In this new installment of Smart Conversations, I talk with Melanie Notkin about her book, OTHERHOOD: Modern Women Finding a New Kind of Happiness and how the experience of being single after a certain age, has changed or not changed, and how being single and childless is not always a choice women make, despite what some may think.
I met Melanie back in my Lipsticking days. When I was totally focused on women and women's issues, both business and life. I remember being one of the go-to resources for that topic, women and women's issues, especially online, and when I met Melanie, I did not realize what a treasure she would become. It's often that way - you meet someone through one way or another, and you feel connected, and you form a friendship but life intervenes and takes you on different paths. Yet, that connection, that friendship, continues, and when, years later, you reconnect, it's like a few days have gone by, instead of years and years.
Perhaps you have someone in your life like that, too.
Melanie is like that to me. Though she's so busy now, as you'll see when you watch the video, she responded to my request to be on the show within hours of my asking. I cannot say how delighted I was that she said yes to being on the show!
Melanie brought insight into the role of aunts in the lives of nieces and nephews, and how the favorite aunt wasn't always single and childless by choice - perhaps she was waiting for that one certain someone. Anyone with an ounce of heart will understand that - it's not just a thing of fairytales. Real women are looking for love - before they become a wife and mother.
It helps to know that today's guest, Melanie Notkin, is the founder of SAVVY AUNTIE®: A Celebration of Modern Aunthood, and she is also the national bestselling author of SAVVY AUNTIE: The Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers and All Women Who Love Kids. (I loved this book when it came out and love it still)
Out of that book and that recognition, Melanie uncovered and coined the term PANK® (Professional Aunts No Kids) for the growing demographic, and in 2009, established Auntie’s Day®, an annual celebration every fourth Sunday in July. Just Genius!
Melanie's reported memoir, Otherhood: Modern Women Finding a New Kind of Happiness, received a Booklist Starred Review. The topic helped Melanie appear in major media offering insight into the real 'suffering' of the single, childless women in their late 20s, 30s, and 40s. I discovered I had some preconceived notions about this woman, myself. Melanie's book taught me to open my ears and my heart to hear the stories of these women who are traveling a road I will never need to set foot upon. A road they wish they were not on, either. (click here or on the image to buy at Amazon)
I learned more about how Savvy Auntie came to be in this discussion and listened as Melanie did a deeper dive into "otherhood" - the stories we don't hear, of women who do want children, but are not having them because there is a desire for something else first - and it isn't a career.
Despite our biological desire to have children, to become a Mom - and more of us have it than don't, but we do not fault those who are childless by choice - women today are not finding Mr. Right - despite every effort to do so. They are often childless by circumstance. A much bigger and more complicated issue. Melanie's book, Otherhood, is the story of one woman told through the eyes and hearts and souls of many women. You will find the conversations over lunch and at cocktail parties illuminating! Full of humor and the kind of girl talk women share everywhere, about this topic and so much more. Because...well, because women more often support each other than not, no matter what you may have read elsewhere.
Sometimes, we learn, it's the woman who believes in love, who is open to love, who wants the white picket fence (perhaps not in reality but in perspective - that sense of being a wife and mother in a home that provides security, warmth, love, and caring), but isn't finding it, who feels the pain of her situation just as deeply as the married woman eager for a child, but left without.
I wonder how hard it is for women who seem to find love willy-nilly to read a book like this. I wonder if women who have love can open their minds and hearts to see into the deep regret some women in their late 20s and beyond, have that the bonds of marriage are not theirs, and subsequently, children, also, are not theirs. Sure, they can have kids if they want to. We live in an age that allows women to be single Moms by choice, if they wish. But, what if they don't wish? What if she truly, absolutely, fully believes in love and marriage and then children? What then?
Those of us, with good men and children, will only begin to understand by reading this book. It's such a complicated subject, fraught with misjudgment and error on the part of those of us who have not experienced it. The beauty of the book, Otherhood, and of this conversation, is how Melanie uncovers the myths and stories we've told ourselves about having or not having children, and how she doesn't merely rely on personal stories - though the book is full to overflowing with them. She knows her facts and her history, too. I recommend this book as a great spring read, while you're still waiting for those summer breezes to flow in the window.
Oh, and there is a discussion about the Dating Bermuda Triangle, you don't want to miss.
If nothing else, I hope the recognition that being single and childless is its own suffering, though few see it as such. And, "love is a reward you wait for," as Melanie reminds us.
We finally talk about writing. And this is where Melanie tells all budding writers out there, "Write like you mean it." In other words, cry, scream, shout, be vulnerable and allow your readers to experience the story with them. Don't just relate it - share it with open arms.
Melanie and her work have been featured in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, New York Magazine and on the TODAY Show, CNN, FOX, NPR, the BBC and many more national and global outlets. (more in the talk on what "reported memoir" means) At this time, Melanie is a contributor to The New York Post, but she has more coming for us, soon, I think.
And, connect with her on LinkedIn also.
As always, subscribe to this channel for more amazing, talented, inspirational guests, just like Melanie Notkin.
Now, it's time for the show.