BY MARIA D. JAMES – I may not be able to have children. Wow. Saying those words used to come with an involuntary shoulder shrug from me, and now my response is a mixture of fear and uncertainty.
A year ago, I learned that I have a medical condition that may reduce my likelihood of having children. Before you cry for me, I should set the record straight: I have never had a strong desire to be a mother. When I hear a baby cry I run in the other direction. As a matter of fact, I have never even volunteered to hold a baby. Now as I face my reality, I wonder about my place, and the place of others like me, in our community.
During the city council elections, there was a lot of conversation about making Hyattsville great for families, which I think is a great goal. However, I couldn’t help but wonder, “What about me? Do singles have a place in Hyattsville?”
My reality is I am 35 years old, I don’t have children and I have never been married. And I think that’s OK. While it doesn’t feel like it, according to U.S. Census Bureau, I am not alone. Last September, an article in the Washington Post highlighted the fact that there are now 109 million Americans, or 45 percent of the adult population 18 and older, who are divorced, are widowed or have always been single. In fact, between 2006 and 2015, the number of unmarried Americans 18 and older has increased from 92 million to 109 million. The U.S. Census Bureau also reports that those who have never been married form the largest group of unmarried Americans. That number increased from 60 percent in 2006 to 63 percent in 2015. In that period, the percentage of all unmarried Americans who are divorced or widowed has decreased. One factor is that young adults are delaying marriage. Additionally, a report from the Pew Research Center estimates that by the time today’s young adults reach their mid-40s to mid-50s, 25 percent will have been single all their lives. Most of this group will likely remain single.
Although motherhood has never been my dream, the thought of that option being taken away from me touched a sensitive spot in my heart I never knew existed. For now, my focus will be on my health, and in the next few years, I’ll determine what family means for me. I recently shared my medical condition on Facebook, and I may consider pursuing adoption in the near future (which is a big step for me). I was amazed by the number of women who responded to my Facebook post saying, “Me too.” I learned that my medical condition is common and that there are many late-30- to 40-year-olds embracing life without a traditional family.
Being single and unmarried in a family-oriented community can be a challenge. While we embrace the idea of making our city better for families, let’s not forget that community also includes those who do not have one.