By Ellen Walker
Childfree women and
mothers can make their friendships work.
face it, when a woman who is childfree by choice hears that her girlfriend is
"in the family way," it’s not uncommon to have mixed feelings. Of
course, she wants to be happy for her friend and hopeful that she can be
supportive throughout this big life change, but there’s also the realization
that her friend’s life is permanently altered.
remember my own personal experiences when my two best girlfriends’ children
came along. Vicki had twin boys, and when they were two years old, I sent her a
letter basically excusing her from participating in our friendship for the time
being. I was unhappy with always being the one who called and sent letters and
got little reciprocation, but I knew that she was simply exhausted. I withdrew
for a time and focused on the relationships that were closer to home at that
point. I reconnected with Vicki later down the path of life, when her boys were
less dependent on her. Sure enough, by that point, she once again had time for
hour-long phone calls and dinners when we were in the same area.
my friend Joy announced, in her late 30’s, that she was pregnant, I was taken
aback, because she’d not planned to have children. She was nevertheless
thrilled! I visited her when her son was an infant, and he was all consuming,
and I had to again accept the fact of life that Joy’s friendships had to take a
back seat to her child, at least for the time being.
was during those years that I felt the most like an odd duck. Despite working
full time, I had heaps of free time and this allowed me to travel, exercise
daily, routinely get a full night’s sleep, and save up for retirement. The life
paths of my girlfriends and me were quite different over a number of years, and
it simply wasn’t convenient to get together often. I’ll be totally honest
here in saying that I really don’t enjoy hanging out with children-had I wanted
to spend time with children, I would have had one of my own, and so I seldom
visited Joy and Vicki in their homes. And they were needed fulltime at home and
wanted to be there front and center in their mothering role. Happily, we
caught up with one another later down the road.
after taking a look back at my own life, I’ve come up with three tips on ways a
childfree woman can maintain her friendships with her mom friends over time.
Accept the fact that, even with lifelong relationships, at times our paths
I was in the five-year process of attaining a PhD and a Psychology license,
there wasn’t much time for play or money for traveling, and my long distance
friends didn’t see much of me. They knew, however, that I loved them and that
we’d reconnect once I was back in the land of the living.
Make an effort to carve out time together away from other obligations,
including career and children.
enjoyed having girlfriend weekends with Joy over the past few years, now that
her son is older. It’s a time when the men in our lives, our husbands and her
son, stay at home, and we can just have fun together. I sometimes feel a twinge
of guilt, but I remember that my friendship with her has thrived since we were
nine years old and that well likely grow old side by side.
Spend some time in one another’s worlds.
few years ago, I visited Joy in her home, and by doing so I was able to watch
her in her mothering role and get to know her child. I’ve done the same with
Vicki, and now that her sons are in college, it’s great to realize that I’ve
been a part of their lives, even peripherally, since their birth. Likewise, Joy
and Vicki have visited me in my home and are able to see that, despite not
being a mom, I have a rich and full life that like theirs, has it’s trials.
that some friendships are destined to last a lifetime, and that this doesn’t
have to mean having continual involvement and contact over the years. Patience
and acceptance are two key ingredients to an enduring friendship.
Ellen Walker, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and the author of Complete Without Kids: An Insider’s Guide to Childfree Living By Choice Or By Chance. She is also a fellow blogger on Psychology Today, where she produces the blog Complete without Kids.