Heather L. Barmore
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Heather L. Barmore
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Heather Barmore
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    Change In Action at Babble Voices


    On Being the Childless Friend

    Photo by Yvonne. Baby by Heather Spohr.Would you like to know why I don't have children? Because kids are work. There are plenty of other reasons such as preparedness and that I can barely get myself up and out of the door each morning, let alone another human being. Then there's the whole permanent nature of children and, oh yeah, they are people. People with needs and feelings which leads me back to, that looks like work! I'd rather just sit here and watch this terrible movie that I have seen 900 times and drink this wine. Enjoy dealing with another person's bodily fluids!

    Somewhere along the line I wound up with a life full of friends who have children. Many had these children prior to my entry into their lives others had a kid and then had another after I came into the picture. At any rate, I have gotten used to having my conversation interrupted. I shrug because hey, kids. I don't have any but from what I understand, taping their mouths shut is not an option.

    You would think that with my very, very, VERY, single status I would see people with children and run for the hills which cannot be further from the truth. Here's a fun fact my life without kids: Just because I might not have any doesn't mean that I hate every child I will ever meet. In fact, I really enjoy children. They are - for the most part - fun, hilarious, precocious, unpredictable. Children are all of the above and more but I don't have them. This doesn't make me more or less it simply is.

    Somehow, even without having children, I have managed to grasp the concept of life and that people will follow their own paths. I have never felt the need to begrudge another for their experiences or life choices and by the grace of God, I am surrounded by people who live the same. There's gossip and judgment and major side-eyeing at times but the general rule I follow for myself and I hope that others in my life follow as well is this; you do you.

    Every once in awhile a post will pop up just to remind those of us without kids how nfulfilled our lives are. Childless people cannot possibly understand the concept of love (or any human emotion). We have never really been tired. We don't know what busy really is, etc. etc. Today I came across a post on Huffington Post about the inability for those with children to have friends who do not have children simply because the latter group has no understanding of the havoc wreaked upon the lives of those who choose to procreate.

    Crap like this makes me so annoyed. More annoyed than it should since it's a post on a blog from a woman I have little to no interest in. Not only that but I often take the click bait and the writer reels me into their bullshit of an argument. I always feel the need to defend my relationships with my friends ("MY friends aren't assholes, your's probably are if they are anything like you", is what I told myself today) and to validate my life without children. All because of a sickness called, I Saw This on the Internet.  

    The true story of being the childless friend is that it is like any other relationship between two people: It requires work. I do not feel as if these relationships are extra hard. Friendship can be difficult but if it is something which is important to me then I will put in the effort to ensure its success. Why is this so difficult to grasp? That two people, in different phases of life can, in fact, learn from one another? Why must it always be all or nothing, hyperbolic bullshit about how HARD everything is? It's life. Life is difficult. Having children is difficult. We're all just going through the motions and each day, trying not to fuck things up for ourselves or for future generations. When one says that their time and/or life has more value than mine simply because I do not have children it makes me irate. Yes, it also makes me think of that person as an asshole. As my friend Em said, you were probably an asshole before you had kids and now you're just an asshole with children. And THAT is why your friends (both with and without children) don't hang out with you.

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    References (3)

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    Reader Comments (19)

    The funny thing is, since my kids are grown-up-ish, most of my friend set is childless now. I gotta say that it's nice to have an entire conversation with someone and not stop to wipe a snotty nose or break up a fight... I've been guilty of insensitivity in the past to those without kids. Mostly that came from being raised in a world where you either had a passel of kids or you didn't because you *couldn't* have them. It being a choice to have them wasn't even considered. You just did. I think I've grown past that at this point. The whole, "you're valuable because you're someones mom, sister or daughter" thing really bugs me. We're all (well, most of us) pretty great humans. Period.

    May 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLeahpeah

    Heather, you hit it out of the park, yet again! I, too, know this judgement. I go to wedding showers or baby showers for friends, and the first question from some strangers is, "who is your husband?" Or, "how old are your kids?" When i answer, " I don't know yet" or "42 in dog years", I am frequently looked at with pity. My married friends and/or friends with kids aren't like this. I'm just there for them and the mimosas. Can't we all just get along.

    May 14, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterstampydurst

    I agree. I think it is a special friendship that survives the eruption of children on only one side. My best friend from college (and LA) and I saw each other less after the boys were born but we stayed close and we even swapped lives a few weekends. She was a special person. I miss her, and so do my kids.

    May 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKTP

    You know, I used to be one of those asshole parents who couldn't POSSIBLY imagine why anyone wouldn't want to have kids.

    Now that I'm divorced and a half-time parent? ERMAHGERD, I totally get it! Sorry for my previous douchebagery. I'm all about friends without kids these days. It's an honorable life choice.

    May 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda P. Westmont

    I'm realizing now that the "ooh, you're in a different life phase than I..." thing can go both ways. I find myself retracting from certain friends when I realize that their focus is on their family/children rather than our friendship. Which is great for them! But I probably won't go out of my way to invite you places. It's natural to gravitate towards those who are more similar to you and your experiences rather than those who are not. I just want for us all - especially women who can get really nasty about these things - are able to respect the life decisions of others. Can't we all just get along? Or at least talk about people later? That's all I ask.

    May 15, 2014 | Registered CommenterHeather Barmore

    This is the year that many people in my life are having children. I haven't wanted to yet for many of the reasons you cite - I like my freedom and I'm not interested in the work it entails. I have put my career and marriage over parenthood and am very happy with that choice. Plus my parents struggled to care for my brother with special needs my entire life and that certainly shapes my view of parenthood.

    But now I'm faced with my peers who have made the opposite choice and frankly I have trouble understanding it. Your perspective on this really speaks to me and I hope over the years I will develop your grace.

    May 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChristine Hart

    Hi! I have three kids. And I love this. Your friends are lucky folks.

    May 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterColleen

    What a wonderful post!
    Thank you! This is true whether you are childless by choice or involuntarily childless - you highlight the need for empathy whichever side of the fence we might be! A great post!
    (I am writing as an involuntarily childless early years teacher who gets reminded every day how I could not possibly imagine how hard being a parent it...)

    May 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAlex@life

    This is a lovely tribute to real friendship. I do miss seeing my friends who do not have children, they are busy travelling etc and I love to see their adventures unfold. I miss our conversations which didn't focus on the minutiae of life with small people but I know that I am also busy in my own way, there was a whole year with no sleep during which I could only safely drive for a distance about ten minutes away etc etc so I couldn't do much to see them either... But nevertheless they are true friends and there will be a time in the not too distant future when we can hang out again. I think they have beautiful lives. Two of my very cherished friends without children have disappeared entirely from my life since we lost a child but I hadn't seen them after it happened or spoken to them about it so its not like anything "happened" between us, maybe they would have done a runner even if they had children? I just think at the moment it is so outside their world they don't know what to do? What do you think?
    Anyway, I loved your post. In all areas of life the hyperbolic "hardness" gets a bit overworked... Your post was refreshing.

    May 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCarolyn

    THANK YOU for posting this response to that horrible Huffington Post article. I was so angry after I read that Huffington Post article (as a single, childless person), especially because so many of my friends (with children) liked it on Facebook. I felt like responding to them and saying, "No one thinks you're an asshole because you have kids; I think you're an asshole for posting this crap article."

    May 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJ

    Love this - especially the part about how we can learn from each other. Great point!

    May 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCindy

    I had the exact same thought process when I watched this. I have lots of friends who have kids. I can respect naptime, but I can also get down on the floor and play cars or color or watch Frozen, again. I like to hang out with my friends kids, not just my friends. This video also made me irate for irrational reasons and I am so glad that I am not the only one.

    May 20, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterErin

    I so appreciate your post. I wonder why women always want to "other" one another. We all deal with challenges of various forms and not one of those is more significant than another - they all suck. Those challenges may make it difficult to be the kind of friend you want to be sometimes but true friends understand that.

    May 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

    You wrote a wonderful post. Beautifully done with great points. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    May 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJodie

    I enjoyed your post. My husband and I don't have children for any number of reasons, but that doesn't make us any less valuable, loving, friendly or anything else. We have full lives, with friends with kids and without (or with grown kids). It takes all kinds to make the world turn and so many people forget that.

    May 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

    "Just because I might not have any doesn't mean that I hate every child I will ever meet. In fact, I really enjoy children. They are - for the most part - fun, hilarious, precocious, unpredictable. Children are all of the above and more but I don't have them. This doesn't make me more or less it simply is."

    THANK YOU. Sorry for the yelly all-caps, but I get so. damned. tired. trying to explain that no, I don't hate kids: I just don't want any of my own. It doesn't matter how many times I say it or in how many different ways - some people just refuse to believe it. Add to that the fact I've lost (so-called) friendships because those people somehow took *my* choice as a direct attack on their choice.

    I'm perfectly content to be the fun aunt, and my friends are perfectly content to let me play that role.

    May 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChibi Jeebs

    I read the articled linked to last week, and as a new parent it made me laugh, smile and nod. I think you missed the point of it. I didn't read it as why you can't be friends with childless people or how their life doesn't know love... but just a look a a busy person with small children and how we can't do the same things we did before, in the same way, because we now have schedules and naps. Before kids I never would have guessed that meeting up for dinner, anywhere other than home, would be the ordeal that it is. Or that when I do get an hour of free time, I'd really just like to take a nap by myself or have some alone time. I think its about a perspective shift. I suggest you reread the other article through a different lens. I don't think it was meant to be negative. I read yours with the same level of respect and understanding.

    No, I got the point, KC. The author was purposely being obnoxious in order to prove that having a child is difficult (duh) and that her priorities have changed (double duh) and that it's OK for her to behave like an asshole because she managed to do something that people have been doing for millions of years! I stand by my words that this is a choice and parenthood is the hardest thing in the world - thus my stating that it is something that I am so not prepared for at this point in my life. The fact of the matter is that the author stated that it was OK for her to be rude to friends and that her childless/free friends should make concession to her as opposed to friendship being a two-way street. Thanks for visiting. - Heather

    May 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKC

    "All because of a sickness called, I Saw This on the Internet." - so good. It frustrates me to no end that folks who don't have kids are forever having to defend their decisions. Separately, that article was hokey and overwrought. Having kids and subsequent life changes isn't a more noble or valid reason for dropping your friends. Glad to have stumbled on your response, though!

    June 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

    It's non a question of value, or morality. Simply when you become a parent you have a different set of priorities. And these are not the same than before. They often collide with what your single friends do, or want to do. The fact is, as parent you need to slow down and wait for your kids. You cannot rush, like I used to do. And you need to plan a lot more. And this is a problem, if you look at the "outside" world. Now, being single and childless means simply to be able to be a lot more flexible, to improvise more. If you can give up this advantage, sometimes, to stay an evening or two with your friends and children, than you are a good person. Otherwise time should provide the right amount of insight to overcome temporary immaturity.

    February 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMatteo

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