The NotMom Summit Interview: Jody Day
Childless and childfree women come in lots of shapes and sizes. We are all colors, all cultures, and all ages. As much as we have in common, we are also very different, and we define ourselves without the label of "Mom". And if you’re not a Mom, who are you?
This series by TheNotMom writer and childfree blogger Laura M. LaVoie features interviews with the women presenting at The NotMom Summit on October 6 and 7, 2017 in Cleveland, OH.
Meet Jody Day, our luncheon keynote speaker, on Saturday, October 6.
Tell us about yourself and your work.
In 2011, frustrated by the fact that no one would let me talk about the pain of my involuntary childlessness without shutting me down with some version of a ‘miracle baby story,’ I started my blog, Gateway Women. I thought to myself, ‘Well, if just one woman reads this and gets it, that would be wonderful’. Over six years and two million women later, I think I’ve been heard!
From that very first blog, women wrote things in the comments like, "How do you know the exact words that are in my head?" I didn’t realize it at the time, but I’d broken a huge social taboo by being open about how hard it was to come to terms with involuntary childlessness, and the crushing weight of social censure that comes with it.
One of the things I wrote about on the blog was my grief, something which I was quite a few years into before I knew what it was, and it seemed a lot of other childless women were similarly in the dark. In that first year, I was encouraged to give a public talk,and then persuaded to start a group in London. My first thought was, ‘What do I know?!’
But, inspired by the depth of peer-to-peer non-expert healing I’d experienced in Al-Anon (a 12-Step recovery group for those concerned about another's drinking), and informed by my nascent psychotherapy training, I created a closed, private 10-week group for a small group of childless women to connect, share and heal.
The resulting program had a huge impact on them, and on me. The following year, I extended that safe space into the online world with the Gateway Women private online community.
Those first groups laid the foundations for developing my signature weekend workshop, ‘The Reignite Weekend’, which I’ve been leading in the UK and US for the last five years. I’m now training others to lead it in the UK, USA, Canada, Europe, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, as the demand for it is so strong. I’m pleased to say, the Reignite Weekend really does seem to help childless women move forward with their lives.
There are also 100+ free Gateway Women Meetup groups in the UK, Ireland, Europe, USA, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, so the tribe has really taken off!
In 2013, I wrote and self-published a book based on the work I led in groups and workshops which became an Amazon bestseller. I couldn’t have done it without the support of Gateway Women members, who crowdfunded the costs of self-publishing, long before a publisher was interested.
After a couple of years of doing really well, it was picked up by an international publisher, Bluebird (PanMacmillan), and a second, more international edition Living the Life Unexpected: 12 Weeks to Your Plan B for a Meaningful and Fulfilling Future Without Children was published in 2016. The English language version is available in bookshops around the world, including the US and Canada; it’s been translated into Czech and other languages are in the pipeline.
I gave a TEDx talk, “The Lost Tribe of Childless Women” in March 2017, and am now working on a new book. It’s all come a very long way from pressing ‘publish’ on that first blog, and fully expecting absolutely nothing to happen!
Do you consider yourself a NotMom? If so, are you by Choice or by Chance?
I am very much a NotMom by chance – I spent 15 years of my life hoping, planning, trying and dreaming of motherhood, but a combination of infertility and the timing of my divorce in my late thirties just before heading into the world of fertility treatments meant it never happened for me. Coming to terms with my childlessness has been the most challenging experience of my life, although now that I’m out the other side of my grief (and have been for about five years now), I imagine that I feel as at peace about my childlessness as if I’d chosen it… (Although I’ll never be completely sure of that, as I can’t live both lives!)
The fact is that my childlessness is no longer my whole identity, it has taken its place as one of many things that have happened to me in life and which have shaped me into the person I’ve become. These days, I enjoy and embrace the experience of non-parenthood and the freedom and mindset that it makes possible. It still astonishes me that it’s been possible to get to such a good place with my childlessness, and it’s a great privilege that my life’s work turns out to be about helping other women get there too.
Why did you want to get involved in the NotMom Summit?
Whenever a group of childless women get together, we ROCK! I love the mindset of childfree women, too, and am keen to bridge the gap between those experiences, challenging though it can be sometimes, particularly when you’re still grieving. The moment [The NotMom founder] Karen Malone Wright promoted the idea of the first NotMom Summit, I hoped to be asked one day, and I am thrilled to be speaking at it this year.
So many Gateway Women attended the first Summit and emailed me to say, ‘You should have been here!’ so I’m really glad I am.
I think we must be the largest invisible minority group in both the UK and USA and I know that events like the NotMom Summit are important trailblazers in changing that. As we make up between 20-25% of the mature female populations in both our countries, it’s time to claim our place and have our voices heard!
What are you looking forward to the most at the 2017 NotMom Summit?
This year’s line-up of speakers includes some of the truly inspirational childless and childfree writers, thinkers, artists and creators who’ve I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know online over the last six years, so I’m really looking forward to meeting them in person and being further inspired by them.
There will also be many Gateway Women members attending from across the USA and Canada who I’ll finally get a chance to a hug to in person!
I’m also really looking forward to getting to know more childfree women too, because if this way of life has been a choice since you were young you’ve had a chance to develop your thinking on a wide range of issues that I’ve only connected with recently - so I’m keen to learn more and have my vision of what a life without children could be like both challenged and expanded.
Join Jody at The NotMom Summit - There's still time to register! Go to notmomsummit2017.sched.com.
For Gateway Women planning to attend the NotMom Summit, meetups are listed on the GW Meetup sites so they can coordinate travel plans, etc.