We all know the benefits of having other mom friends. They provide us with that mirror of validation that makes us feel less alone. We can text them about our toddler’s ridiculous food habits and tantrums, and practically see the knowing head nods through the phone. They bear witness to the transformation that we share as we enter and move through motherhood. They are indispensable.
But what about our non-mom friends, childfree by choice or not?
Sometimes, our friends who don’t have children see the change in our lives and step back a little. They worry about taking up our time. We may feel disconnected from them at first because our experience is so foreign to ourselves that we don’t feel we can explain it. We feel as though we have been plucked from earth and placed on Mars. How do you even begin to share such an overwhelming shift in your world?
I’ve seen articles and “letters” from mothers to childfree friend and vice versa. Many of them were filled with animosity or apologies. I don’t think those capture the full picture. As a long time childfree adult prior to becoming a mother, I can see both sides, and I worry that the messages build a thicker wall between friends. In my experience of motherhood, these friends have also been indispensable, so I’ve penned my own letter to my childfree friends.
Dear Childfree Friend,
I still need you.
I know my life looks chaotic from the outside, and trust me it feels that way on the inside. Becoming a parent is even harder than I expected, and I’m navigating so much change that I can’t even explain yet. Our time together may not look the same for a while, and yet I still need you in my life.
Please share with me about your life, your struggles and your celebrations. You aren’t adding to my burdens, even if my priorities are shifting. Listening to you, sharing advice or a sympathetic ear makes me feel like the friend I was before my life was rocked by motherhood. The friend who was able to linger over a plate of nachos, listening to relationship woes or planning elaborate adventures. I so desperately want to be her again.
You remind me that I’m more than just a mother and that I haven’t fully lost what makes me feel like me. You don’t even need to say anything. Simply being in my life reminds me that I am my own person, separate from my babies. For that, I am thankful.
I haven’t abandoned you for the “mom club.”
This motherhood thing still feels so foreign at times. I go to story time and feel lost, like I’ve stumbled into an alternate universe. I attend these events to make sense of my changing reality. At the same time, I’d often prefer to be sitting with you on my back porch talking about everything and nothing at the same time.
Please continue inviting me to events, even (and maybe especially) the child-free ones. Even if you know I’m going to decline. I had a friend request this of me once when I was still childfree, and a lightbulb went off. And the more I invited her, the greater the likelihood of her being able to join. I don’t like declining invitations repeatedly, and that alone may motivate me to set up childcare and get out the door for a hike.
Thank you for walking my dog, making us dinner and just sitting with me in those earliest postpartum days. Thank you for holding my babies when I simply felt like I couldn’t any longer, but knew they needed love and snuggles. Thank you for making the time and being willing to be there in whatever capacity you were able.
Thank you for your flexibility. I don’t enjoy scheduling around nap times and feeding schedules, but some days it feels like the only way to survive. Thank you for being willing to have dinner at 5, offering to push my stroller during a run and having broken conversations through toddler interruptions.
Thank you for your patience while I’ve learned to carve out time for child-free friend dates and returning favors. It will get easier as time goes on and I want to weave it in to my growing list of priorities.
You are a role model.
My children will gain so much from knowing you. Some of my favorite childhood memories are of adventures with my single aunts or of my parents’ friends coming for dinner. You are already giving them so much just by being you and being in my life.
Speaking of my children, here’s another thank you: for loving my children. Thank you for providing them with the stimulation that I am too tired to provide. I can only sing Wheels on The Bus so many times before I feel like I’m going to lose my mind. Watching my children interact with you is one of the great joys in my life. Whether it’s playing peek-a-boo or simply letting them crawl into your lap, thank you.
My promise to you.
I know what it is like to be both the single and childfree person, both for the majority of my adulthood. It often felt as though I was the one traveling, being flexible and feeling lonely at family-centered events. These first few years are tough, but I will make sure there is space for you. As my freedom grows, I will try to be the flexible one, traveling to you when I can, and increasing my child-free conversation. I will make the dinners and walk your dog and hold you when you need it. I will invite you to kid-centered events, even if you decline. I want you to know that your presence is desired because you are you.
Your New Paren Friend