UA Little Rock student develops communication strategies for women without children

Robin Freeman

Robin Freeman is a strong, well-educated, and independent woman. She’s confident she will make a difference by helping others.

This is a part of her story that she wants to portray to the world. What’s not a part of her story at this time? Marriage and children.

As a childless woman in her 30s, Freeman is disturbed by the tendency of people to judge women for not having children.

“Your biological clock is ticking. You better hurry up,” said Freeman, a graduate of the UA Little Rock Department of Applied Communication who is pursuing a graduate certificate in human resources. “I’ve heard that since I was 21, but I haven’t found a guy I want to marry yet. … I’m okay with myself. I don’t know when or if I’ll have children. I’m still figuring it out, and that’s okay.”

Inspired by her own experiences, Freeman is investigating the experiences of women without children and the communication strategies they employ to cope with stigma in society.

“There has been a growing trend of women without children,” Freeman said. “Society has caused women to feel hopeless if they are not mothers by the age of 30. I asked these women what childlessness meant at different stages in their lives and how they adapted when society has placed expectations on them.”

Freeman is one of more than 100 UA Little Rock students who received a $1,000 grant to conduct original research, creative works, and community service projects this semester as part of the university’s Signature Experience Award program. Dr. Avinash Thombre, professor of applied communication, serves as her faculty mentor.

Freeman interviewed seven women between the ages of 30-65 and developed three overarching themes during the interviews: “Don’t judge me,” “Don’t make assumptions,” and “Don’t pity me.”

Freeman presented her research at the Southern States Communication Association Undergraduate Honors Conference earlier this month and at the Student Research and Creative Works Expo held April 18 in the Jack Stephens Center.

“This project is about trying to engage open communication with audiences to allow them to reconceptualize how they think about women without children and to consider the judgments they place on these women,” Freeman said. “One of my recommendations is that women should not defend themselves against accusations. Women shouldn’t worry about defending their sexuality or people assuming that they don’t like children.”

She hopes that her research will lead people to understand that a woman’s life is about more than whether she has children.

“A woman’s motherhood status is natural and personal. Most people see women without children as a void, but it’s not a void,” Freeman said. “It depends on who you’re asking. Every woman without a child has a story to tell.”

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