Bonnie Stein

A Childfree Boomer’s Story (With Reflections on Her Childless-By-Chance Sisters)

Guest Post By Bonnie Stein

I just read Nicole Ciomek’s interview on TheNotMom.com, and it’s so interesting for me to compare a NotMom at 33 years old (Nicole, who wanted to have children) with a NotMom (me) at 59 years old who never wanted to have children.  

I was Nicole’s Racewalking Coach in Atlanta, and met her when she was ten years old.  She was a great little athlete and went on to compete in the

Nicole Ciomek

Nicole Ciomek

National Junior Olympics for racewalking when she was 12.  At 14, she was part of the National Youth Racewalk summer camp in Maine, where I was one of the assistant coaches.  I eventually moved from Atlanta back to Florida, yet went back to Atlanta for Nicole’s high school graduation when she was 18.

It’s so different for me to visualize Nicole as a 33 year old woman now, married to someone that I’ve never met, living on the other side of the U.S., and all grown up with some pretty serious health challenges that she has overcome.  When I found out about her cancer, I sent her an email saying that there are some benefits (I think there are many benefits) to being child-free, yet, it’s difficult to portray that vision to someone who feels overwhelmed and saddened about her condition at the time.

At seven years old, I was quite sure that I never wanted children.  When other little girls were playing with baby dolls, I had my dolls on my bed “in school.”  They all sat propped up with a “Little Golden Book” in each of their laps.  Even Barbie had a book.  Stuffed animals, too.  My “teacher” instinct took the place of any mother instinct that a little girl might have had.  It’s not that I didn’t like children because all of my jobs from pre-teen years through college and beyond, involved children.  It’s that I didn’t want to live with them once “school” hours were over.

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‘The Pursuit of Motherhood’ Reads Like An Adventure Novel…on Infertility

By Karen Malone Wright

There once was a time when I worked as a producer of three local, weekly TV talk shows; one about government and politics, one on civic concerns, and one on women’s issues. Each week, my inbox filled with at least a dozen unsolicited books covering diverse topics, sent by authors and their reps hoping for some publicity. Sometimes, the ploy succeeded. In my experience, program hosts never flipped a page in a single one. I did.

It didn’t take long to learn how to glean a Table of Contents and speed-read to pull the salient points and create questions or conversation points to be used on-air. SPOILER ALERT: Most talk show hosts are intellectually smart and well read, but never assume they’ve personally read all those pursuit coverbooks they push on camera. (I’d like to think The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart is an exception, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s his production team that could win on Jeopardy!.)

Now that book reviews are an occasional feature here, my old skills come in handy, especially if the book is overly clinical, poorly written, or structured for self-examination and note-taking. Or, to be honest, maybe the topic just doesn’t appeal to me personally, though it may appeal to you, our readers. I had a hunch that wouldn’t be the case with Jessica Hepburn‘s 2014 book The Pursuit of Motherhoodand it wasn’t. I read every page. 

There’s a You-Are-There feel to the prose that drew me in at the start, as Jessica introduces her large family that’s welcomed 18 pregnancies, none of them hers. It’s almost an understatement to dub Jessica a By Chance NotMom because it’s so very clear that childlessness is decidedly not her choice.. Her readers are with her in fertility clinic after clinic, learning about the science of IVF as she does. We join her in hope, horror and hope all over again. 

I know women who have had IVF both successfully and unsuccessfully, but I don’t know them well enough to understand all the details, neither medical nor emotional. I feel as though now, I do. Good read. Good lessons.

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The NotMom Kitchen: Fast & Easy Breakfast Pizza

By Karen Malone Wright

Meal-planning — knowing what you’re going to cook/eat days before — is one of those things that makes perfect sense, but ain’t easy to get done. At least, not for me. I get tired of cooking at some point mid-week, or suddenly have no desire for what’s been planned, pre-cooked or not.

But, when I think about it, that’s mostly true for dinners, and partly true about lunches. Breakfast, however, is the one mealtime I can plan for with a flourish. Creative omelets cooked the night before, for example, or using the meat from a leftover sandwich to cobble together corned beef hash.

I thought the recipe I’d share with you was unique, because I hadn’t heard the term ‘breakfast pizza’ before. Google set me straight. There’s tons of variations; I just couldn’t find the one I use, and I have no idea where I found it years ago. A main ingredient is Pillsbury crescent rolls (no ad, I promise). I found more than 40 Breakfast Pizza recipes on the Pillsbury site. But, not my recipe.

Eight good-sized, delicious slices is enough to freeze at least 4 for later quick-grabs. The rest stays fresh in the frig for a week. I’ve tried this with bacon substituted, but it’s much hardier as shown here. Add a little fruit on the side and you’re good to go.  Fast and easy to make; fast and easy to eat. 

Nicole Ciomek

The NotMom Profile: Nicole Ciomek of ‘Real Life & Thereafter’

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. Some people say it is strange to define ourselves by things that we are not, so let’s determine what we are instead. In this series, childfree blogger Laura LaVoie interviews women without children who answer the question, “If you’re not a mom, then what are you?”

The NotMom has been looking into the categories of child-free women. those who think of themselves as without children By Choice and others coming to acceptance that their bodies or Life situations have made the decision for them.

Imagine you’re a healthy 20-something who suddenly becomes swept up in a medical drama that takes away any ability to choose for yourself. This is the story of Nicole Ciomek. While she can certainly be placed in the category of “cancer survivor,” she is so much more than that diagnosis.

Tell us about yourself and your blog.

I’m a 33-year-old online advertising consultant. I live in Central Oregon with my husband, Ross, my dog Ada, and my cat Walter. I am self-employed and run my own business. I am also a volunteer middle school track coach. We recently purchased a house and renovating that house is taking up a lot of my free time.

When I have more free time, I love running, hiking, cycling, camping – basically anything outdoors. I also love to bake, write and take photographs. I’ve been a blogger off and on since I was 18 years old. I started my current blog, Real Life and Thereafter at nicoleciomek.com in 2010, almost a year after my cervical cancer diagnosis. I felt a need to write again. I wanted to share my experiences with cancer and the subsequent infertility. I was also hoping to connect with others who had had similar experiences.

I think for me, it was my first attempt at coping with all I had been through. I was only 28 when I was diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer and I found it hard to talk to my friends, seeing as how many were getting married and planning for families. It was, well, awkward. So, my blog started out a lot about my experiences with cancer and infertility.

It then rolled into a lot of the side effects from having a hysterectomy at 28, the depression that can accompany infertility and my relationship with Ross.  I’ve also write a lot about walking down a different life path than many, feminism, and finding myself after all the chaos.

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Secret Confessions From a Childfree Pet Owner

By Laura LaVoie

In 2001, I was 26 years old. Matt and I had already been together for 6 years. We had just bought a small home in Dearborn, Michigan.

Previously, we had been living in a duplex in a nearby town with Matt’s brother and one of his childhood friends. That living arrangement was really more like college than like real adults with real jobs functioning in a rundown house. We closed on the house in 1999, just before the Y2K scare. Very quickly, I knew that I wanted another being to live with us.

No, not a child. I had known long before I was 24 or 25 that I didn’t want to be a Mom.

I wanted a pet.

I had grown up with cats, and I missed having a cat around the house. Matt had a dog when he was a kid. In fact, he still had that dog when we first moved into the duplex! S he was getting quite old by then and lived downstairs with Matt’s brother. After she died, Matt didn’t really want another animal right away, so I let the idea go.

Living in our new house all by ourselves made me think about wanting a pet again. There was another wrench in our plans, though. As I grew older, I developed a crippling allergy to cats. But, I did not want a dog.

Enter, the sphynx.

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Honolulu: The Best City for Child-Free Adults. (Who Couldn’t Guess That?)

By Karen Malone Wright

If I jumped at every “we’re the best city for childless people” headline, this would become a travel blog. There are a lot of those headlines, and the top position is rarely the same. In 2013, a Seattle Times story listing and comparing America’s “top cities” for child-free adults rated a post here, but that ranking was based purely on cities with the largest populations of adults without children.

Now that MyLife.com has proclaimed Honolulu to be the best city for child-free living, I HAD to pay attention. And, I had to say out loud: “Honolulu’s the best city for EVERY kind of living!”

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An Adults-Only Amusement Park? Not Exactly, But Not Bad.

By Karen Malone Wright

When I went Googling to find updates to my June 2013 post about adults-only fun at amusement parks, I ran straight into a Good News/Bad News situation. Good News: my post was #5 in the Google results. Bad News: Posts 1-4 were older than mine. No new news.

Although The Wall St. Journal reported in 2012 that about half of all amusement park visitors, ages 25 to 49, come without children, and the CEO of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment said the adults-only crowd “is a very important market to us”, if Google can’t find ‘em, there’s no new developments.

At this point, I’m concluding that even in the adults-only arena, The Mouse wins again.

grill

The NotMom Kitchen: Grilling for One or Two

By Karen Malone Wright

When I was single and living in an apartment outside Detroit, my lease clearly stated that grilling on the balcony was not allowed.  Guess what? I grilled anyway on my itty-bitty Weber.

I had two grilled meals that were staples back then, and so good that it was worth the trouble to get a charcoal fire going just for myself. I don’t cook out often, but when I do it’s usually to satisfy a craving. Years later, now that I have a husband and a house with a backyard, I find that I rely on these old favorites because they’re easy, and delicious.

Key ingredients: Salmon steaks and country-style pork ribs.

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Eva Mendes May Have Changed Her Mind About Kids, And That’s OK, Right?

By Karen Malone Wright

When I saw headlines today announcing that according to “sources”, actress Eva Mendes is pregnant with her first child, I smiled. Her boyfriend is movie heartthrob Ryan Gosling, after all. Gonna be one cute baby. But, I was pretty sure that I remembered her declaring a decided preference to live childfree.

Sure enough (thank you, Google), in 2007, Ms. Mendes told reporters:

“I don’t wanna have kids… I love the little suckers; they’re so cute, but I love sleep so much and I worry about everything.”

In 2010, she told W magazine:

“I’ve never had a longing to have children.” 

So, what happened? Um, apparently, she changed her mind.

Nothing wrong with that, unless her story becomes ammunition to “prove” that other childfree women will someday do the same. It’s a big country; it could happen. For my By Choice sisters who feel quite secure in their no-kids decision, I offer this easy retort:

“Do I look like Eva Mendes?”

 

hot car

Regretful Parents & Childfree Forums Are Rarely a Good Match

By Karen Malone Wright

One of the crimes capturing America’s attention in Summer 2014 has been the 33-year-old Georgia dad whose toddler son died after his father left him in a hot car for hours. The story broke on June 18 and details from the ongoing investigation led to Justin Ross Harris being charged with felony murder and second-degree child cruelty.

Could it be that the the death was premeditated? Just maybe, little Cooper Harris wasn’t “forgotten”; he was strapped in a car seat and deliberately abandoned to die.

So far, police say:

  • Mr. Harris went back to his car on that fateful day but amazingly, failed to see his son in the back seat.
  • Also on that day, he sexted several women; none of them were his wife, Leanna.
  • Previously, he and Leanna searched several locations online to learn about hot-car deaths — temperatures, time elapsed, etc.
  • Mr. Harris and his wife had two life insurance policies for their two-year-old: one for $2,000 and another for $25,000.

Each revelation sparks more questions. Police also say that while online before his child died, Mr. Harris visited several websites described as advocating being “child-free.”

Now why do you think he did that?

clones Orp Blk

Orphan Black: One Woman as Every Woman

By Laura LaVoie

The best show on TV during early Summer 2014 that you may not have been watching was Orphan Black. The Canadian-produced show airs on BBC America and just ended its 10-episode summer run. It doesn’t have the big name recognition of Spring’s big show, Game of Thrones, but it shouldn’t be simply ignored, and broken DVR records prove it. Like Game of Thrones, the stories of Orphan Black are breakneck and breathless and the show is worth a closer look.

The story begins with Sarah, who discovers a huge secret about her life. And the secret is…

Well, what I am about to say next is, by definition, a spoiler. A really big spoiler. However, it is also the primary premise of the entire show, so no one can really write about it without giving this little detail a mention:

Sarah discovers that she is a clone. 

The first season follows Sarah as this information is revealed. She meets some of the other clone players, and a relatively unknown actress, Tatiana Maslany, flawlessly brings each one to life. Sarah is the punk rock runaway who never faced her problems head on before this. Clone 2: Domestic Alison with some pretty dark skeletons in her own closet. There’s the nerdy but awesome Cosima, the show’s voice of science. And we meet Helena, who doesn’t really come into her own as a character until the second season.

So, why is this show of interest to NotMoms? 

marriage

Sometimes, Independence Comes With Someone Else Attached

By Karen Malone Wright

Happy Independence Day! Celebrate America’s 238th birthday, and while you’re at it, celebrate what ‘independence’ means in your life.

OK, yeah, that last part sounded lame. But, I come by it honestly.

The Fourth of July is my wedding anniversary. In 2013, my husband used the occasion to tell our NotMom story from his point of view. Just a few weeks before 2014′s Big Day, I happened to see singer Elton John on an Ellen rerun, talking about his wedding plans. He spoke of why his upcoming marriage was important, even though he and longtime partner David Furnish were joined in a civil partnership in 2005.

The difference is that since March 2014, marriage equality is the law of the land in Britain and Wales . Soon after the policy’s enactment, Elton John told NBC’s Matt Lauer:

“I’m very proud of Britain and the laws that we’ve seen come into existence since we’ve been together,” John said. “Having our civil partnership was an incredible breakthrough for people that have campaigned for a long time — through the ’60s and the ’50s in England when it was so hard to be gay and hard to be open about it. And it was a criminal act. So for this legislation to come through is joyous, and we should celebrate it. We shouldn’t just say, ‘Oh, well we have a civil partnership. We’re not going to bother to get married.’ We will get married.”

Independence.

m howard medal

Cameron Diaz & the Admiral: Ambitious, Successful & Childfree

By Karen Malone Wright

Congratulations to Admiral Michelle Howard, the first woman promoted to four-star status in the 238-year history of the United States Navy. She is the first female to achieve the rank, and the first African-American. Her new title is vice chief of naval operations, the No. 2 officer in the service. Adm. Howard, 54, is married to a retired US Marine, and she is a NotMom.

It was just 2012 when she received her third star — another first —  as she served as deputy commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command. Remember the story of Captain Phillips? When the Somalian pirate said, “I am the captain now,” Adm. Howard was leading America’s rescue strategy.

She spends l-o-n-g periods away at sea; I wondered if she had children. Military moms do it all the time, but still.  Not once did I think, ‘No way can she have kids! It’d be impossible!’ What I did think was, ‘It sure would be hard to have kids with that job!’ 

Diverse women-purch

15 Dimensions of Childless By Choice or By Chance

By Karen Malone Wright

Blogging coaches everywhere advise that a theme-driven editorial calendar is the keystone to…well, everything. Keeps you organized. Helps to understand your audience. All true, but for me, it’s been very hard to do. As in, I make it a few days in and veer to follow a current event or reader comment like a puppy after a squirrel. June 2014 was different, accidentally so.

On June 2, I wrote a post acknowledging there’s “no simple category for women without children.” Comments came fast, and it’s still attracting new voices that speak up for what I call ‘niches within our niche’.  A few days later, squirrel-like, I wrote about how Orange Is the New Black got me thinking about the probable existence of transgender NotMoms. But, I didn’t realize I was building on a theme.

Looking back, a post about Pope Francis’ finger-pointing at Catholics without kids (and a NotMom pastor’s response); and posts about single, young women, global demographics, predictions of childfree women’s regret, and others exposed niches, too.

Big thanks for your feedback. It’s the best technology there is to understand how even one differential, such as birth order, produces influences that can last a lifetime. Most of us overlap categories, though probably not as dramatically as the commenter who described herself as “a single atheist pioneer (she’s her family’s only NotMom) from a conservative Catholic family.”

Remember that niches aren’t walled divisions, just different shades of a shared story. Here’s what you’ve told us so far about our many sub-communities. Don’t see yours? Let us know.

dog purse

Young US Women Have More Small Dogs, and Fewer Babies

By Karen Malone Wright

“The fewer babies Americans give birth to, the more small dogs they seem to buy.”

That’s the opening line and executive summary of a 2014 overview reported at Quartz.com, a digital resource for business news. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) found that rising sales of tiny dogs to young women corresponds with a plunge in the number of babies born to women age 15-29.

A market researcher explained it this way:

“Women are not only having fewer children but are also getting married later. There are more single and unmarried women in their late 20s and early 30s, which also happens to be the demographic that buys the most small dogs.”

I hadn’t noticed an uptick in itty-bitty yappers, but apparently, they’re A Thing.

jerk shrimp

The NotMom Summer Kitchen: Three Can’t-Miss Favorites

By Laura LaVoie

The other day, our fearless leader, TheNotMom editor Karen Malone Wright, suggested that I try my hand at some recipes while our food bloggers are on summer break. While I am no food blogger, I do occasionally write about my own adventures in cooking for two on my tiny house blog under a feature called The Tiny Table.

Because we live simply in 120 square feet, we have made many adjustments in the way we cook. Much of our food comes from the local farmer’s markets and is cooked fresh. Here are three of my favorite summer “recipes”:

NM PURCH-regret

Regret for Deciding to Be Childfree: An Assumption That’s Hard to Prove

By Laura LaVoie

There are so many reasons women and couples don’t have children. It could be a result of infertility. It could be a result of never meeting the right mate. It could be an unexpected circumstance of life, or a choice made by the time a girl is a teenager. It might be two people deciding that they don’t want to be parents. But, when a childfree life is deliberate, time and time again the w

maude

#Stop the Stigma – It’s OK to Say the Word ‘Abortion’

By Karen Malone Wright

At the moment I write this, claims that NBC is refusing to air a movie trailer because it includes the word ‘abortion’ is growing some steam online. At one point in the week-old story, it’s been embellished with been a broadly spread rumor…that was later disapproved. Fake, supplemental rumors are common  online, and in this case, unneeded. The story is worth attention on its own merit.

The movie in question is Sundance winner Obvious Child, a rom-com about a 20-something comedienne that gets funny, then Serious. As in unplanned pregnancy. Donna, the lead character played by Jenny Slate, chooses abortion. Generally, movies and TV present women in the same situation who choose motherhood, or miscarry. Because Donna follows through, NPR critic David Edelstein noted, “This modest little indie movie feels momentous.”

As for NBC, an initial statement implies the movie ad was neither received nor reviewed by its Broadcast Standards team. That might be true, but it doesn’t mean that the charges are false. Who can count the ways to submit stuff outside of official channels, from golf courses to smartphones, and ways to leak the outcome of the huddle if need be. Meanwhile, there are more than 11,000 signatures on a petition against NBC’s alleged censorship, and Lena Dunham has brought some star power to the protest.

6/25/14 UPDATE: Deadline Hollywood reports NBCUniversal released a statement to Planned Parenthood Action Fund denying again that it did not reject an Obvious Child ad for TV but that it did ask for the word to be removed in digital ads, which the network  says was a mistake. 

It’s a small blip of a story,  but it’s sparking much bigger conversations wondering, Why IS the word ‘abortion’ so rarely heard in popular entertainment?

NM PURCH-fear frustrate

Women On the Cusp of 30 & Beyond: Single, Childless & Stressed

By Karen Malone Wright

Responses are still coming in to my post exploring the many dimensions of the NotMom community. The niches within our niche. Sarah wrote to spotlight the women on the bubble:

“Another niche of NotMoms includes women of childbearing age who are on the fence or still deciding whether to pursue motherhood. Some of us will become mothers in the future, some won’t, but for now we are NotMoms and dealing with many of the same issues that NotMoms in the other niches deal with.”

In terms of feeling apart from the Mommy crowd, many in Sarah’s group must surely be tired of well-meaning voices urging them to “get going” at baby making. Warnings that ‘time is running out’ do absolutely nothing to comfort a woman who is all too aware of her aging eggs, her fears, ambivalence, and for some, the lack of a suitable partner.

Brienne

Never Underestimate a Woman, Especially on ‘Game of Thrones’

By Karen Malone Wright

I never expected to be a fan of HBO’s Game of Thrones, and yet, I am. I haven’t read any of the books by George R.R Martin. I’m a reader, but they didn’t appeal to me.  It was just pop culture curiosity (Why was the buzz about this show so LOUD?)  that led me to binge-watch Season 1. And like Pandora, a quick peek changed everything.

Today, I am up-to-the-minute in my #GOT-watching. I’m not a true addict — I still don’t want to read the books. That said, I have a purple crystal dragon a.m.dragon ‘flying’ in my office window.

In early June 2014, with two episodes left to air in the show’s fourth season, HBO announced the series had passed The Sopranos to become the network’s most popular show ever. One reason why is its appeal to men and women. Every male character, in his way, is a fighter; cunning and sly, willing to do unthinkable things to stay alive. The women are exactly the same, though they wield an extra weapon: the power to create sons.

Only one female stands out for ignoring her uterine power  – and most things feminine. It’s Brienne of Tarth, played to bone-crushing precision by Gwendoline Christie. She is “a highborn lady who would rather be a knight.” She’s been my favorite long before I thought of her as a NotMom. And I’m pretty darned sure she’s a NotMom for life.

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Who’s Whispering Regrets About Children and Choice?

By Laura LaVoie

One of the things I hear over and over again when it comes to my decision not to have children is that I will regret it. Lots of “reasons” are provided, such as not having care when I am elderly, not giving my parents any grandchildren, and not knowing this particular kind of love in my life.

Based on anecdotal evidence, it appears that very few childfree-by-choice women regret their decision, even knowing these looming facts about our possible cold and lonely futures. However, more mothers than our society would have us believe may actually have regrets about having children.

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Looking for the World’s Childless & Childfree Women? I Started with Romania.

By Karen Malone Wright

Writers’ guidelines at this site have always promoted content that is American in focus but global in scope. And, of course, a tone that is respectful of every woman without children ‘by Choice or by Chance’. The commenters here, and on social media, and in real life, continue to teach me how many shades of NotMom life there are around the world.

Posts here about niches, categories — whatever you want to call them — existing within our tribe have led women to share stories that remind me how powerful the sway of geography (and its corresponding culture, government and religious strength) can be in determining whether a NotMom’s day-to-day life is an enjoyable journey under her own control, or whether it’s, well, worth living at all.

My most recent reminder came in a comment from Laura in Romania. Transylvania, Romania, to be exact. She wrote:

“Thank you for this blog. I am a child-free follower, living in a country where there`s no talking about this subjects.

Hugs disguised as comments are guaranteed to make me all gooshy inside, but all I could hear was the voice in my head: ‘Romania? Romania? For real? Romania Romania? Is this spam? A scam? I really have a reader in Romania?!

Turns out, I have eight.

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