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. We are not limited to defining 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?
This month we spoke with Nicole Verdes, a NotMom who hopes to develop a mini-magazine called Inconceivable! – Detaching Motherhood from the Feminine Identity. If you are interested in helping Nicole with her project, her contact information is included at the end of the interview.
Tell us about yourself and how you came to identify as a NotMom.
It’s taken me quite a while to proudly identify myself as a voluntarily childfree woman. I grew up in a large, extended family that consisted mostly of women. I felt that their lives and their identities revolved first and foremost around their role as “mother” and that their greatest self-described failures and successes revolved around what they did or didn’t accomplish as mothers.
I carried these observations with me throughout my 20s, and found that many of my female peers who wanted children believed that those of us who did not want children were cold, detached or that we made the decision to remain childfree based entirely upon negative relationships we may have had with our own mothers – none of which applied to me. So, it was always frustrating to hear them try to come up theories about what was wrong with me. There always seemed to be a great deal of concern surrounding my decision to remain childfree.
You’ve written about the two sides of childfree lifestyles. How do you feel various circumstances affect individual women’s decisions?
I also noticed a glaring difference in the way that involuntarily child-free women were viewed, as being very different from voluntarily childfree women. As I mentioned in the op-ed,at The Feminist Wire, I believe that child-free women who are unable to have children differ not in decisions that they make, but in the way that society sees them. A woman that is unable to have children is often pitied. The difference with voluntarily childfree women is that rather than being pitied, they are vilified by society as not holding up her part of an unwritten social contract that they are compelled to fulfill because of their gender.
Describe your vision for the magazine.
When I entered graduate school at California State University, I carried these personal experiences with me and was able to relate my own observations to theoretical concepts about politics and gender. It was in graduate school that my decision to remain childfree became every bit as political as it was personal. In other words, I began to feel that by resisting the role of motherhood, I was actually resisting many of the gender roles and stereotypes widely associated with femininity. And I enjoyed knowing there was a great deal more behind my decision than simply “not wanting kids.”
During my last semester in graduate school, I took a Sociological Advocacy class in which we were to advocate for something we felt passionately about. This class lead me to develop the idea for Inconceivable! – a self-published mini-magazine that would allow childfree women to share their stories, their frustrations, their hopes and their dreams in a space created specifically for them. I’m looking forward to its launch because I feel it’s crucial to create a space for childfree women to discuss their lives because their stories are often left out of many conversations central to women. In this sense, being invisible can also be seen as a way that childfree women are constantly rendered insignificant in our society.
Do you think there is a need for NotMoms to have a place to discuss their lives? How do you feel about the way NotMoms are viewed by others, especially advertisers?
The need for women to have creative spaces to engage in meaningful dialogue about their lives and their values is vital and it’s also very powerful. If child-free women continue engaging with one another in a public way, there will slowly be less of a stigma attached to them. This “leaving out” of child-free women is often seen in advertising.
Whether ads are for vacation packages, jewelry, or expensive cars, the overwhelming majority of social imagery inundates us with images of nuclear families. The more often we are bombarded with such images, the more we come to identify “family” as mother, father, and children. In this sense, this image of “family” becomes “normal” and the marker by which we measure our own normalcy or abnormalities. That’s what makes Inconceivable! so great for child-free women – since we’re not being represented in mainstream media and advertising, this is a chance to create and distribute something in our own voices.
How can women share their stories with you?
I would love to hear from as many women as possible and can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].
Are you a child-free blogger? Do you want to have your story told so other women can understand they are not alone? Please let us know you’re out there and share your experiences with readers of The NotMom.