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.
Childfree blogger Laura LaVoie interviews women bloggers without children who answer the question, “If you’re not a mom, then what are you?”
In the sixth of the series, Laura talked with Blair Koenig of the controversial blog, STFU, Parents. Her site is a witty collection of commentary on the parental oversharing that happens on social media. At first, she posted anonymously, but when Blair revealed herself as the author, the internet exploded with personal criticism. She doesn’t have children, so her detractors believed that she couldn’t possibly know enough to write the blog.
When we initiated the interview, we learned that she falls into a special sub-category of NotMoms: she is “Not Yet a Mom.” Blair plans to have kids someday, but for now she provides valuable insights that reflect the humor of online oversharing by parents. Her new book based on her blog will be released in early April and is currently available for pre-order.
What made you start STFU, Parents?
I started the site in 2009 after I noticed a considerable uptick of “kidformation” in my newsfeed on Facebook. I’ve never been a big Facebook user, but I do enjoy scrolling through my feed, and suddenly I was seeing a LOT of status updates about baby fevers and nap times and diapers. Meanwhile, an old work friend (a Mom of 2) sent me a few screenshots of her friends’ obnoxious status updates, complaining that these friends always posted about their “perfect” children. That made me think that other people probably felt the same way we did, so I started the blog thinking it might attract some readers. I’ve received submissions every single day since then!
When you started, what made you do it anonymously?
When I started the blog, I was hoping to get back into writing full-time, and I’d been waiting for a new idea. I’d never blogged before, but I knew I wanted the idea to be timely and something that I could make fun of, because I love humor writing. Back then, there were very few blogs that posted screenshots from Facebook and mocked them, so I wasn’t sure what the reception would be. I wanted to maintain my reputation (as a non-a**hole) in case everyone absolutely hated the blog, and at the time I was nervous about people finding out that they were featured (even if I’d covered their identities). It seemed like a risk I shouldn’t take yet. I figured I’d be anonymous at first to put the focus on the content, and not on me, and then after a while it just stuck. I wrote the site anonymously for 3 and a half years. I honestly never felt compelled to “overshare” about my own life on the blog or on social media, so it worked for me. But, I’m happy readers know who I am now. I like transparency.
Why did you decide to “out” yourself?
I had always assumed that I would eventually out myself, but I wanted that to coincide with the book (once I started writing the proposal, about a year into the blog), so I waited until the manuscript was turned in to my editor. I totally had a fear of my publisher coming back and saying, “We think it sucks, sorry,” which is ridiculous, but I wanted to wait to be sure.
Then, a producer from Ricki Lake (and a fan of the blog) called and said she wanted to do an exclusive reveal on a show, and I figured, ‘Hey why not?’ It was really nerve-wracking, but funny. I also got a call a few weeks later from a woman at the New York Post who had the same idea (me “revealing” my identity), and that turned into a salacious two-page spread splashed with the words “‘F U’ Brooklyn blogger doesn’t even have kids of her own.” There was a lot of press in a short period of time, so a bunch of people were introduced to the blog all at once.
I’m very glad I’m not anonymous, but I was surprised that so many people focused on my childlessness rather than on the content of the site. The content is what makes the blog interesting and relevant, not me or my “lack” of babies. That continuous media angle caught me a little off-guard, but overall the press was fine and I think most readers are happy to know my real name and what I look like. (A few expressed wishes that they’d never known, which I also understand.)
What kinds of reactions did you get from parents about the blog?
The parent response has wildly changed over the years. At first, I had very few parent readers, and most parents who “admitted” they read the site would define it as a guilty pleasure. Now, I get emails on a near-daily basis from parents who have just discovered the site and love it, or from parents who have been reading for a while and need to vent about their friends, etc. A lot of people have the same complaints — their friends are sanctimommies, or they’re sick of family asking when baby #2 is coming, or they used to be a mommyjacker but now they’re “reformed” since finding the blog.
I think the media assumes that most parents would (or do) hate the site, which is crazy because it underestimates parents’ sense of humor and suggests that all parents are the same. But, not all mothers eat their placenta, and not all parents post poop pictorials on Facebook (or enjoy it when their friends do). You can hate sanctimommies and still be a mother yourself.
What was the worst response?
Hands down, the worst responses came from the mommyblogger community. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t want to paint with a broad stroke here, because there are thousands of Mom bloggers, many of them awesome, and I’m friends with several, too. But there’s a pocket of judgmental assholes residing in that vast community, and those women thrive on every opportunity they can to hate on bloggers who “disparage” motherhood (especially if that blogger doesn’t have kids herself).
Several bloggers fabricated information that was so easy to research and fact-check, I was embarrassed for them. And several made the claim that I should “just wait” until I’m a mother so that I can, A) recognize what an imbecile I’ve been for running my vicious blog, and B) finally appreciate the mommyblogger community. It’s laughable in a way, but some of these women were posting these things on very large, mainstream websites, and calling me an “anti-mom” blogger. Thankfully, a lot of their readers disagreed with their harsh reviews and backed up the blog. I do love talking shit, but I am not “anti-mom.”
As someone who is not yet a mom do you feel you are treated differently than women who are?
Sometimes I do, when I’m walking on my block in Brooklyn and there are stroller wars on the sidewalk. And there are a few sanctimommies in my Facebook feed. But my family and friends don’t hassle me (or each other) about having kids, and I think that the concept of people choosing not to have kids is becoming more mainstream in general. It’s a subject that’s talked about more, especially since so many people can relate to not wanting kids.
I think there will always be people/parents who feel superior for whatever reason, but that shouldn’t make others feel “less than.” It should just be a red flag to not hang out with those people.
Are you a child-free blogger? If you want to have your story told so other women can understand they are not alone, please let us know you’re out there!