Another One Bites the Dust
When a friend falls off the childfree wagon, it’s easy to feel upset. In an instant, the wonderful person you used to meet for drinks after work or weekend getaways has sworn off alcohol and started cocooning. Spontaneous activities and late night phone calls quickly become a thing of the past.
Although it may be difficult to accept these changes, there are several ways to deal with the situation without selling yourself short.
1. Take care of your own needs. Be clear about what you want from the friendship as well as what won’t work for you. If you’re generally comfortable around kids and view this as a temporary detour, you may only need to make a few adjustments. But if you dislike kids or find it too painful to be around them (due to infertility, for example), the friendship may not serve your best interests in the long run. Consider where you fall along this spectrum and decide how much contact, if any, you want with the new mom and her child. For example, skip the baby shower and chip in on a gift with other people. It’s difficult, but OK, to let go of a friendship if it becomes a burden instead of a blessing.
2. Respect her decision. You don’t have to agree with your friend’s decision to have children, but you can show respect for her right to make the choice. Most of us take a lot of flack for living childfree; so we understand better than most how frustrating it is when other people question our judgment.
3. Be open about your feelings. Admit your fears and frustrations in a loving way. Own your feelings. If you’re close friends, tell her how important your friendship is and stress that you want to be there for her.
4. Penny for her thoughts. Ask her if she has any ideas about how the two of you can stay close, and put those ideas into practice wherever possible.
5. Don’t assume your friendship will suffer. Show an interest in her new life. We can be great friends with people despite having little in common with them. In fact, some of our best friends are very different from us. Take an active interest in the changes she’s going through. You’ll both learn something and you may end up even better friends.
6. Talk about other subjects. Redirect the conversation to other topics after she’s had some time to babble about the baby. Start with subjects you know she’s interested in. If her kid has become the focus of her life (especially if she’s a stay-at-home mom), she’s probably dying for conversation about something other than breastfeeding, stretch marks and changing diapers.
7. Find new ways to get together. If she has back up caregivers (especially a willing grandma), encourage her to go out for coffee or a quick shopping trip with you for, say, an hour or two. It may be difficult at first for her to leave the baby, but she’ll welcome the break and will eventually get more comfortable leaving for longer periods of time.
If she just can’t get away, go to her place. Tell her you’ll bring take out food if her partner watches the kid for a while so the two of you can chat without interruption.
8. Include other childfree friends. If your friend seems to be unable to talk about anything other than her kid, bring along another childfree friend to steer the conversation to other subjects. Beware of including another mom—you’ll be outnumbered and get sucked into the kid stories faster than you can say “just shoot me.”
9. Remember: technology is your friend. E-mail and instant messaging can be a lifeline for busy people with different schedules. And unlike a phone call, you won’t get interrupted by a fussy toddler.
10. Plan ahead. OK, so you can’t be as spontaneous as you used to be. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun anymore. You just have to get creative and plan ahead. This may be a good opportunity to get those concert tickets or attend an exhibit you’ve always talked about. Having a standing date (such as a class) is another great way to ensure that you see each other on a regular basis.
11. Make new friends. No, friends are not interchangeable nor are they easily replaced. But putting all your eggs in one basket is guaranteed to limit your social life. Expand your circle of friends so that you’re not dependent on one friend (especially a mom) to meet all your social needs. If you’re concerned about getting “burned” again, join a local chapter of Childfree or another organization where you’re more likely to meet people without kids.
12. Don’t take it personally. You may have been caught by surprise. You may feel betrayed. But it’s not about you. It’s an intensely personal decision that some people agonize over. Although you may have always known that you didn’t want kids, other people are more ambivalent and struggle with this issue. Some of them eventually decide that they do want children. It’s not a reflection of you or your choice not to have them.
Although it may seem unfair that childfree people must often accommodate new parents, there’s no getting around it if you value the friendship. Rather than letting your emotions rule your actions, ask yourself what’s really important to you. Then consider whether a particular approach will advance your goals or drag you farther away them.
Lisa del Solar is a Life Coach whose mission is helping people discover how to live with purpose, passion and fulfillment regardless of whether they have children. Lisa and her husband have no children.
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