Regardless of the myriad reasons for a life without children, many have experienced one common silent battle; feeling abandoned by friends who became immersed in motherhood. Some say they woke up one day, often in their mid to late 30s, and realised 20-year friendships have been put on the back burner because their friends had little time or, in some cases, too little inclination for a social life that didn’t revolve around their young family or other mothers.
Voicing these concerns publicly is somewhat of a taboo; there’s plenty of media discourse and blogs about how to balance motherhood with work, the struggles of women who seek to become parents through IVF and the dilemmas faced by women who are full-time mothers. And celebrity motherhood is fetishised in tabloid tales of the baby-making exploits of Kim Kardashian, Angelina Jolie’s frantic rate of adoption, and speculation over Jennifer Aniston’s “agony” at her childless status.
But admitting to feeling marginalised by friends for having not propagated the species is akin to outing yourself as a Miss Haversham figure surrounded by cats and knitting needles.
Fiona, a 37-year-old who never wanted children, says motherhood has been a “friendship terminator” for her.
– See more at: http://www.independent.ie/life/family/family-features/i-have-lost-friends-because-i-dont-have-children-30366530.html#sthash.PZ5vlhqo.fxJGpqiw.dpuf
You quote the author as: “admitting to feeling marginalised by friends for having not propagated the species.” The word “admitting” is telling as it presupposes that the phrase that follows states a truism.
Perhaps friends take action that results in a formerly close girlfriend feeling marginalized, NOT because that formerly close girlfriend has chosen not to propagate the species, but rather, because someone else has come along, whether it be a child or a lover or a spouse or another mother who is undergoing a contemporaneous experience similar to the abandoning friend’s own experience, who is more interesting to the abandoning friend, with whom the abandoning friend wants to spend more time, as a consequence of which, such abandoning friend spends less time with the formerly close girlfriend and is less interested in the formerly close girlfriend, and hence, seems to have “marginalized” the formerly close girlfriend.
Maybe acknowledging that possibility would be even more painful to the formerly close girlfriend than supposing that she has been “rejected” for not propagating the species. That way, the formerly close girlfriend has a soapbox on which to decry her victimization as the marginalized non-propagator.
You have written, Ranty, about people you know who got married and had children, who later become marginalized by their spouse who chooses to leave them. Is such abandoned spouse’s distress due to the marginalization of having chosen the spouse/motherhood path, or is it because someone with whom she has had a formerly close personal relationship is no longer interested in her?
And what about the mother whose children flee the nest? Have they abandoned their mother, or are they just doing what children do, grow into their own lives, some of whom are not so interested in the lives of their parents.
Even you have said, Ranty, that you have chosen not to continue in relationships with men with whom there are not enough commonalities, or something to that effect. When one’s friends move into a new situation, by getting married, or having a child, for example, they naturally begin to have less in common with their friends who are not likewise moving in a similar direction.
Is a person’s drifting away from the marginalized non-propagater who wrote the piece from which you quote any different from a decision by that same writer not to continue with a friendship (whether it be with a male or a female) for any number of reasons where the activities or interests of the two no longer (or never did) coincide?
I understand your angst about a deep personal desire not having been fulfilled, and I am avid reader of your blog. I did, however, want to address the assumption the writer of the piece from which you quoted seems to have made when she used the word “admitting” in the phrase quoted above.
Hmmm, I don’t know, it seems pretty common for childless women to speak of losing their friends once they become mothers. In fact, it’s a story I’ve heard over and over.
I don’t doubt that. Then there are the single men who lose their buddies when their buddies become married. Or the married men, who don’t hang out with their single buddies anymore.
When the Mom doesn’t work there may be more time, but more logistical hoops to getting together. For example: we have one car, which my husband takes to work. Getting a stroller, carrier, diaper bag, etc. on the bus is challenging. Additionally, there are difficulties that new Moms need to talk about, but are often told that they should just be grateful for what they have. Of course we are grateful, but we are also tired, isolated and facing new challenges that our society does not prepare us for. As an older Mom, my own mother has already passed away, making the experience even more isolating.
great point wG. i totally agree.
i think a lot of the perception of being “abandoned” on the part of childless women comes from a heightened sensitivity resulting from living a life less travelled.
mother friends are not actively rejecting the childless friend. it’s more pull than push. they are just following their interests and these differ to those of the childless friend. division appears and friendships may not survive. this happens all through life – leaving school, going to college, first jobs, moving town, getting married, taking up a hobby …
childless women can struggle to let go of these friendships as quickly as they should because they are the party playing catch up and needing to find their “baby”, be that new friends, hobby, whatever. noone questions friends loosing touch as they move from school to college and different professions. we’d be a lot kinder to ourselves and proactive if we remembered that. it would also help to lessen the bitter stereotype.
I think a lot of it has to do with general “busyness”… some of my friends who have had kids have blatantly moved on, but others have tried to maintain the friendship. The latter camp, however, especially if working full-time, are just really overwhelmed, so are just unable to keep in touch much despite their attempts to do so.
sure, perhaps some of it is busyness but it’s busyness born of life choices e.g. working fulltime and having children really does mean not much to zero free time outside of family events. it also has the same net offering to the childless friend: not much. i think a lot of chidlless women struggle to accept the reality of this situation quicker than might benefit them. the mother friend is also not blogging about this change in her friendships. she filled her plate with something else and getting stuck in. the childless women would be wise to do likewise.
Yes, I still make some time for those friends who have kids and want to keep a connection, but I know that the friendship will never be the same, or at least not for a very long time. Most likely I will hear from them sporadically via email or, if get-togethers occur, I will have to drive to see them and accommodate their schedules and priorities. So I immediately know upon the pregnancy news that the friendship will take a much smaller role in my life. It hurt when I was younger but I am used to it now.
Perhaps my follow up comment just illustrates a point different from the one that I made in my first comment, however. That is that it is the status of the one left behind that cause the breach in the relationship.
wG: “You quote the author as: “admitting to feeling marginalised by friends for having not propagated the species.” The word “admitting” is telling as it presupposes that the phrase that follows states a truism.”
I don’t dispute your wider point, but…
“Admitting to feeling that…” does not presuppose that the phrase that follows is true (which I assume is what you mean by “truism”). It is a report of a feeling or perspective, which may or may not be true; may or may not be deeply held. The key is in the word “feeling”.
I acknowledge your point, zoe, and I noticed it too, after I posted my comment. One’s feeling may be right or wrong, as you suggest. What I was addressing is the portion of the phrase following the word “feeling” (which I noticed after I posted the comment); i.e. “marginalised by friends for having not propagated the species.” But you already know that, I think, as you do not “dispute [my] wider point.”
What is missing, perhaps, from the discussion of this excerpt posted by Ranty (I did not click the link to read the whole article that was quoted), is a discussion of another form of relationship from which the author of the quoted piece might be excluded.
The focus of the quote is the feeling of alienation from the relationship with friends, and in particular, formerly close friends. But another current underlying this blog is the sense of loss relating to the passing of the practical opportunity to bear and raise children.
Relationships with friends (or with a mate, even) is one thing, and a relationship with a child can be another thing altogether. I think that it is possible that one might experience love in a parent-child relationship that is an entirely different experience than the love one might feel for a friend or a spouse.
Perhaps it is easier and more natural (although it is not necessarily a given) to have a love that is unencumbered with expectation, want, need, or demand with one’s child than with any other person.
If that is true, then that might explain why friends of a new mother might find themselves marginalized in comparison to the relationship their friend has just entered with the interloper new child.
But it is not only friends who feel this. Even the husband of a new mother might feel that his relationship with his wife becomes “marginalized” when a child enters the picture.