One of my dearest, oldest and smartest friends really, really does not like babies or kids. She doesn’t know the birth dates of either of my two children, (she has never called me on their birthdays…ever!) and I sometimes wonder if she even knows my children’s names. (Okay, she may know their names, but I would bet $10,000 that she does not know their ages! And definitely not what grades they are in!)
She never asks how my children are doing. She never asks what I did with the kids on the weekend. She never comments or ‘likes’ any of the posts I put up of my children on Facebook. (In fact, Facebook pisses her off, because of all the photos of kids, so she rarely goes on it.) When we get together, she never asks to see recent photos of my children.
So how could I possibly be such good friends with someone who actively dislikes children so much—even mine—especially since I consider her to be one of my closest friends, and she considers me one of hers?
The truth is, I actually find our friendship sort of refreshing.
I’ll be honest. When I first became pregnant with my daughter Rowan, 13 years ago, my friend and I had our first adult spat. It crushed me, and I was heartbroken when we didn’t speak for months. She was one of the first people I told that I was pregnant and her reaction was not what I expected after I told her I was expecting. ‘Yeah, I can see you already have an extra layer of fat around your stomach,’ were the first words out of her mouth. Yes, I was pissed.
I expected everyone, especially my close friend, to be happy for me, because, really, what sort of person isn’t happy for you when you’re so happy to be pregnant? People who hate kids, that’s who!
We didn’t speak for months after that dinner date. Something in our 15-year relationship had shifted, and I cried many tears over what I thought was the loss of a friendship. I thought, frankly, that she was a bitch.
I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why she had the reaction she did. I mean, I knew she always professed that she never wanted kids, and to this day sticks by her conviction that kids ruin your life and are annoying little things. But I didn’t know that she also didn’t like it when other people, including her good friends, chose to have kids.
Months later, my birthday came around, and she reached out with a sweet phone call, and I had the chance to vent my frustrations and anger at her. I was, obviously, going through an important milestone in my life (being knocked up and all) and thought she should have been more, well, interested, to say the very least. She apologized but still explained that that just wasn’t ‘who she was,’ and that ‘I knew’ she didn’t care for babies or children, thus the reason she was not at all interested in my pregnancy. Plus, she said, I was acting like I was the first person in the world to have a baby (I probably was), and that annoyed her.
I will give my friend this: when it comes to her dislike of children, she is serious as a heart attack. So, I appreciate her honesty, which is one of the reasons she’s often the first person I go to for relationship advice or career advice or pretty much any advice that doesn’t have to do with children. For me, the world is pretty grey and murky. For my friend, it’s black and white, with no room for any grey area, which is why she is also one of the smartest people I know. She’s ambitious, hard working, and hilarious. She knows what she wants and just goes for it. She’s a total success running her own business.
Still, because we’ve known each other forever, her disinterest in me having a baby wasn’t a deal-friendship breaker for me. It was something I could forgive and something I eventually learned to get used to, because she also has so many other good qualities. If I’m sick, she’s always the first person to drop off homemade soup. She, too, is the friend who will pick up a phone call at 2:30 am if I’m having a meltdown and offer to come over. And while she doesn’t know or acknowledge my children’s birthdays, she always makes a stink out of mine. So we starting talking again as if nothing had changed in our lives or our friendship. I just didn’t bring up my pregnancy. She didn’t ask. And our friendship got back on track and we began talking almost daily again…just not about babies or pregnancy.
For years, after I had my baby girl, when we’d meet up, it would always be at a bar and always after 9 pm because she didn’t want to be around any kids. Which was fine, because I didn’t want to be around her when she was around kids. If we dared go out for brunch and there were children around, we’d have to move tables. She had no issue asking the waiter or hostess to move tables ‘away from any kids.’
Props to her, even though I was slightly mortified, for requesting to move tables. As a mother, I can be around other kids and ignore them completely, since all mothers, after having kids, get selective hearing and can kind of space out around kids having tantrums. I can block out the screaming or chattering of other people’s children, including mine. She can’t, because she’s not a mother, and doesn’t have ‘selective mommy hearing.’
Fast forward nine years later, when I was about to give birth again. My friend and I, once again, didn’t talk or see each other as often during my pregnancy, as I was too tired to go to bars after 9 pm. In her own way, I think my friend actually tried a bit harder during my second pregnancy, though once again she never asked how I was feeling—she was always there to dish out solid relationship advice. (I remember her saying once when I was in a wicked fight with my partner, ‘Just go the f*** to sleep,’ and you know what? It was the best advice!)
She also showed up unannounced on my doorstep one day and handed me a plant. ‘Good luck with your C-section,’ she said. I took the plant and responded, ‘I gave birth last week! But thanks for the plant. I’m sure my seven-day-old baby will really appreciate this.’ (I hadn’t told her about the new baby since I didn’t want her to feel pressured into faking excitement, because…well, that’s just not who she is, and that’s just not who I am, and I didn’t want to have another adult spat with her.) We laughed, because it was very funny, especially I did still look very pregnant. By that point, we had both accepted her aversion to anything baby or kids.
Here’s the thing: there is some beauty in having a friend who is so disinterested in your child, or children in general. First, you don’t have to talk about your children. I, for one, don’t want to talk about my children all the time. I don’t want to think about homework or what appointments are coming up or talk about parent/teacher interviews or my child’s latest adventure in potty training. Parenting involves a lot of boring and gross things—I get why she doesn’t want to hear it.
While I love my friends’ children (and know all their names!)…there is a little part of me thinks, ‘Here we go again,’ when people show me videos of their children dancing at a competition or practicing their violin. Sure, I can sit through a 15 second video, but one that’s more than 4 minutes? And I adore children!
When my child-free friend and I go out for a drink, at a bar, after 9 pm (kids are in bed!) we talk about politics or office politics or what’s happening in the world, or our relationships with our spouses and other gossipy, lighthearted events. We always have fun together. No one can make me laugh harder. It can be nice to not talk about kids or kid things for a bit. I also like that she forces me out of my kid-stained shirt and sweats and momentarily makes me feel as if I did before I had kids.
This friend also never gets mad at me if I have to hang up or if I don’t return a text or call her right back because I’m dealing with my kids. There’s nothing more painful than calling a friend who has children and being interrupted every three seconds, or listening to your friend scream, ‘Stop that! I swear to God, if you don’t stop that I’m taking away your iPad! I swear! I’m coming to get that iPad! I mean it! So…what were we talking about again?’ I call my friend when I’m kid-free, when I know I have her full attention and she has mine.
So, yes, you can still be a mother and stay good friends with other women who don’t like kids. Just don’t expect them to remember your kid’s birthdays and you’ll be fine. Plus, if your kids are driving you crazy, it’s nice to have a go-to person who can make you forget the fact your four-year-old had a 45 minute meltdown because you gave him the wrong coloured straw.