We met one night at an after-party while at University in Belfast. I loved her sparkly green shoes and she was impressed by my maxi dress. We struck up a friendship that has seen us through graduation, living together in a tiny terraced house brought to life by many fairy lights, trekking across the country to campaign for social change, sharing our minds and hearts with each other at each bend and straight line in the road, exploring the wonders of hair feathers (yes, they were a thing)….and meeting/grilling each other’s boyfriends, celebrating each other’s engagements and being a part of each other’s weddings.
Charlotte had a gorgeous baby boy 103 days ago. Watching her and Andy, her husband, prepare to be parents and now take care of this precious little life have been very proud moments for me as their friend. And naturally, our relationship has changed: so as we do together when it comes to most things in life, we’ve been talking about the adjustments we’ve made over the past few months.
About half of my friends have children, and the other – like me – do not. It’s an interesting stage of life. It can be a bit awkward, and perhaps a little painful, too. In these moments of adjusting, it’s so important that we listen to one another. That’s what Charlotte and I are doing here. Feel free to eavesdrop…
6 things I wish I could say to my friends who have kids:
- Just because I don’t have kids doesn’t mean I’m not interested in the ins-and-outs of Baby’s development: I really am. Keep sending photos and telling me about the incredible way he lifted his head this morning. I love that (and your excitement about it!) And you don’t need to feel pressure about ‘putting me off kids’. Feel free to complain when you need to: I know it isn’t all rosy.
- I don’t always know how much involvement you want me to have, or what you need: please be explicit. A big change has happened in your life, and you’re the expert. I want you to feel free to say please take the baby, or yes, or no, or suggest alternatives to our old Saturday brunch habits.
- I am childless because I don’t want kids, I can’t have kids, I haven’t found a life partner to have kids with, or it’s not the right time. Whatever the reason, chances are I encounter complexity with this at some level: feel free to talk with me about it, even after Baby’s come along.
- I feel hurt when you say things like “I used to think I was busy until I had a baby” or “I thought I knew what love was until Baby came along”. I understand the sentiment of these statements, but they make me feel like my life is invalid.
- You’ve just done something hugely profound by giving birth. In comparison, my work worries or side project can seem small. It means a lot when you ask about how things are going, and although I know you feel disconnected at times, I still really value your input.
- I love watching you be a parent. I have followed your journey, with all its twists and turns, and I am so proud of you. I can’t tell you how excited I was when you went into labour, or describe the butterflies I felt when I held your gorgeous little baby for the first time. I think you – and he – are amazing, and it’s a privilege to be a part of this new chapter in your life.
How do you facilitate this kind of conversation with your friends? What would you add to this list? I’d love to know!