The impact of kids on friendships
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Choosing not to have children
It was this article that got me thinking about how things change in friendships when children come along:
My husband and I married very young. We weren't ready to have children then, but everyone told us we'd change our minds, and I was quite prepared to believe that we would.
We were adamant, however, that we wouldn't have children until we DID change our minds - when we were certain that we really wanted them and were truly ready. We weren't going to bow to family pressure and have them just to provide grandchildren.
Twenty-one years later, we still haven't changed our minds. And now we're in our 40s, I think it's safe to say that we're not going to.
We continually discussed the issue over the years and agree that the older we get, the less 'parental' we feel. We've never regretted being child-free and have enjoyed the freedom, financial and otherwise, that goes with it.
But it's odd - and sometimes sad - how friendships change.
I have different sets of friends (I've long since learned it's not wise to mix different species of friends!) and one set consisted of me and two lesbian couples.
For years it had been the five of us - getting together regularly for birthdays, anniversaries, girls' nights out, and travelling all over. Even though I was the only straight one, I never felt left out.
Although I knew both couples wanted kids, I didn't worry about that affecting our friendship. After all, I had lots of other friends who'd had kids and there hadn't been any problems. In fact, I was looking forward to seeing them become parents, enjoying their kids in the same way I did my nephews and the children of other friends and family.
It came as absolutely no surprise to me when both couples decided to start a family at the same time.
Using sperm donors, two of them became pregnant within a year of each other. It was basically one pregnancy right on top of another, which meant that I had 18 months of pregnant friends. And when the babies arrived, I was thrilled for them.
Naturally, I knew that the dynamic of our friendship would change.
Here were the four of them, with new families, and that's mostly what got talked about when we were together. And in the beginning I didn't resent it. It was to be expected that such exciting and life-changing events would dominate conversation.
After a couple of years though, I did begin to feel left out. Everything was focused on the children.
When we all got together, the talk was 100 per cent about their kids. They would ask me about my job or my horses or my family, and I would start to answer... only to be cut off seconds later as someone interrupted with a comment about the kids.
When I changed jobs, it was all about their kids. When I got a new horse, it was all about their kids. When I was getting ready for a competition, it was all about their kids. When my father died, it was all about their kids.
I tried very hard not to resent it, thinking I was being selfish, but there was still a little voice inside me that nagged.
It seemed like since I didn't have kids, suddenly my life and what was happening in it was less important. I couldn't help thinking of other friends who'd become parents. Of course they talked a lot about their families, but they were still interested in what was happening with me and my husband.
Eventually I realised that I WAS the odd one out after all.
They didn't do it consciously, but I think that they too realised we were growing apart and began spending less time with me. Communication, always so easy and fluid, became stilted as they talked continuously of their families and I talked of nothing.
The gradual drifting apart became a true disconnect after my husband and I moved up north. No longer in the same city, we failed to keep in touch at all.
We're Facebook friends, but it's been a long time since we've actually had any one-on-one dialogue. They haven't been up to visit us, and we haven't seen them when we've made trips back to the old stomping ground.
My husband assures me that this sort of thing happens, that it was a natural progression and that friendships do change. I know he's right and the article that kicked off this story certainly illustrates it.
But it doesn't stop me worrying that I am to blame - that I was selfish, that I shouldn't have allowed myself to feel any resentment, that I should have been more understanding of their new lives.
Other friends tell me that they were the ones who were selfish, becoming absorbed in their children to the exclusion of everyone else.
Whatever the reasons, or how inevitable this outcome might have been, I can't help wishing that things had turned out differently.
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