Why Can't We Be Friends?
Let’s talk about friendships between moms and women who choose not to have children. A childless woman? A non-mom? I don’t even know how to describe it without being offensive. I am firmly in the camp of fully supporting these women and their decision, so to call another woman childless feels very less than and not the message I want to portray. I love a whole lot of women in my life who do not have children, and are perfectly content, living full and beautiful lives.
I have two amazing best friends. One is a mommy and the other is not.
That’s not all they are. They are both beautiful, eloquent, intelligent women. One is a talented actress, a former police officer, and she is hilarious and strong. The other owns her own company, has a degree in art, and is equally hilarious and strong.
My conversations with my two friends are often different but ultimately they are full of love and concern. I think a lot of these kinds of friendships start before the thought of children ever enter the picture. We were friends first and we’re the kind of friends you can call up after not speaking for a while and just dive back in like it was yesterday. You ask them “how are you?” and you truly want to know, the good and the bad. They want to know too. You call them up, let the tears pour out, and they listen.
I know I can always count on these two women when I need someone. I’ll admit, at times it is easier to talk to my mom friend because we are right there trudging along through the same kid woes. Her child is older so I can ask advice or vent about the recent developmental craziness. On the flip side, it’s wonderful to have a friend who is outside of the mommy realm. It’s like a breath of fresh air and it helps keep me grounded to hear another perspective.
I feel like there is this unspoken thing when conversations steer into child territory. We don’t say it out loud...except to our other mom friends. “They don’t get it.” You join the mom tribe and it’s automatically like this: well, they don’t understand because they don’t have children. Okay, sure it’s true, I feel it often myself. It’s also true that I don’t know what it’s like to be in my thirties and single or in my thirties and not have a child or to be widowed or divorced or anything else. It does not mean another's experience is invalid or not worth listening to. I really want to have all kinds of people in my world. Some of the best parental advice I have received has come from my bff without children and my brother who also does not have children. If I continually surround myself with people that only believe what i believe or only have my experience the world really slows down for me. Despite the strength of those relationships, it is still difficult to come from such a different place, particularly in the world of female best friendships.
It’s a big deal, how do you maintain friendships with another woman once you dive into the mommy world? How do you get rid of the “they” and just become “we” again?
I have the feeling women without children are also saying something to each other about moms not getting it. Sometimes I want to cry out, I get it, I do! I don’t want to sit next to a screaming child in a restaurant either. Including my own. I especially don’t want to hear that when I’m out on a child-free evening. I see lots of article bashing both “sides.” Articles that cause immediate defensiveness when women state “I don’t have children because I like enjoying my life” OR “I have a child and my life is more fulfilling.” Real women are moms, people with children are ruining the earth, women without children are selfish, moms are “breeders,” the click bait headline judgement goes on an on.
All that verbal attacking doesn’t mean anything when it comes to your actual face to face, in it for the long haul, forever friendships. I decided to ask my two BFF’s a few questions to get some real perspective from insightful, thoughtful and intelligent women.
My non mommy BFF answered the following questions:
1. What is the worst thing about being friends with a mom?
The hardest thing about being friends with a mom is that I feel like I don't identify with them at all. From the very beginning of each interaction, I feel like I'm doing something wrong. I never know when to call my friends with kids. Are they making lunch, are they picking up from school (and don't even get me started on trying to keep all the schedules straight) are they putting the kids to bed? Everyone has such different time tables. Some of my friends put their kids down at 7:30pm and others keep them up until nearly 10:00. I try to make a plan to hang out, but there seems to be a shortage of babysitters these days, or a lack of desire to actually use one. I try to make a plan for dinner and I feel that I'm being rude if I imply that it's an adults only event. Then, if we do actually hang out, especially if other moms are involved, I feel so out of the loop. I can only share stories about kids for so long. I have a few anecdotes about my nieces, but not much else to contribute. I have very little interest in children that don't belong to my sister. It might be easier for me to relate if I could remember how old my friends' kids are, what milestones correspond with what ages, what clothing sizes 4-year-old wear, etc. But holy crap, who can know all that?
2. What is the best thing about being friends with a mom?
The best thing about being friends with a mom is that it gives me the opportunity to play "mom" for a minute. Because, contrary to popular belief, I'm not a monster. I DO like some kids. I like most of my friends' kids. So, it's fun to be friends with moms because I get to play kid games and get kid snuggles. Kid snuggles are the best.
3. What do you wish your mom friend(s) would never say again?
I wish my mom friends would stop acting cool around me. Sometimes I feel like they are pretending to be annoyed by their kids or their lifestyle choices just to identify with me. DON'T DO THAT. Just be yourself. If you have kids, own it. I would much rather see my friends have kids and love it than have kids and pretend to hate it for my sake. The same applies to my ideas about healthy food and product choices. My friends know how I feel about sugar and processed foods and chemicals, so they feel like they have to justify giving their kid a bag of Cheetos. Just give your kid the Cheetos and let's move on.
4. What is something you wish you could tell your mom friend(s) without her getting offended?
I wish that I could get moms to understand that my outsider's perspective is valid, even though I don't have kids.
5. what do you think is the hardest thing about being a mom?
All of it. There is nothing easy about being a mom except for the unconditional love. Everything else is complicated.
6. Tell me anything you want to say about the subject of moms and women without children being friends.
I think that what I most want to say about moms and not-moms being friends is that it's not easy. And sometimes I think that when one woman chooses to have a child and the other one chooses not to, that friendship can end. Not entirely, but the previous version of that friendship disappears and a new version takes its place. It becomes a struggle to trust someone who knows your heart while simultaneously thinking that they have no idea what they're talking about anymore.
And my mommy BFF answered the same questions.
1. What is the worst thing about being friends with a woman without children?
I'm a planner by nature anyway, but prior to having my son, I could drop what I (wasn't) doing & meet a friend for drinks on a Wednesday, no problem. Those days are long gone. Not only is there the logistics of timing my departure from home with my husband's arrival (there are these pesky laws requiring a child not be left alone), I have to make sure that the kid gets fed in there somewhere too. But wait.... dad's with him. Can't he feed him? In all fairness, he does. It's just not the entire properly portioned food pyramid on a plate that I often make. It's more like... popcorn, a cereal bar, and a handful of raisins. I know, not the end of the world, right? (And in hubby's defense, he often makes PB&Js). But our son also has a tough time falling asleep without me there. Then the mom guilt creeps in. "Will he be able to focus at school tomorrow? Will he get a tummy ache? What if he doesn't sleep well & is badly behaved in class? Am I setting him up for failure? Am I setting him up to be unhealthy? Is this why childhood obesity is on the rise? Oh God, am I ruining his life by not being there RIGHT THIS SECOND??" Ridiculous, right? But [it’s] something every mother I know is familiar with. When my childless friend gets home, she watches TV & goes to bed. When I get home, I sweat bullets rushing to pack a nutritious lunch while my still- awake kid is crying for me, brush my teeth in record speed, and wipe my face with a makeup removing cloth while reading aloud as my son falls asleep on my shoulder. THEN I force myself to stay awake until he rolls over, freeing my arm, so I can go put the "_____" he's supposed to bring to school tomorrow in his backpack- because I didn't do it earlier & no way will I remember in the morning. *inhale* So if I seem preoccupied when we gab over a martini, I am. I'm sorry. But I met you tonight despite all that because I love you & am trying really hard not to let motherhood interfere with our friendship.
2. What is the best thing about being friends with a woman without children?
It's nice to visit the "old me" now & then. Wait, you're single & dating HOW many guys?! Tell me everything!! Wait, you're married and have time to do things as a couple?! Tell me everything!! The most adventurous thing we've done lately is dinner & a movie (thanks for babysitting, Mom!) We might've gotten a drink after, but we were too tired.
3. What do you wish your childless friends would never say again?
"If I have kids, I'll never ___."
Yeah, okay. Ya know what us moms do when we get together? We recall all of OUR "never will I evers" and just laugh and laugh and laugh.
4. What is something you wish you could tell your childless friend without her getting offended?
No, really. You don't get it.
We've all heard & hated that infuriating phrase, "you don't understand, you don't have kids." I remember feeling slightly insulted. After all, one doesn't need to be in the same situation in order to have empathy! I don't need to push a kid out to know it sucks when they're sick, it's a lot of work, sleepless nights, yada yada yada. I get it! Here's the thing: you really don't. It's not meant as an insult, though I know it stings like one. It's just the single most indescribable thing l have ever experienced. You love your mom. You love your spouse. You think you know what unconditional love is. I thought so too. I've spent my whole life arguing with my mom that she couldn't possibly love me more than I love her. Then I had a baby and, if I'm being honest...I felt the same. I mean, I loved my son with everything I had, but I'd say it was about equal...just different. Then that little squirmy baby grew into this little boy who throws his arms around me. I've watched his first steps, heard his first word, held him when he was scared, told him to vomit on me when he was sick but was too afraid to let go. I hate to admit it, but mom was right. No one could possibly love another human like a mother loves her child. He sees me at my worst, and loves me through it. He sees me at my best, and his eyes light up with glee. He is the most forgiving, innocent, silly, thoughtful, kind, and pure of heart person I have ever known. He finds joy in the most mundane. His laugh is contagious and, for some weird reason, HIS snot isn't nearly as gross as everyone else's. I can feel when something is wrong. It's not a connection I can explain. It's like trying to describe colors to a blind person. I don't feel like I'm a better or more important person than you because I have a kid. It's just that, while you get the gist of it, you can't possibly know the extent of some things. Like, you think I'm crazy for worrying when another mom would be worried for me. There is no "small stuff" anymore, not when you're choosing for someone else. What was once a shrug of the shoulders is now a huge, potentially life altering decision that I'm trying desperately not to mess up. It's a lot of pressure.
5. What do you think is the hardest thing about being a mom?
I can't fix everything. It's the most brutal, agonizing thing ever to watch your child experience something negative and not be able to do a damn thing about it. Whether it's a medical scare, an injury, or being bullied, it's impossible to protect your child from all things bad. I have never felt so helpless in all my life. There are precautions, of course, but essentially, you just have to send them out into the world and hope for the best. It sucks.
6. Tell me anything you want to say about the subject of moms and women without children being friends.
I am not more of a "woman" than you because I have kids. You aren't doing more with your life than I am because you're focused on your career. That lady over there isn't more awesome than both of us because she travels the world. We are all kick ass women who have important, busy lives. One is not better than the other. There is not a "right" or "wrong" way to live a life. Besides, between us, we have it all. My kid can call you "Auntie" while he hugs your neck, and I will look forward to hearing the deets about your date last night. I'll look at the pictures of you and your husband in Vegas, and show you mine from Disney. More importantly, we can take a selfie...together.
As for me, your mommy blogger, I think it’s a complicated dynamic. It’s important to be thoughtful and considerate of each other’s feelings. There are a huge variety of reasons why women decide not to have children. As a mom, I do feel pangs of jealousy when I see my non mommy friend out with other friends who are also not tied into the mommy world. I don’t have a right to be jealous, I made my choice to have a child. But I’m human and I miss the time of only identifying as myself. Looking at my two bff’s answers, I feel like it’s a lot about perception. Sometimes our perceptions of each other are way off. We will never know the truth unless we start asking each other these questions and really listening to the answers, even if they feel hurtful or untrue. When we start asking we can start answering and sharing our perspective. There won’t be total understanding but how can there be? Even mom friends are not on the same page, not even close! No one can fully understand another person's experience. What we can do is empathize and learn from each other; we can accept the fact we don’t know everything about each others world and that is okay. There is validity to both spectrums of the female experience and I feel lucky to have two wonderful women in my life to help me explore and appreciate it all.