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If you’re not a mom, then what are you?



I was so excited to discover Karen Malone Wright’s website at The Not Mom. Just after publishing the short rant here about finding a plethora of freelance writing jobs for “Mommy Bloggers” but nothing geared toward women who didn’t take that path, The Not Mom was like a breath of fresh air. It isn’t as though I hate kids – or mommies for that matter - but it seemed like there was a segment of society that was being ignored and left out by online advertisers and marketers. Much like Karen, I couldn’t find my own voice. So I just started talking. 

I’m 37. I knew by the time I was 21 that motherhood was not for me. My husband and I have been together for over 17 years and the decision was mutual. I simply don’t feel any sort of maternal instincts and decided it was better for me, and for society as a whole, if I remained child free. But it is amazing how you get treated in our world when you’re old enough to have children but don’t have any. 

“You guys would be great parents!”

“Just wait until you have kids!”

“You’ll see. You’ll be ready one day!”

These statements are as inappropriate as walking up to a pregnant stranger and touching her stomach. That strangers feel the need to make these types of judgments when they don’t have all of the facts is appalling. In our case, not having children was a choice – but what about the people who didn’t choose? Do you think they like to hear these statements over and over again? I was brought up to believe that if I didn’t know what I was talking about to keep quiet. I find that intrusive and statements like these only cause undue stress on the recipient. What benefit can it even provide the person asking?

In my early thirties, just after moving to Georgia, I made an appointment with an OBGYN. I just picked a doctor who was near my house and set up an appointment. When I arrived I was greeted by an older southern gentleman. I’m not one of those women who cares either way whether my Gynecologist is male or female, so I didn’t really think anything of it. As I sat on the table wrapped in a napkin waiting for the exam to begin he looked over my chart and said to me with his southern drawl, “So, why has a pretty young woman like you never been pregnant?” 

I was taken aback. Why would someone ask this question? Even if he was my doctor, why would that be any of his business? If he wanted to find out if I had been trying unsuccessfully to have kids there were a dozen different ways he could have obtained that information. Asking me why I’d never been pregnant before seemed not just intrusive but insulting. 

I never went back to that doctor.

Shortly after that experience I discovered the Child Free by Choice movement. I thought these might be my people. But when I attended a social meet up I found that I had as little in common with them as I did with people who had kids. It was an awkwardly forced social situation and I just wanted to leave.

There are many reasons for women not becoming mothers. Sometimes it is circumstance. Sometimes it is choice. Regardless of the reason, their experiences should never be invalidated. The prevalence of mommy-centered websites, and subsequently, mommy-centered advertising, is like being told “Your choices are incorrect” or “You're really missing out.” There is a demographic, an aging demographic, of women looking for a place to talk about themselves and their experiences of interacting with a world geared primarily toward families. 

As women without children it is our responsibility to create that place. What does it look like? What kinds of things do we discuss or showcase? What do women without children want to read about?

If I’m not a mom, what am I? Those things are countless. I am a tiny house builder. I am a brewer and beer lover. I am a daughter, a sister, an aunt. I am an adventurer. I am a writer. I am a seeker.

Comments

  1. Laura, once again, you have hit the nail square on the head. I knew that kids were not for me, back when we were kids, playing on my front porch. I continued waiting for the maternal feeling to come. My twenties passed, then most of my thirties. I was forced to feel unnatural,and wrong. I wondered if I was a lesbian, because of coarse, if you're a straight women, you must want kids. Time went by, and my parents excepted it, my Grandparents never did. I don't hate kids, but I'm not very much into holding babies, changing diapers, etc. I'm not into germs, so runny noses send me up a tree. Ironically, my Husband is a teacher. He doesn't hate kids, but after dealing with them all day, he's never been excited to deal with them at home. I think it's great that you have brought up how incredibly rude, and cruel it is to question a person's reproductive status. Of the people I have known that have chosen not to have kids, the reason's have included not wanting them, having a reproductive disorder, having crippling mental illness, and not even being, physiologically a woman (transgender). How cruel would it be for one of these mommy driven types to walk up to someone with crippling mental illness, and question why they don't have a kid. People who don't have kids have two good reasons for not having them. One is what is good for them. The other is what is good for the child. What good is it to have a child, and then neglect, physically abuse, or mentally abuse the child, because it is unwanted? I think it is also interesting that as a veterinary professional, I have come to notice that some animals will turn on their young. This phenomena can manifest in either neglect of the young, or abuse. Perhaps the animal just didn't want to be a parent and being an animal, was not given an option. I truly believe that in some scientific way, some people do not need children. It would be interesting to see the research, as it would relate to a certain size of a group that knows each other, versus how many remain childless by choice. We may serve as a natural selection towards zero population growth. After all, this rock we live on is getting crowded. Your writing has come at a good time, as my little Sister, who I thought would know me more then anyone else, has recently informed my Mom, that she feels that she and my Mom should work together to "encourage" me to have a child, because she feels I would be "happier". I didn't realize that I was not happy, so nice of my sibling to inform me! This is a great subject to right about. If you do start a blog on the subject, it would be nice to get some male opinions, as well. I didn't realize until recently, that they are being pushed too.

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  2. I too have a horrifying story about an older male gynecologist. When I told him that my husband and I didn't plan to have children, he joked that it was "un-American" and that he wasn't going to give me my birth control pill prescription! He then had the gall to call me into his office after my exam to tell me about the joys of having children and grandchildren. I was mortified and shocked! I wished that I had given him a piece of my mind, but when you're in the stirrups and having your cervix poked, you don't exactly feel like a confrontation. I felt violated, and needless to say, I never went back.

    -Sara

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