10 Years Later, It's a New World. Tell Us: How YOU Doin'?
The NotMom launched on Mother's Day 2012. Back then, the presence of non-parents online was VERY limited. One of the few sites I could find was Gateway Women, created by Jody Day in the UK earlier that year. This year,, Jody and I are both celebrating our 10th anniversaries, and we've become good friends.
But here's the thing. Although today's Internet offers a variety of social media groups, blogs and other resources for women and adults without children, the majority focus on one end of the spectrum or the other: Childless OR Childfree. By Choice OR By Chance. Separated, forgive the pun, by the cause of no births.
In 2022, as in 2012, The NotMom is one of few resources for every woman who isn't a mother, regardless of how she came to be that way.
I started The NotMom as a type of diary for myself in hopes of finding women in similar circumstances. Practically all my female friends, colleagues and neighbors were Moms, and those of us who weren't, well, none of us talked about any feelings of apartness, I'm betting each of us wanted to. I know I did.
I never regretted the abortion I had at 26 -- it was definitely the right decision for me at the time. But that didn't stop me from tracking how old that child would have been each year that he or she didn't exist. And, I can't regret my first marriage, a stupid, sad and wrong decision, because I know the reasons behind it. In many twisted ways, I needed that man. Until I didn't.
Thankfully, I found the man who became my second husband soon after my divorce. He and I will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary in 2023. But pregnancy? Well, that blessing proved to be a one time thing.
The NotMom probably would have remained just a place to vent my private struggles while I tried to make a living as a freelance publicist and writer.. Hoping to build that career, I joined a local, competitive program for entrepreneurial women. During weekly classes on business plans, market research and the like, I had the recurring thought to apply my lessons to the blog and not my traditional work plan. That's when everything changed.
It was the research that did it. I had never even heard the word "childfree" before. I didn't know there were women who deliberately chose not to be mothers. I couldn't relate to that idea at all! My research went deeper and revealed that the numbers of women without children were rising around the globe, and they had been for decades. I didn't know that. No one I knew did. What's more, it was clear that women who never wanted kids had more in common with the women like me than anyone acknowledged or cared to see.
I had discovered an overlooked market of women that were underserved in every way. Impressed, the program's judges, representing funders, government and businesses of all sizes, awarded The NotMom second place honors and a $5,000 prize. The judges complimented my insights and commitment, but warned that monetizing the blog would be difficult. Quite the understatement.
I kept researching for the sheer pleasure of it, The blog's audience kept growing, and as women shared their stories with me my own apartness almost disappeared . I learned, for example, a woman's experience of non-motherhood, by choice or by chance, is greatly impacted by geography. Childfree life in Manhattan doesn't resemble a childfree life in Salt Lake City. Childlessness in Los Angeles can never compare compare to how it's perceived in Nairobi by everyone else, especially family..
Search engines became my good friends. Self-taught, I plunged into analytics to understand my readers' demographics. In 2013, when experts found one of every five American women would never give birth, more than 500 women responded to The NotMom's first online survey.
If I could show advertisers how my audience spends its money -- income that's not tucked away for a child's day care or education -- surely, I thought, sponsorships would follow. Survey results even proved that instead of avoiding kids, these women were the aunts and godmothers buying Barbie's wardrobe and expensive electronic toys for children they loved.
Unfortunately, while The NotMom had built a more than decent following and significant global publicity, it wasn't enough for major brands to take even a pinch of ad dollars away from the larger market of Moms. How would I ever get paid for connecting with the women I had come to love?
In 2014, I had another idea that struck me and my new .partner, Laura LaVoie, at almost the same time. What if we could connect childless and childfree women in real life? Laura is also a freelance writer, but she brought a childfree voice to the blog that I couldn't pretend to have. Our differences in race, age, location and more brought a range of interesting viewpoints.
We held the first NotMom Summit, a groundbreaking two-day conference, in 2015. For the second event two years later, the very first ticket sold was to a woman in New Zealand. Obviously, women without children were hungry to meet others like themselves. Combined, our Summits attracted almost 500 women from the US, UK, Belgium, Canada, China, Iceland...and New Zealand. Nevertheless, sponsorships were few.
Laura and I learned that most major brands are well aware of the growing number of women without children, as well as a a New York Times article featuring The NotMom PetSmart, for example, knew that non-parents spend more on their pets than parents do, but again, we needed to deliver thousands of women, not hundreds.
And so, we urge you to take 6 minutes to complete our second survey for childfree and childless women. We need to know more about what your lives are like NOW, and how we can serve you better..As for potential sponsors, well, we're still here.