Women, Ageing and ‘the shelf’

What does the shelf mean to you?

For us it is the thing that has us in its grip from an early age as women. There is an unspoken contract that says that by a certain age we need to be partnered up and having babies.

It is so embedded in our societies that when we choose not to abide by these rules we are required to explain ourselves.

So who made the shelf and what keeps it on the wall?

There have been times in our history when survival has been the forerunner and therefore breeding has been a priority in order to keep the line alive; ‘the heir and a spare’. This is no longer the case. We could actually say that the opposite is true. And yet we still collude in and feed this belief that there is a certain point in a woman’s life when if she has not found her partner and had children it is too late and she has missed the boat, missed her purpose for being a woman…

We don’t have to be at the mercy of these social dictates; we can walk with our choices as it were and disassemble the belief systems that do not serve us anymore.

We have many friends who have actively chosen to be single and not have children and it is with great inspiration that we observe them engaging fully and joyfully in life. There is no whiff of something missed or their being any less for not having abided by the ‘rules’ that women have been expected to follow. So the deconstruction is happening, paving the way for others to make true choices for themselves, unhampered by imposition and belief, free to embrace life’s opportunities true to themselves.

(Credit: Clayton Lloyd)

Inspired we are by what this will look like in the future. The more we break away from, and therefore have a chance to review the belief systems that seep into our lives from our social environments, the freer we are to stay in relationship with ourselves, our true purpose and our path alongside others.

So… the shelf has been around for a while and it has maintained its place in the eyes and expectations of society. However, with fresh eyes we can see that it does not make any sense (holding ourselves to ransom in any way never has) and armed with a screwdriver we are up for taking it down ☺

By Judy Joy and Matilda Bathurst 

For further inspiration..

Are we on the shelf or embracing life? Judy and Matilda discuss..

Is there more to us as women than the roles we think we need to play?

Do we retire, or.. what if we enjoyed work differently?




95 thoughts on “Women, Ageing and ‘the shelf’

  1. Bearing in mind the gorgeous ladies I know who have not chosen to have a relationship and kids, each of whom are a complete powerhouse, it is interesting to realize how much we have limited women in the past by holding such demeaning views of them when they have not followed the ‘normal’ route.

  2. There are also women who become single in later life, due to separation, divorce, or more often bereavement For this last group, there can be a great sense of loss when partners die, leaving them with space they don’t know what to do with and often exposes the consequences of how they have lived as wives and partners. For example, if they identified themselves primarily as ‘wife and mother’ servicing husbands and children this period more commonly feels like a void, not spacious. For many, it is a time of great sadness, not just for the loss of a loved one, but for the loss of connection with self now fully revealed.. And yet this cycle opens for women in their seventies, eighties and nineties a richly rewarding opportunity to find new purpose dedicated to truly accepting, loving, appreciating their true worth as women.

  3. We boundary our selves by so many beliefs and ideals from the way we cook to how many children we should have to all prove what Nature has bestowed on us for free, the fact that we are all beautiful women who innately know how to love and nurture, no babies or husbands required.

    1. In the outward subscription to ideals we can often miss the most beautiful and gorgeous essence of ourselves. The is so beautifully pointed out Rowena and that essence is so worth cherishing in the sweetness that is the love we are.

  4. When I was growing up in the nineteen forties and fifties the majority of our teachers were women who had had no choice but to be single. They were at the accepted “marriageable” age during and after the First World War, when there were few men left to marry. I remember the attitude towards them was one of sympathy that they had missed their chance and were somehow lesser. But they joined the heritage of those few nineteenth century women who had dared to claim their single status to seek fulfilment, and these women teachers of mine were fine powerful women in their own right with no indication of feeling themselves at all deprived and became respected in their chosen professions.

  5. Female news presenters have often complained about being sidelined for younger women whereas their male counterparts have been acceptable to work longer, so it’s no wonder they feel shelved the way the media portray lots of older women. And women’s magazines are so full of ways to prevent us showing we are ageing, like it’s such negative thing. Any woman, embracing her love for herself, shines a glory from within, whatever her age.

  6. Breaking away from all the beliefs we carry is no easy feat but it is so worth the journey, because it frees us up to be our natural selves without all the encumbrances that keep us stuck in old patterns that have never truly served us other than to hold us back from being the beautiful women we naturally are.

  7. It is great to explore these outdated ideas that can keep us stuck in the past and acting out of fear of being left behind in so many ways including not ticking the boxes of being married or having children when neither of these are necessary to live an unfolding and fulfilling life if we so choose.

  8. Being single and crossing the line of the age of being mother, I’m feeling really well and not missing anything in my life. I feel complete, forever learning and growing with everything that comes to me at every moment. Openness and connection to my innerheart is what brings me the purpose and understanding of every encounter, starting with myself.

  9. Beliefs such as ‘there is something wrong with a women who is still single in her forties’ or ‘a woman is odd if she decides not to have children’ cut into and diminish the natural gloriousness of all women. We are splendid beyond measure and our splendour is not dependant on anything outside of us.

    1. I love this Alexis and the truth of what you are sharing resounds strongly. So many women are caught up in the notion that they really are not worth very much if they are not in a relationship. I used to feel the same and no matter how much I put a brave face on it and pretended otherwise it was a feeling that refused to go. The only thing that supported me to truly let it go was to recognise and then value the essence I naturally bring and to begin to cherish it. Once in a relationship how many women self nurture and place their own relationship with self as equal to that of their partner and how many simply give their power away within it, using the relationship as a marker of their worth rather than their own self love? It is one thing to know that using the marker of a relationship for self worth is false, it is entirely another to let it go.

      1. “It is one thing to know that using the marker of a relationship for self worth is false, it is entirely another to let it go”. There are so many things that we humans can know in our heads but it is what is lived in our bodies that gets registered. We can have goals, good intentions, plans, ideals, we can be determined to do things better and even have incredible realisations about things but only when it is moved by the body will it be known by the body.

      2. Absolutely. When we don’t realise that everything is energy and the energy of every thought, ideal and belief we have taken on resides there no matter how much we tell ourselves the opposite, it is the energy from the body we need to release not the thoughts in our heads.

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