I did it my way

The word spinster seems woefully out-dated. But, when Emma Hadfield exited a long-term relationship, she found some people still can't come to terms with women who choose to stay single and child-free

Emma Hadfield, 7 July 2007

I am fast approaching 30, I'm not getting any younger, the body clock is ticking away. If I don't get married and shoot out a few brats soon, I'm inevitably going to turn into the 'cat lady'. These are some of the comments that recently began to be thrown my way, after I came out of a long-term relationship. The 'cat lady' is a popular idea in my circle of friends. She is an unmarried, childless, old spinster-lady, with wild hair and smelly clothes, who has numerous pet cats and shouts at children when they walk past her house.

This idea has me in turmoil and makes me question whether I have made the right choices. But I realise the reason things ended with the most recent partner, as has happened with other relationships in the past, was not because the relationships were bad in any way, but just because they had run their course and they had reached the point where decisions needed to be made as to the next step in the relationship: living together and/or marriage. And to be perfectly honest, the thought of spending the next 50+ years with anyone just terrifies me.

As a woman, your entire life seems to hang on finding Mr Right and getting him down on one knee, professing his undying love for you and his wish to start a family

This is where I start to question what is wrong with me and whether I am 'normal' and where others start to label me 'commitment phobic'. But I realise that these labels and doubts are embedded in our thoughts due to the patriarchal society that we live in, where women still have to fit a certain mould.

I continuously find that, as a woman, even in today's society, you are still expected to want children and you are still expected to want to marry. In fact, as a woman, your entire life seems to hang on finding Mr Right and getting him down on one knee, professing his undying love for you and his wish to start a family.

In a past life (before I discovered the wonderful world of feminism) I tried hard to convince myself that I also wanted this to happen. So, when I found a guy that I clicked with, I would think, this could be 'the one'. Then the novelty wears off. People told me that the novelty does not wear off, but that you just reach a different stage in your relationship. To me, this different stage involves a great deal of tolerance and sacrifice. I admit I can be selfish at times, but my personal view is that life is way too short to spend it tolerating a person and compromising my life goals just to fit into the role that society has dictated that I fill.

My family frown upon my situation: at my age I should have settled down and at least had one child by now. They cannot understand why I date, but never marry, or why I continue to hold academic and career aspirations at an age when I should be aspiring to making babies

As for children, this is an area I hold no interest in. I have never wanted children and cannot see this changing any time soon. Friends and family cannot understand this either, because surely as a woman I must want children. Trying to explain that maternal instinct is not innate to all women is like banging my head against a brick wall. I don't condemn women for aspiring to become mothers, if that is what they truly want out of life. If anything, I commend them for it. However, I feel that women such as me, that do not choose that path, should not be criticised and should be accepted for their life choices.

I will admit that sometimes I do think that if I do not marry and do not have children, will I find myself all alone and lonely in my later years. But this stems, once again, from the seed of doubt implanted in my mind by patriarchal society, that if I do not marry and have children my life will be empty and incomplete. It is hard, if not impossible, to remove this seed and realise the potential life holds.

I can honestly say that none of my female friends or associates share my view and they are all searching for (if they have not already found) the 'perfect' man to share their lives with. They have all started families or are looking to do so in the near future. My family frown upon my situation, as they believe that at my age I should have settled down and at least had one child by now. They cannot understand why I date, but never marry, or why I continue to hold academic and career aspirations at an age when I should be aspiring to making babies.

For a woman, to date regularly, but never marry, to be in her late twenties (or beyond) and not have children, to live alone, to be financially secure, independent and be filled with aspiration is not unheard of, but is still looked upon as something not quite right. The independent woman who chooses to take life on by herself must be flawed in such a way that no-one will marry her, as no-one can quite believe she would not marry by choice. What is a woman without a man to make her complete? What is a woman without children? Well, that woman is me and I'll be damned if I'm not going to do it my way!

About the author

Emma Hadfield

Emma Hadfield, 28, can't remember life before she declared herself a feminist, but she imagines she was less opinionated and life was much quieter!

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