Introducing a niche community within a niche community: NotMom Moms. Women who didn’t necessarily want children…but unexpectedly have them in their day-to-day life. This is no episode of I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant. The scenario is more like this: Contentedly child-free woman goes to sleep. The next day, she’s a Mom. Wham! Bam! Child! Talk about a mind-blower.
This concept is sure to get more attention now that OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, plans to premiere a new program on Saturday, April 20th: Raising Whitley. Comedian Kim Whitley (left, with adopted son Joshua) was living a high-flying, single girl life in California when a hospital called to say that the young girl she mentored through the Big Brother/Big Sister organization had given birth. The baby had been abandoned, with Kim listed as guardian. Kim had just one hour to make the decision of her life, or the child would go to foster care.
When I heard about the OWN show, I was stunned. Just a few weeks prior, in late March, I’d watched a Showtime documentary on female comedians featuring Kim and dozens of others. I can’t remember Kim’s comments exactly, but I’m pretty sure she made a pointed reference to being quite happy with her life without children.
A month later, I’m seeing commercials about Kim’s unplanned entry into motherhood. Not surprisingly, the show spotlights “the village” of friends that helps her adjust, parent and evolve.
I’d never thought about NotMom Moms until I met Dani Alpert last year at a conference. She’s the woman behind TheGirlfriendMom blog. Its title tells her story: Dani was decidedly childfree by choice when she fell in love. Now, she says, she’s “in a committed relationship and living with a divorced father of two.”
A professional comedian, Dani instantly saw the humor in her situation and turned it into what’s now a very popular website. Everything, however, was decidedly not funny, especially in the beginning. She wrote about those early days:
“’This wasn’t the life I wanted.’ I repeated this daily. I had uprooted myself from all that I knew, to begin a life I knew nothing about. I looked for appreciation and acknowledgement from my boyfriend, for the sacrifices that I had made. I resented him for not having to make any compromises. I was lost, living outside of my comfort zone and not entirely sure that I had made the right decision.”
It’s an interesting coincidence that both Dani and Kim make others laugh for a living. They each have loads of love for the kids they’ve found themselves parenting, but without finding some laughter, too, things might not have worked out so well.
Certainly, there are more variations of this story, social workers use the term “kinship care” to refer to the many aunts, cousins and other relatives who are raising another relative’s child. But, in the majority of those cases, the caregiver has, or had, children of her own. While their new role is jarring, at least they have previous experience to draw upon. The overnight leap from never-had-kids to parenthood must be a very different transition indeed.