by Natasha Hatherall-Shawe
Friendships change when you’re the only one with kids, or well the only one without them. I’m in my 40s and in the latter. For me I always thought I would become a parent. I always assumed I would be part of this club, only that I’d get to learn all the best tips and tricks from those who went before me. Now it seems I’m destined to be the one who doesn’t know how it feels and can’t say they know how it is for a piece of your heart to exist outside your body. Being childless not by choice sucks anyway. Then throw in some grief over losing “friends like family” and that is whole other thing to navigate.
One by one my friends joined the motherhood and migrated off to another “land”. No matter how much I try, I don’t speak the same language and I don’t get it, so despite my best efforts, friendships do change and despite all we have shared, school, the graduations, first homes, marriages, promotions and even country moves, friendships that were once born from similarity now find themselves at a massive crossroads and increasingly I feel like I’m not included and well that I don’t belong.
I’d see them on Instagram enjoying a coffee at a soft play and I hadn’t been invited. They’d enjoy a family BBQ with all the kids sat at a table, adults another and I wasn’t invited. The Birthday parties, Easter Egg hunts, school open days – yup, I wasn’t invited. The divide well and truly started.
I’d organise a night out, half would cancel or pop in for an hour maximum as they were “exhausted” from parenting. I’d suggest a girls holiday or a staycay only to be met with, this would take away from “precious family time”. I didn’t get them anymore and it seems they didn’t get me either. And they refer to themselves as the “mommies” and you know I really bloody hate that.
Then before I knew it, I was spending more time with younger friends yet to be suckered into the parenthood, or just spending time with my husband doing stuff. Weeks turned into months and months in some cases turned into years or even never again.
Does it mean they’re wrong – no. Does it mean I’m wrong – no. It just means circumstances and friendships change and I think as I’m getting older I’m also viewing friendships differently and learning that they are oceanic in nature in that they come and they go. Sometimes they go and come back again. Other times they don’t.
So, what do I take from this?
I guess mostly I see that my parent friends have held a magnifying glass up to my own life making me see so crystal clearly what I have, and also what I have not. I know the journey to being at peace with childless not by choice is a long one and this I take as being part of it. I know I’ve said it before, but childless not by choice is truly shit and it’s not just the fact you don’t have a child, it’s everything else you lose too, the future legacy of grandchildren, a legacy full stop and well I guess the loss of friendships too. I think in the process of navigating a life without kids, we have to be realistic about what this means for our whole life and that means the dynamics of all relationships and keep our minds, eyes and hearts open to that. It is a sucky part of the process we have to go through to come out the other side.
Secondly, I think we’re all 8 years old at heart and being left out and losing friendships at any age cuts deep. However old we are we want to be liked, wanted and include and when we’re not it is something we’ve dealt with. If we went through bullying or incidences in our childhood of being left out, this can be even more triggering as it is for me. I notice that and try and catch myself in the times I want to over-react and hit the detonate button on my friends. I am trying to put perspective on it where I can.
Something I’ve also learned is that sometimes friends are actually trying to be the best friends they can be, and they think by not inviting you to a kids Birthday or out on a mums coffee morning they are doing you a favour. They don’t want to rub it in, and they don’t want you to go somewhere they’d likely rather not too if they didn’t have to. They’re trying to “do the right thing” as they see it. In my journey I’ve ended up sending a really honest email to my close friends saying pretty much all this and requesting they invite me, even if they know I’ll say no because it’s just nice to be included and you know I don’t always say “No” – now and again you’ll find me at a 2nd Birthday party with my back against a wall sipping a stiff drink. Honesty always helps and if we don’t say it – how do they know? Tell them you’re there and want to be included.
I consider myself, smart and with high emotional intelligence and you know mostly I love my life, but I’m human and there are times where I can’t help but feel left out and left behind and it sucks and I can openly be honest about that too. Just as I am today.