While My Friends Have Kids, I Remain Happy and Child-Free

(This is cross-posted at BlogHer.)

I’m getting older. In a little over a year, I’ll no longer be in my 20s. As my female friends grow up along with me, and I meet new ladies around my age, it’s inevitable that more and more of these women are starting to have children. While I’m never surprised at their choice and I’m always happy for them, there’s also the knowledge that things will inevitably be different.

I’m not saying parents don’t have fun, or they don’t have lives outside of their children. They can hire babysitters (or enlist the help of a family member for free, if they’re lucky) if they want to go out sans baby. But my relationship with a formerly child-free friend never seems quite the same after a child comes along. They might be the same person they were before, but their life has to change to accommodate this new little person (as it should).

The biggest change is simply a shift in priorities. Mothers tend to talk about their kids because it consumes a really big part of their life. Of course we talk about what we know, and what we’re currently thinking and experiencing. The only thing is, while kid-related topics might be interesting to another mother, I can only take so much.

I have a few close friends I’ve known since childhood who have kids. And don’t get me wrong, these kids are beautiful. There’s blond-haired, blue-eyed Lily. Dark-haired, dark-eyed Natasha. Sometimes they say really cute things that make me laugh. The thing is, while I enjoy spending time with them, none of them live in my immediate area — so it’s easy for me to give them a lot of attention in a short period of time.

I went to a Babies ‘R Us location with my mom and one of my sisters a few years ago. We were shopping for a baby shower gift, and after spending about five minutes in the store (we chose a high chair in record time), I was ready to leave. However, my mom and sister were determined to linger. They decided we needed to add a “cute outfit” to our gift, so they spent the next thirty minutes oohing and ahhing over the racks of baby clothes. I remember being incredibly bored. I just can’t get excited over miniature outfits or choosing the perfect stuffed animal to adorn a crib.

While there’s a possibility I might lose this attitude and decide to have a child later in life, I can also see myself being perfectly content if it never happens. Right now I’m completely disinterested in being responsible for someone who’s completely dependent on me for their well-being. If I happen to be bleary-eyed at work because I only slept for a few hours the night before, it’s because I consciously chose to stay up late — not because I was attempting to soothe a crying baby. The money in my savings account is meant for a future down payment on a house, not a child’s college fund. I can accept happy-hour invitations because I don’t have anyone waiting to be picked up from daycare after work.

Every once in a while when I’m walking down the street, or standing in line at a grocery store, I’ll spot an ultra-adorable kid. I might even get a big smile on my face and say something like, “Awwww, look at him/her!” However, that’s the same reaction I have when I see my sister’s Goldendoodle — and I’m not about to run out and get a dog. I express my appreciation for the cuteness and then I go on about my business.

I’m certainly not claiming to speak for all single, child-free women. My friend Dana, for instance, is the complete opposite of me. She doesn’t have any kids of her own, but she hangs out with friends who have kids all the time. She buys them presents for birthdays and Christmas, and she volunteers to babysit for free.

I’m not unfeeling or heartless. If a close friend of mine were to get pregnant, I’d pat her growing stomach, help organize a baby shower, and maybe even change a diaper or two if she’s lucky. My friends will always be my friends no matter if they’re single, or married, or divorced; whether they have no kids or five.

I know it’s okay for me to be happy about my child-free status, and I’m sure there are plenty of women who share my views (and just as many who don’t). Even if I can’t relate, I hope my friends with kids know I love them and their children — and I’ll be happy to accept an invitation to a random kiddie softball game or ballet recital. I’m just glad I get to go home by myself at the end of the day.

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