Guest Author - Lori Bradley
The question that comes my way most often on this site is "Where can I meet other childfree people?" I agree it can be difficult to meet up with other couples and singles that don't have kids, especially when located in a rural area or small town. I live in a small city in densely populated Massachusetts, so it may be a little easier to meet other childfree folks here, but it's a challenge anywhere.
It's not impossible to build a community of like-minded friends with effort made towards finding places, situations, and special-interest groups that attract people living without children. Over the years, I've found several sure-fire kid-free settings: 1) animal rescue and shelter groups, 2) outdoors adventure/hiking groups, 3) arts and writing groups, 4) adult education classes. Every time we move to a new place I search out these types of groups and have always been able to meet up with some childfree people.
Animal Rescues and Shelters
Die-hard "animal people," in my experience, are often likely to be childfree. I'm not sure exactly why this is, and I plan to investigate the phenomenon in the future. But, I've always met the most childfree friends through volunteering at animal shelters.
Last week a new volunteer in her early 60's came in to the cat shelter where I currently volunteer and, sure enough, she doesn�t have children. She disproves the stereotype that childfree people are selfish and uncaring. She's obviously kind and nurturing, just prefers to bond with cats and dogs rather than human children.
The woman who runs the shelter and many volunteers of all ages don't have kids of their own, but dedicate their time and energy to improving the lives of abused and abandoned animals. I�ve developed long-term friendships with many of these women and men, although the greater percentage of animal rescue people I meet are women.
If cleaning cages and walking dogs isn't appealing, there are other ways to participate in the animal welfare world. Most shelters and rescues are in desperate need of publicists and fundraising volunteers. Zoos and animal parks often have volunteer programs.
If volunteering is doesn't seem attractive, horse farms are another great place to meet up with childfree "animal people." From time to time, I'll take horseback riding classes for fun and relaxation and, like animal shelters, horse stables seem to attract childfree people. Of course, there are kids involved with most commercial stables too, but the atmosphere is generally serious about riding and caring for horses, and status of people as parents or non-parents is placed on the back burner during the riding experience.
Outdoors and Hiking Groups
Places rural and urban usually have some kind of group for people interested in getting out into nature through structured activity; hiking, cross country skiing, kayaking. I�ve found these groups tend to attract childfree couples and singles. Remember, it's important to sign up for activities that are fairly strenuous or you will end up spending a day outdoors with groups of parents and small kids.
Arts and Writing Groups
I've met many childfree couples and singles in arts and writing groups, people who are very committed to honing their skills and producing exciting work that enhances the lives of readers and viewers. Like the animal rescue people, I find this a very nurturing and selfless pursuit.
Most groups are receptive to people of all skill and knowledge levels from newbie to professional, and a range of experience leads to informal mentorships. I've developed lasting friendships through creative groups - supportive relationships that have helped inspire and nurture my work.
Parents and childfree people actively participate in these groups. I enjoy meeting empty nesters that are searching for personal fulfillment after a lifetime of catering to the needs of others. I find that parents with kids who have left their childhood homes, especially those moving out of state for college or work, look towards childfree people for advice and encouragement.
Often empty nesters don't know how to face 24 hours alone without involving themselves in the daily concerns of their children's lives. Their own thoughts and creative impulses are unfamiliar. Recently, a women in one of my groups commented, "I thought my good days were over and it was my time to fade, so I gave everything to my daughter so she could blossom. Now that she�s left home, I realize I want my life back!"
Adult Education Classes
Take or teach an adult education class to meet other childfree folks. Avoid craft-oriented activities if you really want to make sure you participate in classes comprised entirely of adults.
Childfree or parent, people taking adult education classes are trying to improve themselves and are not entirely focused on children to make their lives worthwhile or meaningful. It can be fun to take a class as a couple or single. When first moving to a new place, the first thing I do is enroll in a class at a local college, arts center, or vocational technical school. At the very least, I learn a new skill, in addition to getting insiders' perspectives on my new hometown.
I've met many childfree and empty nester friends in classes, in addition people with kids. As with special-interest groups, people taking classes are serious about nurturing their own creative spirit. They tend to value friendships and personal growth. I've developed lasting friendships with childfree people and parents. The unifying factor is a willingness and need to bond with a community of people outside of the nuclear family.