Supporting other women has proved deeply fulfilling.
One woman said to me: “If you’d been a mum, you could never have helped as many people as you have.” I took a moment to take that in.
But those changes happened quickly enough—within a lifetime—that they’ve created rapidly graying national populations in developed, and even some developing, countries worldwide, as boomers hold on to life and on to the pension and health benefits promised by the state while relatively few new children arrive to balance their numbers and to pay for those promises.
Until recently that decrepitude has seemed oceans away, as America’s open spaces, sprawling suburbs, openness to immigrants, and relatively religious culture helped keep our population young and growing. A plurality of Americans—46 percent—told Pew in 2009 that the rising number of women without children “makes no difference one way or the other” for our society.
If you think I’m exaggerating, think of how, in just one generation, the most shamed female stereotype has shifted from being an “unmarried mother” to being a single, childless woman over 40.