tantrum

Can’t I Just Eat in Peace? Real Issues Behind Banning Children from Restaurants

By Laura LaVoie

Restaurants banning screaming babies are getting a lot of press these days. The childfree population is praising these policies, while families with babies are angry about their exclusion. There are deeper issues than just what we see on the surface of the conversations, so let’s have a look at the implications.

I’ve recently been a part of two conversations about restaurants that don’t allow children. Let me recap them for you.

First, a family member, who also has no kids, posted to Facebook this article about a California restaurant that decided to ban children. Since he has no kids, my relative also has a lot of friends with no kids, and they all quickly jumped into the conversation. To be honest, some of the comments were quite insulting, such as referring to people as “breeders”, or kids as “crotch fruit.” They even made me uncomfortable, and I don’t have or like kids.

Soon, the negative Facebook chatter attracted parents’ attention. My relative’s recently married cousin (who is now expecting her first child) was very upset by the article,and the way she interpreted it as well as the commentary. She was angry that she and her soon-to-be-baby would be excluded from public places. She lashed out that she hoped that people had to deal with screaming babies and that it served them right. She eventually rage-quit the conversation while letting the non-parents know that they were mean, horrible, awful people. 

Aniston life of crime

Jennifer Aniston’s Life: Another Promo Tour, Another Uterine Spotlight

By Karen Malone Wright

Jennifer Aniston has a movie coming out in Fall 2014, so I’m sure her publicist is ready for the media’s prioritized focus on her client’s uterus. It was exactly a year ago – August 2013 – when I wrote a post titled Dear World: Please Leave Jennifer Aniston’s Uterus Alone.

For Ms. Aniston, 45, some version of  “Are you pregnant?”, or, “Are you sad about not having children?” has publicly chased her since the end of her marriage to Brad Pitt in 2006.

2006! More time has passed post-marriage than when they were together (4-1/2 years), but the questions persist, partly fueled by the adorable reality of the Brangelina six-pack of kids.

The problem is that the celeb gossip reporters know that Ms. Aniston wants children of her own, and that she wanted them with her ex-husband Brad Pitt, despite rumors to the contrary. They know because she told them so, and now, they’re in her business, and in her face.

I was skeptical when NBC’s promo machine teased an August 2014 interview with Ms. Aniston and referenced The Baby Questions this way: “She’s responding to them — not with the answers, but with her take on the expectations that come with the questions.”

To Carson Daly’s credit, to me, he did try to do just that. And to Jennifer’s credit, she didn’t use her favorite curse word once.

NM PURCH-sad older

Acceptance of Childlessness Isn’t the Same as Acceptance of Loss

Guest Post By Anonymous

NOTE:  Readers of this site prove time and again that among the community of women without children — more than 23 million in the US alone –no two stories are alike, even if they appear to be similar on the surface. It logically follows that a random selection of five NotMoms without kids By Choice or By Chance on any given day will reveal varying feelings about living child-free. It might be foolish, however, to assume that a single snapshot in time clearly defines their feelings.

I may have made that mistake in a recent post about how good it feels to realize that Facebook photos of a friend’s children don’t make me sad anymore. But, on the same day that post was published, I received this one from a woman who prefers to be anonymous and in a very different space. She reminds me — us — of the fluidity of grief.   –kmw

I thought I was over it. Clearly I’m not. Actually, I thought I’d never actually been in it.

For most of my life I didn’t think I wanted children. I never had any interest in being pregnant and always believed strongly in adoption. But children weren’t ever really on my radar.

Then I got older and began to think differently. I had no interest in bringing up a baby, and had even less interest in carrying one inside me. Then I got even older, and I got married, and then I began to think about it. It didn’t happen.

Now, I’m in the age bracket where my friends are becoming grandparents, and although that brings a passing melancholy of its own, I didn’t expect my reaction to the post of a Facebook friend. Eight little words: “It’s confirmed, I’m going to be a Mommy!”

Facebk

Childless Self-Help on Facebook? Try Your News Feed First.

By Karen Malone Wright

There’s been considerable chatter in this space and others about the impact of Facebook posts on Friends with kids and without. Parents jealous of child-free Friends’ travel pix. NotMom Blair Koenig spinning her STFU, Parents blog and book from frustration with Friend after Friend posting a child’s first nap, poo, or grin.

At varying levels, the unifying component on both sides generally boils down to resentment. Nasty stuff, that. I’m happy to share a related example with a positive ending. This story involves a woman who is my Friend online, but in Real Life, we were office co-workers years ago…which makes us only Acquaintances offline. Let’s call her “Tonya”.

In August, Tonya was one of many in my News Feed who proudly uploaded photos of the First Day of School. Kids in pix like that are always cute, similarly posed, and appallingly taller than I think a five-, six-, whatever-year-old kid should be. I scroll through, rarely lingering to study the faces of children I’ve never met and probably never will.

Under the category of Lessons from Facebook, it would be enough if I simply told you there was once a time that images like those would leave me in tears, and now they don’t. But for me, the Tonya connection is special.

Iranian

Iran’s Plan for Population Growth: Mandate Motherhood

By Karen Malone Wright

I vaguely remember an episode of The Oprah Show that presented how women the same age were faring around the world — how government, religion, environment and culture in each nation limited or expanded their freedoms.

The goal was to spark empathy as viewers placed themselves in each situation, from Spain to Saudi Arabia. Lately, the younger women of Iran are on my mind, and the memories of that old Oprah show came rushing back.

Iran? Yes, Iran.

Let go for a minute whatever your brain usually pops up with when you think of that country, and imagine instead that in August 2014, you’re a 28-year-old, college educated Iranian woman who’s just learned that her parliament has voted to ban permanent forms of contraception. No vasectomies. No tubal ligation. Doctors who violate the ban will be punishable by law. 

Oh, and no more advertisements for birth control, either, but the ministry of health will help pay for infertility treatment.

Reuters reports that previously, condoms were widely available and “family planning considered entirely normal,” but Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is calling for measures to increase the population. ASAP.

NM PURCH-Talk to hand

Advice to a Teen from a Childfree Woman: Respect Your Choices

By Laura LaVoie

While at a camping festival in August, I was honored to be part of a ceremony for a 13-year-old girl to welcome her into womanhood. Her mother invited all of the women who were part of this temporary community to celebrate the young woman and provide her with blessings and inspiration as she transitions from a girl to a woman.

It was a beautiful celebration and I am very happy I was involved.

I’m not close with this girl. When individuals were asked to walk up to give her blessings, I stayed back, respectfully. I was surprised when the next part of the ceremony was to have every woman there provide the girl with some advice for her life. As she began to traverse our circle to hear each woman’s wisdom, I thought hard about what I would tell her.

I’m not a mom, so I wasn’t sure what kind of advice I could provide a 13-year-old girl.

Then it occurred to me. That was exactly the advice I could provide her.

NM PURCH-woman on road

The Childless Only Child: A Niche Within A Niche

By Karen Malone Wright

It’s been almost a year since I wrote a post about childless only children, my first on the topic, and apparently, one of very few online. As older posts on this site go, it’s been a leader in continuously attracting comments and personal stories. 

It’s one thing to find another person without kids; it’s another to find one who understands the unique perspectives of child-free only children. It’s logical to think the Internet could help in the search.

It seems that many child-free adults who are their parents’ only child are hard-pressed to find another like them.  If they are aunts, or uncles, it’s by marriage, or friendship. After a certain age, their close family may be what others think of as extended, built of non-blood relationships. I’m an only, and that’s certainly true in my life.

But without sisters or brothers, your family line ends with you. Thoughts of legacy and fears of aging that we all have may be magnified. That’s what I thought of when I read this comment from William in August 2014: (What? You thought only women read this blog?)

“I too have been searching the internet for people with this same issue. I am an only child, and I have just turned sixty years old. My father died ten years ago, and my mother is nearing ninety. My wife and I could not have children, and for some years I thought that this would not be a big deal. But it really is a big deal. My wife has five siblings and that is great, but things have happened over the years that have estranged us from them all a bit. I know this is a selfish thought, but sometimes I wonder what the purpose of it all can be. I guess I am just going through something tonight, and tomorrow it will be better, but for right now, I am glad I found this website.”

Friends having fun outdoors

Girlfriend Mirrors: The Women Without Children Who Get Me

By Laura LaVoie

I just got back from an epic camping trip at a festival in Minnesota. Festivals are great experiences where a group of people builds a temporary community in a beautiful outdoor space. It is absolutely magical. We’ve attended festivals with the same friends for years and they are always a highlight of our summer.

Our 2014 summertime festival we attended was briefly home to about 200 people or so. Our little camp hosted eight, and other friends wandered in and out throughout the week. And we don’t rough it in any way. We actually camp with the author of Martinis & Marshmallows: A Field Guide to Luxury Tent Camping, so we enjoy large tents, a bar, and a full kitchen.

Every year I feel like I learn something new. This year, one of the big lessons was in the importance of NotMom friends. 

A Em

Childless in Oz: Remembering Auntie Em & Clara Blandick

By Karen Malone Wright

Have you ever seen the original Hollywood production of The Wizard of Oz? Well, of course you have. And if you haven’t, well, catch up: August 2014 marks the film’s 75th anniversary.

Back in 1939, no one, including the movie’s producers and stars, thought The Wizard of Oz would matter to much. Wrong-o. For both children and adults, it became and remains, a classic. The 1900 book by L. Frank Baum has led generations to accept that everything we need to thrive lies within us from the start. The message resonates with children, teens, adults, and elders, too.

Of the movie’s four female leads, only Clara Blandick, the actress playing Dorothy’s Auntie Em (and pictured in the crystal ball above), never had children. And according to the book, neither did Auntie Em:

“When Dorothy, who was an orphan, first came to her, Aunt Em had been so startled by the child’s laughter that she would scream and press her hand upon her heart whenever Dorothy’s merry voice reached her ears; and she still looked at the little girl with wonder that she could find anything to laugh at.”

A childless aunt (and uncle) agree to raise their orphaned niece. Today, we call that kinship care, and it’s more common than tornadoes in Kansas.

baby board

OB/GYN ‘Baby Boards’ Won’t Be Missed By Patients Without Children

By Karen Malone Wright

If you’re reading this post, and you’re sexually active — no matter your age — regular exams by a gynecologist are a must. Keep looking until you find a GYN you genuinely respect and feel comfortable with. A speculum isn’t a tool to be used by anyone you don’t like, right?

I’ve only had to do it once, when I dared show the pain I felt from a laparoscopy in the process of understanding why I wasn’t getting pregnant.  The doctor responded to my ouches and groans with, “You must stop this. How will you have a baby if you can’t stand a little pain?” For me, it was a 9 out of 10 pain level, and a no-brainer to know I’d never see her again.

In 2014, the big news for your OB/GYN involves the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. You know HIPAA — it’s the federal law that started with good intentions of safeguarding privacy and wound up being a pain in the butt. It’s basically impossible to track a hospitalized loved one or family member without Power of Attorney status, and your doctors are challenged to share information with each other about your case without your permission. 

HIPAA’s latest target is that big bulletin board of newborn photos at your doctor’s office. Presumably, every baby ever delivered by those docs is represented as an adorable testimony to their clinical skill. As a not-by-choice NotMom, I have always hated those boards. HATED THEM. There were years when I knew the timing needed to avert my eyes from the hallway display, lest I emerge into the waiting room in tears. HIPAA says those babies’ pix should be as protected as a medical chart. Sure, whatever. Thank you, HIPAA.

Woman is reading book

Good Book Grab: ‘Tapestry of Fortunes’ Weaves 4 Women, 1 House & Life

By Karen Malone Wright

When you finish a really good book, there’s a yearning to talk about it with someone else who’s read it, online or off, or pass it on to a friend so you can discuss it later. That’s where I am right now, and lucky me, I have a blog. If you’re still looking for a good porch read or a something worthy of your vacation, try Tapestry of Fortunes by Elizabeth Berg.

It won’t take you long to be hooked in the lives of four women who find themselves sharing a house: Cecelia, a motivational speaker ‘of a certain age’, as they say, who has never been married and rarely follows her own advice; Joni, a chef who hates her boss; Lisa, a divorced Mom; and advice columnist Renie, the youngest of the group. Overall, this is a book about friends, road trips, fate, memory and regret. It doesn’t take long to finish the book, either, at just 240 pages, hardback.

Before you ask, Elizabeth Berg isn’t a NotMom. But she gets women of all stripes at a visceral level, and her talent is how she puts that understanding into words. I think I’ve read her entire inventory of delicious stories, and this is her most recent (published in 2013). Ms. Berg is best known for Open House, a 2000 selection by Oprah’s Book Club. In 2013, she described her work this way:

“When I was first writing, people said I was starting a genre about female friendship. Of course there’s the unfortunate term ‘chick lit,’ which I really hate, because I think it’s derogatory and belittling, and suggests things that are not flattering. I think a lot of authors get put into that category, and I’m one of those.”

pasta salad

Small Batch Kitchen: 5 Fixes for Summertime Cravings

By Karen Malone Wright

I had the idea for Saturdays in The NotMom Kitchen because I love to cook, and I really love to bake, but there are rarely more than two people to feed, and freezer space is limited. I’m not buying a freezer of any size just to eat food cooked months ago. The regular NM Kitchen writers, Faye and Sam, are doing a great job addressing challenges common to child-free households, but those ladies are on break enjoying their summer, and I’m struggling to meet their standard.

Why was I trying to be an exemplary NotMom chef? That’s why I hired themWhat I can do well is to confess the mistakes I’ve made summer after summer. The problem for enthusiastic cooks is that the arrival of each season brings memories of forgotten, favorite ingredients: butternut squash in autumn, or asparagus in spring.

The joy of cooking blinds us to the quantity of food we’re so joyously creating. When all you’re really focused on is how good the first bite will taste, it’s easy to rationalize that you’ll happily eat leftovers for lunch every day, or that it’s really not that much at all.

In alpha order, here are five items that can tempt and challenge any small batch kitchen when the weather’s hot. Hope my mistakes lead to your solutions.

NM Girlfriends

Madison Avenue Is Noticing Dimensions of Womanhood…And the Money Attached

By Karen Malone Wright

Relaxing on the sofa, watching a movie all snug in a fuzzy throw, do you notice when an ad pops up that is so different from the norm that your mind stops to register the newness?

The deep bass voice singing “TROJAN MAN!” on condom commercials? The interracial couple and their daughter sharing Cheerios? Dove’s Real Beauty messaging? How about Ellen DeGeneres for CoverGirl, or Chevrolet featuring a gay couple’s wedding, or Coca-Cola’s Super Bowl tribute to America sung by Americans…in different languages?

The latest effort to sell a product while celebrating women as they truly are is by UnderArmour sportswear. The I Will What I Want campaign launched in August 2014 presenting a graceful yet muscular ballerina (American Ballet Theatre’s Misty Copeland) who pirouettes while a young girl reads from rejection letters she’s received.

“You have the wrong body for ballet. And at 13, you are too old to be considered,” says the voice. Ms. Copeland’s performance negates the audio.

A month earlier, The NY Times noted that recent global business reports “have identified women without children as a new, lucrative market”.

Culture Change, anyone?

 

school bus

For Some Childless Women, Back-to-School Anxiety Isn’t Just for Kids

By Karen Malone Wright

It took a while — like, years — but I’m finally adjusted to K-12 schools that begin their new year in August.  There once was an unwritten rule that the day after Labor Day was the First Day of School, but that was another century. Literally.

Now that marketers have discovered the gold mine known as the college freshman, back-to-school advertising seems to kick off on July 5th. I’m used to it now, and not as bothered. But, I know that every year around this time, there’s a new group of women who may experience a special form of seasonal depression. It may be the first autumn, or the 10th, when there’s no young student in their home.

If you know anything of grief, you know about the concept of “triggers,” sights, smells and sounds that remind you of what you’ve lost.  Mention seasonal triggers and people think of December holidays . There are many others, even Halloween and Easter. It’s not really something NotMoms like to volunteer to talk about.

computer shock

Child-Free Voices on Mommy Sites and Vice Versa: OK or Not OK?

By Laura LaVoie

Recently, this post on the Canadian Family website was brought to my attention. While I believe the title, “Should Child-Free Women Demand a Place on Parenting Sites?” is needlessly inflammatory, it turns out I actually agree with what the writer is saying.

Blogger Tara-Michelle Ziniuk responded after a childfree writer was given an opportunity to share this post on Today’s Parents, a section of the Today Show website that is clearly targeted toward Moms and Dads. The post discusses Cameron Diaz and how her decision not to have kids has come to represent the childfree by choice crowd.

I’m with Ms. Ziniuk that this post didn’t need to be included in the Today Parents lineup. It just comes across as attention-seeking or even parent-shaming. It targeted the absolute wrong audience. Women without children often have to defend their decisions to family, friends, and complete strangers, so why seek out a forum where you have to come from a defensive position? 

When I first started freelance writing full time I was astounded by the number of mommy blogs hiring bloggers. It led me to write this post and, serendipitously, to establish a relationship with The NotMom. I asked the question. Was there was a place for me online as a NotMom?

“I have stuff to say too. There are non-mommy experiences that can be shared. I don’t want to come off like I’m entitled to anything. I don’t demand that people be interested in the experiences of someone without kids – but, is there a place for it?” 

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