Do you trust who you are? I stared down this question several months ago when I led a panel discussion at the first ever Not Mom Summit.
The summit was the first of its kind, giving those who are without children by choice or by chance an opportunity to share with others in their tribe in a most supportive environment.
I welcomed the opportunity to speak at the summit when the gregarious and gracious Karen Malone approached me nearly a year ago. At the time, I thought it would benefit the Girlfriend Mom brand and it might be fun to meet others face to face, and not on the sterile and impersonal world wide web.
However, a funny thing happened after a few hours conversing, observing, and sharing meals with my tribeswomen. I started to struggle with topics of conversation (that never happens). It also felt as if I were a high school freshman sitting in the senior section of the cafeteria, knowing full well that I didn’t belong there.
A lot had happened over the past year, and I was almost numb to the idea of talking about being childfree. Unlike most of my colleagues, I couldn’t summon up any strong opinions one way or another on the subject. Yes, I chose to be childfree, but as the Girlfriend Mom, or even the ex-Girlfriend Mom, I couldn’t relate.
The weekend brought up a bag of emotions that I thought I’d already unpacked. How did I identify myself and how did I define my relationship with my ex’s kids. How much importance do I attach to it; not the relationships themselves, but rather titles, and labels. Do I have a burning desire to commiserate? I’d rather talk about housing options if Trump becomes the next POTUS.
As I listened to speakers like Meghan Daum, editor of Selfish, Shallow & Self- Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Children; and Melanie Notkin, founder of Savvy Auntie® and author of Otherhood: Modern Women Finding A New Kind of Happiness, I drifted further and further away from the group.
After hearing about challenges that others had faced regarding their lifestyle choices, I realized how fortunate I was not to have ever been shamed, judged (at least not to my face) or bombarded with rude questions. Others had not been as fortunate.
I’d been shamed and criticized for other things; like wearing a fanny pack well into adulthood and moving to Nicaragua with no real plan. But not wanting to be responsible for another human being? No.
The women were lovely and smart; from all walks of life, from all around the world, but their enthusiasm for converging in one place to talk about their lives as the childfree or childless was lost on me.
On my flight home, I racked my brains trying to ascertain the reasons why I felt disconnected and disengaged. Hours later, just as the plane began its final descent, it came to me.
It wasn’t about being childfree, summits or inclusion. It was about sharing commonalities, other than whether we’d given birth or not. It was about being around funny, like minded people, that had nothing to do with motherhood, otherhood, parenthood or Robin Hood.
Being childfree is just a fact, a by-product, a non issue in my day to day life. In the same way that I don’t own a home and I prefer to rent; it’s simply a fraction of who I am. In the same way that I’m 5’3. I’m not going to attend a conference for those that are 5’3 tall renters am I? That may be a stretch, but you get my point.
The only time that my childfree status comes up is when a stranger, or acquaintance, asks me if I have kids. Perhaps it’s in the confident way that I say no, (or the look in my eyes or the satisfied smile on my face) but when I do, the conversation comes to a halt.
There are those rare occasions when someone will follow up with, “Oh, you don’t own a home? Don’t you care that you’re throwing money away? Don’t you care about having something to show for yourself? Do you have any regrets? Don’t you think it gets harder the older that you get? Oh, you’ll change your mind.”
No. No I won’t.