Childless on mother’s day


Sunday is mother’s day – in my younger years, I assumed motherhood was one of those things that happened to every women who wanted to –  I assumed being childless in mid-40’s was purely as a result of being unable to conceive unless by choice, like the nuns in the Catholic church. As I have reached the above-mentioned age bracket, I have found this not to be the case and in fact, the largest majority belong to a different group altogether.


This is supported by research conducted by Prof Renske Keitzer from Erasmus University, Rotterdam. I have to be honest here that I am quoting a paper I have not read ……. I have searched for it but can’t get beyond an abstract.


Prof Renske, is quoted as stating that an estimated 80% of women who don’t have children are ‘childless by circumstance’, rather than choice or medical reasons.


These circumstances are myriad and put very neatly in this article by Jody Day, who is childless herself ‘by circumstances’.


African women sometimes imagine that childless women from other parts of the world have it easier but across the globe, the ability of a woman to have children is priced and not having them considered a failure. Jody Day realised that many in her state were facing their feelings alone and started a support group.


I do not want to be fickle with a difficult subject so for once, I will not loudly give my opinion – just read what Jody Day, who speaks from experience, has to say.


Since women are made to feel that having children is such an important part of living, how important really is having children to your wellbeing as a woman? I came across a paper written by published in 2015 in Women’s health issues titled ‘Is Being Childless Detrimental to a Woman’s Health and Well-Being Across Her Life Course?’


The paper was authored by Dr Melissa Graham from Deakin University in Australia. The results are based on over 9,000 women of different age groups. The findings are interesting.


Dr Graham’s data reports that childless women aged 34 – 44 years old have worse general health, more bodily pain and poorer physical and social functioning mothers when compared to their contemporaries with children.


HOWEVER, after the age of 65 years, childless, never married women had less bodily pain, and better general health and physical functioning than mothers (whether they were single mothers or married).


This raises the rather obvious issue that poor health among women 34-44 years of age is likely to be as a result of societal expectations, the pressures to have children.


The study is not perfect, no study ever is – but it offers food for thought as we celebrate mother’s day.