Inspiration for childless and childfree women

Thoughts and ideas to inspire, uplift and affirm the childless and childfree, by circumstance and by choice

mothers, non-mothers and friendship

I definitely share in the wish-often-expressed-by-childfree-bloggers that I knew at least one other woman who was travelling happily in a non-motherhood direction. Among my closest friends are a couple of women without children and not content about it, a couple of women with children and not content about it, and a good handful of women with children who are really into it. And to be honest, though perhaps I should have most in common with the first two categories, I’m actually very sympatico with the really-into-it mothers.

I think it’s because for me, the issue of non/motherhood can become almost secondary to the issue of getting-on-with-things-the-way-they-are and not just getting on, but actually getting excited – to use the cliche, ‘being in the driver’s seat’. Many of my favourite conversations begin, “I had this idea of something I really want to do and you’re going to think I’m bonkers but I can’t get it out of my head.” (I won’t think you’re bonkers. Whatever it is, I already definitely think you should do it!) My really-into-it mother friends and I often talk like this and I love it.

One reason I especially enjoy the company of women who are passionate about their circumstances and choices, whatever they may be, is that I find they are most supportive of my circumstances and choices. People who are excited about their own lives get easily and wholeheartedly excited about the lives of others – and I love that.

Let me qualify myself and add that I’m not a fan of strained positivity when choices and circumstances are tough. Some situations are very difficult to feel excited and enthusiastic about and anyway, there is room for all sorts of conversations and seasons among friends. Shared troubles, empathy and the opportunity just to off-load sometimes are incredibly important too. I just like a good sprinkle of excitement and enthusiasm whenever possible, that’s all.

If you would like to read more about where non-mothers fit into the spectrum of womanhood, you might enjoy this post about things mothers and non-mothers shouldn’t say to each other, or this post about whether or not non-mothers are a collective.

But in the meantime, how about you? Do you feel that you know enough women who are, in whatever sense, ‘like you’? Is their motherhood/non-motherhood status a key issue for you? Do you value life-passion in friendships as highly as I do, or are other issues more important to you?

[The gorgeous art quilt above is presented here with
permission from Cornflower Blue Studio.]


21 comments on “mothers, non-mothers and friendship

  1. Dienna
    May 11, 2012

    “People who are excited about their own lives get easily and wholeheartedly excited about the lives of others – and I love that.”

    I agree with you there. If a person is happy in her or her life, that person wouldn’t feel the need to meddle in someone else’s life or judge.

    • olivia reading
      May 11, 2012

      Indeed, Dienna! It’s often a bit of a give-away, isn’t it.

  2. I love this quote: “People who are excited about their own lives get easily and wholeheartedly excited about the lives of others – and I love that.” My best friend has a daughter and motherhood is central to her life, and she’s passionate about that, but also about poetry. I was a poet when we met, but became a visual artist and stopped writing poetry, but my friend was passionate about me as a human being, and even though we didn’t share poetry anymore, we shared empathy and self-exploration. I was delighted to find that my knitting group had 2 other women who chose not to have children, and are happy in their lives

    • olivia reading
      May 11, 2012

      Thanks for your thoughts Margaret. You’ve described exactly the kind of friendship I mean here. And lucky you with your knitting group! I have one too but I’m the only non-mother there I think. I still love it though.

  3. valkyrie5959
    May 11, 2012

    I have made a conscious decision to surround myself with positive, enthusiastic people. This doesn’t mean I expect my friends to be like that in face of adversity
    but I do expect people to greet my ideas with respect. I do not want to be told in a long low monotone why my ideas are not practical. LOL. It takes courage to weed
    the garden of friendship but well worth it. We deserve to be surrounded by nurturing encouraging people but it is up to us to cultivate it.
    I am not interested in if a person has 12 or no children, I am interested in THEM.
    I know people who I haven’t even got around to finding out if they are are single
    or have kids or not. I have two lovely little dogs which I usually try to bring into any
    conversation. I never watch TV unless it is unavoidable because I am so busy with my own writing, music, craft and garden projects. Oh and the inevitable housework
    and self care. Nothing gives me a “rush” like encouragement from a friend.

    • olivia reading
      May 11, 2012

      What a brilliant decision, valkyrie5959, and a brave one too. “I do expect people to greet my ideas with respect” – that’s so well put and needs writing into the code of friendship, I think!

  4. Jana
    May 12, 2012

    “It takes courage to weed the garden of friendship but well worth it.”

    Thank you for expressing this so perfectly. I’ve always had trouble following through on such weeding because, as much as I hate to admit it (even to myself), I’ve spent most of my life as a pleaser. Only over the past few years have I found the courage to act on the thoughts that passed through my head, and without considerable adversity, I may never have snapped out of the pleaser mode. Divorce, a 14-month lay-off, foreclosure, and general financial ruin (all in rapid succession) have ways of bringing life, and all of those who occupy some piece of it (for good or ill), into sharper focus. The greeting of my ideas with respect is no longer a nice option, and surrounding myself with passionate people is a work in progress.

    Sometimes I get odd looks and comments from co-workers at my new job because I’m one of a handful who behaves as if I’m happy to be there. I really am, and no longer have patience with those who aren’t, and who would mock me for being enthusiastic about my work. My garden is currently quite small, but following suggestions like valkyrie5959’s give me hope that it will eventually blossom into a pleasant little oasis.

    • olivia reading
      May 12, 2012

      I hope so too, Jana!

      “The greeting of my ideas with respect is no longer a nice option, and surrounding myself with passionate people is a work in progress.”


  5. Luisa
    May 12, 2012

    One of my best friends is a mom, I’m her son’s godmother. What I appreciate the most about her, is that she will take time for herself. She will come visit me alone (we live in different cities) her kid stays with her husband and we have quality time together. Mothers who can do that are rare. She leaves without guilt or without running away, she simply says, I feel like going alone. Sometimes mothers feel so guilty for taking time for themselves, it’s like they got inserted a chip that emits waves of “not worthy, not worthy” or the opposite, they can’t wait to leave, to run away for a couple of days “or I’ll go crazy”.
    Other friends who are also mothers can only stay away from their kids for so long, and when we meet, conversation is mostly about the kid. I do like knowing how they’re doing, and seeing them, but after an hour of kiddie talk and no interest in what I would like to share, I normally will hurry up and get going. It takes me a while to contact them again.
    And yeah, me too, I’d love to meet other non-mothers, I haven’t really met any who are decidedly childfree or childless. Might be because I tend to avoid the conversation about having kids…

    • olivia reading
      May 12, 2012

      I love the sound of your first friend, Luisa. My relationship with my godson’s mother is very similar.

      And yes, the difficulty of broaching the reasons and thoughts behind not having children definitely compounds the problem of feeling isolated. That’s such an insightful point!

  6. anna3101
    May 12, 2012

    I find it difficult to stay friends with those women who change completely after having a child. It’s like my friend got replaced with a complete stranger. Someone who has no other subject for discussion other than her child, in all the possible details. Each time we talk. All of a sudden she doesn’t care about her hobbies, about other people in her life (including her husband), about the current events. Even on all her social profiles she puts a picture of her child instead of hers. I find that both frustrating and sad.

    • olivia reading
      May 12, 2012

      I can understand that anna3101. There can be a real feeling of loss when people change that radically, especially if the friendship has been close beforehand.

    • llanwyre
      May 12, 2012

      Agreed completely, Anna. I’ve found it challenging to be friends with most women with young children for exactly this reason. Once the kids get older and have more autonomy, many women get less interested (which seems really, really weird to me,) and I find that having those parents as friends works well. But women with young children? We just don’t have much in common because their role as mothers is understandably so consuming.

  7. Nicole
    May 17, 2012

    I get what you mean Olivia. I am just moving into being very happy with my position of no children. It was thrust on me, but I am now embracing it and looking forward to all the other things in life I will do. I find that my friends who are now moms are very supportive of me, as I as of them, and that keeps our friendships strong. I find though that any woman i know who believes everyone should want to be a mom – we’ve drifted apart or stopped being friend all together. And, my friends who don’t want kids/can’t have kids and have accepted are very good friends as well. so, while my mom friends have less time for me, when we do get to spend time together the friendships are so solid. And I am enjoying my child-free friends a lot more than ever before, b/c I can see that our lives will be on the same paths for a long time.

    • olivia reading
      June 2, 2012

      Nicole, it sounds as though you’re in such a fantastic place in your friendships with the women around you, and as though you know people in all different walks of life too.

  8. honeymyrtle
    May 17, 2012

    I’ve ended up in the situation where all my closest friends (women and men) are parents. But I love them for who they are and the friendship we have, and our mutual support of each other in the way you’ve outlined Olivia. Their parenting status doesn’t really come into it.

    I’ve become conscious of just how considerate most of them are about not talking alot about the whole parenting thing, apart from filling me in on how their kids are going, which I do want to hear about. I suspect they might enjoy having a friend to talk about other things with.

    Which is why I occasionally get surprised at big gatherings, of mothers especially, and discover just how much conversation can be generated by the experience of parenting! It is then that I feel a little left out and yearn for the equivalent, even just one or two people with which to have that same kind of sharing of experiences about not-parenting.

    I had a funny experience a few months ago when I went on a camping trip without my husband, with 3 families, all good friends, and the women individually would all fit into the above category. But together, the conversation did inevitably turn quite a lot to mothering. At one point, one of the women, usually quite blunt, said ‘Sometimes you seem to want to hang out more with the guys than us’. At the time I felt it was a bit of a slight, or a variation on ‘you don’t have kids/ you’re not a real woman’…

    But on reflection I realised that in a group situation, this is exactly what I would tend to do – gravitate towards these particular guys. Because we all work in similar areas, have similar interests, are similarly politically engaged, and above all, the guys will be talking about these things, not talking about the details of parenting!

    • olivia reading
      June 2, 2012

      That’s so interesting, honeymyrtle, about non-mothers being connected in some sense with ‘the guys’. I think the idea of motherhood is pretty inextricable from the idea of adult femininity, so maybe our femininity is seen as compromised. Hmmm!

  9. stillstrange
    June 14, 2012

    I really get sad when my friends have children. That becomes their entire focus and that is all they talk about. We have nothing in common anymore and they just don’t take the time to keep in touch. I was raised being taught that women were supposed to have children however, it has come to light that won’t happen with us plus, I married a man that does not want children. What’s funny also, is my attitude toward children has really changed. The whining, crying gets on my nerves constantly and I just get tired of hearing about them..

    • olivia reading
      June 15, 2012

      Stillstrange, that’s such a common trend isn’t it. I don’t mind hearing about children generally, but like you, I’m definitely not a fan of whining or crying 😛

  10. Susanne Erricker
    July 19, 2012

    It is so refreshing to read comments from women who are in the same boat as me. I have had childlessness thrust upon me in that my husband and I lost a child and were unable to have anymore. We could have gone down the road of adoption but have actually found that we enjoy each others company and the freedom that no children bring. We have 2 dogs who are our ‘children’ they bring us so much happiness and are less noisy or trouble – and we don’t have to pay for baby sitters!
    We love our friends who have children but these days the kids seem to dictate what happens at weekends and we either have to muck in with kids activities or not see them. We would love to meet people like us who have the time and energy to spend quality time with, does anyone know of any womens group specifically for childless or childfree women/couples? Perhaps we should start one?
    Thank you Olivia for your blog, I don’t feel so isolated now!

  11. Bronski
    November 22, 2012

    hear hear Olivia – focus on the fact that we are all multifaceted diverse women – rather than classifying all mothers as one genre. And I think there has to be give and take – if we want mothers to join us in our world, when we should also be joining them in their world from time to time. We can’t sit back and whinge that we have been abandoned when women become mothers – or no wonder they dump us sometimes. I think mothers sometimes struggle to maintain the parts of them that continue to exist when they become a mother – and feel it is disloyal to continue to enjoy them. They need encouragement from us that they can be mothers AND still their own people. Or we are as guilty as some mothers in defining ‘the other side’ only in terms of motherhood status.

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