Wednesday, April 30, 2014

"Shades of Otherhood"

A rising and increasingly confident chorus of childless/free voices has been asserting itself in the blogosphere and in the media over the last few years.

Now there's a new study that provides some hard data and insights about us as a group. "Shades of Otherhood: Marketing to women without children" was produced by DeVries Global Public Relations and inspired by the work of Melanie Notkin, founder of Savvy Auntie and author of the recently published book Otherhood (which I reviewed here

As many of us have long suspected, the study proves that we're a large, growing and formidable market segment that's been pretty much ignored -- until now.  But the tide is turning! 

The study starts by trotting out that old clichéd image of childless women = "Sex and the City" -- but goes on to acknowledge that "the Otherhood looks relatively little like the stereotypes that have reigned in popular culture,"  and adds that "Regardless of the reason (or reasons)[i.e., that women don't have children], marketers and brands—who have traditionally been more mom-focused—should be paying attention to this growing block of consumers... Our study revealed she is a with-it and wise woman who has enormous untapped potential as a consumer and influencer." (Wow, does it ever feel good to read that!!)
"Notkin refers to what she calls "a collective case of mom-opia – the myopia of seeing the world through mother-colored glasses, seeing motherhood as the only the only normal, natural way to be." From magazine covers featuring the next Hollywood baby bump to a vast number of advertising campaigns targeted to moms and families, other women are often left out. Now it’s time for the conversation to follow where the demographics are trending: women fall into more than the two narrow categories of wife and mother."
If we're not mothers, then who are we?
  1. We're savvy and well connected, with large social networks, both "real life" and online.
  2. We have "purse power" -- but we're not exactly Carrie Bradshaw. We spend more than moms do, and we spend more on ourselves, but we don't blow our money on shoes and restaurants -- we buy groceries, cook meals, clip coupons and look for bargains, just like moms do.
  3. We have more leisure time (and we appreciate that freedom). Travel is a passion for many of us, and we take longer vacations than moms do.
  4. Career and love are our top priorities. And it's not that we've chosen careers over love and family -- we just want to make sure we're well-established professionally before we bring husbands and/or children into the picture. "Having it all" doesn't just mean balancing a career and a family. For a childless woman, it might mean travel, more leisure time with friends, and volunteer work -- "a life that has meaning and purpose."
  5. Most of us love kids -- even those of us who don't necessarily want kids of our own. 80% of non-moms are actively involved with nieces, nephews and the children of friends.
  6. We're happy. "Women of the Otherhood are finding happiness, even if it looks different from the happiness they had expected for themselves or that society expects for them."
The study goes on to offer tips and suggestions for marketers who want to reach the Otherhood -- including this cautionary note:
"Brands and marketers... may mistakenly use the mom archetype as an aspirational model for non-moms, ignoring the reality that parenthood, either by choice or circumstance, isn’t a reality for many women these days. There’s an opening here to celebrate the many wonderful things in her life, even if those don’t include children of her own."
That's just a brief summary of the study's main points. I encourage you to read the whole thing. And then tell me -- what do you think? Do you agree with the findings and observations? Was there anything that surprised you?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter odds & ends

  • I know, it's been quiet around here lately... the muse just hasn't been with me.
  • It's Easter. Dh & I have been spending a quiet day at home alone -- as usual (see Easter 2008 20092010 and 2013)(unless you can count Aunt Flo as company :p ). As I said in my comment to Mel, I always start out thinking this year will be different and that Easter isn't going to bother me -- but then people start talking about their plans for the long weekend and what they're going to have for dinner and what they're doing for the kids, and then the photos of egg colouring sessions and candy hunts and Easter finery start flooding my Facebook feed....
  • It's also dh's cousin's son's 16th birthday. He's 6-7 months older than Katie would have been;  I was newly pregnant at his mom's baby shower. It was bittersweet to type out happy birthday wishes for him on his Facebook wall this morning.
  • Today's show on "The Vinyl Café" this morning on CBC Radio was spring-themed -- and after the story (which usually gets me sniffling at the best of times), they played the Beatles'  "Here Comes the Sun."  Hearing those words, "Little darlin', it's been a long cold lonely winter..." I started sobbing. It HAS been a long, long, dreary, grey, cold winter, and at times it felt like spring would never get here.
  • Work has been a real slog lately. More & more changes to deal with. Part of me feels I am really way too young to be thinking about retirement, and part of me just keeps repeating, like a mantra, "22 months... 22 months..." 
  • (This probably deserves its own post, but for now, this will have to do.)  The government of Ontario recently announced plans to fund one cycle of IVF with single-egg transfer -- something like five years after a blue-ribbon panel on family building issues recommended full funding of three IVF cycles (among other measures). Reaction has been mixed:  IVF advocates are disappointed that the government didn't go further, since just one single-egg transfer cycle will be funded (although I guess even that is progress). Others, of course, argue that IVF coverage is a "frill" that we can't afford in this economically constrained environment.  In fact, the health minister herself was saying not too long ago that the numbers just didn't add up;  suddenly, she's gushing about how she can't imagine life without her family and how the government wants to help more people realize that dream, etc. etc.  Of course, it's all still just a "plan" -- specific details TBA. And of course, there's an election in the offing -- which the government may very likely not win = a promise they won't have to deliver on. Call me cynical, but I'll believe it when I see it. 
  • ETA: I completely forgot to add that Pg Coworker wound up going back for the cerclage. She was off all last week but should be back next week. Everyone at work, of course, assumes that everything will be sunshine & roses from now on... fingers crossed that that is indeed the case...

Sunday, April 6, 2014

"All Joy and No Fun" by Jennifer Senior

Although I am not a parent (in the active sense, anyway), I am fascinated by parenting issues, and by how different childhood & parenting seem today from what I remember of my own experiences growing up. Today's style of intensive, "helicopter" parenting sometimes makes me wonder whether I could have cut it as a mom. (And sometimes makes me very glad that I don't have kids, if this is what it takes these days to pass as an acceptable parent.)

I've always found it interesting how parents could be screaming at their children & complaining about them in one breath, and then in the next ask when *I* was going to have kids and tell me how wonderful they were.  Gee, you're a walking advertisement. ;) 

This paradox is reflected in the title and explored in the pages of Jennifer Senior's new book, "All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood."  This is not so much a how-to manual or advice guide as a study of the challenges of modern parenthood, how those challenges are different from what parents of the past faced, and the impact of parenting on parents themselves. There is a nice balance of academic research (presented in a highly accessible way) and chats with/observations of real-life parents and kids.

Senior sets out and explores three reasons why modern parenting has become such a complicated affair: 
  • First, for the first time in history, parenthood is a choice -- when and whether to have children at all and, if so, how many. In the past, children were viewed as an economic necessity (to help with the family farm or business) or moral obligation;  today, children are seen as crowning achievements and sources of parental fulfillment. “Mothering and fathering aren’t just things we do," Senior observes. "Being a mother or being a father is who we are.”
  • Second, governments and businesses have yet to adjust to the influx of mothers into the workplace. Fathers, too are trying to figure out their new roles. 
  • Finally, childhood itself has been completely redefined in the years since the Second World War. As Senior observes, "Children went from being our employees to our bosses."  
Most of the book deals with the challenges of modern parenting. It isn't until the final chapter that Senior looks at the joy part of her equation.  She delves into the concepts of "the experiencing self" versus "the remembering self" -- which explains to some extent why, as I mentioned earlier, a parent can be screaming at their child in one breath and then a short time later rhapsodizing about the wonders of parenthood and encouraging you to join the club. Senior does acknowledge (albeit briefly) that children are not the only things that can invest a life with joy, meaning and purpose, which I appreciated as a childless-not-by-first-choice woman.

If you're a parent, you will likely find this book a source of validation and insight into your role. On the flip side, one review I read said that if you're on the fence about becoming a parent & read this book, you'll probably run away screaming. ;) (Or words to that effect.) I'm not sure about that -- we all know that parenting is hard. This book may not give you any firm answers as to whether you should take the plunge... but it sure raises some interesting questions. I enjoyed it! 

This is book #4 that I have read in 2014.

Saturday, April 5, 2014


  • Back in January, I wrote about the latest office pregnancy (due in early September). At the time, I said: "So far, everyone's been too busy (and I guess it's still a bit early -- and not a lot of people know yet) for too much baby talk. But I know it's coming (especially with Grandma Coworker nearby, only too ready to offer advice)."
  • It's now April... and the time has come. And I am struggling with my emotions -- trying not to let my cynicism -- and my fear -- get the best of me.
  • Pg Cubicle Neighbour has started to show.  A few weeks ago, she went for an ultrasound. "The baby weighs about one pound and is the size of a lemon," she announced triumphantly afterward. 
  • I am surrounded by a bevy of mostly young, mostly single young women, mostly in their 20s or early 30s (many of them young/old enough to be my own daughters -- the youngest is, I think, just 22), & they are eating all this up.  Every day, they congregate just outside of my cubicle. There is lots of noisy, excited chattering, giggling, "awwwww!"s and belly pats.  The baby has been nicknamed, and votes are being taken on actual names. (It's a boy.)
  • Two other (male) coworkers' wives are also expecting this fall.
  • And Grandma Coworker's daughter is expecting her second in October. "Oh, we weren't saying too much, because after all, her first was a miscarriage, but she's seen the heartbeat & everything is fine!" she trilled to me this week. 
  • Then, this past week, Pg Cubicle Neighbour came in late from an appointment... and then left early. I heard her consulting with our manager about the wording of out of office messages. Manager came to talk to me.  I suppose she wanted to give me a heads up as a coworker -- plus she knows my story, saw my reaction when another of our coworkers lost her baby last year. She told me a developing issue had been detected at Pg Cubicle Neighbour's latest appointment, and she would be having "some minor surgery" immediately as a precaution. (Those of you who have been down this path can probably guess what kind.) 
  • Pg Cubicle Neighbour went back to her dr that afternoon for the surgery -- but the dr decided not to do it after all. Instead, she's been referred to the high-risk unit of the hospital for weekly monitoring. "Oh well, everything will be fine now!" all my other young coworkers have concluded. 
  • I wish I could believe that. :(
  • Pg Cubicle Neighbour mentioned something about the heartbeat. "He has a heartbeat??" one young coworker gasped. "Of course he has a heartbeat!" a slightly older & wiser coworker said scornfully -- which made me wince. "If you're LUCKY, he has a heartbeat," I thought silently to myself.
  • I don't want to be a grumpy old lady. I wish I could be as giddy and innocent and full of baby fever and delight as my young coworkers are. But I'm 53 years old, mother of a stillborn daughter, survivor of infertility.  I know more than I care to know about these things, and what can and sometimes does go wrong.
  • I try to join in the conversation occasionally, show some interest and make the odd comment. But it's tough, especially when they congregate right outside my cubicle and there's no escape -- unless I excuse myself, walk right by them all and leave the office for an early or unscheduled coffee break (which I will do, when I've really, really had enough).  Sometimes, I just want to (need to!) get some work done.
  • Heaven grant me patience....

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Saying goodbye to "How I Met Your Mother"


Did anyone else watch the series finale of "How I Met Your Mother" last night? What did you think?

Overall, I was disappointed -- although it had its moments. I liked the points it made about the ebb and flow of friendship and how life changes -- HAS to change -- as you and your friends marry and have kids, focus on careers, and move further away from each other. But that you can still show up for the big moments and remember why you all loved being together so much. : ) 

But there was that ending...! 

Like many, I found myself yelling at the TV set when I realized that we had just spent nine years building up to Ted FINALLY meeting The Mother -- only to kill her off within minutes and have Ted wind up with Robin -- again!!  I know some people felt that Ted & Robin belonged together & should somehow end up that way. And while the two did have chemistry, so did Ted & The Mother. But it all just seemed too pat, too contrary to where the plot had been leading us. (Although I will admit -- I did love it when Ted produced the blue French horn at the very end.) 

And I was disappointed as a childless woman, too. Robin was one of the few childfree-by-choice female characters on television; the episode dealing with her subsequent discovery that she could not have children even if she did want them was so well done (for the most part) that I wound up writing two posts about it (here and here).

Last night, I felt a pang of recognition as Robin ranted to a very pregnant (for the third time!) Lily about why she found it hard to be around her friends: "The gang is a married couple who I never see anymore about to have a third kid, it’s my ex-husband hitting on slutty cops right in front of me and it’s the guy I probably should have ended up with with the beautiful mother of his child."  Even if she didn't want kids, she was feeling unloved and lonely and left out as her friends paired off, started families and turned their attention elsewhere. I think many of us in the ALI community, who have watched as friends effortlessly popped out one kid after another & then gradually drifted away, could relate. 

Robin could never be a mother (biologically, anyway) -- let alone THE Mother (and we knew that, since Future Ted & the kids referred to her as "Aunt Robin" throughout the series).  But, as I noted in my original post about the Robin/infertility episode, referring to viewer comments I read about the episode: 
I got a rueful chuckle out of how many were trying to figure out how Robin might wind up being a mother after all, even if she doesn't have biological kids (adoption? stepkids?)(She just HAS to be a MOM!!! Somehow!!! Right???)
Well, knock me over with a feather -- in the end, she did wind up as the stepmother to Ted's kids. We just can't have a woman on TV, especially the series' main love interest, go completely without children all her life, now, can we??!

Not only that, but Barney (of all people!!), winds up with a baby as well.  And while the scene was nicely played (I adore Neil Patrick Harris), and it was nice to see Barney finally become the guy we knew he could be (having seen glimpses of that guy when he was with Robin) -- the idea that Barney could only truly grow up and be redeemed through fatherhood -- that a baby is the ultimate answer to every problem -- is deeply disappointing. (Although, as one commenter I read pointed out, it was kind of funny -- karmic justice of sorts -- that the supreme womanizer wound up, not just as a doting dad but the doting dad of a baby GIRL.)

Did you watch? What did you think? Do you agree or disagree with anything I've written above?