Building Bridges and Maintaining Friendships when Your Friends Have Kids and You Don’t

We dont talk about this topic very muchwhat it is like to be the childless friend of friends with kids. Some women chose to be child-less while others do not. There are many layers to what unfolds when your friends start having babies and you do not.

I am writing from the perspective of choosing not to have kids.* I want to share a little bit of my experience of being the child-less friend (I so wish there was a better way to say that!). For as long as I can remember I have been friends with people who were having babies and raising children and all that that entails. And I have always been the one without kids, the one who chose not to become a parent, a mother.

From the beginning this has meant being the one who visits, building a *bridge* between my life and theirs, becoming the one who fits in with the parenting lives of my friends, with whatever is going on (not for forever, but for a time). It has meant being flexible and not taking things personally, understanding that there is so much outside of both of our control. It has meant knowing we are all doing the best we can. 

Being able to talk to other women without children about our shared (and sometimes different) experiences (of being the one without kids) has been invaluable for me. These friends know the perspective of being the friend without kids and can offer support along the way.

I have watched my friends be Moms (and Dads) and learned so much about them and from them. Seeing my high school friends become parents in their twenties was at first a bit surreal and then it became the new normal.

Staying connected to my friends with kids has not always been easy. I have certainly experienced moments of feeling *left out* or as if I lived in another world all together.

I have found that their *mothering*, the way in which they mother their child(ren), helped me to realize things about myself and my own experience. For me, it has been a chance to see all different kinds of ways to parent in a healthy, connected way.

And I have felt as though I am part of something way bigger than myself. Part of the *web of life* (hope that is not too dramatic!). In supporting my friends who have children, I have had an impact too. And I feel included, a part of their extended families.

Building and maintaining the *bridge in these friendships has also meant trusting that things will change with time. That at some point, kids leave for college or other adventures and then friendships shift and change again.

Suddenly we can have uninterrupted time again.

I am so grateful for all of these friendships. For the chance to be a part of the bigger picture. To see my friends kids now and to remember holding them all those years ago. Really incredible.

In An Open Letter to My Friends Who Don’t Have Kids a mom thanks her childless friends and acknowledges some of the challenges:

“So, childless friends, I want to thank you. Thank you for being patient with us.

1474-beachThe other friends left a loooong time ago. They were over the boob talk and calls to voicemail.
But you cared enough to stay. And you even care enough… to be hurt. Because we aren’t considering your life.

Thank you.

Thank you for loving us, even when we’re too distracted to show we care.

We do care. You are valuable to us. We need you.We just need a minute to get this parenting thing down. And trust me; when we come up for air, we will be even better friends than we were before.”

Not all friendships will survive this shift and that feels sad to say. This is a normal reality, that as we shift and change, sometimes this means certain friendships might not *fit* anymore or might become too painful for us to stay. There is tremendous hope for navigating the *bridge* in these friendships, if we want to, especially if we talk more about how this change impacts our friendship. It can be helpful to acknowledge the shift, how we feel, and to try not to take things personally. And a little acknowledgement goes a long way…both ways!

Questions to ponder:

– How do you feel (or how have you felt) about being the childless friend?
– What has helped you navigate the challenges?
– How often do you contemplate or talk about the role of the friend who does not have kids?

* The blog post The Mother Divide: Friends with children and friends without offers one perspective for those who did not choose to be childless.

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