Complete Without Kids

Exploring all facets of childfree living.

Three Tips for Friendship Survival for Childfree Women

How to stay close and connected with your parent friends.

You just got the news that another girlfriend is “in the family way,” and you feel a twinge of guilt about your mixed emotions. Of course, you want to be happy for your friend and supportive throughout this big life change, but you’re also keenly aware that her life will be permanently altered—and your friendship will likely never be the same. 

When my best friend announced that she was pregnant, I was taken aback. She was in her late 30s and hadn’t planned to have children; nevertheless, she was thrilled by this unplanned surprise! I visited her when her son was an infant. He was all consuming and I had to accept the fact that our friendship would forever take a back seat to her child. Her “baby” is now a teenager, and although my friend is able to get away from time to time for girlfriend visits, her child is always in the forefront of her thoughts.

During my 30s and 40s I felt the most like an odd duck with my peers who had kids. 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. I had time to write my bookComplete Without Kids: An Insider’s Guide to Childfree Living by Choice or by Chance. Meanwhile, I saw others my age, including my best friend, stretched thin, exhausted and seemingly unable to truly enjoy any part of their lives fully. It was seldom convenient for them to get together with me — even more so because I’m not really fond of mixing kids with girlfriend time. My unwillingness to join in with parents and their children has interfered with building friendships with women my own age, but there are other ways for childfree women to be friends with moms. I came up with several tips on how to make it work.

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1) Accept the fact that paths diverge, even with lifelong friendships.

When I was in the five-year process of attaining a PhD and a psychology license, I didn’t have much time for play and I didn’t see my friends as much. They knew, however, that I loved them and that we’d reconnect once I was back in the land of the living. This same phenomenon happens naturally when a baby comes along. Just remember that those friends will resurface eventually.

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

I’ve enjoyed having girlfriend weekends with my best friend over the past few years since her son has grown 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. Sometimes I feel a twinge of guilt, but I remember that my friendship with her has thrived since we were nine years old and that we’ll likely grow old side by side.

3) Spend some time in each other’s worlds.

A few years ago, I visited my girlfriend in her home and was able to watch her be a mother and get to know her child. It’s great to realize that I’ve been a part of his life, even peripherally, since birth. Likewise, my girlfriend visits me in my home and sees that, despite not being a mom, I have a rich and full life that, like hers, has its trials. By sharing our respective realities, we’re able to enjoy our differences as well as what we have in common.

Remember, patience and acceptance are key ingredients to an enduring friendship. How do you stay close to your mom friends?

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.

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