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.

The Alchemy of Travel and Friendship: where adventure, fun and relationships collide.

0c58e05bf4fd9b820918d98ddef0c242Traveling can be an incredible experience. Sharing the experience of travel with a friend can take your friendship to a whole new level. Planning together.Experiencing new places. Creating memories. Sharing stories. Taking pictures. And many years of recounting adventures.

Sometimes traveling with friends can unravel and become messy, creating tension in the friendship hopefully not in a way that ends the friendshipbut certainly this can place much stress on the relationship.  And, depending on the friendship, travelling together can be a great opportunity for growth and deepening the connection or it can lead to a chasmone that might just be too big for either person to cross.

quote-introMy Dad has always said there are three parts to a travel experience: the anticipation, the being there and the reminiscing. Each of these parts can be greatly enhanced by sharing travel with friends especially if everyone involved is as intentional as possible, thinking about priorities and being clear with each other about expectations, wants and needs. And respecting differences.

To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” – Bill Bryson

I have been incredibly fortunate to travel with friends and family through the years. I have travelled with friend and to visit friends? I have had many different experiences, most positive a few stressful and challenging.

25a57062e2ab8aeeb4248bdefdc14858We all have different reasons for traveling. We all have a different connection to travel: different interests, different travel styles, and different attitudes about learning about other cultures and their histories and customs. Because of this, it is really important to be clear about what you want and expect from your travel experience with friends.

I have found that when Ive felt frustrated or let down by an experience of traveling with a friend, it is usually because I was not clear about what I wanted, with myself or with my friend. Or else I didnt address issues directly when they came up and so things *festered* and I would end up frustrated with myself. If I didn’t say something then how can I expect things to change? No one can read my mind.

“Before setting out, remind yourself of the purpose of your journey.” ~ Phil Cousineau

To make travelling with friends more amazing than challenging it can be quite helpful and important to manage expectations. Yours and theirs.

Here are a few tips for managing expectations:

  • Get clear about what you want to experience on your trip
  • Get clear what you need to be happy and/or healthy during your trip, for example, seeing art, getting enough sleep, having alone time, being spontaneous, drinking coffee/beer/wine, etc…
  • Set aside time to share your hopes and dreams with your friend(s) and to discover theirs.
  • Check-in with each other while you are traveling and see how things are going for each other, with each other.
  • It can be hard to see things from both sidesand very good for your friendship! Say more about this one, it’s not clear yet.
  • Discuss each of your must-have’s and must-do’s – specific travel destinations, experiences, etc…

These tips are easier said than doneand, I know that if you have a plan and can be flexible, then travelling with friends can be amazing!

What tips would you share about traveling with friends?

Take only memories, leave only footprints.” – Chief Seattle