As a woman who is rapidly entering her dotage sans children, I really wanted to like Melanie Notkin’s The Otherhood-Modern Women Finding a New Kind of Happiness. From the time we are little girls caring for our own Baby Alive dolls, it is pounded into our heads we’ll get married, have a bunch of kids and live happily ever after.
But what did John Lennon once sing? “Life is what happens when you busy making other plans?” Not all women’s lives consist of finding Mr. Right, making a pit stop at the Chapel of Love and then bottles and baby carriages. No, some women find themselves of a certain age without a husband, and even worse-nobody to call them mommy. A majority of women find themselves resigned to this reality and move on with their lives, finding fulfillment and joy in other things.
However, Melanie and her friends are not these women, which made reading The Otherhood a mind-numbingly irritating slog.
I first became of Ms. Notkin when I read and then wrote a review of her book Savvy Auntie: Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers, and All Women Who Love Kids.
Savvy Auntie was a fun read, a bit over the top with the pink and at times a bit twee with its mash up of the word aunt with other words—aunt + entrepreneur=auntpreneur. But in the end, Savvy Auntie is a pretty inoffensive book. Sadly, The Otherhood is pretty darn offensive.
Notkin is the founder of Savvy Auntie, a community for you guessed it, Savvy Aunties. Savvy Aunties is so much more than a book, it’s a lifestyle and a brand. And Notkin prides herself as a successful marketing professional, author and speaker. Well, goodie for her.
Yet, none of this success is enough for Notkin. And it’s not enough for her equally successful girlfriends who Notkin never fails to mention just how amazing, intelligent and accomplished they are. For Notkin, the Otherhood consists of a pretty narrow demographic of Manhattan-dwelling, designer clad professionals who all work in glamorous fields like fashion, PR, marketing, media and entertainment. Apparently, those of us who live in flyover country slaving away in boring McJobs and wearing clothes from Target don’t exist in the Otherhood. Notkin never seeks out their stories.
Interspersed throughout The Otherhood are tales of little get-togethers amongst Notkin and her girlfriends where they dine at fancy pants establishments and whine about men and not having kids. Hmm, ladies. Do you ever discuss pop culture, current events, politics or community happenings? Nope. Life is an endless episode of “Sex in the City” for Notkin and her besties.
Just what are the reasons why these women are single? Well, Notkin et al pretty much lay blame at the feet of men. Men don’t choose to marry these ladies because they are weak and intimidated by their intelligence, talent and success. Oh really? Men end up marrying intelligent, talented and successful women all the time.
Furthermore, Notkin and her friends are ticked that men don’t want to plan dates and often ask them to pick a restaurant when they go out. Asking you where you’d like to dine? The nerve of these men! What monsters! Ladies, if you can’t handle a man about your dining preferences how are you going to handle the immense challenges of raising a child?
Notkin also blames that usual suspect, feminism. Notkin has this strange idea that because of feminism she should have it all! Nope, feminism is about equality between the sexes and opening up doors to women that were once closed. Betty and Gloria never promised you the perfect life. So put on your big girl La Perla panties, Ms. Notkin, and deal with it!
Notkin also throws plenty of shade at women who are married and have kids, younger women and women who work in unimpressive fields like social work, nursing and teaching. The Otherhood pretty much showcases the author’s materialism, snobbery, classism and sense of entitlement. Gee, no wonder men avoid you and thank goodness you have no kids.
Other than some talk about adoption and freezing one’s eggs, Notkin and her little coterie don’t offer much in how to deal with being single and childless. Sure, many relish in being aunties, Savvy Aunties, of course. But there is no discussion of having children in one’s life without being a mom. It’s no secret one doesn’t have to raise a child to have a positive impact on a child’s life. Notkin could mentor kids. She could take part in Big Brothers/Big Sisters. She could tutor a child or get involved in improving our crumbling public schools. But none of this comes up in The Otherhood.
Notkin could also take an honest, hard look at herself and do some serious self-reflection on why she’s not a married mom. Sure, it’s okay to have standards when it comes to finding love, and it’s certainly okay to feel sad about not having kids. But in a world where there is war, disease, starvation, murder and divisiveness, being a childless old maid is pretty low on the scale of tragedies. Notkin needs to be a little less self-absorbed and a little more self-aware, but I seriously doubt she is capable of this. Maybe someone should drop her in a third world country so she can get some perspective. Nope. She’d probably complain about not being able to find a Starbucks.
Ultimately, The Otherhood is misleading. The subtitle of this book is “Modern Women Finding a New Kind of Happiness,” yet never ever is there a discussion of finding this elusive happiness, which is such a slap in the face for women find themselves childless and find fulfillment in other ways. Notkin claims to be a “leading voice for nearly 50 percent of American women who are childless.” Sorry, Ms. Notkin, but you are not a voice for me, and I doubt you are a voice for other childless women. I am my own voice, and my voice says this: The Otherhood is an insult to childless women, mothers, men, and yes, children. All of us deserve better.