Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Have you lost friends because you don't have children?

Yesterday I received the welcome news that an essay I wrote about losing a close friend when she became obsessed with her babies will be published in an upcoming anthology about women and lost friendships. They're calling it My Other Ex: Women's True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends. I like the title. For me and I suspect for many other women, my best friend growing up was like a spouse. We did everything together, spent all our time together, called each other on the phone five minutes after we got home. In many ways, our relationship was as intimate as a marriage. But sometimes when we grow up, life takes us in other directions.

Actually, my childhood best friend, Sherri, is still my best friend, even though she had the audacity to move to Texas. Whenever we call, we pick up right where we left off. The fact that she has a daughter has done nothing to interrupt that friendship.

It was different with the woman I wrote about for the anthology. We met as young adults. We worked together and we hung out together in our spare time. We looked so much alike people thought we were sisters. When we met, she was married but didn't have any children. I was recently divorced. We were so close that I asked her to be my matron of honor for my second wedding. But then she started having babies. She quit her job to become a full-time mommy. Suddenly we didn't speak the same language. We tried for a while, but our friendship faded away. I hate that.

These days I have other friends who have children. On Memorial Day, a friend invited me to her house for a potluck. All afternoon, the center of attention was a six-month-old baby girl, and much of the conversation focused on the other women's children. I didn't have much to say. Nobody asked about my children, which is good because then I'd have to say I didn't have any and there'd be that awkward thud in the conversation. Luckily we also talked about a lot of other things, but it always came back to that baby. And why not? She was fascinating. I like all these people and I plan to continue hanging out with them, sharing our love of music, dogs, and life in Oregon. But I'm older and wiser than I was when my lost friend was having her baby boys. I know that sometimes we are not going to connect because I don't have any experience with babies, and we just have to work around it.

Interestingly, another woman wrote an essay for the anthology from the other point of view. She was the one who had a baby and lost her friend because of it. I'm looking forward to reading what she wrote.

The book is coming out in September. For information, visit http://www.herstoriesproject.com.

Meanwhile, I have a question for you. Have you lost friends because one of you had children and the other didn't? Please share your stories in the comments.

10 comments:

betty said...

No, I truly didn't lose friends when we adopted, but my friends and me drifted away. Most of my friends at the time were from work and although we were close and did lots of things together, the bond that held us together was work. Once that was taken away when I quit working, we found ourselves going further and further apart in time when we got together and then the friendship eventually died down.

betty

Sue Fagalde Lick said...

Hi Betty. I have experienced the same thing. We relate at work, but outside of work, the connection isn't there.

6palmtrees said...

To my knowledge I haven't lost friends due to my being childless, however this post makes me wonder if maybe I have. At this point, any distancing going on is on my part. It is simply too fresh and painful a wound for me to be around babies right now. It won't last forever, but for now, I need some space from babies.

Saturday we attended a family event with not one but 2 babies. One was 4 months; the other was six weeks. Had I carried full-term rather than miscarried, my baby would have been born around this time frame. To make matters worse, one of the mothers would scream at whoever made noise once she finally got her baby to sleep. It was a condescending scolding to the offender.

She also approached my husband when he was alone, and asked him.... how I was handling the baby thing? I'm not sure how his answer would have changed anything whether he said 'good' or 'bad.' It seemed to me her 'sensitive' question was more probing and nosey than an attempt to empathize.

I confess I am hyper-sensitive right now. You know, though, you get around some people, and it's okay for them to be sensitive, but everyone else needs to be strong and suck it up.

Sue Fagalde Lick said...

It's tough to be around babies when you can't have one, isn't it? I know it is for me. Hang in there. Eventually your friends and relatives will be finished with babies.

Anonymous said...

Once upon a time my sister-in-law and I were great friends. We talked about how we'd have babies together, we commiserated over our in-laws. With work, other friends, we had all kinds of chatter.

While my marriage was becoming difficult she was having troubles of her own. She couldn't get pregnant. It was a hard time for us. Then one day at a party I overhead an odd snippet of a conversation. I looked hopefully at my sister-in-law and said, "Did I hear right? Are you? Are you pregnant?!"

"Yeah, but hubby wasn't supposed to tell anyone yet." And she turned away. She was more annoyed with her husband than she was pleased to celebrate with me. I knew at this very moment that it was the end of our "sisterhood".

Over the years since she's become a mother she's been very insensitive to my childless state. She's said some rude things and (maybe unknowingly) left me out of conversations.

Some of my mother friends continue with our friendship but with changes - "I'd love to grab lunch. But kid 1 and kid 2 will have to come with us." This I can handle and I actually enjoy being a part of these two little peoples lives.

Other friends are willing to ditch their children for an evening for a night out. Our topics of conversation are a bit more varied now that they have children but for the most part we still talk about our lives (it's just that their lives now include little ones so I accept that and listen as well as if they were talking about their career or last nights cooking flop).

But this one sister-in-law. She has used motherhood to weed out anything from her life that she finds undesirable. She uses children to get out of family events. She uses a child's nap time to avoid driving places. She give herself free license to be a witch to her husband. When we go to a family birthday party she will spend more time talking to a stranger about their children than she will spend talking to me about anything.

At first I took this personally. But I realized that all these things she does and the insensitive things she says aren't because of motherhood. It's just that motherhood pulled the mask of off her true personality. For the years I gave excuses for her attitude. But motherhood made her attitude something I could no longer give allowances to.

After she hurt my feelings, over something important to me, I quietly and tactfully pulled away. She hasn't noticed. And that, to me, says it all.

Anon S

Sue Fagalde Lick said...

Oooh, tough situation. Thanks for sharing this, Anon S. It makes me think this is part of the problem with my sister-in-law. We were never close friends, but the fact that she is obsessed with her grownup kids and I don't have any may have something to do with it.

Anonymous said...

That probably has everything to do with it Sue. You just can't connect to someone when they are obsessed. I tried to give my sister-in-law allowances but when I noticed that mothers all over the world and especially in my life, are able to proceed with life WITH their children instead of SOLELY for their children I lose patience with her attitudes.

Don't get me wrong, I understand that when you make a lifestyle change like having children then you are going to be a changed person in many ways. Priorities change, I get that.

When in a good mood SIL will smile longingly at her children and say, "aren't they beautiful?" This would be fine if she didn't say these sort of things while we're in the middle of a conversation about something entirely different. Sort of makes you think that she hasn't heard anything you've just discussed.

Or when I used to try to get her to talk about other topics,

General Interest? "Did you see the "big movie" that is in theaters?" her reply, "Ha. I don't have time for anything like that anymore." This is followed up with a long explaination of how intense her day now. How lucky I must be to lounge around in movie theaters.

Home decor? No more talk of great deals, new prints, the latest home decor show. Instead it's, "I bought "these things" for kids room. I rearranged "this room" to accommodate the children. (boring when she's doesn't care about what I'm doing)

Career? "I hate "company", because they don't understand how hard it is to get two kids out of the house in the morning. They complain all the time that I'm not doing a good job anymore. They need to get a life."

While we're on that subject, she skipped a family funeral because she didn't want to rearrange her kids schedule and get them out of the house earlier than usual. Her husband drove 2 hours and attended the service alone because she is so rigid. She had the gall to tell our mother-in-law that it was just to much bother to work her (my mother-in-laws) sisters funeral into her day.

She really is a piece of work.

Anon S

Anonymous said...

Anon S. that is very interesting, though sad of course. I am curious to hear examples of insensitive things your SIL has said to you, if you don't mind. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Yes I lost a great group of friends when almost all of them began having children. The other one who didn't was strangely discompassionate about how I felt. Strange because she also wanted children and was as infertile as a 90 year old woman. During those years, I went through two miscarriages, a divorce, and more months of hoping to get pregnant than I can count. Part of the distancing was definitely me. The other part was them - when many women become mothers, they just don't have anything else in their lives.

I'm still friends with one woman - she's been my best friend for more than 20 years, but that's not the reason we're still friends. It's because she retained something of herself after she had children. She's different now, definitely - motherhood changes people - but she's also the same, and I can still be myself around her.

Having one friend pretty much sucks, and it's hard to make friends in this small town at my age. My boyfriend tells me we're best friends, but it's hard for me to see him that way since he finally admitted that he doesn't want any more children after all. I feel betrayed, but I also know I'm committed to him. Good times.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely have lost friends. The one who told me I was attached to my dog because he was all I had was especially cold. Even friends who haven't yet had children, but plan to and know that I won't be having any, drifted away just the same. It seemed like once one friend in the group had her kids everyone else entered an almost "pre motherhood" stage and I was still left out. I made a few new friends after that. They were a little younger and still single so they considered making time for friends more of a priority. I recently got the news that my closest friend got engaged. She had been just a great support for me when I went through losing my old group of friends. I want to be happy for her but I can't help but feel like it's only a matter of time before I lose her too since for most people the engagement is the first step towards having kids. I'm trying to find more hobbies and interests, stuff me and my husband can do together as well as stuff I can do alone to try and get used to life the way it will be when everyone is gone..before it finally happens.