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Struggling with disconnect with my friends who are now "Moms"

By September 26, 2009 - 7:57pm
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I am at a weird place in my friendships with my girl friends. I am 37 years old, and my husband and I are childless by choice. My female friends fall into 2 general camps: those who are my age who have young children, or those who are a few years younger and still into heavy partying (I'm done with that). I don't fit in with either group, and therefore I haven't really had any good "girlfriend" time in a couple of years. I'd say that the women who mean the most to me are the mommies, but they are so busy with their growing families and playdates with other moms that I never hear from them anymore. I struggle to relate to them because I've never given birth, struggled with breastfeeding, been awoken at all hours of the night to change diapers, or dealt with the heartache of returning to work. I've made a few attempts to reconnect with them, but it's different. Our interaction seems unnatural and forced, and I just end up feeling inadequate and rejected. They know that I never plan to have children, and it's like they hold it against me, like there's something wrong with me or I'm a bad person. They think I'm a child-hater (I'm not) or that their kids are this huge bother to me. I coo over dozens of photos of their babies and listen to them tell me all about their toils in motherhood, but they don't express any interest in hearing about my life.

I have a wonderful husband, but I need my girlfriends, too. It's to the point that I'm really struggling with depression over the sense of loss and disconnect with other women. Am I just supposed to wait it out until my friends' children have moved onto college, and then maybe they'll want/need my friendship again? What else can I be doing to reach out and connect to my mommy friends? I'm rather introverted, so I'm not the type of person that is going to join one of those "childless by choice" groups to socialize with other non-parents, with whom besides being CBC I'd have little to nothing in common with. Can I hear from some moms and "not" moms who have dealt with the same thing or can give me some insight?

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I've been in your shoes. I am married but not a mom. I love children -- my husband and I have 15 nieces and nephews to dote on -- but my life is not ABOUT children. And when my girlfriends who are moms were getting pregnant and having babies, it seemed that there was nothing, absolutely nothing in their lives more interesting to them than their morning sickness, or their due date, or other women's labor stories, or whether-they-would-work-or-stay-home-after-the-baby, or what their toddler did in the restaurant last night, etc. There was no book more important to them than "What To Expect When You're Expecting." Once the baby(ies) arrive, no movie that doesn't have animation in it ever gets seen. And when the kids start school, there are parent-teacher meetings and strep throat and report cards and soccer practices. Through it all, you can listen and even enjoy the stories, but you have none of your own to offer (and somehow, jumping in there to tell the story of how the dog chewed up your shoe yesterday doesn't seem to fit the bill).

For a while, having children is just all-consuming. It's the reality I lived through and it's the one you're in the middle of. So for a while, if you need your girlfriends, you are going to have to find your new space in their lives, and that new space is smaller. It just is. They just may not be able to get away and chat over a glass of wine like you used to. You may have to say, "Can I come over some afternoon and hang out with you and the baby?" or "Can you bring the baby in a stroller and let's wander around the arts festival on Saturday morning?" or "I'd love to come watch her soccer practice sometime." Those kinds of gestures mean the world.

Some women seem to "disappear" into being a mom -- they suddenly feel that they are the least important person in their own household, behind the kids and the husband and the doctor's appointments and all. They sometimes feel lucky to get a shower in during the day, because everything that everyone else needs seems more important than themselves. So girlfriend time gets scrunched way down the list.

But I'm sure your friends miss you, too. They may also be having trouble reconnecting, since all their brains can do right now is (a) keep up with the kids and (b) try to get some sleep. But it does get better. As the kids get a little older (and you don't have to wait until they're college age!), you'll find that those moms -- your girlfriends -- NEED more time away from them. They will still love everything about you that they always loved. They will still laugh at things they always laughed at.

And they will treasure you more, because you will be one of the people who understands how much their children mean to them.

But you're in a hard spot at the moment, and it feels lonely. You'll have to make the bigger effort if you want them in your life, for right now.

September 28, 2009 - 9:45am

I understand where you are coming from, too. I had those exact same feelings, but from the other perspective: I was a new mom with a full-time career, filled with other women who had grown children, or decided not to have children. I felt like I had no one to talk to, no one cared beyond the first few "polite" minutes of hearing about my new baby.

I think every woman can relate to your story, as it we have all been through major transitions in our life when our old friends may not fit in with our new lifestyle. Or, our old friends are the ones who have changed (or moved), and we are the ones feeling left behind...even by our own choice.

What activities or hobbies do you enjoy? Instead of finding groups of women who are specifically "CBC", can you find women who share common interests that you DO have (instead of based on what you don't have?). I joined a cycling group, and this group is made up of women of all ages....teenagers to women in their 60s and beyond (I'm mid-30), and it works because we talk about cycling. Honestly, I don't even know if some of these women have children or not! It is nice being somewhere where I don't talk about my child..ha ha! Just as it is nice to have work-friends, but also friends outside of work where you can talk about movies or go dancing with...and not talk about work. Do you enjoy physical activities? Do you enjoy being creative? There are groups for every sport or activity you can imagine, as well as art classes, sewing groups, book clubs...you name it.

I am sorry you are feeling left out, but perhaps finding some new friends will also give you some feelings of understanding and inclusion that your current friends do not, and you can begin to connect with your old friends once you feel like you've taken control of your situation and are not feeling left out.

September 27, 2009 - 8:11am
EmpowHER Guest

I understand were you are coming from I am a mother but I understand your point of view. When I first had my child all of my friends around me were childless. So when I became a mom I felt like I lost my friends because they did not understand the changes my life was going through. But I will say this to your problem talk to your friends about how you feel if they are truly your friends they will get what you are trying to say to them. When I had my child I still was very active in my friends lives. Asking them what is going on and so forth. When we become moms sometimes we get lost in our child and our lives that we forget about those who were there before. So remind your friends of your friendship and see were that takes you.

September 26, 2009 - 9:07pm
HERWriter Guide

Dear Lilypad

My heart goes out to you. It doesn't seem at all like you are a "child hater" (and let's be honest, I have known some of the CBC groups and while most are great people, there are a few that really, really dislike kids and enjoy poking fun at parents in general) but I think you are going through what many childless (or childfree) people go through - and that's a natural disconnect with their old friends who now have kids.

Having kids is the most enormous change anyone will go through - physically, mentally, financially, socially - you name it. So when one friend elects to go down that road, and the other does not- there is an inevitable disconnect. It doesn't mean it's permanent - or even serious. But it happens. That sense of commonality changes.

I would hate to think that your friends somehow "hold it against you". Having children isn't for everyone. But at the same time, bear in mind that you may be extra sensitive to the fact that you don't have kids and are seeing things in them (their behaviors, attitudes) that aren't really there.

My husband and I have several young kids and we have friends with kids the same ages - or different ages. We also have many friends with no kids at all and no plans on having them. They are single, married - they are of many different backgrounds. I think there are times we look at them as being lucky - traveling to many places, relaxing Sunday brunches. having extra money, no physical or emotional changes, no career issues and far fewer worries. There are great advantages to not having kids - let's be real! We didn't have kids until we were 34 so we remember all that - it has only been five years!

Then there are times they look at us -with kids who adore us unconditionally, Christmases that are so much fun because we have kids (that much I really believe!) and a life filled with the honor of raising another generation who has a positive impact on the world. Is it hard to be a parent? Yes. It is. But the rewards are ten-fold. A lot of childfree people see that, and appreciate it.

In the end - it takes many types to make a world. If you have chosen a different path to most of your friends, then that's just how life worked out for all of you. Be proactive. Ask your girlfriends to set aside one night every month for a girl's night out. You deserve that - so do they.

And ask them if there is anything you can do to help them out. If you can't beat 'em - join 'em! No-one is saying you have to start taking care of other people's kids - but offer to pitch in now and again and you'll feel far more connected.

There is also nothing wrong with hanging out with other couples who have no kids. Strength in numbers!

Do remember that as much as you feel that your friends may look down on you for not having kids - they may also feel that you do the same thing. I'm just saying that there are two sides to every coin.

If they express no interest in your life, as you say, it could be for several reasons. They may be too wrapped up in their own lives, they may feel no commonality anymore - or they may be a little too selfish right now. Perhaps it's time to spread your wings a little and see what other people have to offer, in terms of friendship. But there is no reason to end a relationship with your friends who are now moms - however, you also may need to connect to people who have more time to spend with you.

Don't walk away from your old friends unless it's clear that there isn't much to stay for. They may need you as much as you need them. But feel free to explore other areas of interests, hobbies and groups. You have a history with your old friends and that's worth something. Then again, birds of a feather....

I wish you the best. Take it from me - you can have friends of all kinds, who are in various stages of life. Stay open to all of them and you'll reap the benefits.

September 26, 2009 - 8:59pm
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