Being Childfree: Its Impact On My Relationships

Relationships are, by default, complicated. It doesn’t help that we have to balance so many of them in our lifetime, which is exceptionally difficult considering humans literally cannot multitask efficiently.

Not unlike many spouses, I view my marriage as the most important connection in my life and thus, most of my ‘relationship energy’ is funneled into its maintenance. However, this doesn’t mean I neglect my other relationships – friendships with close friends, my family, my in-laws, even my workmates – the list goes on and on.

By very definition, a relationship is the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected. But what happens when there is a break in what connects us?

For instance, I had a very close friend when I was a teenager. We spent a lot of time together doing the typical teenagery, boundary-pushing things and formed a bond based on shared interest. This friend is now married with a young child, owns a business, and lives some two hours away. The glue of our relationship – essentially, immaturity and convenience – had come undone as we aged. Many refer to this phenomenon as growing apart.

Unfortunately for the childfree, mainly those of us who are still in the “child-birthing years”, we experience this loss of connection at a seemingly more frequent rate. Many of our closest friends have gone on to have children and the bond that once held us together is severed. Rightly so; most of that ‘relationship energy’ is now set aside for their most important connection – the relationship with their child(ren).

But what about those relationships that have been affected, but not broken, by our decision to be childfree?

My Relationship With My Husband

As I discussed in my last post, my husband and I both assumed we would have children at some point in our lives. Therefore, we never really discussed what would happen if we didn’t. That is, until we did.

Ever since our dating days, Colin and I have talked about most anything we could think of – from silly things like my irrational fear of sharks in hot tubs to more serious matters, like the darkest parts of our depression. We always found ourselves struggling while discussing when we were going to start having children, though. We would attempt to, of course, but our conversations mimicked the awkwardness of Sex Ed class in high school.

I remember talking this over with a friend of mine. “You’re probably not ready,” she told me. Fair enough. What I didn’t realize at that time was that I would never be ready. It took me a while to realize that this didn’t symbolize immaturity.

People often refer to having children as “the next step” but this implies progression. Having children, however, is a lateral move. A woman with a child is no more advanced than is a woman with none. Both women will advance in years and life experience. They will do so separately and differently, but at the same rate nonetheless.

Once Colin and I began discussing not wanting children, we got to discussing what we do want. With those conversations, our relationship grew deeper, as cliche as that may sound. We also stopped the awkward stares and the fumbling for words because our new discussions were founded on what we actually believe in, instead of societal expectations.

My Relationship With My Mother

A patron says to the zookeeper, “Wow. I could never do your job. Not because I think it would be too challenging for me, but because I would absolutely hate it. Actually, I think I’d also grow to hate myself. You know what I want to do? The exact opposite of what you’ve done because that, I believe, is true happiness.”

Change “patron” to “I”, change “zookeeper” to “my mom”, and there you have the worst conversation on the planet. Of course, this isn’t how I really explained my decision to be childfree to my mom, but this is what many parents think they hear when their child shares his/her decision.

I am incredibly fortunate to have parents who respect my decision not to have children. This isn’t the case for everyone, sadly, so the impact this has on your relationship may vary.

My own mom had experienced a rough pregnancy with me, her third and final child. It didn’t get easier once I was born, either. I’ve heard I wasn’t the calmest, nor the happiest, of kids. Basically, I was (am?) a whole lot of work. When I was young, my mom was solely my mom. From the mindset of a selfish kid, I just knew that being selfless was her purpose. It really wasn’t until I moved out and had the opportunity to observe my parents as empty-nesters – this really adorable couple that eats dinner at 3 o’clock in the afternoon and watch matinee films every Wednesday – that I realized, Wait a minute. My mom is just a person who happens to have had kids.

I’ve had more time to reflect on this as time has gone on and, although she’s never told me that she could picture herself being childfree, I could see it. Becoming a mom was an important aspect of her life, but it wasn’t her whole life. I suppose this is why she didn’t take offense when I explained my stance on kids.

Now, my mom and I discuss the benefits of a childfree lifestyle and we have both come to have a greater understanding of one another.

My Relationship With My Friends (Who Have Kids)

At the outset of this post, I told you about the friend I grew apart from. Our biggest difference is the fact that she has kids and the fact that I do not. However, I do have friends who are parents. One in particular I am quite close with. While we have different priorities, we share similar interests. This is how we initially formed a connection. We are also both writers, educators, and share the same cryptic sense of humor. She also respects my choice to not have children and I adore her kids.

It’s not impossible to be childfree and have parents as friends. I’d even go so far as to recommend it. When we interact and form bonds with people from different backgrounds and lifestyles, we grow. And unlike having children, that is progressive.

Just about every major life decision we make impacts our relationships. Some for better, and yes, some for worse. How have you seen your relationships change since deciding to be childfree? Comment below.

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Comments

    • ForeverGulls
    • April 3, 2017
    Reply

    Hey Brittany. Hmmm. Interesting post. I currently struggle with this subject on a few levels. Jon and I have a good mutual friend who recently had a baby and while I feel he loves his child, I sense a tinge of jealousy when he comes over and sees how content we are with no children. I sense a paradigm shift in our friend in that he has become hardened and worn out by his constant responsibility and demanding spouse. I don’t like what I see. It has become hard to be around him because he’s so bitter and it has challenged our friendship.

    On the other side, I have girlfriends who are sick with baby fever and I want to puke. I worry about a particular friend with whom I am very close and what will happen when she starts pumping out babies. Am I overreacting? Probably. But I just know things will never be the same. She won’t have time to take care of her horses or keep up on the competition circuit once the kids come and that is the strongest bond we share. So many things concern me about this. Can you or Colin shed some light?

    1. Thank you for your question! I have to preface my response by saying I am certainly not a relationship expert but I do have some thoughts on the matter.

      I think the type of relationships we can have with people who are not childfree, both those who already have children and those who want to have children in the future, largely depends on the foundation of our connection. My friend (described in this post) and I share some of the same core principles and goals. While I don’t think friends should be carbon copies of one another, I do think you need something that links you together, especially when one of you has children and the other does not.

      So, regarding this mutual friend of yours, think of what connected you before he had a child. Try to foster that connection. Also, if your friend recently had this child, it may take some time. If the friendship is strong enough, allowing time will not damage it. He may very well be dealing with some bitterness. His life has changed in a big way which requires a big adjustment. Time should help, not hinder, this process.

      Now regarding your girlfriends with baby fever: I’ve gone through something similar with friends of mine. Some have gone on to have children and some have not. It is infinitely easier to maintain friendships with the ones who are childless/childfree, but as I mentioned in my post, not impossible to have friends who are parents. This largely depends on what type of parents they become, however. I don’t like to cast blame, and I always think we should look inward before thinking of what someone else can do, but this is one situation where it really does depend on the friend. Sadly, some friends do turn into classic “mombies” and those friendships may be irreparably damaged.

      It’s hard to tell what will happen when our close friends become parents. That being said, there are a lot of things that can change the dynamic of a relationship, not just children. Interests change, people move, life gets busy, etc. With the close girlfriend of yours, I’d recommend embracing your current friendship and try not to focus on what may (or may not) be in store for later on.

      Hope this helps!

  1. Reply

    Brittany, I just found you and I’ve so glad I did!

    I recently started a blog and have been thinking about content and how to classify my blog’s niche. I have a number of posts in the works and A LOT of them revolve around being “child free” and what that means. I didn’t mean for the topic to become a focus but it’s actually a lifestyle and sometimes I feel like I’m the only one living it! One of things I’ve been thinking about recently is exactly what you posted – how not having kids impacts other relationships.

    I can’t wait to check out the rest of your blog!

    1. Courtney,

      Congratulations on starting your blog! The childfree community is so amazing and supportive. It’s been a pleasure hearing feedback from those who can relate! I will definitely check out your blog. Thanks for your comment 🙂

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