyle and treat her accordingly.”

As one of the first writers to address this issue in full-book form, Notkin sits in prime position to provide enlightened research and attempted solutions to this interesting dilemma. Unfortunately, she mostly offers anecdotes, stories harkening to "Sex and The City" about how men can't plan dates, how easily friendships can become strained and how women too-quickly progress from child-bearing age to too old.

Perspective from a small collection of experts does make the book stronger. About the tendency to blame single, childless women for not procreating, psychotherapist Robi Ludwig says: “It feels more comfortable for people to think that victims put themselves in a vulnerable position.” About the countless suggestions single women receive about finding a mate, relationship coach Martin Cohen tells Notkin, “All you’ll find in a wine class in New York City are women taking wine classes to meet men who don’t show up.” And obstetrics and gynecology specialist Dr. Marc Kalan argues: “Single women take on the responsibility for their childlessness, with society pointing a finger at them like they are naive about their ability to have children after a certain time, or that their childlessness is completely their fault.”

Notkin also pens some raw, emotional and personal sections. In the chapter, “My Lonely Grief,” she describes a series of years in her mid-thirties: “I’m lying in bed, and I’m crying. I’m not just crying, I’m sobbing. I’m desperately, desperately sad and alone. And I’m wondering aloud, ‘What the hell happened? How did I get here?’ ” These sections assure women of the otherhood that they aren't alone in their feelings of frustration, exhaustion and loneliness while also asking: can you grieve for something you don’t have? Is acceptance the equivalent of giving up?

Ultimately, though, Notkin spends the majority of her book explaining the phenomenon of otherhood to the very people she describes. These readers don't need reminders about their state; they want an explanation, at least an attempted one. Can we blame technology for the difficulty of finding romantic connection? Is this a new phenomenon or is it a long-existing one that we're only just beginning to talk about? And where, oh where, have all the good men gone?

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