Changing Course

Author and entrepreneur Melanie Notkin

Author and entrepreneur Melanie Notkin dreamed of being a wife — and especially, a mother. But when life didn’t work out that way, she decided to reshape her journey

By age 42, I thought I’d be married and planning my son’s bar mitzvah. I’d also have twin girls (a random idea since there were no twins in my family) and I would be madly in love with a man with whom I would walk down the street of life, holding hands.

This vision started early. By age five, as soon as I learned there was a Ken for my Barbie, I became a pretend wedding officiant, marrying off dolls, stuffed animals and whatever I could pair up. I’d envision my backyard filled with flowers and a makeshift white carpet aisle for my wedding. When I was about 12, I bought a baby name book. Actually two of them. Deciding on names for twin girls took extra inspiration, you see.

I saw my grown up life as married. And I was always going to be a mother.

Instead, I’m single (never married), no kids.

The good news is that I didn’t marry the wrong guy (not that he asked). I’m not miserable waiting for a new chapter in my life to start as soon as the life I found myself in would end. I love what I’ve chosen to do with my life, the people I’ve met on this journey, and am proud of exercising my potential as far as I can push it. I have no regrets. But still, I wonder what happened?

“You must be picky,” they say (usually married people who obviously weren’t picky) Sure I am. I mean whoever I end up with deserves to be loved, right?

“You’re a career woman,” they say (usually men on a date who are trying to figure out why a not-unattractive woman with a lot going for her is ‘still single.’) Careers for women aren’t really a choice these days, are they?

“You’re delaying marriage,” they say (usually folks of an older generation who perhaps should have caught a few breaths before marriage themselves.) I prefer to call it “waiting for love.”

“Too bad, you would be an amazing mother,” they say. OK — that one I don’t have a smart answer for. You’re darn right I would be. But that drawbridge is closing, and I’m not sure I’ll ever get to the other side.

Instead, in a cross-haired version of my 1970′s view of my adult life, I rent Zipcars to drive over the George Washington Bridge to visit my brother and his family. His family includes a beautiful boy who will no doubt make me cry with pride at his bar mitzvah in a few years, along with beautiful twin girls.

I’m an aunt who couldn’t love her nephew and nieces more if she tried. Our relationship is filled with magical moments, special presents, and a connection that is as much a gift as any I could ever have imagined. And they keep my dream alive, my nieces showing me dresses in their closets that would be “perfect” to wear as flower girls at my wedding one day. Like me, their interest in marriage began at age five, when they wanted to know who my ‘daddy’ was. “A daddy like mommy’s ‘daddy,” they asked. In other words, a husband.

“If I marry someone, he becomes your uncle, right girls?” Yes they nodded curiously. “Then he’d have to be really special, wouldn’t he?” I asked. Yes they nodded assuredly and went back to playing, satisfied.

Nonetheless, they bring up my wedding often, preparing for their special roles in a day they are now dreaming of more than I. Now I’m over the wedding (focused on finding love that lasts after the honeymoon is over). And I’m almost over not being a mom. And I’m realizing that little girls will always dream of weddings and grown women will always remember being little girls. And either way, life goes on.

Melanie Notkin is the author of Savvy Auntie: The Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers and All Women Who Love Kids. The founder of SavvyAuntie.com, Notkin is a social media entrepreneur who speaks directly to an influential demographic of women. Formerly an interactive marketing and communications executive for New York Times Digital, American Express, and L’Oréal, she lives in New York City.

4 comments so far.

  1. avatar calgal says:

    I, too, had assumed I’d marry, have kids and stay home to raise them (my teen years were in the 50s, June Cleaver and all that). But the man I married, and had carefully vetted on the kids question, turned out not to want them. He preferred me making money. Then, at 37 when I told him if he wanted kids with me, we had to start now, he changed his mind. It took us 5 years. I had our only child at 42. Sometimes dreams come true in unexpected ways. But whatever comes your way, you have to find a way to make the best of it. I admire the way you’ve found to have kids in your life.

  2. avatar D C says:

    My daughter will turn 23 in August, and to date, she has had one kiss — back in the 10th grade, from a boy she decided, shortly after that kiss, she didn’t want to do THOSE things with.  I have no idea where she got it, but she has contracted a very serious case of the “I’m-waiting-for-the-man-God-chooses-for-me’s”.  And having heard her expectations for this man, and knowing what I know about so many of the men I’ve been around my whole life (relatives, co-workers, friends, former friends) I am not very confident that man exists. 

    It makes me a little sad to think she might never marry, but it scares me to death to think that she might actually marry, and then find out that this man she waited for doesn’t live up to the expectations.  I think I’d rather she didn’t marry than to go through that kind of heart-destruction. 

    • avatar Barbara says:

      Wow – I guess it’s good she hasn’t found someone. I’d hate to be that “god-chosen” man. What a burden to have to shoulder. Feels like he’d have to make the sun come up every morning just for her. Probably no man could live up to those expectations. How does this happen?
      I know that many young women spend their time dreaming of weddings (and turning into bridezillas when their turn comes), planning the wedding, the house, the family. How about just normal life? It doesn’t mean no expectations. It means putting the expectations on yourself to enjoy the moment, create the interest and fun, being enough of yourself that you are complete.
      I compare it to those parents you see at children’s events with their faces behind their cameras capturing every moment, every nuance. What happened to just enjoying things real time? I’d rather really be there than making sure I have the perfect 50 snap shots.
      And sometimes when you are happy and complete in yourself, that makes you irresistable to someone else.

  3. avatar DianaJohn says:

    This resonated with me- I’m 43, single, and have also never found the right man to marry- YET! And when I look around at friends and peers, my strong suspicion is that I’m happier than most, even those with husbands and children.

    The negative messages and pressure that some in society place on single women of my age group is sometimes difficult to handle- only recently I had a man my age (and gay) tell me that I am an “unassuming spinster.”  He didn’t only find it funny, but refused to apologize, as if he wanted me to know that in his eyes, I was worthless and he was only expressing the truth.
    Rising above that kind of categorization is something 40 something unmarried women face daily. I don’t think of myself as “less”, but it’s challenging to respond to the critics.