THE BLOG
10/28/2015 04:03 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

NAK: A Community for Women Who Don't Have Children

Wisdom is the second pillar of Arianna Huffington's Third Metric.

Early in this chapter of her book, The Third Metric, Arianna states:

By bringing deeper awareness into our everyday lives, wisdom frees us from the narrow reality we're trapped in-- a reality consumed by the first two metrics of success, money and power.

In today's post, my intent is to bring wisdom to bear on another metric that the world has used to define success for women -- motherhood.

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Did you know that there is an International Childfree Day?

First celebrated on August 1, 2013, its purpose is to recognize "amazing childfree people and their lives," and to "foster the acceptance of the childfree choice in today's society." It was inspired by an event called "Non-Parents Day" that was celebrated by the National Alliance for Optional Parenthood on August 1, 1973.

Kristen Davis, a Paris-based professional, introduced me to International Childfree Day. As the founder of the brand new organization, Not About Kids (NAK), she hosted a Meet-up event in Paris on August 1, 2015 to celebrate it.

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Kristen describes herself as a naturally pragmatic, practical and curious person -- happy in her life and successful in her career. Yet she has found that she's been questioned and judged in both her personal and professional life simply because she is a woman that doesn't have children.

After attending an International Women's Day event where she observed "20-something" women becoming increasing preoccupied with their cell phones as older women talked about the challenges of being a mother while maintaining a high-powered career, she decided that she would create NAK to

shift people's perceptions and give women a different story -- one in which a woman's value as an individual and professional remains unchanged whether she has children or doesn't.

She particularly wants to help young girls and women turn away from negative judgments and remove the taboo of not having children.

In a July 2015 podcast interview, Kristen shared information about a poll that she conducted among NAK members regarding how they like to be referred to as people without children. The choices were "childless," "childfree," "without kids" "or "other."

"Childless" was the least favored response. Kristen believes this is because of the suffix "less," which is often used to describe "not having" or "free from." In the context of children, she views this as a judgmental phrase that implies something is missing or lost, as in a "lost opportunity."

"Childfree" was the second most popular response. Kristen believes this term is also used by parents to describe the time that they don't have their children with them, such as on a weekend or during an evening.

Two phrases tied for the most popular option: "without kids" and "doesn't have kids." Kristen sees a subtle difference in the terminology here. She believes that "without children" can have the same connotation as the negative suffix "less" -- which implies something is missing -- whereas "doesn't have kids" is a finer, more affirmative statement that might be made by women who have consciously decided not to have children.

One of NAK's goals is to address the stereotypes that surround women who don't have kids. As a striking example of such stereotypes, Kristen shared a story about a NAK community member who, because of fertility treatments, went quickly from not having children to having many children. Before she became a mother, people thought that the woman had decided not to have children so she could focus on her professional life. She was accustomed to listening to statements such as "You are putting in your career too high on the list -- you need to think about your other life goals." Once she had her children, people began asking her if she thought she should be working at all!

"Not having children is in some cases still considered almost a taboo -- a not-to-be-mentioned topic..."

But Kristen thinks it is important that women who do not have children come together to talk about it. She believes they can have pragmatic, positive, balanced, and non-judgmental conversations to try and understand where these stereotypes are coming from and raise awareness of them. Perhaps most importantly, she would like to see women who are on the receiving end of these stereotypes "dial down" any negative internal judgment they may feel as a result.

Kristen stated that she is also receiving input from NAK community members about the positive aspects of not having children. Part of what she wants to do through NAK is to provide a platform for such stories to be shared with younger women so that alternatives to the traditional, "fairy tale" of growing up, going to school, studying hard, getting a job, getting married, and having children are made available.

A fascinating aspect of what NAK is exploring is the economic factors associated with not having kids. Thoughts may immediately come to mind of loss of revenue for women who are not hired or who are passed over for promotion because their employers believe they will soon (or perhaps, unexpectedly) opt for motherhood and all that it entails. But NAK is also looking at things such as the cost of obtaining contraception -- which, for some women, is not available legally in their home country. There is the cost of higher taxation for men and women who don't have kids. And there's the issue of care for the elderly -- people with no children may face higher expenses in their twilight years.

Another intriguing facet is the impact that religious communities have on women who don't have kids. Kristen has posted two articles on single, childless, Muslim women that contain links to essays written by such women. These stories explore the role of women in the community when the community is very much shaped around a woman as a mother. They also look at how the community perceives these women when they don't have children.

Though NAK was launched for women, it has aroused the interest of plenty of men and Kristen has not left them out of the equation. She says the number of men that don't have children is growing all the time and she is finding that "men are facing some of the same questions and judgments that women face in this situation."

At present, NAK is largely an online community with a growing following on Facebook and Twitter. But Kristen is convinced that it needs to be active offline as well. She wants NAK to be able to evaluate issues on a local level -- she notes that things like access to health care and services, which allow a woman to determine if or when she wants to have children, vary from country to country and even from state to state. She also wants group members to be able to look at cases where recruitment processes toward women who don't have children may need to be changed and raise awareness around this issue.

So, while NAK has a strong global presence online, with visitors coming from over 20 countries (including several non-Anglophone countries), Kristen feels it is important for members to come together "on the ground" as well.

To listen to the two-part Ultra You podcast interview featuring Kristen Davis as she talks about NAK, click HERE.