I recently read Otherhood: Modern Women Finding a New Kind of Happiness by Melanie Notkin and quickly realized that she could have been writing about my life. The women Ms. Notkin interviewed for this book, along with her personal experiences, mirrored my own dating trials and tribulations.
What is Otherhood?
Melanie Notkin coined the term Otherhood as a name for all of us whose lives have not followed the expected trajectory of education, marriage, baby. Instead, it veered left and dumped most of us off in the middle of fulfilling careers and lives filled with family and friends minus a husband and kids. A path meticulously paved for us by our mothers, aunts, and grandmothers and riddled with the expectations of family and friends. Yet some of us have not (or will not) conform to this expectation. For sure we have carved out successful careers and we’re surrounded by supportive friends and family–but the marriage and baby? It’s persona non grata.
A large contingent of us want a husband and children, it was never an either/or option; however, we also want the love that brings the marriage and then the baby in the baby carriage. On one hand, the feminist movement pushed the boundaries of equal political, economical, cultural, and social rights for women–yet on the other hand, a large portion of us are left breaking through these barriers alone. This, I’m sure, was an unexpected and unintended side effect that we are left to figure out and navigate as there is no blueprint for this phenomenon.
Why did it resonate with me?
Otherhood spoke to me on several different levels. As I mentioned earlier, Ms. Notkin shares some of her dating experiences which mirror my own. Take for instance, her date with a guy with whom she senses a genuine connection, and he just vanishes after the first date (why do they DO that?)! Or the stories of her friends who bravely consider having children on their own. She captures their thoughts, experiences, and anxieties about it (I’ve thought about adopting) in such a way that I felt like I was part of the conversation.
Ms. Notkin even shares her experience with a psychic, who tells her that her deceased grandfather and mother are watching over her and suggest she pray to them and ask for what she wants (my grandmother and mother are in heaven but for the life of me I cannot figure out why they have not teamed up to produce a man for me–what are they doing up there anyway??). Reading this book gave me a strong sense of belonging, a sense of a ‘tribe’ as Melanie calls us. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t realize that my own little community of family and friends was just a microcosm of what’s happening across the country.
I’ll end this by 1) urging you to read this book and share your thoughts with me, and 2) sharing the quote below from Otherhood as I feel it perfectly sums up our outlook.
The women of Otherhood are not planning to settle for anyone. Had we thought settling was something we could be satisfied with, we would have settled years ago, when we were more fertile. That’s not to say that women who marry and become mothers at a young age have settled. It’s just that women who want to be in love with the right partner before partnering for life are going to wait for him. And if he had arrived when she was twenty-five, great. Thirty-five? Good. Forty-five? Well, he arrived and that’s the important thing.
What the older men who waited for us to be ready to “settle” need to understand is that we have not been waiting to settle. We’ve been simply waiting for love.