The truth about being single in your 40s

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A new book is redefining what it means to be single and child-free in your 40s 

Can you be happy and single in your 40s? Of course you can.

You don’t need a baby or marriage to succeed in life. And yet, women, in particular, are so often cast as caregivers, there is no narrative for those of us who veer off-script.

It’s an issue that lies at the heart of No One Tells You This, a new memoir by New York writer Glynnis MacNicol.

Approaching her 40th birthday a few years ago, Glynnis had a great career and a life that she loved.

But still, she found herself framed by the expectations of other people: people who felt she must want babies or a partner in order to feel fulfilled.

Read more: Solo travel fuels this major happiness habit

And that message was backed up by almost every book, film and magazine she came across.

“It was nearly impossible, no matter how smart, educated, or lucky I was, not to conclude that I had officially become the wrong answer to the question of what made a woman’s life worth living,” says Glynnis.

With more and more of us choosing to live solo and not have children, child-free women in their 40s are a growing demographic. But our understanding of what this means is still evolving.

Instead of feeling bad about being child-free and single – as society expected her to – Glynnis decided to create a blueprint for women like her. Women who are happy living alone, without a partner or kids.

No One Tells You This documents the first year of  Glynnis’ life in her 40s, from life-changing adventures to dating and friendships.

It unpicks the question, “If a story doesn’t end with marriage or a child, what then?”

Here are just a few of her insights about being a single woman in her 40s:

The single women myth

“Culturally there is a lot of messaging out there that after the age of 40 if you have not acquired a partner or child, you are sort of in a no man’s land of invisibility and things will probably be horrible for you from here on out […] I had been prepared to dread this period of my life but never prepared to enjoy it.”

(via Refinery 29)

Read more: Why being single gets more satisfying with age

Questioning the narrative

“I’d never bothered to seriously question whether I actually wanted to be married with kids, or even just with kids. I had simply taken it as a given, like financial security and regular exercise, obvious outcomes sane people generally aimed their lives toward.”

(via Simon and Schuster)

Alone, happy and free

“I made myself say it out loud: ‘I might always be alone’.  It sounded less overwhelming against the noise of the breaking waves. I laughed. ‘Fuck off,’ I thought, ‘I am done feeling bad.’ And then aloud: ‘I can do whatever I want.'”

(via Elle magazine)

Read more: Why spending time alone makes us happy

Living a fulfilled life

single in your 40s

“There’s no such thing as ‘all.’ I simply have as much and as little as any other woman I know and look forward to the day when women — single, married and otherwise — no longer need the words ‘husband’ and ‘baby’ to act as a special lemon juice squeezed over our lives in order to make them visible.”

(via the The New York Times)

A new kind of story

“There are literally no stories about women that don’t end with marriage or a baby. We have so many role models as girls, growing up, independent characters: Harriet the Spy, The Secret Garden, The Hunger Games. But those stories essentially end with puberty.”

(via the Washington Post)

Read more: Words of wisdom from fearless female pioneers

Women and solo travel

“Women on road trips aren’t tragedies waiting to happen. Like men, we’re free. We don’t hear enough about women doing epic, exhilarating things without the comfortably defining presence of a man.”

(via the Guardian)

Finding purpose

“My life is more enjoyable now than it has ever been, and more fulfilling. My relationships have deepened; I feel more secure and confident. The word I come back to is that I feel incredibly powerful. That is the antithesis of what you’re conditioned to think [as a single woman in her 40s] – you’re supposed to think of yourself as a disappearing entity with no agency.”

(via the Washington Post)

Read more: Why it’s OK not to want kids

Single in your 40s? Jump aboard for a group adventure

Join our community of like-minded travellers of a similar age and life stage all around the world

Explore the wild frontiers of Oman

Wild swim your way through the cool green pools of Oman’s spectacular wadis, and waterfall-jump in a hidden turquoise grotto. Head off-radar in bustling souks, ancient fords and remote Arabian villages, and discover the delights of Omani cuisine in the elegant capital Muscat.

Come to Oman

Vespa the Spanish countryside

Learn how to ride a Vespa through countryside Spain, in this immersive four-day escape. Zip past sunflower fields, mountain gorges and remote hillside villages, and soak in the spectacular scenery of Duratón Canyon Nature Reserve. Escape the crowds, grab a taste of rural Spanish life and master a brand new skill.

Join us in Spain

Toast a brave new world in Colombia

Tube down the tropical wilderness of Palomino River, visit a Colombian coffee plantation and cruise around the spectacular Rosario Islands by private boat. Trek the rainforest of Tayrona National Park with a beach picnic en-route, and learn how to salsa and knock back rum in the colourful city of Cartagena.

Say hi to Colombia

Get your chill on in Kerala

Hike through shola forest in the mellow Munnar hills, camping out in the Western Ghats for sensational mountain views. Then, kayak the Kerala backwaters, discovering hidden canals and sleepy villages as you go. Spend the finale of the trip at a luxury beach-side hotel, with powdery white beaches, al fresco yoga and an Ayurvedic spa.

Get zen in Kerala

Smash your comfort zone in South Africa

Put your surf skills to test with a lesson on idyllic Knysna Lagoon, and paddle-board your way across the shimmering Cape Peninsula. Then, come swimming with seals, the playful dogs of the ocean, and try abseiling down Cape Town’s Table Mountain (if you dare). A safari on South Africa’s Eastern Cape is the jewel in the crown of this magnificent trip.

South Africa calling

Learn the secrets of happiness in Costa Rica

South Africa is one of the happiest nations on earth: it really is all about pura vida (the pure or simple life). Join us kayaking through the wild wetlands of Tortuguero National Park, with a chance to spot monkeys, sloths, nesting turtles and more. Then, hike the lava fields beneath scenic Arenal Volcano, bathe in bubbling hot springs and chill out with a day’s beach-hopping around the gleaming Pacific coast.

Costa Rica seeker

Images: Flash Pack and Shutterstock

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