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Guest Post: Friendship Survival for Childfree Women

January 16, 2012 | By | 11 Replies Continue Reading

By Ellen Walker

 

Childfree women and
mothers can make their friendships work.

 

Let’s
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.

 

I
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.

 

When
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.

 

It
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.

 

So,
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.

 

1)
Accept the fact that, even with lifelong relationships, at times our paths
separate.

When
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.

 

2)
Make an effort to carve out time together away from other obligations,
including career and children.

I’ve
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.

 

3)
Spend some time in one another’s worlds.

A
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.

 

Recognize
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.

 

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Comments (11)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I, too, am childless. I’m also partner-less. Both have their benefits but also their drawbacks.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I prefer the old-fashioned term “childless.” It’s a better description for my situation. I did not actively choose to be “free” of children. For myriad reasons, I ended up childless. Some moms I’ve been friends with have told me I have no idea how much harder their lives are, because of having to be a mom 24-7 with no break. Not much sleep. Can’t talk on the phone without constantly being interrupted by the kids’ dramas. You know, the usual thing. But I want to say, “But you also have the GOOD things! The hugs, the love, the sweet times … the fun. Your home is always filled with life.” This seems so simply and obvious to me, yet seems to elude these moms. I know they don’t regret becoming mothers. But they are so short sighted to not realize that childless women may have more free time but they also don’t get to have the joys of motherhood. It’s just a trade-off, that’s all. Neither side has it better or worse.

  3. Anonymous says:

    we both miss each other, too (my friend with kids and me, single, without)

  4. Anonymous says:

    I am 42yo, with a married 23yo daughter & now a grandbaby, who doesn’t live with me. (They live in another state-far away)
    Most of the women I meet are somewhat younger than me with child(ren). I don’t mind that they have child(ren), but they assume I do, because I don’t “seem” to have any children.
    Yes, my daughter is grown and lives her own life and I am a grandmother, but I would still like to get know you and see if we have anything in common.
    I am not old lady with 10 cats. I feel and look younger than my age with many interests and I don’t mind if you have to take your child(ren) along. For example, the beach, mall, or community event.
    But they back off from me because at least it seems because they think we won’t have anything in common because I am a grandmother with a grown child, not younger children.
    I’m confused as to what to do.

  5. Anonymous says:

    There were times when my friend seemed to resent my freedom because I chose to not have kids as I am the oldest of eight and felt that I already had done that responsibility very early in life. I guess she thought I wasn’t making enough effort because being a mother is a 24 hour job and would make comments about how everthing was so convenient for me and such.
    I really enjoyed being an Auntie for a time to my friend with kids, and miss seeing them at times, wondering how they are doing and going to restaurants with them and seeing their perspective on things as my friend is a very dedicated mother.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Well it kinda stands in the area of parents and getting single people to fit around them- put parents first because they have kids. So they are more important and the single person – as always- has to be the understanding one. Rubbish. Im single and childless- my friend is married with a new baby. I know she doesnt have much time as before but she comes over every month with the baby and we catch up. She misses me as much as i miss her. Yes she has a baby so i know she wont be having late nights and going to bars etc so yes i can make allowances for that. That isnt rocket science. But our friendship is still strong. Instinctively you know things about the other. Its the same if i broke my leg- dad was sick- you know it. But that doesnt make you less important.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I have to agree, the article did not address everything about maintaining the friendship on both sides. Childfree, single women are perceived as having all of this free time, only care about work (I don’t live to work), and have it thrown in their face by smug married friends with kids. In fact, I have found the opposite, where its the new parents whom drop their single, whether childfree or childless friends. So, this article did not really help.

  8. Anonymous says:

    This article assumes when you have a child you want cut off from your old life, or so it sounded to me. Possibly that’s how her friends wanted it. I have a 9 year old son, and last year had another baby. My best friend is married also but child-free by choice and although at first I thought she would run, she didn’t. And I’ve made it very clear to her that I want to take advantage of every opportunity we have to continue to nurture our friendship. She needs mom-less friends and I need mom-friends, but our relationship is very important and we do different things together, with and without my kids. My husband is gracious enough to take over for a couple hours here and there so I can go out. I wouldn’t have it any other way as a mom adjusting to life with a baby in the house again.

  9. beth26 says:

    As a single woman, I completely agree. Because I am single, my choices are all “recreational” not “serious” like my friends with children.

  10. WonderWhy says:

    I would have liked the author of this article to present a case for both sides. The three suggestions aren’t clear that they would apply for both the single friend and the married friend. Maybe I need to reread the article. As a single woman with married friends, I find that this article doesn’t accurately reflect just how tricky these kinds of friendships can be. Sometimes friendships between single women and married women don’t last because one or both women aren’t willing to meet in the middle and compromise, to save and nurture the friendship. The married friend always uses her children as an excuse for being busy, whereas the single friend is never viewed as busy because she doesn’t have children. Well, as a single woman, my schedule gets just as crazy as my married friends. What I don’t appreciate is when my married friends throw my single status in my face as though my life isn’t as important as theirs since I don’ t have children. I would have liked the author to address those issues instead of just three ways women can maintain friendships with single and married friends. It wasn’t really a helpful article to me at all.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom. I agree that patience and acceptance are two key ingredients to an enduring friendship. I have a good friend from high school. We met in the last year and are now both 39 years old. While I am single, without kids, she’s married, with two. Granted, we don’t spend as much time together as we used to but we’re still very close. We catch up on the phone every now and then and still take each other out for our birthdays. I babysit quite often for the kids. I love kids so that makes it easier to keep our lives connected. I value this friendship tremendously. I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

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