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Why don’t moms have child-free friends?

Categories: Push my Button, Wanna Fight About It?


They say that having a baby will change your life forever, and after having four of them I have to agree. As a parent you find that you’re living a life you never imagined before it actually happens. Handling poop, for instance. That was something I didn’t expect, even though I was fairly certain that babies didn’t hold it in for 18 years. It had to go somewhere. I just didn’t realize how hands-on it was going to be.

Another change you can count on as a new parent is that within weeks after the new arrival, all of your old friends disintegrate and are reformed into a brand new circle of friends. Who all have kids. It’s the Unspoken Rule of Parenthood: breeders and non-breeders can’t be in the same room together without bloodshed and explosions. Like mixing ammonia and chlorine bleach.

As a mom, I accepted this. After all, how could I inflict new-parent talk on my child-free friends? They were all still hitting the bars at night while I was reading bedtime stories and thinking about preschools. Not to mention that my new bedtime of 9 pm made it awkward to party all night. Not that I had the energy. For me, it was more like potty all night.

I naturally gravitated toward people who had things in common with me. I was a stay-at-home mom, so my friends were mostly other stay-at-home moms. I met them at parent-child music classes, the park (with my kids), and at my children’s school. For a time, having am occasional mommy playdate was my entire social life. I don’t regret it, but I remember feeling I didn’t have much in common then with adults who didn’t have kids.

But does it have to be that way? My friend and former coworker Amy Kuras over at Strollerderby at calls it “The Great Divide” and says that real friends can get over the child barrier — it’s worked for her. Her commenters say otherwise. One particularly fun quote: “If you don’t like children and dogs, whether you personally have them or not, we’re not going to make it as friends.”

Which begs the question — What is an adult friendship about, anyway? Anyone who only talks diapers, immunizations, baby milestones and Ferberizing is only going to bore whomever they’re with, fellow parent or not. Likewise with the all-night partyers (sorry to stereotype childfree adults that way — it’s just the extreme end of the spectrum). That stuff gets old if it’s not your life.

Now I’m at the other end of the spectrum from where I was a few years ago: I’m a parent but my kids aren’t living with me. My friends now are all sorts of people, parents and non-parents. It doesn’t seem like a big deal. Is it?

The ideal adult friendship that spans the Child Divide would be one that does just that: child-free adults who like kids, and parents who don’t make their kids the focus of absolutely everything, leaving time for adult friendships. Like the favorite aunt and uncle. Would that work in your life?

Are there child-free friends in your life? How do you find balance between parent and friend?

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15 comments so far...

  • I didn’t lose my non-parent friends when I had children. A true friendship will weather the phases of life we go through. In fact, when I was a stay at home mom, I found other moms to be the most boring group I could hang out with. They didn’t want to talk about anything but kids and how they were getting back in shape post-baby. Personally, I can only take so much of that!

    One key to maintaining friendships across “phase of life” or generational divides is remembering that the struggles someone without children, without a spouse, or who is early in their education or career are just as valid and intense as our struggles as working mothers.

    LMJN  |  February 24th, 2010 at 8:37 am

  • Most of my friends don’t have young kids. Being an older, single, working mom - the only mom in my small company - other moms of tots are about the last people I spend significant time with. Maybe they ought to build a coffee shop onto my kids’ daycare so women like me could spend more than 5 seconds interacting with each other each week.

    I admit that when I brought my kids home (and a while before), I was that boring mom, but my friends put up with it. I do make a conscious effort to limit the amount I talk about kids - though it can be hard, when the only other things I think about nowadays are work, politics, and organizing my life.

    SKL  |  February 24th, 2010 at 9:20 am

  • I think it ebbs & flows and it depends on the efforts you make. I was a friend to a mom before I had a child (we’re still friends) and I have some friends who don’t have kids. But the dynamic did change: you can’t just go for dinner or drinks at the drop of a hat. Even a “girls weekend” requires a well orchestrated act behind it.
    So you start to gravitate toward others who have the same new life pattern that you do.

    Mich  |  February 24th, 2010 at 9:33 am

  • It helps that before I had kids I was always interested in other’s kids and never a partier.

    SKL  |  February 24th, 2010 at 9:53 am

  • Funny. After Amelie, none of our friends faded even though none had children. Now, we have two couples we’ve been friends with forever who just had THEIR first kids, but the majority of our friends remain childfree - and still friends with us.

    They love our daughter though. Everyone is so happy to come to our place when we can’t get out - and play up auntie and uncle roles to the hilt.

    We also haven’t met anyone new with kids that we see or call friends. It’s been a bit disappointing in a way. Nevertheless, it’s heartening to know that our friends really are just that - friends no matter what.

    Phe  |  February 24th, 2010 at 5:44 pm

  • Actually, most of my friends DON’T have kids. It just so happens that the group that we hang out with the most are childless. One couple tried but can’t have kids and another is sort of trying. I actually like to hang out with people sometimes that don’t have kids because it reminds me that I am more than just a mom and I don’t spend all my time talking about my girls.

    Laura  |  February 24th, 2010 at 8:39 pm

  • Ha! You see, I am a single person with LOADS of mom friends. I just spent a weekend with my mom friends. And guess what? We talked about most everything BUT their children. We discussed work plans and fun projects and how we can better ourselves whether we have children or not. Posts like these make me itchy because it’s a perfect way to incite debate between “breeders and non-breeders”.

    Heather B.  |  February 25th, 2010 at 10:36 am

  • In my opinion, even though it is always possible to have friendships with all sorts of people, the closest friendships are with the people who can relate and understand you and those are usually the people who are going through the same period in their life (before kids, little kids, teens, kids in college, empty nesters, etc).

    Lena  |  February 25th, 2010 at 11:49 am

  • I do sort of think that commenter is right. I have a couple childless friends–one in particular, one of my dearest friends in the world, whom I’ve known for 10 years and who is my rock–but they DO like children. If they didn’t like kids at all, it would be impossible–because, obviously, my children are my greatest passion and a giant part of my existence. How could i be emotionally connected to someone who disliked them? Impossible.

    So, I do think it’s possible for moms to have childless friends, but I agree that those childless friends must at least LIKE children for that friendship to work.

    Shannon  |  March 2nd, 2010 at 1:28 pm

  • I have two single gal-pals that I’ve been friends with long before kids, and remain friends with. We also spend a great deal of time with other couples who don’t, or won’t, have kids.

    We respect the interests of our freinds who have no desire for children and when we get together, we get a sitter. We like them for them, not for how much they think our kids are cute (or not).

    I guess it all depends on the relationships.

    Adelle @ ready...GO!...get set...  |  March 2nd, 2010 at 2:36 pm

  • I have to disagree with you: Most of our friends are child-less. They are as close to us as they were before. They are actualy more helpful and understanding. May be bacuase they find it a big deal to be parents, they volunteer to help out a lot. Even if its, just holding the baby while you bathe or fix dinner. Here is my most recent post on the friends a mother should have to manage her sanity. That is my take, of course, its open for debates.

    Our lives have definitely changed! There are no more bar hopping, late nights. But we make up for it in having enough house parties (Scheduled after my daughter sleeps) and with some family helping out/ baby sitting, we manage a party once in a while.

    GNSD  |  March 2nd, 2010 at 3:45 pm

  • I’ve been on both sides now. I have two amazing friends who are about 5 years younger than I am. I was a very young mother and they started their families much later. As a result for years I was the only parent and they were amazing and supportive and we always managed time together. Now my kids babysit their kids and despite a larger travel radius we still manage time together both with and without them. Friendships are life sustaining but they take work and everyone on all sides has to be willing to put the effort in.

    Monica  |  March 2nd, 2010 at 4:28 pm

  • Most of our friends don’t have kids, and for us, that’s a great excuse to talk about something OTHER than diapers and immunizations, for once. Lord knows we talk about that stuff enough with each other, and parenting topics seem to always dominate conversation when we hang out with other parents–as if having children means we’re suddenly UNABLE to talk about books and movies and politics and work and beer. It’s obviously wonderful to have fellow parents who can commiserate, but it’s equally wonderful to have non-parents to remind us that there’s more to life than spit-up.

    Plus, our childless friends are our best babysitters!

    Leah  |  March 2nd, 2010 at 5:42 pm

  • So glad you brought this up. I’m married– but no kids. I have found that all my friends with young kids– have almost completely disappeared from my life. The few times we do get together/communicate– I’m always the one to initiate it. I’ve discussed this with other childfree friends and they all say they really do reach out to their friends with kids but at some point, you get tired of always doing the initiating.
    Here’s are my suggestions for how to maintain a friendship with your childfree friends:
    1. We’re OK with going for a walk (with baby in the stroller) or sitting at the park while you’re kids play. Just don’t fuss over the kids every 30 seconds and ask us to repeat ourselves over and over because you’re too busy admiring your child.
    2. Give us the 90 second update on the kids. Then, move on to other topics.
    3. When we talk about other things than the kids, don’t keep bringing it back to your kids.
    4. A fit mom is a happy mom. Going for a run, want to play tennis? We’d love to– just leave the kids with dad. You can’t really work out if you’re dealing with sippy cups and snacks constantly.
    5. Invite us over after the kids are asleep. We’ll come over with a bottle of wine. If you fall asleep at 9:20pm, no worries. We can let ourselves out.
    6. Main thing– don’t leave it up to us to do 100% of the planning.

    I would love to hear suggestions from moms on how to keep the relationship going.

    Susan Kim  |  April 23rd, 2010 at 10:41 am

  • We have a couple that we were very close to. We were childless into early 40s and so were they. Then they had 2 little ones in quick succession. We still saw them some after the first one- bringing him toys, fussing over him, accomodating his nap times and bed times into our plans, etc… But with the 2nd one, it seems impossible. With all the kiddie colds, naps, bed times, feeding times, and schedule difficulties…. Last weekend we invited them over to dinner (took 3 months to finally book). I made kid friendly food, we ate at 4pm for the kids, and we covered the sharp corners of the table with bubble wrap. Dinner was excruciating. Between trying to get the 3 yr old to eat and behave, the 1 year old nursed and fed his cereal, the constant interruptions for diaper changes, attention, and the lack of anything to talk about since they are house poor/kid poor now and don’t do much (and we felt guilty bringing up anything we have done so as not to rub it in that we don’t have those issues) it was not the nice to spend with you visit we had hoped for. We like kids and tried to accomodate- but after we discussed the kids pre-school, mommies day out routine and how much they had grown- nothing was left for them to say- that is when they did get to finish a sentence or listen without being interupted.. We used to have religion in common, but they don’t go to church now since the hassle is too great. My feeling all night was you poor little stressed out people!! Hate that they have lost themselves in all this. But not sure how to make the friendship work. We have no kid sitting experience to help them out. Sigh…. Have been sad all week.

    Angela  |  February 23rd, 2011 at 12:48 pm