I have just returned from a trip with dear girlfriends. What a treasure to have close girlfriends! Mine are a combination of childfree women and moms. On the heels of the trip, I’m inspired to say a few words about friendships that do not have children in common:
One of the most common things that childfree people talk to me about is how their relationships with their friends change when their friends become parents. All of the sudden they don’t have a big thing in common, and both sides let it affect the friendship.
One reason–Parents often assume that because their childfree friends have chosen not to have kids of their own, they can’t and/or don’t want to have a meaningful role in their friends’ lives anymore and the lives of their kids. Our decision not to have kids just means we have chosen not to make children the focus of our lives; this does not mean we don’t want to participate with our friends lives and the lives of their children!
Another reason—a change in showing of interest. Childfree often talk about how their social life suffers when parents can only talk about their lives in relationship to their children, not allowing for any interests other than kids, and things related to kids. Activities outside work also centralize only on things involving the kids. When this is the case, it’s easy for the childfree friends to feel they are not as interested in them and their lives anymore. It’s also easy to begin to assume that the parties no longer have anything in common.
Even with the biggest of lifestyle differences, to maintain the connection it’s so important to continue to be interested in and show that interest in your friends’ lives. It has to go both ways for the friendship to last.
So why do we let parenthood create friendship drifts? On both sides, we let the very different lifestyle that parenthood creates and the insecurities that can come along with this be more important than the love we have of the friend. If truly I love my friend, I will always be interested and curious about her life, no matter how different her life is from mine.
So I say to the childfree and the parent–say start with your love for your friend first. The friendship, especially when the kids are young can take a special kind of tending, and with true friends, is worth it!