Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Will you be my friend?



No, this is not a post about Facebook. 

One of the main topics of conversation on fertility blogs, or pregnancy loss/trying to conceive message boards/websites, is the issue of friendships; how they change, how we deal with friends who have children, how they deal with us.  It’s a difficult topic, and I’ve read countless blogs and forum posts about friendships that change.  The pain, anguish, anger and hurt in these posts are almost palpable. 

I’ve also been considering a post about one of my own friendships that has irreversibly changed over the last ten years.  But I’m a bit nervous, fearful that my friend might find her way here, and that I might ruin what we stil have.  It’s also too painful, still too raw, even though I’ve been mourning the loss of this close friendship for several years now.  I go through phases I guess, and recently I’ve been feeling it again.

So I know there is still much more to say than what I’m about to say here.  But I want to keep it brief.  (As you can see, three paragraphs in, I’m failing dismally.  Brevity is not my strong suit!)

One of the friendship issues that I see women face is how they cope when they are the only one in their circle of friends who doesn’t have children.  I don’t know how they cope with that, as it is not something I have had to face. Yes, I know how lucky I am.

Nicole posted about this in “Who will be our friends wheneveryone has kids?”  Even back when I was in my 20s, I was determinedly NOT trying to conceive, fiercely resisting the expectations that, as a woman, my first job would be to procreate.  I never said never, but quite definitely said “not now, not yet.”  I was going to do it when it was right for me.  Not when people thought I should.  And so I found it hard to think of our other friends having kids, when it was so far from my own immediate thoughts at the time.

By the time I was 30, only a few of my friends had children.  And it really didn’t affect my life.  One of my oldest friends had children but really didn’t change her (outward) lifestyle much at all.  We got to know the children well - G spent his first birthday at our apartment in Bangkok - but we never felt that we could only ever talk about the children.  Our relationship continued with little change.  And there was never any judgement about our choice (at the time) not to have children, or any pressure to do so.  (Well, with the exception of obnoxious brothers-in-law).

I made new friends, friends without children, and friends with children.  But again, these parents were people who had wider interests, who were intelligent, curious, and had more to talk about than their children.  They all adored being parents, being mothers, but they never pressured me, and when I did try to conceive, and had losses, they supported me, and some of the parents were the people I was able to talk to most openly. 

This wasn’t the case with everyone in my life though.   Some friendships/relationships did change.  But most didn’t.  And even if they did, they tended to be staggered.  Not everyone in my life got pregnant at the same time.  They very thoughtfully spread their child-bearing over about 20 years.  So I never felt completely isolated at any one time.

Now of course I am in my 40s (not for much longer – argh!), and in a different phase of life.  I don’t expect any of my current friends or immediate family (or in-law family) to have any more children.  (Although the youngest child in our life will only be 4 this year).  But any new children in my life now will be in another generation – the children of nieces and nephews, or the children of children of friends.  Yes, my friends and sisters and siblings-in-law will most likely be grand-parents.  That has started already.  I don’t expect it will be too painful, simply because these are the same people who were sensitive when they were parents.  I don’t expect them to change their personalities and become painful, insensitive grand-parents.

So I’m pleased to report that this is a time when I am reclaiming my friendships.  Children grow up, parents discover babysitters, and even if they did withdraw from your life for a time, most of my friends/family have returned with a vengeance.  And that’s something to look forward to.  My sister-in-law and I are even planning the day that my niece can be the “designated driver” on a trip to the wineries of the Barossa or Margaret River Valley!  She’d better hurry up and get her drivers’ licence.

14 comments:

  1. Thank you for writing this. I really appreciate hearing about this issue from your perspective. As one of the few people in my small circle of friends that has a child, I've been very careful not to thrust my motherhood on to my friends. I rarely bring up my daughter if someone doesn't ask about her first. And it's not that I wish I could talk about her, usually I'm THRILLED to talk about something, ANYTHING, else. I love to discuss current events or just hear what my friends are doing. I feel like there are other parts of me that are dying to get out.

    But then I read all these articles and posts about how moms can only talk about their kids and ditch there non-mom friends and I wonder if maybe I'm experiencing my conversations with my friends differently than they happen. Do I only talk about my daughter?! God I hope not.

    Reading your post gives me hope that there are moms who can celebrate other parts of their lives. It gives me hope that I might be one of those women. I hope I am.

    I'm so glad you have kept so many of your friends. The idea that women would be separated by whether or not they have kids makes me incredibly sad. I'm so glad to hear that it doesn't happen to everyone.

    Thanks again for sharing this.

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  2. Interesting read. I'm in my early 30s fast approaching mid 30s and the only reprieve for me is that I live faraway from "the breeders" (many of my Indo friends and ex-school friends are now having their second or third child - some are just starting to have their first child while some are still single).

    Among my closest friends, only one is single and I can tell that she can relate to some of my IF losses, though she'd rather not talk about it (she did mention it once, though). The rest are married, though some haven't tried having kids yet (but I suspect they will in the future). Some have one kid or kids already and maybe they will have another one later. In my TTC days, I used to be so scared about what I'd feel if one of them gets pregnant - now that we've surrendered, I feel "safe" from that fear.

    Here in Finland, I hang out with people who've got kids or older kids (empty nesters), so my life isn't surrounded with little kids. Because of this and because of the fact that I have more blogger friends than real life friends here with kids, I have an arms-length experience with people with kids. I don't know what's gonna happen in the future, though...I mean about friendship. I suspect it's gonna still be this way (knowing me): many more blogger and long-distance online friends than real-life friends ha ha....

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    1. Amel, I loved this. "Now that we've surrendered, I feel safe from that fear." What a wonderful insight, and reaction, to our situation. Getting to that degree of freedom and relaxation has taken me much longer than you. Bravo!

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  3. What a great post!!
    I have found that some of the friends that wondered have come back...but, it is up to me to let go of past feelings of being abondoned and akward, and simply move forward into the friendship again. I must admit, it is hard.

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    1. It is hard. Very hard. And that's what I'm about to post about.

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  4. "So I’m pleased to report that this is a time when I am reclaiming my friendships." It is so lovely to reading something positive like this. Thank you for an uplifting post on an issue that the blogosphere makes clear is on lots of our minds.

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  5. Thank you for this lovely response post. I have learned from you post and the comments on mine, that I think friendships can be effected by children, but not always. That people with children want friends who don't have children for some much needed adult time and talk. And that it can be easy to fit into the lives of those with children. Also, I am seeing that I will probably find childfree friends pretty organically.

    Really appreciate your great thoughts and insight!

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  6. I've recently left my 40s and find the friendship thing a whole lot easier now. Although many of my friends have kids, they are also older, putting the parents back, sort of, in my bracket. Their lives are not revolving around their children. It's a nice benefit of aging. Now if only I can find some more of those benefits!

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  7. I'm so happy that you write here and that I read here.

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    1. I'm so happy you read here too, IB!

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  8. I'm with you, Mali. I'm interested in friendships that are full-bodied, well-rounded -- just like my wine ;-) ...
    Barossa and Margaret Valley -- count me in!

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    1. Well, I'm definitely full-bodied and well-rounded!!

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  9. Thank you for writing this. This gives me hope that there will be a time I can establish friendships again.

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  10. I love the concept or reclaiming friendship.
    It is lovely to read one of your older posts... I missed this one then.

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