Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

It Got Me Thinking…About the Dark Side July 18, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

“I’m pregnant!” my friend gleefully announces.

And I think, Well, f*ck me six ways to Sunday, but I instead I jump up and embrace her and say, “Congratulations!!! I am so happy for you!”

Yup, another one has gone over to the Dark Side. My playmate, my buddy, my date for tea and chick-flicks will soon switch discussion topics from the last great novel she read to the merits of cloth versus disposable diapers and the challenges of getting into the “right” preschool/private school/ballet studio. While I bravely continue to pursue political movements, investing options, and the hottest new tapas restaurant this side of the Bay, she’ll be focusing on PTA politics, college funds, and how to get her kid to eat green vegetables.

Before long, the excuses for missing lunch dates (sick baby, sick kid, soccer games) will grow tiresome. She’ll kindly include me in the first few get-togethers with her new friends from the mommies group. I’ll make polite conversation when I’m invited to baby showers and first birthday parties. But eventually I’ll get lost in the mist as she gets sucked into more and more “family” events and senses how much more she has in common with the other reproducers. “Whatever happened to your friend Kathy?” they might ask. “Oh, she never had kids.” “Oh,” they will say knowingly. Or so I imagine. This is worse than being the last kid picked for teams. This is being told you can’t even play the game, but if you want, you can watch from the bleachers.

And I’m pissed. But mostly I’m lonely. It’s really, really hard to make new friends when you’re over the age of 40, and it’s that much harder when, like me, you leave the city you’ve lived in for those first four decades and move some place where you know no one but your fiancé. You have to make a determined effort to get out, try new classes, start new groups, and hope to find a connection. It’s not unlike dating, and it can be really exciting, but mostly scary and discouraging. But you carry on, remembering the closeness you once shared with old friends who, over time, could read your thoughts and finish your sentences.

Since moving here three years ago, several of the women who I thought could become part of my new posse now are new mothers. I didn’t know they were trying; we hadn’t known each other that long, so the topic never came up. A couple had been trying for years, and became pregnant shortly after meeting me. My friend Lisa found this hilarious and suggested I offer myself out as a fertility icon: Become friends with me, and you’ll be knocked up within 3 months—guaranteed!

After the fourth announcement, I broke down and told my fiancé how crushed I was, how broken-hearted, how devastating this was to my developing social life. He laughed at me, pointing out how ridiculous I sounded for getting so overly dramatic and self-pitying. And he’s right. Because, really, I am happy for my friends. And it won’t be as isolating as I imagine, it will just be different.

When I get the “good” news, when I sink into one of my funks, I fully realize that I am the one who has gone over to the Dark Side. But for a short while, I need to lose my perspective and my sense of humor, wallow in self-pity, and mourn the loss of my friend. Because underneath my happiness for her, I still hurt for myself.

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. It’s raining today, and she’s feeling blue.


25 Responses to “It Got Me Thinking…About the Dark Side”

  1. Jane G Says:

    I know exactly what you mean, Kathleen. *Hugs*

  2. If it’s any consolation, my experience has been, it gets a bit better after 40 (I’m 51). In your forties, more people’s kids are either grown, or in their teens, and they can at least leave the house without getting a sitter. And they are looking forward to some kid-free time, after a couple of decades dedicating their lives to someone else. There will always be someone who has their first baby at 40, but in the same way that everyone but you has kids, all those kids do grow up. Unfortunately, making new friends you really connect with, at any time, is still difficult, so good luck.

  3. Dorothy Says:

    I am so glad you wrote about this! I have lost so many friends because they change focus when the world begins revolving around their children. I am supposed to be interested in the intimate details of their new family life, but their eyes glaze over when I speak about the topics that are my life’s interest and give me identity. (I am a Christian, so my life revolves around Jesus.) I am not trying to be preachy here. What I am trying to say is that women who build their identity on motherhood need to be tolerant of women who do not choose this path, and be aware that the world does not revolve around their kids. I guess that’s why your blog post today touched me so deeply. It candidly expressed the reaction a childless person may have to a pregnancy announcement. Thank you! Keep writing!

  4. Kathleen Guthrie Says:

    It’s so …comforting to be able to “talk” about this in a safe place with women who get it. Thank you for your responses. Dorothy, I so know that glazed look. And I’d like to suggest that, more than “tolerated,” I’d like to be accepted. I make a point of asking my mommy friends how they are doing, to remember that the last time we saw each other they were stressed about a kid’s cold or the preschool application or the last 10 lbs of pregnancy weight. I know nothing about these topics first-hand, but I know they are important to them, so I ask. So it baffles me that a mommy can’t make the same effort and show some interest in my life. In my way of thinking, that’s just being a good friend.

  5. Re DuVernay Says:

    I know what you mean, I’m 24 and everybody seems to be having babies, it’s been going on slowly for years but the older we get the more friends seem to disappear. It’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one with this problem.

  6. mittlivogis Says:

    “Become friends with me, and you’ll be knocked up within 3 months – guaranteed!”
    OMG! This is exaktly what happened to me! I thought it was some sick joke from the universe or something…
    I’ll tell you one thing though, if it happens again, I’ll charge them big time!

    • lmanterfield Says:

      LOL!! So glad you can see the humor in this. I swear this could be big business.

      In my last corporate job I had 7 women in my department. I was newlywed and they all knew I had plans for a family. Five of them got pregnant within 3 years, one by accident. Sigh.

  7. Lynn Says:

    I can so relate. My friend is on her 3rd child and we really have nothing in common anymore. I get depressed alot and feel very alone at times. I live in New Jersey and wish I could find others who are in there late 30’s who are childfree like me.

    • Kathleen Guthrie Says:

      Check out the home page on this site. If there isn’t a group in place for your city, think about starting one.

  8. IrisD Says:

    I have lost touch with many of my married/mother friends over the years. At the time much of this happened, I had been busy with school/work, not in a committed relationship and not necessarily eager for a baby myself. So, though it hurt me to lose these friendships, I think with some of them, it might also have been my own doing… I just had different interests myself. As I’ve gotten older and remained childless now due to infertility, not circumstance, however, I am more senstive to this. I have a very good friend, who married my cousin, who does make the effort to remember what is going on in my life, and another friend, who is a psychologist, and has many interests and topics to talk about beyond motherhood, and who is a constant joy. But, I have another friend with whom conversations often feel about 90% one sided… but at least she still calls, and not too long ago we actually did have a real conversation. Still, I was a bridesmaid at her wedding, and a friend of more than 20 years, and a good support when she was going through really difficult times, and since she has been back in town for over a month now I haven’t seen her.

  9. Kira Says:

    Wow, I can so relate. I’m in my early 40’s and the last of my beloved close female friendships were pretty much over in my early 30’s. I lost them to “mommies parties” among other things.
    I really tried early on, when my bud had her twins I was the first one to brave the world with them in tow. I feel I never ostracized, I tried to keep them in my life. And yet I feel I was absolutely ostracized, slowly but surely. This same friend years later confided that she feels my life is rather pointless and selfish (without kids).
    I’m sorry you are feeling blue, it sucks to lose friends and camaraderie. Giggle, get this my latest friend hunt ended up with other childless gals who eventually confided they STILL have baby rabies, despite their age….early 50’s. In fact, they started joking that because I am childless by choice, if I were to have an “accident” they would all love to have my child. Yikes. Enough already!
    So my friends these days? Men, friends of hubbies, some childhood friends. I love them to death but I do miss my old girlfriends. I hope to find that again, but for now, I have resigned myself.

    • Kathleen Guthrie Says:

      I think my heart stopped when I read your friend’s comment. I’m so sorry. That is so dang ignorant and cruel.

      I have to have faith that good women like us will find each other. The LWB community has helped me see that we’re out there.

      • Kira Says:

        Thanks Kathleen, sorry for the bummer story! Stepping back from (all) of these kinds of stories…in the big picture I do not want people like this in my life. I continue to live happy and healthy for the most part, I want to find others living the same way.

        You’re right, we are out there 🙂

        Best, Kira

  10. Lori Says:

    Great post Kathleen. Pertinent on SO many levels.

  11. Angela Says:

    I totally feel you. I had a bestie for the last 7 or so years, who had her first two years ago and the second a year later. She moved to a new house in January and said she wants me to come by anytime. I’ve been by twice, of my own accord and after multiple attempts to coordinate with her schedule. The last time was about 3 months ago, at which point she said she didn’t want to loose touch with me. Aaanndd….that was the last I’ve heard from her. Why do I have to be the one to make all the phone calls and effort? She has a phone, but I suppose she has more important things to think about now besides trying to keep up with me. She’s not the only one, just one example. Fortunately, my husband has friends whose wives I’ve become very good friends with, and we hang out with them a lot. They have kids too, imagine that! We also have 12 nieces and nephews, so when they are here the kids all play together. Our friends’ kids play at our house while we visit, we go on vacations with them, it’s like we’re all a big family. These people are generous enough (not like it’s difficult) to include the childless couple in their lives, and we help them with their children, and we’re fun to boot! Why can’t everyone figure that out? Because their idiots, that’s why. I say a big WHATEV to them. Not bitter at all! ;-P

    • Kathleen Guthrie Says:

      That’s it — it’s “not that difficult” to make the effort to keep in touch with good friends, no matter the differing circumstances. Glad you have wonderful, generous people in your life who get it.

  12. Lara Says:

    I so understand you… and I too moved to a new city a few years ago, in my mid-thirties. Four years of useless medical treatments later I have to admit that at least it got me some really good friends (among those for which the meds were as useless as for me)… I actually try very hard to choose my new friends without kids and old enough to not come up with such a surprise.

    On the bright side, I have noticed that once the kids are over 5 and start some school of some kind, people tend to become tolerable again (they get over the pooh texture discussions), their kids become interesting humans beings you can actually be friends with (and guess what, they are nowhere close to having babies). And yes, things seem to improve with age, what a relief!

  13. Nicole Says:

    I feel you on this. I am now 30, and just waiting for the dam to break open and everyone to have kids. Some of my friends do already, and more are pregnant. We currently live in a city with a lot of young people, so I find it is easy to meet people who don’t have kids….yet.

    We do plan to move next year to Oregon and I told my partner this is the last move, because i want to put down roots, and also I want to make friends before it is too, too hard. But I already know we will constantly be facing the challenge of friends becoming parents. My partner freaks out about it sometimes. He is more at peace with our inability to have kids than I am, but he gets really scared about losing our friends because they have children. I feel with our more established friends it won’t be a problem, but with newer friends it probably will be.

  14. DAK Says:

    I completely know how you feel. I am 43 and relate to every.single.thing. you wrote. My best friend of 20 years now has a 2 year old and is pg with her 2nd. And she got pg at 40! Go figure. Anyway, while I AM happy for her, I am soooo on the Dark Side more often than not. All by my lonesome. Things are absolutely different. Pretty much described as you wrote. We can’t even talk on the phone because M is requiring her attention and I can’t tell you how often her and I joked about “mom’s” who did that. And now she is oen of them. It amazes how she forgot we used to joke about it. It is Waaay different and I know in my heart it will only get worse as her kids get older with school, sports, all their activities. While I love little Matthew and while I am so very happy for my friend, it still kills inside.

  15. Mali Says:

    This really resonated with me – so much so that I went away thinking about it and forgot to respond!

    I found I’ve had to grieve relationships with friends who’ve had children, disappeared into life with all their friends who have kids at the same school. And like someone said, it’s not because I ostracized them – but I found myself gradually pushed out, not invited to family functions (even though I was ready to be the fabulous auntie), and suddenly I was the “strange, old friend” and all the new friends with kids were the inner circle.

  16. Actually I often find t the other way round in that I get dumped by the friend as I do not have a family. As if I could not understand or possibly be interested because I do not have children of my own. And that hurts, I can’t have children, that’s biological but why should I be punished and loose a friend as well?

  17. Oh. Congratulations. Haha…

    Too many see similar things in my town. Baby boom to said. But for me no thanks.

    I will pass away if you understand me.

  18. 1nonmom Says:

    I’m right there with you. And the sad truth is that people care about themselves… their lives… their kids. We don’t fit into that pretty little mold. We can’t contribute to the conversations about PTA, VBS, ASC. We are the abomination they feared they would be and they can’t bear to look us in the eye to see the pervasiveness of our sorrow. We will never be part of the club… the outsiders, the one’s no one wants to talk about. It’s a lonely place to be.

  19. loribeth Says:

    This is a too familiar story for me too. As you said, it’s the lack of reciprocity that’s the hardest thing to accept. I KNOW they’re busy but hey, isn’t everyone these days? I’m busy too, just with other things…

  20. […] This post was originally published on July 18, 2011 […]

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