The childless go invisible again

I just finished reading an anthology of blogs by women over 45. Most of these women write about their kids and grandkids. They might as well have titled the book “Mommy blogs.” Why are there no childless writers represented? One out of five women over 45 does not have children. That is a significant number. But you wouldn’t know it from this book. Or from many others that I have read. The book I’m reading right now about working from home assumes the reader has children. It’s everywhere!

A year or so ago, I published an essay in another anthology by women—and I was the sole voice of childlessness. Why? Are women without children not writing? I know that isn’t true. Is this part of what we talked about a couple weeks ago, trying to blend in by not discussing our lack of offspring?

In my work as a writer, I study listings of publications looking for submissions. As I go down the list, some of them are so mommy oriented I would never fit in. Cross them off the list. The doors are closed to me. Parenting publications are a huge industry. There are plenty of parenting readers, but also, most publications are supported by advertising and there’s a lot of stuff advertisers can sell to parents and future parents. Even most of the so-called women’s magazines cater to moms. Whereas I’m reading “coastal living” and drooling over the decorating and cooking tips.

It’s not impossible for childless people to write for parenting publications. I did it for several years back in California when I freelanced for Bay Area Parent and Bay Area Baby. I researched, interviewed and wrote, not mentioning my non-mom state unless I had to. (“How long was your labor?” “Uh, I don’t actually have any children.”) I did have a live-in stepson at that time, so I could relate to a certain extent. Plus, a good writer can write about anything. Research is research. I also wrote about business for several years, and I hate business. I’m not handy at all, but I have written about fences, paint, wood stoves, and windows. But at this point in my life, I cross the mommy mags off my list of potential markets.

Whether it’s publishing or other aspects of life, we notice barriers, even when they’re invisible. For example, a church retreat for women is coming up. I’m not going. I can tell from the flyer that it’s going to be all about being a good wife and mother. Our church also hosts a monthly “family movie night.” Not going to that either. “Family” is code for parents and children.

How about you? Do you see the childless represented realistically in your reading? Does it bother you? Have you noticed parent-oriented situations where you don’t feel welcome, even if nobody openly says so? Please comment. Let’s make a list of places we feel left out. Maybe we can make another list of places we feel included. Chime in.

Once again, children are assumed

I spent yesterday in a writing workshop. Most of us were women trending toward middle age. The teacher, an Irish-Catholic man with three children, is a terrific writer and an amazing speaker. His goal for the class was to open up our minds to create lots of story starters we could work on later. That was great, until we got to the exercise about our children’s names. We were to make lists of our kids’ names and then list all the names we rejected when we were naming our kids.

Suddenly I was stuck. Like most of us, I had a few names in mind for the kids I might have had. A girl would have been Emily Elaine, after my aunt and my mom. I also like the name Sarah. For a boy, maybe Robert. I wrote those down, but I couldn’t list the names I had considered for my kids and rejected because I didn’t have any kids in the first place. I wished at that point that we could list our dogs’ names. That I can do. I was so relieved when he went on to the next exercise.

It’s amazing to me that in today’s world with so many people who don’t have kids, people still assume that everyone does. Have you experienced this?