Recently, I read an article titled “7 Appeals To Moms From Women Without Children,” which really resonated with me. The post came from the perspective of women without children, with a list of things for those of us who do have children to consider (mostly, a list of “don’t” behaviours, that encourage thought before judgement).
Here is what I would like my friends without children to know: I don’t judge you. Not now, not ever.
Chances are, if we’ve been friends for a long time, you may have already confided in me over why you don’t have or don’t want to have kids. Not that it’s any of my business. However, as a woman who sat on the fence for many years about if or when I would like to have children of my own, chances are, I probably also shared with you that I did not want kids until I felt like the selfish part of my life was 100% complete, and not a minute before. When that time came (and I was unsure if it ever would), I was lucky enough to conceive, and now that I’m a mom, I will happily affirm that my daughter is the best thing that ever happened to me.
But, I will not push my experience on you if you have chosen otherwise.
I want you to know that I am empathetic towards the many reasons why women do not have children–either by their own choice, or having their choice decided for them.
If you and I just met, and you tell me you don’t have or don’t want children, please do not mistake my (potentially awkward) silence for judgement. Please understand that my silence comes from a good place: I know that it’s absolutely none of my damn business if you have kids or not, and I don’t want to say the wrong thing. Maybe you’ve always wanted kids, but you have not been able to conceive. Maybe you dream of having a family of your own one day, but have not met the right partner. Maybe you enjoy your life exactly as it is, and you don’t want to change that with a new 24/7 responsibility. Maybe you love kids, but only other people’s kids. Maybe you despise kids, and don’t want to be within a 100 foot radius of mine. All of these are YOUR choices, and only yours. They are not mine to judge.
Just know, again, that my lack of discussion around this topic comes from a place of respecting boundaries. If there’s a better response than silence when you tell me you don’t have or want kids, then I would love your feedback on the most appropriate thing I can say.
There. Now that I’ve gotten off my chest, and as long as we are friends, and as long as I have children and you don’t, there are a couple of things I want you to know too.
1. I Still Want To Be Your Friend. My life may have done a complete 180 since I had my daughter, but that does not mean that I value our friendship any less. It does probably mean, however, that I am a flake most of the time, and I will forget to respond to text messages and phone calls. Sometimes, admittedly, I flat out ignore messages and calls. And it’s not because I don’t want to hear from you, it’s probably because I’m exhausted or have a finite amount of time while my kid naps to do the errands and complete other life tasks that I used to have a ton of time for. I will have less time to spend with you, but please don’t take that personally. You’ll probably have to be more flexible with me, and I will be very grateful for that. On that note…
2. I Will Duck Out Of Social Events On Occasion. I wish I had as much energy as I used to–I really do. I would have been the first person to line up at a wine-tasting event before becoming a mom. But, if I’m pregnant and/or looking after a little one, chances are, my enthusiasm for these events is just not what it used to be. Or, I just can’t get a babysitter in a short amount of time. It might seem that I don’t care, but that’s not true at all. It’s just that quiet time does not come by often, and on the rare occasion that I have a moment to myself, I really treasure it now. If I have a choice of attending an event or taking a nap, I might choose the nap. Plain and simple.
3. Please Don’t Diminish The Joy My Kids Bring To Me. You might be able to identify with this joy, or you might not. Your feelings are your feelings. But please don’t diminish the happiness brought to me by motherhood. You might smile when I post a silly photo of my daughter on Facebook, because you too think it’s cute or funny. Or, you might not give a shit about anything my daughter does, and you might feel that my Facebook posts of my daughter constitute gratuitous oversharing. But please know, that when my child does something that brings me joy, I might want to share that with those around me because I want others to smile too. Please understand that I love motherhood, and, respectfully, know that although you have the right to not feel the same way, your opinion will not change my behaviour or feelings.
4. I Want To Hear About Your Adventures. You’re travelling to Europe this week? You had a new job interview? You’re going to volunteer for the Peace Corps? You’re training for a triathlon? I want to hear about it. Our lives may be drastically different now, but I want to hear your stories. If I talk about mommy things all the time, it’s due to the 24/7 nature of the job. My existence now revolves around being a mommy, and therefore, the stories I have to tell will probably favour this topic. But it does not mean that I don’t care about all the cool shit that you’re doing. I do. I really do.
And, finally, if I haven’t said it enough:
5. I Don’t Judge You. Whether you choose not to have children, or you are not able to have children, this is your life and your choice. As your friend, I want you to be happy. And what makes you happy is entirely up to you.