Sharron Williams is busy. Between sorority meetings and activities, college football games, alumni events and her church, the social worker and educator is booked every Saturday until December, and then there are the holiday gatherings she plans to attend at the end of the year.
Dr. Williams, 51, who received a Ph.D. in education administration and supervision, never married and doesn’t have any children, but she says she is happy and fulfilled.
“I never thought that I’d be single, child-free at 51, but here I am,” said Dr. Williams, who lives outside Jackson, Mississippi, and is president of her sorority’s graduate chapter. “But I am loving it and embracing it because there is so much to do, so many ways to give back, to love. But ironically, as I look back over my life and I look at my circle of friends, and to see how many of us are single, never been married, child-free, I see that this path is growing. And I don’t think that any of us are sad. I think we all still live a fulfilled life even though we are single, never married, and child-free.”
Dr. Williams is part of a growing demographic of women of a certain age who have never married. A 2023 Pew Research report found that “as of 2021, 25 percent of 40-year-olds in the United States had never been married … a significant increase from 20 percent in 2010.”
The Pew report also found that “Black 40-year-olds were much more likely to have never married (46 percent) than Hispanic (27 percent), White (20 percent) and Asian (17 percent) 40-year-olds.”
Gen X Black women who have never married and are child-free buy homes, earn advanced degrees and often have the disposable income to attain leisure items. They find happiness in hobbies, travel and volunteer opportunities. They have sister friends that are like family and cherish a life of freedom that is not experienced by their married-with-children friends.
Kesha Lindsay, an academic counselor at Johns Hopkins, describes her life as “rich and full,” despite never marrying and not having any children.
“Life is good, at least mine is,” said Lindsay, 48. “I [have] work that is interesting and I’m always developing that aspect of self. I’m reengaging with my meditation and spiritual practices and find richness in that. I find events to go to that suit my interest. I’m reading. I spend time with friends. Life is good. Life is rich. I have no complaints.”
Lindsay, who lives in Orlando, Florida, says she focuses on the things that are working in her life, not on the things that are not there.
“I’m not going to sit quietly and do nothing and wait. I’m still living, me being me and all of those things. And right now that’s quite a bit,” Lindsay says. “I focus on the richness and what’s good and what’s joyful and where can I find more of that. And if someone wants to join along, that’s great, but in the meantime I’m good.”
That’s also the sentiment of award-winning actress Tracee Ellis Ross, who starred in the television shows Girlfriends and Black-ish and is the daughter of legendary singer Diana Ross. In her conversation with Oprah Winfrey for Winfrey’s 2020 Vision Tour Visionaries, Ross said, “I, like many of us, was taught to grow up dreaming of my wedding, not of my life … and also waiting to be chosen. Well, here’s the thing: I’m the chooser. And I can choose to get married if I want to, but in the meantime, I am choicefully single, happily, gloriously single.”
And in a 2021 interview in Marie Claire, Ross noted how society spoon feeds women the myth of a traditional family [a husband and children]. Ross, 50, admitted in the piece, that, “I would still love all of that, but what am I going to do, just sit around waiting? Shut up. I’ve got so many things to do.”
During a 2019 talk at the Hay Festival, happiness expert and behavioral science professor Paul Dolan, Ph.D., of the London School of Economics and Political Science noted that, “the healthiest and happiest population subgroup are women that have never married and never had children.” An article in The Guardian noted that during that same talk at the Hay Festival, Dr. Dolan, author of Happy Ever After: Escaping the Myth of the Perfect Life, also mentioned that never married, child-free women were “more likely to live longer than their married and child-rearing peers.”
Loleta Robinson, 51, of Wilmington, North Carolina, says she used to get questions about when she was going to get married and have children, but didn’t bend to the pressure. Instead, she says, she’s created a life that allows her freedom and independence.
“I’ve chosen a path that gives me the freedom to wake up every day and do whatever I want,” said Robinson, president and CEO of a consulting company. “I love my independence. Whether I’m traveling with my parents and friends, switching careers, fly-fishing in a remote location, going to the beach or just sleeping in on a Sunday, I can do those things ’cause I choose to do them.”
Robinson says she’s cultivated deep bonds and friendships with women who are like her — child-free by choice and unmarried. She says she doesn’t feel like she’s missing something in her life.
“I’m just happy and satisfied when I’m free, again, just to do what I want, when I want — that makes my life fulfilling,” Robinson said. “I’ve made a life that’s true to who I am, which makes it all more satisfying.”
Robinson says now women who have been married a significant number of years and have children are coming up to her and saying she did the right thing. They may have regrets now of falling “into that pressure that they needed to be married and have kids and didn’t really want to,” Robinson noted.
Dr. Williams, who earned her doctorate degree in 2019, said she wants to caution young women today to not cave to the pressure of marriage and children.
“It is OK if they have not found their significant other, they [can] still live a fulfilled or a fulfilling life being single with no children,” Dr. Williams said. “Just live life and make sure that you’re comfortable being single.”