I am a mother of two small boys in my late thirties. Not all my friends my age have kids, several are childfree in fact. More than a few of those are in this group: The League of Fabulous Women.
I’ve been thinking about this group and my friendships and these childfree women I know, especially after reading the article in The Independent by Rachel Pashley on the absence of non-mums in popular culture and in TV, film and advertising.
Before motherhood I was the reliable, childfree friend. I was single for what felt like an infinity in my twenties. Always there, accepting every invite, dancing on tables, galloping from one social event to the other. I was working in the media, travelling, yoga retreats, city breaks, basically living the dream. I had best friends, work friends, friends of friends, friends of their friends, all of who I used to see regularly. Children and motherhood didn’t figure back then.
But then I met Mr G. After years of tears and broken hearts, pouring my soul out over glasses of wine about the bastards that never called, laughing about the over keen unsuitable ones, and scanning the bars for my knight in shining armour; he was here.
In my early thirties came the excitement of the diamond, the hen do, the wedding, and then the big decision to try for a little person. Before I knew it I was waddling around pregnant drinking mocktails.
Sitting here and typing all this now, it sort of feels as if I am describing how I was on a conveyer belt of a traditional path. Of course consciously making all the decisions that felt right and exciting at the time, but maybe in some way just doing all the things that I felt I should be doing.
Has motherhood affected my friendships and how do I feel about the women in my friendship circle who are not mums?
Obviously as you get older, and your responsibilities are more serious, things start changing anyhow. When I was still childfree, things had already started to change. Being an MD of a company and being in a serious relationship meant a couple of layers of friends had already started to fall away. I found that I only had quality time for best mates and socialising with a few chosen work colleagues.
But that happens to everyone doesn’t it? Jobs get more senior, we get older, going out every night doesn’t seem like a viable option. We drink less or maybe more?! Friendship groups just shrink.
However, if I am honest. It wasn’t that gradual, I can pin point the exact moment things really shifted. October 23rd 2009, 6.32am. The day I gave birth to my first child.
I am trying to not use clichés with the fear that you all start switching off, but wowzers, the sudden 24-7 nature of my life shook everything up. Having my ears open day and night on high alert to attend to another humans basic needs around the clock; I had no idea what sleep deprivation and worry does to the soul.
My friendship group did evolve as a result, it is true. Like any other landmark time in your life, there are folk who share the experience. School friends, uni friends, work friends… and so on. It’s just a fact they are present at the same time, experiencing something similar. So of course, with motherhood came, dare I say it, the ‘mummy’ friends. People you see at the doctors every week, NCT, mummy yoga and so fouth. You just naturally become friends because you see each other so much, and you all live in the same neighbourhood. You can talk about poo colours without (excuse the pun) giving a shit what they think. You’re off work at the same time while your proper mates are earning an honest living. So in your zombie like state it’s somebody who has the same schedule and who you can have endless coffees and walk in circles with your pram with.
And with these fellow mothers, like all the friends you make and break throughout different phases in your life, there are some you are friends with because you are all just there – in that place at a certain time. Then the ones you have nothing more in common with, other than the fact you have a baby, drift away after a while. But, like all the chapters of my life, in motherhood I collected a couple more awesome ladies. They remain my friends because we have a genuine love of the same things and a shared sense of humour, in fact some of them I only see for a monthly supper without children nowadays.
So where do my childfree chums figure?
The main thing that both my ‘mummy’ mates and myself discuss if we talk about you is how much we miss you, and we know there are times we don’t see each other or talk enough. You know us for us. We know each other’s souls and what really makes us smile before this parenting life just sort of happened, and we still value that. On the otherside it feels like you still know who you are, whereas sometimes as a mum you feel you’ve lost sight a little bit of who you are.
When it comes to our relationship with the women in our lives who do not have children, myself and the mums I know well, feel like we are constantly neglecting our childfree friends, those true and longstanding friends. But it’s not intentional, life just seems to have become a little too overwhelming. Tiny things seem to have become achievements and because of that we feel a little boring to you.
Nobody I know judges their friends for being childfree, just in the same way as I am sure my friends don’t judge me for being a mother. We’re all just a little bit out of sync.
Unfortunately most groups suffer stereotyping from others. There are people out there that criticise mothers, and mothers that make assumptions about woman without children. However I think they’re always going to be these judgemental types. The sort of woman that judges a childfree female, probably judges fellow mothers and the way they are raising their children too. They’re probably the ones who ask you the ultra personal question ‘why don’t you have kids?’ the 1st time they meet you.
The truth; most mums I know admire you. We think you are bold, you are brave, and we talk about how you are not doing all the things you are expected to do by society and that is kind of fearless and strong. Hopefully, you admire us too.
But enough of the divide, the you and us.
It is International Woman’s Day on March 8th. And whereas it is good to have an official day to remember our solidarity let’s try and also remember we can be united as women whatever the day. Here’s to us all whatever our shape, size or circumstance. Life is happening to us all around the world and as women we’re all doing the best we can, let us always endeavour to be the best at friendship we can be.