Thesis Defence: “Voices of (M)Otherhood: Listening to the Experiences of Single and Childless Women”
Rebecca Chan, “Voices of (M)Otherhood: Listening to the Experiences of Single and Childless Women”
Supervisor: Mihaela Launeau, PhD
Second Reader: Janelle Kwee, PhD (CPSY)
Third Reader: Faith Auton-Cuff, PhD, KPU
Exam Chair: Adrienne Castellon, PhD (MA Lead)
Single and childless women over the age of 35 constitute an expanding demographic in North America and in many parts of the world, and today more women in Canada are living without a partner than they are with one; yet we are still living in a society that places great importance on marriage and family and views them as important markers of life success. This research was designed to explore how involuntarily single (never- married) and childless women experience themselves during early midlife (ages 35-45). Eight women’s experiences were explored in this study using the feminist relational methodology of the Listening Guide. Data analysis uncovered three categories of voices: voices which conveyed the positivity of living a single and childless identity (i.e. the voices of hope, faith, gratitude, and nurturance, freedom, and resilience), voices which conveyed the struggles of living a single and childless identity (i.e. the voices of invisibility, shame, confusion, loneliness, guilt, longing, and uncertain waiting), and the voice of ambivalence. Overall, women in this study were actively engaged in pursuing a meaningful life outside of marriage and motherhood; hence, their sense of self did not appear to be primarily or exclusively defined through their relationship to a partner, but rather, these women defined themselves through their chosen values and purpose enacted in relationships with others beyond the romantic or marital partnership. In so doing, these women’s voices embodied the tension and gratitude that came with transitioning from experiencing themselves as passive, dependent and with very little agency to experiencing themselves as an autonomous, active person who is connected to others in accordance with her own values.