Laura's Story: Childfree and Moving On
When I quit my corporate job in the spring of 2012, I was entering completely unknown territory. Sure, other people have quit their careers and moved on to very successful personal projects, but I had no idea if I could be one of those people.
Within the first few months, I built a reliable based of clients. But the life of a freelancer is a constant hustle, so I searched open writing jobs every day. As more and more companies were advertising for “Mommy Bloggers” in a time-frame when Mommy Blogging was starting to jump the shark, I was frustrated by the consumer culture’s focus on women-as-mother. It was specifically crazy that they needed a Mom to write about everyday products that have nothing to do with childrearing at all.
That was how I discovered Karen Malone Wright and The NotMom. I Googled every combination of words to find websites for women without children, and sent an e-mail just to see what would happen.
I did not expect the phone call in the same day.
From the very first moment, Karen and I hit it off. And that's not always easy for a socially awkward nerd like myself. She was very upfront about why she formed The NotMom: a place for women who aren't mothers to come together and form community. Karen shared her own Childless By Chance story with me and her hope to also represent women who chose a life without motherhood.
I was unapologetic with my story as well: a Childfree By Choice woman who wanted to find a place to share my experience.
The NotMom was less than a year old at that point, if I recall correctly, it was ripe for evolution. By adding my By Choice voice to the mix, the brand could truly work to build a united NotMom community.
On paper, we were told it wasn’t possible. That the ideology between the two groups was so vastly different it couldn’t possibly work. But we plowed ahead. Where we really shined was with the two NotMom Summits we held in 2015 and 2017. That's me below at Summit Number Two.
At those events, By Chance and By Choice women came together in person to share their sides of a common story and learn from one another. Both events were magical and we wouldn’t change them for the world.
But shortly after the 2017 conference, both Karen and I experienced some personal changes in our lives. Through those situations, The NotMom’s online presence began to suffer. And without our constant diligence, I saw many negative, mean-girl comments infiltrate the formerly kind and caring community we were aiming to create.
And as someone Childfree By Choice, I’ll admit that so much of that hatred spewed online is embarrassing and frustrating. If I want people to respect my own bodily autonomy and personal experience, I need to respect theirs as well. I agree the difference in terminology, such as Childless versus Childfree, is important to the discussion. I also feel that, above all else, we’re all women in a drastically divided world and we need to tap into our similarities more than our differences.
But the NotMom isn’t the first community I’ve experienced this division, and it won’t be the last. Apparently, it is human nature for us to build something up and tear it back down again. It’s happened since the dawn our species, and it will happen long after we’re dead.
Karen and I know that online, it's far too easy to click off a post about someone who's opposite from you without opening yourself to learn their perspective. Face-to-face, the walls between By Choice and By Chance NotMoms fall down. We would love to bring them together again, but to do it, we need financial support from brands that understand and support our overlooked audience. The hunt is exhausting.
So, it’s with a heavy heart that I will say Goodbye to The NotMom, at least for now. I personally need a break from some of the things that have been weighing on me while I figure out what's next.
I will continue to work hard for acceptance of Women without Children in our culture. I don’t know what that will look like quite yet, but I’ll never stop speaking my truth. I am also grateful that through this experience I have made a lifelong friend in Karen. In fact, I’m visiting her Cleveland again this coming weekend.
I’ve made other amazing friends through The NotMom and I know many of those friendships will wax and wane with time, but I will always be thankful for those connections, however brief.
I hope to see many of you again in the future.