I Am Not A Wife Or A Mother, Should I Feel Guilty

This is weird.

It’s 4pm and I realize I haven’t done anything productive today. Well, that’s not exactly true. I followed up with HR because my previous company seems to have… forgotten? to pay me for the last month of work. I tracked down the status of my tax return. I organized pick-up for one of my larger plants that must be sold before I move.

But I haven’t done anything productive for anyone else.

I’m adding tomato purée to the gnocchi stew I’m making for my dinner when it strikes me how strange my life is right now compared to women throughout history. There are no little legs swinging at the dinner table, or mini-hands pulling at my hoodie (I don’t own an apron) asking when it will be ready, or can they have Mac n’ Cheese instead.

I am 29, unmarried, with no kids. I am not someone’s wife. I am not someone’s mother. Today, I’m not even someone’s employee.

I live by myself, in a different country from where I was born. I don’t need to work anymore, because I saved enough in the last decade that my investments cover my cost of living. I’m financially independent, and I stand in my own financial power.

Not too long ago, this life would have been difficult to conceive of, if not impossible. In the 1970s only around 10% of women did not have children by the age of 27. Then, the average age of a mother giving birth for the first time was 21.4 years old. Now, more than half of women by the age of 27 don’t have kids.

Just a few decades ago, society forced women to be financially dependent on men. It wasn’t until 1974, when the Fair Credit Opportunity Act passed, that women could even have their own bank account and credit card without a male co-signer. The other day, I was pre-approved for a new Chase Sapphire Preferred card. All of my bank accounts are in my own name. It’s hard to believe that as recently as 50 years ago that fact might have been radical in itself.

Earning power for women was significantly inhibited in the past. My chosen career path of software engineering was (and is still) unfriendly to women. Even in the year I graduated high school—2011— researchers found that only 0.4% of women planned to major in computer science compared to 3.3% of men. I managed to finagle my way into the industry without a computer science degree, and made a salary in the top 10% for my age group.

There are many more statistics along the same lines that make me thankful for where I am at in life today. I made intentional life choices that helped me reach financial independence—but there are other factors outside of my control (privileges!) that helped me get to where I am now. If I had been born earlier, it’s possible I would have been barred from my own independence. How much of our lives are obligated to another, whether a partner, child, or employer? It’s Monday, and I didn’t sit in traffic to commute to a job. I woke up at 8am and walked into my kitchen, brewed myself a coffee, and read a book that intrigued me. I rested. It’s not lost on me how rare that is, so rare that I started to wonder if I should feel guilty. What is my worth to the world if I’m not being ground up in the capitalist machine?

We are usually given two choices: work or care for your children. Be a professional or a parent; or with high hopes and ambition: both. I realized as I chopped my parsley how implausible it is to choose neither. Of course, I still want to do something. Creation is intrinsic to humanity. Yet how rare is it for a woman to skirt the demands of society, even if just for a little bit?

That’s why I stood over the simmering sauce feeling grateful, even as flecks of tomato spewed across my kitchen. I made dinner for myself, and made a mess I’d clean up later without resentment, because it’s my mess. Today this is all I created, but I refuse to feel guilty.

photo by picnic

Spanish stew with gnocchi and sausage


4 people | 20 minutes



Ingredients


gnocchi 1 kg

merguez sausages 10 pieces

smoked paprika powder 2 tsp

chicken stock cubes 2 pieces

seedless green olives 220 grams

passata/tomato purée 500g

spinach 200g

snack tomatoes 500g

parsley 15 g

olive oil 3 tbsp

garlic 2 cloves

black pepper

salt


Here’s how you make it


Step 1

Roughly chop the parsley. Finely chop the garlic.


Step 2

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the gnocchi and cook on high heat for 3 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.


Step 3

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in the same pan. Add the merguez sausages and fry until brown on all sides for 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and smoked paprika and cook for another minute.


Step 4

Add the olives, snack tomatoes, passata/tomato purée, chicken stock cubes and 100 ml water. Let simmer gently for 5 minutes.


Step 5

Add the spinach in handfuls and let it wilt for 4 minutes. Add the gnocchi. Cover to let steam heat the dish.


Step 6

Garnish with the parsley. Season with the salt and pepper.
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15 Comments

  1. Your food creation sounds delicious!

    And, you are blessed to have options and to have the ability to live by your priorities.

    Please continue to post since it’s exciting to read about your ongoing life journey.

    BTW – you also created this post today!

  2. No, you shouldn’t feel guilty. The whole point of the women’s lib movement is that you should be able to chose your life- even if what you choose to do is be a housewife (sometimes people miss that point.) You chose your life and made your own way- good for you!

  3. I am not surprised that you are processing through your feeling after this big life change. Things have certainly changed for women for the better. I was interested to see that on my birth certificate it has a box for fathers profession but no such box for mothers profession. By the way I really like how you posted the recipe. It saves me the hassle to scrolling through a myriad of ads that happens when you click on a link.

  4. I love this post. I am 59 and this is also my story, only I retired more recently. I am not a wife or a mother. I never longed for that life, but there was a time when I assumed that would eventually be my path. It just never worked out that way, and in retrospect I think I dodged a couple bullets. Every morning when I wake up without an alarm I am grateful. Feel that gratitude and spread that vibe, and let whatever you do today be enough.

    1. Thank you for sharing a bit of your story! It’s great that you never longed for that life, and in the end it worked out for you. Feeling gratitude is the best part of it.

  5. I think it more likely that you’re on a career hiatus rather than an actual retirement. You need at least 10 years of full time employment to qualify for social security. Based on your age and previous posts, I am guessing that you’re not quite there yet. You would be doing yourself a disservice but not, at least, getting the minimum to qualify.

  6. Although I’m still working, I also never married or had kids. When I was younger I would’ve liked to have met someone, but it just never happened so c’est la vie. I did know from a *very* early age (I’m talking around 6 years old here) that I didn’t want to have kids, though. I’ve never much liked small children – even when I was one myself! Like Robin above, I definitely think I’ve dodged bullets.

    1. It’s great you’ve stuck to that knowing! I don’t know many people who regret not having kids.

  7. That recipe looks delicious. I’ll have to try it.

    I’ve considered this topic myself. Historically, now is the best life has ever been for women from the perspectives of infrastructure, health, legislation, education, and opportunity. Certainly for Western women, that’s generally the case. There’s still immense social pressure to follow a specific route: partner, marriage, kids, etc. Don’t give into it. Figure out what YOU want and pursue it when you want it. If that’s travelling for 20 years, then so be it. If it’s travelling for 3 years then having kids, so be it!

    Don’t feel guilty. Your foremothers would be so happy for you. They fought for the rights you and I have; it would be churlish to feel bad about carving your own path separate from other people.

    1. It’s wild to me that this is the best life has ever been yet it’s still… not even close to an equitable society all told. I’m grateful to have the freedom I do, thanks to the foremothers who came before us! I appreciate the encouragement to take the path most suited to ME and not a scripted ladder. And I highly recommend that recipe!

  8. I lost my partner of being together for 29 yrs.
    But never had any children (he did from former marriage).

    I have never felt guilty for choosing to be child-free. But then I am the eldest of 6…
    So I saw the stress, which included making ends meet on my father’s salary…a cook. I was raised by immigrant parents. For sure, yes that can be character-building, including how to live more simply.

  9. Such a great post. It’s crazy to think how backwards everything was as little as 50 years ago. While we’re not quite fire yet, I’ve taken 18 months off work to travel a few times and it takes about 6 months to decompress and that’s where the magic happens, I’m sure you’ll have many more epic insights now you have the time. Can’t wait to read them.

    1. 6 months! I’ll keep that in mind for a benchmark. I did reflect yesterday that a lot of traveling does not feel very relaxing, depending on how full you stuff your days with must-sees. I’m looking forward to continuing to decompress though! Congrats on the 18 months off, a nice peek into what FIRE could look like in the future!

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