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What does non-motherhood look like?

By Victoria Fryer 

A month or so ago, I read an article about the Not Mom Summit, held in Cleveland earlier this year. In a room full of women without children—by choice or chance, or by just not having made up their minds yet—I would imagine one could get an idea of what non-motherhood looks like.

And from what author Jenny Kutner wrote about her experience, and from my own experiences, non-motherhood looks like everything. It looks like women who are single, pursuing their own lives outside the bounds of a relationship. It looks like women who are coupled but have made a decision with their partners to live without children. It looks like knowing from a young age that we don’t want children. It looks like long-term ambivalence. It looks like wanting a child but finding we are unable to.

The author, a self-identified millennial, writes, “I want to devote myself to my career, live in a prohibitively expensive city where it’s a pain to schlep a stroller and stay out until midnight on weekdays, just because I can. At this point in my life, these are my priorities, and while I’m not sure if they always will be, I know they’re things I won’t be able to do with children in the picture.”

But I’m sure that not all of us can relate to that, exactly. I live in a small town where the majority of people do have families. And I’m typically in bed by 10:00 p.m. I know among all of you, we would find everything in between.

So much of what is written about women without children lumps us all into one. “Selfish, shallow, and self-absorbed,” as the title of the collection of essays on non-motherhood (non-parenthood, actually, as a couple of the essays were written by men). We’re too focused on our careers, we’re too focused on ourselves, we’re too focused on our social lives.

But, like humans who choose to be parents, we humans who choose not to be parents are all complex individuals who lead relatively unique lives. In the end, we’re as different from each other as from anyone else.

One of the threads that tie us together is the way society views our parental status. And this is what the Not Mom Summit focused on—women without children talking about their experiences in navigating a society that still doesn’t quite understand a woman without children.

Victoria Fryer is a writer and content strategist. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two pit bulls. You can find her on Twitter @extoria.

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