How can I keep my child free friends in my life when I decide to have a child?
March 27, 2012 8:43 AM   Subscribe

How can I keep my child free friends in my life when I decide to have a child?

Brief background: Living in a city with my husband. No family support. Our friends are our family, and have been for many decades. They are my support network, my brothers and sisters, my everything.

They are also vehemently child free. They know I have never self identified as child free. They roll their eyes at babies. They call pregnant women “breeders” and say “I hate children” openly.

It specifically hurts me because my mother’s best friend growing up also openly hated children. She would say very passive aggressive things when I was around when I was a child, and one of my more painful memories was me being 9 and finding a letter she wrote to my mom talking about how my mom’s life would have been easier if I was never born, kids are terrible things that ruin your life, and I was a horrible, ugly child. I have always doubted myself since reading that letter, and at 9 it just made me feel like the most worthless person in the world.

I have never mentioned this to anyone except my husband. Honestly, it is painful to even write about it. Yes, I am in therapy before you suggest that.

We’re going to be trying to have a child in the next year. I really don’t want my future kid to have to feel bad that they were born. I don’t think my friends would ever write a letter like that, but I could see the passive aggressive comments, or possibly them just ditching me altogether.

I realize one answer is DTMF, but losing all of my friends in one swoop seems insane to me. Do I sit them down before we conceive? Do I just keep them completely uninformed the entire time? If you are child free, or you really hate children, how do you address friendships with people who become pregnant? I don’t want to threaten or challenge their beliefs….. is there a way I can make it work?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (79 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
As someone who is childfree, my suggestions would be to try to stay as much who you are with your friends. This might sound mean, but I know a lot of people with kids have a hard time talking about anything except their children. The more you remain YOU, the less problems your friends are going to have.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:47 AM on March 27, 2012 [39 favorites]

If your friends don't like children and you plan on having children, do you really want to maintain them as your friends?

I'm not sure if all of your friends hate children or if it's just some, but you need to think about how their negative reactions to children/babies will affect you once you're overwhelmed with the task of caring for a young child. Many people end up drifting away from their childless friends, for better or worse. Some don't.
posted by dfriedman at 8:50 AM on March 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

Do I sit them down before we conceive? DEFINITELY not. Way TMI! And why bring people who you imagine won't be supportive in that early? Sounds like a recipe for disappointment.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:53 AM on March 27, 2012 [7 favorites]

You will likely find new friends by virtue of childbirth classes, your child's friends, parent groups, and so on. You don't need to be friends with all of them, certainly, but your social circle will expand.
posted by mkb at 8:53 AM on March 27, 2012 [13 favorites]

I'm child-free but don't hate children. I think kids are cool, even though I don't feel the need to own one. So, I say "congratulations!" Then I babysit once in a while, and enjoy dinner parties where one or more of the attendants is messy and in a high chair.

stay as much who you are with your friends.

I agree, but that shouldn't mean continuing to bite your tounge when friends express such nasty sentiments. Their parents were 'breeders,' after all. If you like kids, say so. Stand up for that. Then if your friends want to dump you, that's on them. I seriously doubt that ALL of them would do such a thing.
posted by jon1270 at 8:54 AM on March 27, 2012 [20 favorites]

I don't care for children. I also would never do what your mother's friend did to you. It sounds like that person had something else going on other than not wanting kids; they either had a specific dislike of you, or (more likely) resented their changing friendship with your mom.

If your friends are the kind of people who would do that sort of thing to your kid, there is nothing you can do. But they are almost certainly not like that. More likely is that their will be a mutual decrease in interest in spending time together as your lives have become very different.

If you want to maintain their friendship, try to see them without the kid in tow, and don't spend all your time talking to about your kids. Most people, even people who don't like kids, can deal with some expected level of kid-time. I have no problem seeing someone's kid, or playing with them a bit. But I don't really want to converse about them beyond the basics, or be part of "kid time".

If you can keep their experience of your friendship similar to what it has been, they will probably not change much.
posted by spaltavian at 8:54 AM on March 27, 2012 [6 favorites]

In my experience, you can't.

And your children will be better off for it.

Sometimes parents have to make decisions in the best interests of their children, and those decisions sometimes include not hanging around people who would be bad for your children. And those can and will often include people who hate children openly, or even secretly and passive aggressively as your mother's friend did.

BUT, there are thousands of opportunities to make new friends once you have kids, too. It can be hard in the first few months, but if you join playgroups or your kid goes to daycare, then school, new friends abound for both you and your kids!
posted by zizzle at 8:55 AM on March 27, 2012 [7 favorites]

I disagree. I think sitting them down and saying to them that you're trying to have a child and you're going to need them to be supportive of you and not openly hostile about kids when you're around. If they can't do that, then you wish them all the best.

But yes, I think it's important to bring this up with them and let them know that for you, their open hostility is a dealbreaker.
posted by yellowcandy at 8:55 AM on March 27, 2012 [11 favorites]

People that are child free and people that are bigoted against people that have children are two different groups. Staying friends with the first group is no big deal. Staying friends with the second group will be difficult to near impossible, and really, why would you want to be friends with bigots anyway?

Plus, people with kids the same age tend to naturally gravitate towards each other. Without kids, you probably don't even notice the number of people around you with kids. Once you have kids, you'll notice.
posted by COD at 8:55 AM on March 27, 2012 [24 favorites]

I can't imagine that your friends would be directly hostile to your children the way you describe your mother's friend. That is an outlier among outliers for assholishness.

If you want to keep your friends, I agree-- try to stay the same person as much as you can, at least around them. When you hang out, get a sitter when possible. If they don't like kids, don't make spending time around the kids a condition for seeing you.

I'm showing my own bias by saying that, but really, your friends will self-select to match your new life. And tell them when you tell everyone else. Don't let them control your life.
posted by supercres at 8:56 AM on March 27, 2012 [5 favorites]

Yes, I wish to also add that people who don't want kids themselves is a different class of people who think kids just shouldn't exist or be in public ever.

The latter are impossible to be friends with. The former it totally is.

But if one of your friends is saying, "I hate children," and means it---you'll have to decide if that friendship or your child is more important.
posted by zizzle at 8:58 AM on March 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't have or want kids, so I'll go ahead and write this from the perspective of the clueless non-parent.

I do generally adore my friends' kids. That said...make sure you get a freakin' babysitter sometimes. Unless your kids are specifically included on an invite, assume they're not invited. I'd go so far as to say that you shouldn't even ask if you can bring them, because your friends may not want them there but feel bad about saying so. Similarly, if your kids will be at a party or a dinner or a whatever you invite your friends to, make sure they know it, just so they know what to expect from the event. Do invite them to spend time with your kids, because they might find themselves charmed. But understand if it remains not their thing.

Limit your adorable anecdotes to just the most precious, and have that be one of a rotating variety of topics. Try to keep up with your other interests, especially those you have in common.

So that's all stuff you can do/keep in mind, but...if your friends are assholes about you having kids, probably get new friends. Your friendships may change. That's okay.
posted by ferociouskitty at 8:58 AM on March 27, 2012 [45 favorites]

Some friends in question are active on mefi.

Are they aware that you want to have kids? If not, you should tell them, simply because you're friends and your life will be changing, and possibly your relationship with them (for good or bad).

Be yourself and your friends be them and decide for themselves if they want to continue with behavior and comments that hurt you. There's no guarantee that you can keep them, but why would you want to if they're that negative about your life choices?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:58 AM on March 27, 2012

Your friends that truly care will continue to be your friends. I don't know what it means to "remain you" as someone put it upthread - this is a change that affects every part of your life. You won't be exactly the same person.

I'm a parent of 3. Some of my friendships waned after I had them, others continued / grew, and I started some new ones as well.

Don't subject your kids to people that openly dislike them for things they can't control.
posted by MustardTent at 8:58 AM on March 27, 2012 [5 favorites]

Regardless of everyone's attitudes towards kids, you with kids and them without is naturally going to lead to an increase in distance, simply because you won't be able to join in as many group activities as you once did, and your priorities will clearly shift. You'll be living in different worlds.

Some of your friends will split, sure, but others, knowing that your kids are so important to you because that's who you are now, will stick around.

So to stay friends, albeit not as tight as before, stay connected, but don't be too in your face about the details. (Like, no FB status updates about baby's bowel movements. Some people just Don't Care, and would rather not have to block you. For example.)
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:58 AM on March 27, 2012

Also- don't tell anybody you are trying to conceive. That is just asking for nosy inquiries about the progress in that area. For all you know, conception may not be in the cards for you and your partner. The last you want to add to the stress of trying to conceive is people asking how it's going.
posted by COD at 8:59 AM on March 27, 2012 [8 favorites]

Give them a chance. If they're truly good friends, they'll come to accept and love your child, too, and see that you're not the stereotypical bad parent they're always observing (or looking for) out and about. People do change and mature. I've never disliked children, but there have been times in my life when random children in inappropriate places have gotten on my nerves. These days it doesn't really bother me so much.

Have you ever talked to your mother about her friend's letter? She could really throw some light on the situation--maybe her friend was going through a difficult time, or maybe she herself reacted to it badly. Talking about it might help make it seem less terrible and devastating than it was to your 9-year-old self. Adults can be incredibly self-centered and not realize the effect that casual, even inadvertent cruelty can have on young children of their acquaintance.
posted by tully_monster at 8:59 AM on March 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

I have kept my child-free friends by both of us making an effort. They at least pretend to care about my kids, bless them, and I very sincerely care about things other than my kids (politics, food, shoes... the list goes on!) so we maintain common ground. If they expected me to ... not have kids, they'd be disappointed. I also value them as whole people, including the fact that they don't want kids and love their lives without kids, and it's great to have a break from being Mommy all the time. In short, we meet each other halfway.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 8:59 AM on March 27, 2012 [5 favorites]

Once they know you're pregnant, you'll find out the level of vehemence first-hand. Some child-free people can't stop being dicks about it -- although your mother's friend is the ad absurdum case of that -- and you're better off without them. Others just don't want to ever have kids of their own and will be happy for you and may even (although I wouldn't depend on it) be up for babysitting and so on. There's no way for us to tell, although your pre-conceptions of your friends will be challenged -- hopefully for the better! -- once they know that someone close to them is expecting.
posted by griphus at 9:00 AM on March 27, 2012 [5 favorites]

Your mom's friend was a jerk, and your mom should have burned that letter so you'd never see it.

I, generally, do not like children, but I like my friends' and family's children well enough. The affection I feel for the parents carries over to their kids, and some of your friends might be the same. This isn't limitless, though, and when a child is being a brat or screeching or otherwise being unpleasant, I might try to graciously extricate myself. I would not, however, say nasty or passive aggressive things about the kid, especially in front of her. If you and your friends can't find a middle ground between "even my baby's poops are precious" and "children are vermin," then you're going to lose friends. The responsibility for maintaining the friendship lies with both sides, though.
posted by Mavri at 9:00 AM on March 27, 2012 [14 favorites]

I'm so sorry you had that experience as a kid. Your mother's friend was not a good friend.

I have made the decision not to have kids and yeah, I do make the occasional barbs about breeders, especially around my child-free friends. I do this because having kids seems to be what's expected of adults, or worse, because those of us who are childless have to deal with smug, sanctimonious new parents who blithely assure us that we don't truly understand many things about life -- the depth of love, the tenderness, the sacrifice -- because we don't have kids. It's irritating. Read any mommy blog for examples.

But my friends and family have kids now, and I love my friends and family. Having kids makes them happy, so I am happy for them because I love them. End of story. Parenting has changed them but they remain, at the core, the same. I try to be a good aunt, and my new-parent friends tone down the potty training stories around me. But they also forge friendships with other new parents who want to exchange potty training stories. I don't see them as often because they get sucked into family life, but that's just sort of how these things go.
posted by mochapickle at 9:01 AM on March 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

I think you need to have a conversation with your various (close) friends -- doubtless some of them are childfree for themselves but not fussed if you have kids (and their "breeder" language is mostly a reaction against society's assumptions about children; they may even enjoy your kid, because library kids (the ones you borrow and then return) are the best!); some of them are childfree and indifferent to other people's children, so they won't really like yours and may think it's odd that you had kids, but will just shrug about it; and some of them are childfree and not interested in being friends with people who have children.

I can say if you're a stay-at-home-parent (as I am), it's much harder to maintain those friendships because the only damn thing I have to talk about is my kids. I can FEEL myself getting more boring to people who don't have kids and aren't interested in having them. (I know when they're less all-consuming I'll be interesting again, but good gracious I'm currently dull.) The working moms I know have more adult things to talk about than I do.

Also with little kids, they go to bed pretty early once they start sleeping regularly. It's tough for me to get a sitter and go out very often, but once 7:30 rolls around my toddler is asleep (baby goes down at 8:30 but I can pawn him off on his dad until then) and if my friends are willing to come to MY house, we can have a nice dinner (I cook!), we can have drinks on the patio, we can watch terrible movies, all until quite late. And then at least once a month I can leave the kids with my husband and go out ALOOOOOONE with my friends. That's tough when the baby is small, but as the baby's needs get less frenzied, I can go out for longer periods and with fewer crises at home. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:02 AM on March 27, 2012 [9 favorites]

I'm childfree by choice. Between my friends and my niece and nephew, there are a lot of little ones making their way into my life in the last couple of years. Not wanting to have kids has raised a few eyebrows and elicited some unwelcome advice ("Well, you'll change your mind once you have your own!" "It's different when they're your own." "Your life will be so much fuller") but it's almost always some person who is on the fringe, not a close friend or family member, so their opinion doesn't count anyway. Most of my close group are childfree (ranging from "no effin' way!" to "haven't gotten around to it") but none of them get on like the folks you have described above. I would be telling them to cool it with the anti-parenting shit or finding myself some new friends if I were you.

My friends with kids are still the same friends I had before. We can still talk about books, music, politics, whatever. Yes, the kids will dominate the proceedings if they're around, but I'm okay with that. Heck, I like the little buggers.

In short, my parent friends don't give me shit about not having kids and my childfree friends don't judge those who have kids. To have or not to have. Both are perfectly valid life choices that don't have to be "approved" by anybody but you and your hubby.
posted by futureisunwritten at 9:02 AM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'll answer as an urban-based person with no kids of my own, but plenty of friends with kids. I personally do not identify as "child free" in the sense of "anti-child" (which frankly sounds like what that might be a euphemism for).

First, not knowing your personal friends at all, I think you should consider the possibility that you are reading too much into your friends' anti-child statements. I know tons of people who roll their eyes and say "oh, not another baby," "I'm sick of all these babies," etc. But I think generally it comes from a place of frustration that their old lives and social connections are being replaced with this new crowd of friends-with-children. They don't actually, you know, HATE kids. And when kids are around, they're nice enough.

Which kind of leads me to the second point: it would be useful, to the extent you can, to distinguish between the treatment you received as a child and the stuff your current friends are saying. It sounds like you were frankly emotionally abused by your mom's friend, and that's terrible. Your current friends might be spouting off some rhetoric that reminds you of that, but they probably don't mean it the same way. If you are convinced that they really do deeply hate children and parents, you need to terminate the friendships stat.

But, if you don't think that's required, try to take a deep breath and give them the benefit of the doubt that they'll be able to dial it back w/r/t your specific baby. You can check in with them on this; you might want to start light-hearted and jokey, like the next time they are expressing frustration with babies, respond with "ha ha, you know I'm going to have one someday, we can still be friends, right?" And they might even squawk about "oh no, not you too!" for a little while, but they should ultimately reassure you that, yes, they will even like you when you have a baby. That's what friends are for.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 9:03 AM on March 27, 2012 [6 favorites]

From the time you announce your pregnancy, your friends will naturally let you know how they feel, and that will make it easier - anyone who acts like an asshole to you about it will be a lot easier for you to drop. Others may surprise you. But I think this is something that will pan itself out on its own. When you have a newborn, you generally have no time for friends. You can barely even shower.

Even among people who love kids, when friends start having children they drop off their friends' map, and it takes a lot of effort to get back together. Things like early bedtimes, unreliable or expensive babysitters, and frequent colds, make it harder to find time to get together with childfree couples as well. What usually happens is, you make an effort, and the people who matter most to you (and you to them) find ways to make it work. And the others sort of fall away and you see them on facebook or email from time to time.

You also start hanging out more with other people with kids, because you want your kids to socialize. So you meet people at lamaze class or the day care or the playground or a mommy meetup, and they become your new group (even when sometimes you would never have picked them as friends) because your kids like each other and you still have this Thing in common.

I probably wouldn't tell your current friends about trying to conceive, though. It can be a fraught enough process without having to worry about people "humorously" trying to talk you out of it. People really don't realize sometimes that their casual words can hurt.
posted by Mchelly at 9:03 AM on March 27, 2012

Or, what Mavri says. :)
posted by mochapickle at 9:03 AM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, I agree with this perspective on the mechanics of staying in touch:

If you want to maintain their friendship, try to see them with the kid [not?] in tow, and don't spend all your time talking to about your kids. Most people, even people who don't like kids, can deal with some expected level of kid-time.

Continue making efforts to hang out with them. Go sans-kid when you can, but they also need to understand that the kid is a priority in your life right now that they will need to deal with sometimes.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 9:06 AM on March 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

I didn't have any militant ChildFree friends before having children, but I had plenty of childless-unmarried-and-happy-with-it friends. I still see them for nights out once every few months and my kids are 5 and 10. I like having friends who know me outside of carpool and bake sale. I don't go on and on about my kids at these events, but my friends recognize them as an important part of my life and I never get any passive-aggressive comments. If I did, I certainly wouldn't make the effort to maintain my friendship with them.

I'll throw out WoW guilds as a way to keep in contact with childfree people. You won't actually see them, of course, but you can hang out and do an activity together while the baby sleeps in the next room. Lots of targets for absorbing your friends' anger -- and I'm pretty sure the game blocks them from shooting the village kids.
posted by apparently at 9:07 AM on March 27, 2012

If these people are openly nasty towards children, then your only option might be to see them without your kid.

But give them a chance to NOT be nasty towards your kids.

I think sometimes this situation depends on how the parents treat having kids. For some people, their whole world shifts with a kid. For others, people keep living the lives they have lived, and fit the kid into that life. Try to do the later if these friends are important. Don't give up your other shared interests. Don't stop going out for dinner. Don't stop inviting people to your house. Don't stop saying yes when you're invited to go out. These things are sometimes hard to do, because you'll be tired and busy and enamored of your kid. But it can be done.
posted by dpx.mfx at 9:07 AM on March 27, 2012

Is it possible that the anti-kid bias that your friends are feeling is masking real resentment due to infertility? I ask because when I was in the throes of infertility, I *really disliked* women who had babies because they had what I could not.

That being said and regardless of where their anti-kid feelings are coming from, I agree that you should not tell them that you are thinking of having a baby. But, I do think it's time to begin to call them out on their anti-kid talk - not in a "hey, don't say that" kind of way, but more of an inquisitive, "why do you feel this way?" way. It can have the benefit of engaging them in a meaningful dialogue in which you might be able to get them to be a little more open to the idea of people having kids and still being adults.

We work really, really hard to maintain our friendships with our friends who don't have kids. Babysitters are a key component to this but, we also make sure that we don't talk about our kid too much. And, honestly, between hubby and I we're tired of talking about the kid by the time it's date night - we want to talk about anything but the kid. We want to have adult conversation and hear about our kid-free friends' adventures.
posted by Leezie at 9:08 AM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

It specifically hurts me because my mother’s best friend growing up also openly hated children. She would say very passive aggressive things when I was around when I was a child, and one of my more painful memories was me being 9 and finding a letter she wrote to my mom talking about how my mom’s life would have been easier if I was never born, kids are terrible things that ruin your life, and I was a horrible, ugly child.

This is the salient fact here. Don't assume that your mom's best friend actually hated children, per se; it seems she hated the fact that she lost a part of your mom's friendship, she hated that children represented a loss of independence and freedom.

As for your friends, they are not your mom's best friend. Don't assume they are. It seems clear to me that the letter deeply affected you, but I'll be the first to say it's complete bogus, and it reflects on your mom's best friend and NOT on you!. Not everybody that says they hate kids will think how your mom's best friend thinks; in fact, based on personal experience, NOBODY actually thinks that way. Don't equate your friends now with your mom's best friend.

From my personal experience, by the way, people that say they hate kids, including open snark at kids and parents in public .... they love kids when the kids are from people they love. Give your friends the benefit of the doubt.
posted by jabberjaw at 9:10 AM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Give them a chance. If they're truly good friends, they'll come to accept and love your child, too

Or not. Just because I love a friend doesn't necessarily I love their family, too.

I don't really like children, but I'm not an ogre. I am not openly hostile to my friends' children - I'm polite to them, I chat up the older ones and make funny faces at the younger ones. Do I love the kids like I love my friends? No. Does that make me a bad friend? No.

What I'm saying is, your friends don't need to love your kids. They need to be polite and understanding and understanding with them - and with you, in your new role as a parent.
posted by Elly Vortex at 9:10 AM on March 27, 2012 [7 favorites]

that second "understanding" should be "respectful". D'oh.
posted by Elly Vortex at 9:10 AM on March 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yes, I wish to also add that people who don't want kids themselves is a different class of people who think kids just shouldn't exist or be in public ever.

The latter are impossible to be friends with. The former it totally is.

Those aren't the only two choices, I just want to point out. There are also people who don't like kids, but are themselves adults and capable of being polite, friendly and not abusive to friend's kids.
posted by spaltavian at 9:11 AM on March 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

As someone who has chosen not to have children, I think people who slag off parents and children with language like "breeder" are wastes of oxygen. They should respect your choices, just as you respect theirs.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:12 AM on March 27, 2012 [9 favorites]

I do this because having kids seems to be what's expected of adults, or worse, because those of us who are childless have to deal with smug, sanctimonious new parents who blithely assure us that we don't truly understand many things about life -- the depth of love, the tenderness, the sacrifice -- because we don't have kids. It's irritating. Read any mommy blog for examples.

This. Don't be that parent. A friend of mine once told me that she wanted to put her (older, bad-tempered) cat down because she was too much trouble. I must have looked aghast, because she said, "Look, I hate to say it, but when you have children, your pets don't matter nearly so much to you. Your pets are your children." She just didn't get it. Our cats are our good friends and companions, and if we had had children, we would have continued to treat them that way and to bring our children up to treat them that way, with love and respect and compassion as they got older. They are not and have never been child-substitutes.

I bring this up as an example of the kind of insensitive, superior attitude mochapickle is describing. You'll be experiencing everything for the first time, and it may seem to you that you suddenly have all this knowledge and wisdom about life that you want to share with your friends who have not been so gifted or enlightened. Suppress that impulse, because they won't appreciate being told that despite being happily married for years or maybe decades they don't really know what love or sacrifice really is because they haven't reproduced. And they may even look upon you with pity (it took HAVING A BABY to figure out what love is? Really?)

Newly married people often do the same thing--ahem.
posted by tully_monster at 9:13 AM on March 27, 2012 [39 favorites]

I dated a girl with a huge hatered for children and would express it openly. Many people told me that she should really reflect on whats she is saying and how it comes across, but that wont change her.

Granted, I am not a fan of kids, but hey, just because its not my bag, doesnt mean it isnt someone elses. Everyone has their own personal choice. I just couldnt see a child a.) Inherit my shit genes, b.) Change my life around anothers, and c.) I really just dont like the idea of responsibility over another life. Props to the people that do it, but as of right now in my life, a kid would be a shackle, a ball and chain, an 18 year curse.

Some of my friends will soon be popping out kids soon I am sure. I will be nothing but happy and supportive. To be honest, kids around sometimes like some of my cousins is an enjoyable time, but in small small doses. I would hope though my friends dont become annoying, "my child is so special, look at this piece of shit crayon drawing, isnt IT mensa material?", but since I value these people tremendously and love them as people, I hope I'd be nothing but supportive.

Anyways, my 2 cents from someone who really doesnt care for kids personally.
posted by handbanana at 9:13 AM on March 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Give people a chance to change their minds. However, anyone who makes it a point to openly trash-talk you, your partner, and/or your child repeatedly is DTMFA material. I don't know if I'd call it bigotry per se, but it's certainly not acceptable behavior on either a biological or social level unless there's an actual physical threat from any of you, of which the chance is essentially zero.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:15 AM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm one of those people without kids by choice and I've probably made the occasional "Boy I sure am happy to be living a life without kids!" statement from time to time. Over time the group of friends that I've had has changed and shifted and some of that has been friends having kids. And it can really go a number of different ways depending on a lot of things. I am still good friends with some of my kid-having friends and less good friends with others, we just drifted apart some. In no case do I think that the kid is in any way the cause of any of that. I think that's an appalling way to think about someone's family member and to say that sort of thing out loud shows a shocking lack of manners.

And some people just like to complain when they feel that they are among like-minded folks [the "breeder" comments which I also find sort of uncool but maybe more understandable] and your friends will have to decide if their commitment to child-freeness in all its forms takes precedence over their good friends' decision to conceive. I suspect that it will not. And you will have to decide if keeping their friendship possibly meaning you spend some time with them without your children is possible, acceptable or a dealbreaker. And some of this is just a "bad fit" sort of thing too. I have some friends with children who are louder, more needy, more destructive, that sort of thing. I have other friends who have children who are more interactive, more pleasant, more agreeable. I also have friends who are parents who are good at balancing the needs and concerns of their children with the needs and concerns of the other people in the room, and some who are less good at this. All of these are valid choices and ways to be a person, a child, or a parent, but some of them are less optimal for me and I can decide what I want to do about that. I can't be in a room with someone crying for more than maybe 15-20 minutes, just can't, my brain shuts down. So if this is a situation with my friends-with-kids it's my situation to manage and if they can help great, and if they don' want to that is also a valid choice but a bad fit.

So part of what you can do is let people know when you are pregnant, let them know how stoked you are about it, let the conversation take its course. If people continue to make snarky comments maybe politely tell people that you find them hurtful and/or inappropriate and/or off-limits for further discussion. One of the things about kid-having decisions is that it's a clear "We are doing this as a couple and we'd love your continued support/acceptance but really the decision has been made" situation. Be comfortable and confident with your situation and good luck.
posted by jessamyn at 9:23 AM on March 27, 2012 [6 favorites]

It will be hard at first. Really hard. I say this as someone who is 9.5 months pregnant, with plenty of friends who don't have and aren't interested in having kids. The advice to get babysitters and talk about things other than your kids is great advice, but pretty near impossible at the beginning. If you're going to lose them as friends, that's when it's going to happen.

I've always been determined not to lose my personal identity and interests when I have kids, but I think it's a little unavoidable at the beginning. I'm on maternity leave from work (which in Canada is a full year) - and so my whole life is currently centred around getting ready for the baby and then getting through the next year. When friends ask me how I am, the literal only thing I have to talk about is the pregnancy and the upcoming baby. That is all that is going on in my life at the moment, which is kind of how it has to be right now.

The thing is, my friends (even the child-free ones) care about me and realize that this is an important part of my life. So they care about the upcoming child. They don't have to want kids of their own to care that something big is happening in my life. I don't want a PhD in parasitology, but I am thrilled that my good friend has almost completed hers. People who don't care about the important things in your life are not your friends. It doesn't matter if they have or want kids or not.

Don't be an ass and do nothing but talk about your kids (just like my PhD friend doesn't only talk about parasitology), but you should be comfortable sharing the important things in your life, and when you have a child that will certainly be one of them.
posted by arcticwoman at 9:25 AM on March 27, 2012 [17 favorites]

If you want to keep your childless friends, make sure you make time to hang out with them without the child present, especially when the child is quite young. Social settings that include a child become about the child and your grownup friends are going to want to have a grownup time with you (and this is a fine thing - I'd warrant you'll be craving some grownup time yourself). You can't really do grownup time if a child who needs attention keeps interrupting it. Better that the child stays home with your husband or a babysitter and your friends get to have time with you, not you plus child.
posted by EatTheWeek at 9:25 AM on March 27, 2012 [7 favorites]

How old are your friends? It's pretty common in my experience for urban 20-somethings to have little to no interest in kids. My mid-30s cohort is now largely on the baby train. The secret to keeping friends is to continue your interests and not expect everyone to be as attached to your baby as you are. I have let some friendships slide when it became clear that the only topic of conversation allowed would be what color little Bort's bowel movements are.

For the record, I have no offspring.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 9:26 AM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have a good friend who, along with her husband, go out of their way to sneer at kids, comment on pregnant women, etc. We have grown apart since I had children, and I really don't miss their friendship. When we do see each other, we have fun, but there is definitely a loss of closeness. I am ok with that. They can make a choice to not want to be involved with my family, and that have done so. Life changes, and we must change along with it without sacrificing what is truly important. My friends who have chosen not to have kids are willing to be flexible at times and I think they find they enjoy the kid-inclusive time more than they thought they would.

If your friends really are your family, I imagine this could be very stressful for you...Stress is not good (as you probably know) when you're trying to conceive, when you're pregnant, and so on. There is enough stress involved already. I wonder if you can just focus on you and your wish to become pregnant, with the knowledge that your friends will accept this change and hopefully even welcome it. Those who actively do NOT accept and welcome a new baby into their lives are people that you probably do not want too involved in your life and your family's life.

I'm all for adult-only time and I make sure it happens. I'm also all for including the kids...they exist and I would argue that they generally enhance life and life's happenings, at the very least.

Bottom line: focus on you and what you want out of life. Yes, you want a baby. Yes, you want to maintain your close friends who are your family. People who truly care about YOU and want a relationship with YOU will make their own adjustments. Let go of the fear and make the life that you want. The people that want to be in your life will follow.
posted by retrofitted at 9:27 AM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

As time moves on your friends will change. Those that like you for you will stay with you and those that feel you have now enlisted to the other side will dump you, or you will dump them. Just let life move on in that way.

Aside from that, I wouldn't want people in my life who oozed hate in that manner. Enjoy the new friends you'll make, they will be your new support group.
posted by zombieApoc at 9:27 AM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

To me, the "Crotchfruit suck, breeders are brainwashed" rhetoric is just the flip side of "Being a parent is bliss and if you don't do it you are a joyless stick" garbage.

As a 47-year-old woman who chose not to parent, I get that the constant hype about procreation is annoying. I really do.

But I don't think being an asshole to or about kids is at all reasonable. We were all kids once.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:27 AM on March 27, 2012 [7 favorites]

They roll their eyes at babies. They call pregnant women “breeders” and say “I hate children” openly.

Either your friends are immature assholes who, when faced with the reality of real children belonging to people they care about, will grow up, or they are awful people who shouldn't be your friends because they don't care about you.

People like that make me - a person who doesn't have or want children - angry and they make me look bad.

You will have to wait and see how the dust settles. It would be kind of you to provide some slack to the ones who straighten up. Anyone who can't get over it, though, don't need to be in your life for your own sanity and your children's well-being.

I have known a couple of people who have lives that include children rather than lives devoted singularly to their children. Those people make a point to have regular grown-up interaction with other grown-ups. One of the things that stands out about those people is that they are comfortable and willing to not be with their kids all the time and consider it healthy to do that. They are fun social people and great parents with awesome kids who, as part of the greater scheme, are really good with adults. I think that's one way to be able to keep the best of your friends who don't have children.

You will probably also find that some of them don't hate children at all, they just like being cool. At 40 I still have a number of friends without children...but not nearly as many as I did at 30.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:40 AM on March 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't want or like children (although they love me, for some reason) but have several friends with children.

There seem to be 3 types of people with kids:

1) Those who become nothing but parents, and whose every move involves their child in some way (these are the people I most respect, btw). They don't remain friends with their childless friends because no one wants someone else's kids around all the time, and doing adult things is out of the question.

2) Those who balance parenthood with having a life. They get a babysitter and go out and do adult things regularly. I have 2 friend couples like this. I don't see them often, but we still hang out.

3) Those who don't mind separating -- one parent goes out with friends, and one stays at home with the kids. They take turns doing this. A good friend at work does this. He and his wife have totally separate groups of friends, and they take turn going out with them. This works for some, but won't work for everyone.

But to answer your question more directly: The best answer so far has been the first one (funny how often that happens). Too many parents try to turn their friends into parents as well. They think that what's fascinating to them must be fascinating to everyone. This is the mark of a bad person, whether the subject is politics or parenthood or anything else.

Just realize that your child may be a little bit interesting to them, but not all that interesting. I don't mind my friends talking about their kids. But when that's ALL they can talk about, they're not my friends anymore.
posted by coolguymichael at 9:41 AM on March 27, 2012

My God. Your mother's friend was horrible. What a strange and awful thing to do. I don't have kids and don't want them, but I don't dislike kids, and in fact find myself having more negative feelings about them in the abstract than I do when confronted with a friend's real-life kid. The real kids I know, I do like an awful lot, although I admit I find them exhausting. I bet lots of your friends will feel the same when confronted with your real-life kid. And I think you're going to feel like you no longer have any use for anyone who doesn't like your kid, so really, it will all sort itself out.

But to answer the other part of your question, I feel like so many of my friends who have gone on to have children have been the ones who shut *me* out. And it's almost impossible to make new friends who have kids, because they just assume I won't be interested in their activities, I guess, or don't understand how important their kids are to them. Which is not true. I would love to be included. Make your friends a part of your new life. Invite them to just hang out with the baby, or go to the park, or whatever you're doing. The nice people will find something to enjoy about it.
posted by HotToddy at 10:00 AM on March 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Okay, last comment on this.

There's a lot of advice here about how you can still stay friends with child-free people by still being you, by leaving the kid at home with your partner, by hiring a babysitter, etc. But you won't know what of these are possible until you have a child, so you'll have to let those chips fall where they may while you wait on your child-in-potentia's arrival.

Some kids are easier than others to do things like hire a babysitter with, and some kids have special needs that require trained personnel vs a regular babysitter to watch if the parent is not available. Not all parenting is equal, and your parenting style will have to fit with the child just as much as you try to fit your child to your life. Right now we're dealing with something with my son that is taking up all of my spare attention. There is nothing going on in my life nearly as important as this, so all I have to talk about is my son. A few months ago we were going through something incredibly significant with my daughter, and nothing was going on in my life nearly as important as that. For the past six months, my topics of conversation have either been my daughter's slow weight gain that had us running to specialists or my son's issues that has had us running to specialists. I have had nothing else to talk about, and I'm sure I have been boring my friends who even like my kids and other kids and me to death with my talk about it. But there it is.

There are far fewer controls to the type of parent you'll be than you realize simply because you just don't know if you'll have an easy kid or a difficult kid or a kid who has a lot of particular needs until that child is here. Some kid personalities may be more conducive to staying friends with these people, and other kid personalities just will not allow for it. The real hard catch here?i You just won't know how you can make this work until your child is here. There are too many variables.

But when you are clearly pregnant and your child-free friends know without a doubt a child will be coming into this world, they'll either deal or they won't so that by the time your child is here and you figure out how you can be friends with these people, you'll already have some idea.

But as I said up the thread, my experience has been that it's just not possible to be friends with people who outright hate kids.
posted by zizzle at 10:06 AM on March 27, 2012 [7 favorites]

Also, many people that hate children probably are actually hating the way that many children are raised. It's similar to people that hate a dog because the dog is unruly, barks, jumps on them, etc. It's not the dog's fault, it's the owner's fault for not properly training the dog.

I agree telling them you need their support. I would also tell them why this is so intense for you (the trauma with your mother's friend). If they are your true friends it will all be fine. Then stay conscious of not letting your child drool, bark and jump all over them.

Also, like having a dog, you will absolutely not be aware of how you constantly talk about them, so you can separate your friend conversations, and save some of the baby conversations for the new parent friends you will undoubtedly have.

(As you can see, I am just a dog person and see everything in 'dog' context, so please substitute 'training' with 'raising' when it comes to a child.)
posted by Vaike at 10:07 AM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have never wanted kids and I honestly get tired of it being assumed that parenthood is the true end goal for everyone. When one of my closest friends got pregnant it was intially really frustrating and I felt a little abandoned. This was the girl who had said over and over again about how she supported me and my no-kids plan, and here she was having a baby?? Then I realized that she'd never mentioned her not having kids, I had just assumed it. So we talked and I told her how I was afraid that she'd turn into a Mom. And she said she was afraid I'd never hang out with her again. We agreed to work on it.

I'm the godmother of her son and I adore him. He's really the best kid to be around and although she and I aren't as tight as we were in college, we're still close. She sometimes devolves into nothing but talk about her son, but she has always made time to listen to me. And here's the important thing, when I talk to her about something, she does not bring everything back to her kid. She stays focused on my issue, rather than refocusing on her kid. That's the most important thing, she has remained my friend.

It does help that her kid is awesome, but even if he was a brat, she and I have made enough time for each other that we can hang out without kid and husbands.
posted by teleri025 at 10:12 AM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Whoa. Your friends sound like assholes.

I've never wanted kids, ever. But some of my friends have kids, and I would never say anything bad about the little ones. I do appreciate when we can hang out without the kiddos, and when they don't talk about them all of the time, but really, to insult children around those that have them? That's extreme.
posted by sugarbomb at 10:14 AM on March 27, 2012

Mod note: Folks, parenting is a hot button issue and if you can't answer the question without ranting about your own personal issues with this, you need to step away and come back when you can be helpful. Thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:14 AM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am childfree by choice, and by a few unfortunate medical issues that complicate having a child. Of my closest female friends, two are currently pregnant (one is about to pop), and one is planning a child soon. It does feel a bit alienating, to be honest, to know they will all have this thing in common that I likely will never have. I can easily see how your mother's friend may have felt bitter and angry, but that she took it out on you is unconscionable.

I've already had a long talk with both of my currently pregnant friends about why I will not likely ever have a child (unless I adopt an older child). They understand that many of my reasons for not wanting a child or being unable to care for a child will also extend to their children. I cannot be in a room with a baby crying - even hearing one down the hall in my apartment building can be enough to send me into a cycle of headaches and panic attacks. Thus, no, I cannot babysit for them, and no, I cannot visit their house or be with them somewhere they take their baby. The smell of babies, and in fact the smell of most children under the age of about 8 makes me sick to my stomach. Thus, no, I will not want to hold their child. They understand, at least they seem to, and promise not to be hurt by my seeming rejection of the child. It isn't the child, it is me, and they seem to get that.

I do promise, and so far have been, the friend of the family who will spoil children rotten if given a chance. I've done it for the last 10 years with my husband's little cousin. But my spoiling comes in the form of gifts and knowledge, not candy and hugs and late bedtimes. Hell, I'm stricter with the cousin than his own mother is. And that's just par for the course.

I think the real trick is being able to separate your identity from the identity of your child. Just because your friends do not like children doesn't mean they don't like you. But if you wrap your identity up in having a child, and force the child into all aspects of your life, your friends WILL NOT like that.

Here is an analogy that might help.
Imagine a group of friends. All of the group except one cannot stand small dogs. Some are allergic, some don't like the mess, some think pet ownership is morally wrong, whatever. But that one friend then decides to get a small dog. And then takes it everywhere with them, and talks about it constantly. How do the friends react? But that person could very well have gotten a small dog, but left it at home, or simply not brought up the topic, and been courteous of her friends allergies or moral standings or what not, simply by not making the dog her life.
posted by strixus at 10:17 AM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Insane number of answers here in a short time, but just wanted to add a(nother) voice of "I am vehemently 'child free' (aka I hate children), but I can actually get quite emotionally attached to close friends' kids" (I quite surprised myself with it). So I wouldn't worry too much that they'll all disappear. But God yeah, please oh please try to make some time for your friends that doesn't all revolve around the kids!
posted by ClarissaWAM at 10:19 AM on March 27, 2012

As someone who is child free, and plans on staying that way - I LOVE my friend's kids. I love my niece and nephew-in-law. Kids are awesome, I just don't want any.

Kids aren't for everyone, and that's totally ok. Don't disappear when the kids come from the world. Don't ONLY talk about the kids. Keep yourself well rounded.

I have friends with kids who I have to ask how the kids are doing, I have friends who talk about nothing else but the kids. There is a balance that can be struck, and it may be hard, but it is totally possible.

Good luck!
posted by bibliogrrl at 10:26 AM on March 27, 2012

OK, a thought experiment: if you lived in a small town and you dreamed of emigrating somewhere new but your best friend said they hated everywhere else and would never travel and thought people from the city were vile….well, don't you think you could go to (let's say) Australia without them? Maybe there are things in Australia that you friend doesn't know about yet, and maybe there are new people to meet. Heck, maybe you will wish you could go back from time to time, tired of the…um…dingos and drop bears -- and you'll wonder about your firneds. And someday they may join you, but that will be their journey to take.

I was quietly unsure before our first child, but now we have four and I love them. We were among the first of our cohort of friends to mary, and then to have kids. I admit there is a bit of a gulf between the groups with kids and those without. *shrug* It reminds me of people who have travelled and those who have never left their home town.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:26 AM on March 27, 2012

My wife and I don't have kids, and aren't going to. We've seen a lot of our friends have kids. I'll admit that I have a pang every time friends announces they're pregnant, because I know that we'll be seeing a lot less of those friends. I don't resent them for it, though.

I generally agree with coolguymichael above. I see a spectrum among my friends who have become parents: at one end, there are those whose lives seem to revolve entirely around being parents—their old friendships fall by the wayside; at the other, there are those who make an effort to maintain their old friendships.

In the latter category, I've got a couple of friends that will call us up on the spur of the moment to meet for dinner at their place, after their daughter is in bed. We tend to eat late anyhow, and are generally flexible with our schedules, so it works for us and we're happy to get together. Flexibility on both sides is going to be key.

Finally: Any friend who would dump you as a friend because you became a parent is not a friend worth having.
posted by adamrice at 10:28 AM on March 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have three children yet managed to stay friends with my friends who never had children. I do not have any magic formula other than to say that I made an effort to call them, I talked about the same stuff we talked about pre-kids and I was just as snarky and crude in my group emails. I would occasionally brag that little Pop Gunn could throw a carrot across the room and was of course destined to be a pro baseball player, but for the most part I would discuss the kids when asked. I think it is important that you keep a life outside of your kids too.

Sure, it would have been easier to not have had kids. Less costly too! But my kids mean the world to me and I do not regret the decision one bit. I say that as someone who has 50% custody of three teenagers!

My point is that to the extent you change, it will be harder to maintain friendships. To the extent you can maintain other interests, and it is HARD, while your little pants shitters are young, you can maintain friendships. Also, you will make new friends with new parents similarly situated.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:32 AM on March 27, 2012

Don't talk about it too much. Make sure your social network updates remain mostly about you and only peripherally about the kid--on Facebook, by all means, set up a list so that you send most of the pregnancy/baby updates to other parents or people you know want to see them, but make sure you still talk about other stuff. (Even non-childfree friends may appreciate this.) Whenever possible, keep up social stuff without the kids.

And accept that some of your "friends" may not really be as good of friends as you thought they were. Everybody's list of friends changes over time, especially at major turning points--kids aren't really different from things like getting married or graduating from college, that way.

I'm in my 30s and don't feel the need to produce children anytime soon, but have been quite okay with my SOs older kid, and I have stayed friends with a lot of friends with kids, but as silly as it sounds, the whole social network thing is a very strong predictor of how well that's going to work. It's not that it matters in and of itself, it's just that there are a lot of women especially whose lives get totally subsumed by Being A Mom, and those women are not going to be people I have anything in common with. If you *want* to be that kind of mom? It doesn't make you a bad person, you're just going to have different friends than you have now. But you don't *have* to be that kind of mom.
posted by gracedissolved at 10:36 AM on March 27, 2012

when you start telling your friends you are going to try for a baby, mention that you really value their friendship and hope that having a baby won't change your relationship with them—much (asking for your relationships not to change at all is unrealistic). mention your experience with your mother's friend and that, given their similar attitude toward children, it would mean a lot of they could curb their baby-hating statements around you and your baby.

and if they can't refrain themselves, your friends sound like they kind of suck. i mean, rolling their eyes? saying they hate children? they doth protest too much. in fact, i used to be a nanny in college and i love babies and after dating someone with kids, i've learned that i do like kids too. and i like teenagers. just other ppl's. but i am not interested in having children. nor are most of my friends in our circle. but it's not like we hate them. or hate anyone who has or wants them. i mean, really? grow up. you may have to start making friends who are a little more mature.
posted by violetk at 10:50 AM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am the childless friend. What tends to happen is that you will absolutely develop a new set of friends through 'mommy and me' activities as well as through kids pre-school, school, social etc activities and just from seeing other parents around the neighborhood.

I am assuming your current friends are civilized right? The only people I can see writing a letter like your mom's friend is Patsy Stone, and even she wouldn't put her sentiments on paper (or leave them where kid could see them, but that's another story).

You see your old friends when you have BABYSITTERS and you want a night off from parenting/discussing parenting.

You do not sit friends down, are you kidding me?, and ask them to change their attitudes. If they are decent people they will moderate their own comments, if not, then what kind of people are you hanging out with?

However, moderating comments does NOT mean they will change their opinions or even want to spend time with the baby.

I don't. And the truth is, that babies and families make me sad because I may never have my own. Your friends may have many different reasons for being childless and their various stances they take. Respect them and their feelings and I'm sure they will respect yours. Isn't that how friendships work??
posted by bquarters at 10:50 AM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've chosen to be child-free, but I would never, ever dream of doing what your friends have done--rolling their eyes, openly declaring that they hate children etc. That is really tactless behaviour; if I don't share my friend's religious faith or political beliefs, I'm not going to disparage it in front of her. Besides, it's stupid to hate kids when they merely reflect their own upbringing by their parents. I'm at an age where my Facebook wall is absolutely flooded with baby photos. I'm really happy for my friends responsible for the inundation because they are awesome and I know they will make awesome parents.

As many in this thread can attest, there are plenty of child-free people who don't mind or love kids. If your friends ditch you just because you have a kid, they're not ones you may want to keep around any way. But keep the lines of communication open--you may perceive that they've dumped you when they are trying to give you space as a new parent, and don't quite know how to time their calls. Give your friends some credit--a few of your child-free friends may be surprisingly supportive, plus you will definitely make new friends after the baby.
posted by peripathetic at 10:51 AM on March 27, 2012

Are you sure your friends are all that serious? I mean, I plan on having kids one day, and I like my friends' kids well enough, but sometimes when I'm in a nice restaurant and some idiot parent is letting their kids run around and yell, 50% of the time I'll say, "Ugh, fucking kids," or "Oh, god, I hate kids" to whomever I'm with. (The other 50% of the time, I'll say, "Those parents are idiots. I feel bad for those kids.")

It's not that I hate kids. It's just that I'm irritated and that's what comes out of my mouth as shorthand when I'm too lazy to say what I really mean, which is, "I hate the culture that supports this kind of childrearing."
posted by pineappleheart at 10:57 AM on March 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

It sounds like you have a group of friends--is there one (pref a woman) who you feel especially close to? Talk to her about this. Ask her if she is still going to be friends with you when you are a parent.

Here's the deal about being friends with people when you have kids. Babysitting is really expensive. It's going to be a rare and special occasion when you and your husband can go out without your kids, and you probably won't even want to leave the kid for more than a few hours for the first 6 months to a year, especially if you decide to nurse. The idea that you are going to pay for a babysitter for a couple of hours to go hang out with these baby-and-parent-haters (to do what--drink? play board games?) is pretty laughable.

My best friendships that are not with parents of kids my own childrens' ages are one-on-one friendships which I can indulge in by going out to dinner or drinks (or a show, or whatever) with after the kids are in bed. That's exactly what I'm looking for as a break from my kids. It's a meaningful connection with another adult, and we talk some about the kids, but also about a wide variety of topics.

Honestly, you might not want these people as friends once you have kids. Having kids will rock your worldview, and being around people who actively dislike children and parents is not going to be fun for you. And there is a whole network of people who will have kids the same time as you with whom you will become friends. I have two or three "holdover" friends from my pre-kid days, and about 20 friends who I've made through my kids--basically a rolodex of people I can plan to go to a playground with or hang out in the park with and chat while our kids play.

Good luck. These friends of yours sound pretty immature and lame. Nothing wrong with being childfree-it's awesome if that's what works for a person--but if someone can't see things from your POV, they aren't really you're friend to begin with.
posted by tk at 11:08 AM on March 27, 2012

When our friends' kids were little and finding babysitters seemed difficult/expensive/too complicated for them, we would come over to their house bringing take-out food and hang out after the baby(ies) had gone to bed. There are lots of ways for parents and non-parents to socialize as grownups together.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:12 AM on March 27, 2012 [8 favorites]

you will absolutely develop a new set of friends through 'mommy and me' activities as well as through kids pre-school, school, social etc activities and just from seeing other parents around the neighborhood.

This may (or may not) be true, but these friends likely won't meet all your needs. I'm a lefty, feminist, atheist, indie-music loving, lesbian... I have almost nothing in common with other women I've met at pregnancy and baby groups. The fact of having kids is not really enough to base a friendship on if nothing else is there. The friends I've made through concerts, atheist, feminist, connections are important to me and my life would be impoverished without them. I will still have these things in common with my friends after the baby is born, and just as we currently respect and show interest in the things we don't have in common, I expect we will continue to.
posted by arcticwoman at 11:56 AM on March 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

The first thing that really needs to be front and center is that a primary element in your fears is your history with an individual who was hugely fucked in the head. Your mother's friend was an over the top, pathologically messed up individual. I guarantee you this letter and her messed-up treatment of you in person were not the only way that this individual was a negative, harmful influence in your mother's life. A normal person, however they felt about children, would never do something like that. If your friends are decent and not basically crazy then they would never do anything like that.

Your mother screwed that up as well, frankly, that letter should have been destroyed and that friend should have been shown the door permanently. At the risk of being the armchair analyst I can't help but wonder if this doesn't have something to do with the conflict your are feeling - in your heart you know your mother should have gotten rid of this friend, and that is what is impelling these fears that you are going to have to jettison all your friends out of your life. Again, if they are possessed of only a modicum of basic human decency then no.

I don't think the majority of people who specifically identify as child-free actually hate children in anything but a rhetorical sense. I think they are reacting (with some justification) to the well-nigh reverence reproduction and offspring are afforded in most cultures. They are reacting to the significant part of society (and particularly their own families) who refuse to treat electing not to reproduce as either a failure or a tragedy or both, who refuse to treat their choice as a valid life decision, and who regularly proclaim that they will either recant of the choice later and join the rest of us in reproducing, or else suffer bitter regrets over it when it's too late. This is some bullshit way to treat people's decisions and it's not surprising people have some bitterness to vent and enjoy being free to say relatively taboo things such as hating children in a context where they feel it is safe to do so.

I have lots of childless-by-choice friends and it works out just fine. Some are happy to hang out with and be a friend to my child. Some clearly are not that interested in the child being more than at the periphery or basically absent from our relationship and that's fine too. If anything it is a good reminder to find opportunities to build child-free time into your schedule, which is an absolute necessity for sanity as a parent.

There is a very long time stretching ahead before you have to worry about, say, your friends being unpleasant to your child, as pregnancy takes time and preverbal babies are gloriously insensitive to passive aggressive comments. Your friends are going to have to come to terms with there being a baby in their social mix while you are pregnant and while some of your relationships will doubtless change, you are not going to be abandoned en masse unless your friends are basically rotten people. Take it easy, don't be afraid to talk about it to your friends (while being clear that you don't judge them for their decisions and feelings, which they deserve and have a right to), and cross bridges when you come to them.
posted by nanojath at 12:09 PM on March 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've probably said some idiotic things about kids from time to time, especially when I was younger. But I generally like my friends' kids, and even if I didn't particularly like an individual kid I would never be mean to them, and I wouldn't criticize my friends for having kids.

Some of your friends will likely come around when they realize they *know* someone with a kid. In the meantime, when someone says something unkind about kids, stand your ground gently but clearly - "I hope to have kids someday, would you say that to me? I really hope you wouldn't say that in front of my kid." And then I'd pay attention to their reaction.

And work on cultivating some new friends who share your values and will be more supportive. Though as mentioned upthread new friends will definitely come with the territory (of parenthood).
posted by bunderful at 12:24 PM on March 27, 2012

I would be very surprised if your friends all are in this "breeders"/"I hate children" mode and really, truly mean it. My guess -- just based on what I I've experienced with groups of friends -- is if we're talking about a larger circle (six or eight or ten or whatever people), that there are one or two people who are really into that shtick, and everybody else either mostly ignores it or goes along to get along and wouldn't miss it.

Recognize that there are many kinds of people without kids (I also dislike the word "childfree," because ... I see no reason for it to exist, and as a person without kids, I've never, ever wished there were a cool-ass word for it, and I've only ever been called "childless" in generic terms within magazine articles written by jerks, so who cares?). Your mother's friend did a bizarre, creepy, cruel thing that most people -- even most people who truly dislike children -- would never even consider doing. She is almost irrelevant to this discussion for the purposes of predicting what your friends might do, and relevant mostly for her importance to your (very understandable) reactions to it.

My guess is that people who truly are going to loudly and recreationally insist that they hate kids or call pregnant women "breeders" (which I think is sexist and gross), who wouldn't have the common sensitivity to curb this behavior on their own when you have kids, are not going to remain your friends. Not because you have kids and they don't, but because this is causing you to notice that they're jackasses.

Plenty of people without kids love their friends' kids, and the kids they're related to. Some of your friends will probably fall into this category. They'll want to hear about them, offer to play with them, and so forth.

Somewhere in the middle will be the people who will not want to hear a lot about your kids, but won't resent your kids or be bothered by the fact that you had them. They just kind of won't feel like hanging around with (or talking about) your kids is fun. For those people, I do agree with those who have noted that it's really helpful to still make time for them, even if it's just a quick lunch or coffee where it's just the two of you. There's really nothing wrong with a friend wanting you (within reason) to make time to spend with them where you can give them your full attention, and I've had plenty of pals with kids who make this work. It can be done.

You're dealing with a bunch of different things here. Horrible angry people like your mother's friend are unlikely to be an issue. Nasty people can be "broken up with" amicably. Ambivalent people need to know you still care about them. Enthusiastic people will snuggle your kids and post pictures of them on their OWN Facebook walls. All these people can be found among the population of adults without kids, and I bet you'll find some of all of them among your friends.

Don't panic. You'll know as you go along who you want to stick with and who you don't. Do become friends with other parents, but don't forget those of your friends who are able to find a place in your life even though they don't have this particular thing in common with you.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 1:00 PM on March 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Honestly, since having a kid it's been easier for me to hang out with my non-kid-having friends than with my friends who have kids. The occasional night out aside, it's mostly about how willing your friends are to come hang out at your place on weekends or after the kid's bedtime.

None of my friends were explicitly kid-haters, but some of my friends are clearly not so into kids and have drifted off since we had our daughter. Oh, well; we're probably better off without each other. The ones who stuck around are the ones I want to be hanging out with in this phase of life. And it's often pretty easy to make friends with other new parents in your neighborhood, if that's what you're looking for.
posted by gurple at 1:11 PM on March 27, 2012

I'd recommend following Maya Angelou's advice that "when people show you who they are, believe them."

If your friends truly hate kids, then they will probably distance themselves from you when you're pregnant. There's no need to sit them down in advance. Losing friendships because of a pregnancy sucks and can be incredibly painful, especially with surging hormones. I was in a similar situation and kept trying to prolong the friendships. In retrospect, I should have listened to the signals and moved on.

That being said, having a child has been a great experience and an opportunity to grow closer with new and old friends with and without kids. For every person who was a negative influence during my pregnancy, there were 20 that were absolutely wonderful.

Best of luck in your journey toward parenthood!
posted by JuliaKM at 1:13 PM on March 27, 2012

you will absolutely develop a new set of friends through 'mommy and me' activities as well as through kids pre-school, school, social etc activities and just from seeing other parents around the neighborhood.

This may (or may not) be true, but these friends likely won't meet all your needs. I'm a lefty, feminist, atheist, indie-music loving, lesbian... I have almost nothing in common with other women I've met at pregnancy and baby groups. The fact of having kids is not really enough to base a friendship on if nothing else is there. The friends I've made through concerts, atheist, feminist, connections are important to me and my life would be impoverished without them. I will still have these things in common with my friends after the baby is born, and just as we currently respect and show interest in the things we don't have in common, I expect we will continue to.

I said the first line here because I just meant you will have a new circle of friends on your Venn Diagram of friends. Not that you will ONLY have mommy and me friends. Just to clarify.
posted by bquarters at 2:05 PM on March 27, 2012

stay as much who you are with your friends.

Hi, parent of a six-month old here. I just have to chime in because this answer seems to be quite a popular one, but I don't really agree with it; I think it could be inaccessible.

Having a child changes you, no doubt about it. Maybe not in a metaphysical sense - the way that some people who decide to almost wholly define themselves by being parents do - but in a literal, practical sense. Some examples of what I'm talking about:

Our baby slept through the night for the first (and only!) time on Saturday. I have been getting by with less sleep than I've ever had in my life for the last six months. This tiredness makes me stupider than before; it stretches my patience thinner than before; I am going to bed - myself - by nine/nine thirty now; one drink is enough to render me practically unconscious.

I have an adorable baby at home, and I am back at work full-time. I don't want to go out like I used to; I don't see enough of my baby as-is and I'm very very conscious of the burden that looking after a baby solo for many hours places on my partner. There is a long list of household chores awaiting my attention. I need to cook, clean, wash, and there is only a small window of time in which to do that, most of the time.

Organising a sitter for an infant is challenging - not everyone's comfortable looking after a baby compared to say, a six year old, and you may not be comfortable getting a teenager or whatever to do it. If you're breastfeeding you may have challenges expressing etc.

If I go out with the baby, I am neither able nor willing to stay for a long time (hours and hours). The kid has finite capacity and after that it just gets frustrating for everyone. An hour or two - regardless of time of day - is great for us now. More than that is challenging. Doable, sometimes, but there's a price to pay later.

Make no mistake: I am changed, and changing. Some friends have got this, some friends have not got it. None have been arseholes about it, though (though I did have to chuckle when 8 came over when the baby was six weeks old and stayed for six and half hours, I was literally wiping the coffee table down with a sponge in a "closing" routine, left the lights off, and my partner was in bed asleep, and peeps still weren't saying their goodbyes!).

I understand your anxieties about this now, but I think you will find once you have a baby to look after, you just won't care as much. You have a baby to look after; people in their twenties and thirties have far more agency and capacity to deal with things in life than a baby; they'll get it or not, or they'll come around to getting it, and that will be that. I will say that, in our friendship circle, the friend that had a baby first had the roughest time of it because they had start the rest of the circle on the journey, so to speak, and get them to remember someone in the group has a baby and some needs that go with that.

But honestly, it wasn't so hard for us. A little compromise and understanding on both sides goes a long way and it doesn't feel like a huge sacrifice for either parents or child-less people that don't have their own baggage. In this respect, it's been like any other life change in our friendship group - someone has a change, they may have some new needs or thoughts, and on we try to accommodate that.

But yeah, trying to "keep things the same" is, in my experience, gonna put way too much pressure on you, and your friends. Your life has changed, and so too will everything in it, by greater or lesser degrees. People change for all kinds of reasons and stay friends, this is just one variety.
posted by smoke at 2:42 PM on March 27, 2012 [9 favorites]

They are also vehemently child free. They know I have never self identified as child free. They roll their eyes at babies. They call pregnant women “breeders” and say “I hate children” openly.

I don't and won't have children, for a bunch of reasons - I fear the arrival of babies in the office because I don't get the fuss anyway - and I would find friends that spoke this way wearying to say the least. (Admittedly we don't have the 'childfree' thing here - you have children, or you don't, and either's fine - but come on, it's just rude.) I don't think there's anything wrong with feeling uncomfortable here.
posted by mippy at 4:12 PM on March 27, 2012

Lots of good answers here, but thought I'd throw in my $0.02. I'm another childfree by choice (and plan to stay that way) - I love kids, think they're insanely cute, and can even see some of the appeal of parenting, but I've just never really felt the urge to have my own (I have other reasons too, but won't go into that here). Fortunately my sister did want kids, and I've found that being an uncle is plenty good enough for me :)

Anyway, I'm going to second what Smoke said - you're not going to be able to stay the same person because having kids WILL change your life, there's no way around it. I've gotten to see this firsthand as a few of my friends have started families in the past couple of years. A couple of them have gone completely MIA, but some others still manage to stay in touch with the rest of us, get together every once in a while, etc. It does require more juggling - such as having get-togethers at their house, waiting until later so the kid's asleep, etc - but it is certainly doable.

I'd say focus on the kid, don't worry about maintaining a "life" with your friends but do at least stay in touch with them. The ones who are really your friends will appreciate hearing from you, and even if they don't want kids, they'll still be happy for you.
posted by photo guy at 4:25 PM on March 27, 2012

Much like that thread the other day about the fat acceptance friend vs. the weight loss friend, this all depends on whether or not all parties WANT to cooperate and still deal with each other despite the differences and can be polite about their differences. Now, reading this post I'm inclined to suspect that your friends....may not want to be polite about their differences. So I wouldn't put my money on them sticking with you, but hey, maybe you might get lucky with a few. You'll have to see how it plays out. I'm not a child hatter (TM internet), but anyone who talks like that in real life makes me think they're kind of crazed on the topic. Hell, I didn't know those people existed in real life instead of just trolling on CF boards until this post.

I think you've got the general idea of how to do it-- try not to talk about the kid 24-7, attempt to make time when you can-- but it also depends on how much they are willing to bend towards you and make allowances for you and even (gasp!) put up with your kid at times too. Because getting child-free time away from you is going to be extremely difficult for the next oh, 4 years or so.

I will say as a CF person that the only parent friends I've been able to keep are the ones whose youngest and last child has hit the age of about five or so. Because apparently parenting is SO intense that you're really going to want to have friends who are in the exact same situation as you are. It's easier for you to only talk kids with people who also only want to talk kids, who can do play dates, etc. than it is to make time for anyone not in the same boat. I had married friends with a 4-year-old who were just starting to re-emerge and be able to be interested in their own stuff again...and then they decided to have more children. Never mind. Well, maybe if they're still here and I'm still here in six years, but clearly they're not up to doing anything non-child-related now that they're going for #3 anyway. That's just how it goes. But you'll meet plenty of new parents wherever you go now, so even if you lose this bunch, you'll have them replaced within a year, no problem.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:51 PM on March 27, 2012

Another childfree by choice here, just in to say that:

1. Your mother's friend was crazy. She sounds as though she had unresolved issues with your mother that were not your fault.

2. I think it is possible to stay friends with your CF friends, as long as you don't drone on and on about your children. And please, please do not say things like "It would be great if you had kids!" or "You'd be a wonderful mother/father!"

Talk to your friends (after you get pregnant) and gage their response. If it's really negative ("Ugh, this is going to suck"), then get rid of them. If it's positive ("Congrats, happy for you!"), then keep them on.

I don't have any friends who are parents (I don't have many friends full stop) but I wouldn't mind, as long as I don't have to baby-sit or be forced to speak baby talk or hold babies.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 12:07 AM on March 28, 2012

I'm childfree / sterile (by choice) and yet I like kids perfectly fine. They're just curious little early-stage people, can be quite charming. So I think your friends have a bad attitude. Not wanting them doesn't make it cool to hate them. Life's too short to hate people.

But aside from that, I have to echo what smoke says above. Having kids (from what I see in others) changed them all, deeply, every one of them. I actually thought your question (OP) was going to be about "whether you can stay friends" in the sense of attention-and-focus, keeping up with the old adult friendships. In my experience, you can't. Not really. Having the kids reorients you to kid stuff. Which is fine. It's good. A good friend will wish you well, keep in touch (to some extent), but also accept that you're going into a special place where you won't be paying so much attention to the friendship for a while. Like a decade or something.
posted by ead at 11:55 PM on March 29, 2012

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