Intuitively, it would seem that a woman without kids would have an abundance of free time, and therefore more hours to devote to friendships. But for several reasons, this is not necessarily the case.
Childfree Women Have Differing Priorities From Their Mothering Peers
Being a career woman and not a mom has meant that I'm distinctly different from most of my peer group. I've spent the last fifteen or so years feeling mostly like an odd duck around other women my age-they've been busy with pregnancy, childrearing, adjusting to an empty nest, and now moving into the grandparenting years, while I've been busy with my career, hobbies, and dogs. Many mothers are juggling both acts in life; they are full time moms and this is their top priority. They work to keep bread on the table, but many say they'd really rather be at home with their child or children. Work for most women shifts to the back burner after the children come along, but for many childfree women, career remains front and center.
Finding a Common Interest in Social Gatherings Can Be a Challenge
These days, 1 in 5 women reach the end of their childbearing years without becoming a mom-this means, though, that 4 out of 5 are mothers. So put me in a social gathering with other women my age, and I'm almost certain to be a minority. I've noticed that moms love to talk about their children, and likewise grandmothers love to talk about their grandkids, and so I'm frequently in a position of being the only one without that topic to chat about. In a mixed-gender gathering, I often wander over to the men's side of the room, because the talk is more likely to be focused on politics, social issues, or other non-personal topics that I can better participate in. Or I'll shift conversations with women to topics that I know we both can relate to, such as funding for a new park in our city. All in all, however, my experience is similar to that of many childfree women I've talked to, feeling like a misfit in a group of other women my age. Plus, mothers often meet their friendship needs through relationships with other parents, combining play dates for kids with those for adults.
So what's a childfree woman to do?
It's important to nurture at least one friendship with another childfree woman so that you don't feel completely out of place.
Be prepared for those group conversations in which all the women start to talk about their kids and grandkids. What will you say? How will you dismiss yourself if you should choose to do so? How might you shift the topic to something that's pertinent to the whole group?
Embrace your differences! Being able to laugh with another woman about the road that you each took and why can lighten things up. Those of us who don't have kids need to remember that moms used to be childfree as well. Ask them about their pre-child years and enjoy exploring together how each of your lives would have turned out had she not become a mom and if you had become a mom.
And never forget, that underneath the labels, we're all very much alike.