Push it to MAXIMUM BABY!!!
September 28, 2016 5:25 PM   Subscribe

Question about babies, feelings, and friendships!

I'm definitely hitting the stage in my life where babies are just popping up everywhere like daisies (at least three new pregnancy announcements in the past month!). Personally, I'm at a point in life where the idea of settling down/having kids is secondary to going out/seeing the world/having adventures--while I am not adamantly childfree and I'm open to the future possibility of parenthood, I don't have any urges yet (and no romantic prospects, which is another factor).

I asked a question a while ago about diverging life paths with friends, and many of the answers suggested keeping in touch while seeking out other like-minded childless folks to have adventures with. I have done this, but now those friends are also starting to get pregnant. Though I know the thing to do is to keep seeking out like-minded people and adjust to new/almost-parents, the recent big rush of baby-having has given me an inexplicable bout of anxiety and lonely feelings. I would never put this on my friends, but I'm still feeling those feelings and it's making me feel a little drained when it comes to the constant baby announcements. To be clear, I am happy for my friends' joy and know that kids are an all-consuming commitment--I am glad to just go and chill out at their house and tickle their tots' chubby thighs. I think their babies are adorable and I look forward to having adventures with them and seeing the world anew through their eyes once they aren't helpless cute potatoes.

I guess the question is: For those of you who have been in this same stage in life, if you have experienced these feelings how did you help yourself deal with it? I don't at all take this as a sign that I want to have a baby, too...it just feels like every week or so there's one less of...me? Or my kind? How did you help yourself get past or distract from the pangs of loneliness? It's not taking over my life, but I'd like to try and do some healthy self-care things so I can focus on being joyful for my friends instead of feeling anxiety.
posted by sprezzy to Human Relations (12 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I think the best course of action is going to vary depending on what exactly is making you have these feelings.

If it's birth announcements and seeing the ubiquitous sonogram images pop up on social media, I don't think there's anything you can do to make this stop. And you'll probably notice that as it continues to happen, it will feel less and less heightened. At 28, when I found out a friend was pregnant on purpose it was like WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING RN. By 32, it had become just another Tuesday on Facebook. Now that I'm 35, honestly, I enjoy hearing this type of news and seeing cute pictures of my friends' kids.

In terms of my own childfree bonafides, I'm in my mid 30s and will probably be starting a family soon. I am certainly not baby crazy and have happily spent my 20s and 30s going out, seeing the world, having adventures, etc. I also want to keep doing that stuff even when I have kids, and frequently social media engagement from my more settled friends has me fretting about things like "when I have a kid, I don't have to dress it in a fussy Easter outfit and pretend to celebrate a religion I don't believe in, right?"

On the other hand, if this is a matter of your primary social group shifting priorities en masse, and you literally not having people to socialize with now that the vast majority of your peer group has their life consumed with baby-having, I do think that a more proactive approach would probably work better. As a childless woman in my 30s, I have both younger and older friends than I once did. I'm part of a specific interest group that tends to coincide with waiting to start a family, which helps. I also just do what I wanna do and don't worry about whether anyone else wants to go. Last year I went WWOOFing in Europe, had a decade on all the other volunteers, and who the fuck cares? Nobody asks for ID.
posted by Sara C. at 5:40 PM on September 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

As Bridget Jones's Baby pointed out recently: this kind of thing is why you keep finding younger friends to hang out with when you old ones have ditched you for babies. Or possibly older ones looking for friends who aren't totally occupied with children.

Unfortunately, the rest of that is life. Childless/free folks will always be outnumbered by those having babies and we're always going to be freaks/weirdoes/left out/whatever on some level because we're not doing it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:25 PM on September 28, 2016 [7 favorites]

Similar situation here. What has helped me is realizing that babies and weddings are meaningful milestones to a lot of people (obviously), but i have my own, different meaningful milestones, and these things are differently and respectively important to us all.

I've got my own meaningful important things, in friendships, career stuff, and personal goals, both behind me and ahead of me. When I learned to make a habit of mentally equating my own milestones with friends' baby announcements and the like, it hit easier to feel genuinely happy for them.
posted by jessicapierce at 7:00 PM on September 28, 2016 [6 favorites]

Is it possible that some of the those people knthe first round might be more free again? Often the intensity of child care can lessen around 2-3 yrs old. Unless they're having another.
posted by jojobobo at 7:32 PM on September 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

I went through this in a different way - I was the first to get married of my friends and then went through years of infertility.

For me the most important thing was filling my own well. When I had spent time pursuing my other dreams and goals hard, so that I was going to baby showers in between writer's group and guitar lessons, it was fine. When I was sort of...waiting for the next thing, not so much.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:56 PM on September 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

I felt this way too when several of my closest female friends got pregnant immediately after I ended a long term relationship. I inadvertently solved the problem by signing onto a project where the side benefit was that I befriended several young gay men (20-30 ish age range). It so happened that none of them had any babies in their sights for at least a decade, if at all, and they also felt slightly left out, complicated, and a bit tender about heteronormativity and babymaking culture in general. My feeling weird about not having a baby at an age when I expected to have a baby was weirdly analogous to them sometimes feeling strange about being an out gay man, how their families felt about it, and their own reckoning with what it meant to be masculine or gay or whatever- on some level it kind of boiled down to us all feeling a bit like gender outlaws, and we bonded over these feelings in a way that surprised me and felt really good. It was healthy for me to see a totally different way of living that was just as valid as the baby showers and suburban housewarmings my other friends were doing.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:01 PM on September 28, 2016 [5 favorites]

I embrace the philosphical doctrine of antinatalism, but it's not something I talk about with my friends with children, and I suspect even mentioning it will get me in trouble. So I do what I always do - ignore the friends with kids and hang out with the when they don't have their kids with them, or just hang out with younger/childless people.

The other thing is you can find something you have in common with children. It sounds silly, but Adventure Time and LEGO videogames and toys can be a bonding experience.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 8:55 PM on September 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

I had my first baby at 25 and went through the same feels from the other end of the telescope.

Everyone was traveling with work, building awesome careers, visiting far flung places, doing amazing volunteer work...and I was stuck home, single and looking after a baby which, while being immensely time-consuming and long-view-worthy (next generation of humanity etc.) was actually incredibly routine, boring and frustrating day to day. I found other mum friends, eventually. And it helped. When I tried to hang out with non-parent friends I just felt like a massive failure. They were doing all this exciting stuff and I was wiping up spit-up.

I still have friends doing the exciting things, some can't have kids, some don't want kids, some are planning kids maybe soon. Some of them have careers I could only dream of and have had experiences I probably never will.

The secret to having a happy life is, in my opinion, purpose. The thing about kids is that even if you don't much care for the tasks inherent in raising them, they give their carers a convenient and relentless sense of purpose. I never have to wonder what I'm doing with my life - it might only matter to me and the kids but it matters Incredibly Much to us, it feels important and thus somewhat satisfying.

A life without kids can be completely rammed full of purpose and satisfaction, but the individual might have to work harder finding that purpose. The only people I know who don't have children and are unhappy in general are those who have lots of spare time and resources but don't use them for anything in particular. You say you're happy to delay having babies in favour of other things, but are you doing the other things? Are you going out? Seeing the world? Having adventures?
posted by intergalacticvelvet at 3:41 AM on September 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

Commenting from the other side here, but: we do not automatically become joyless harpies the moment the first kid pops out. In fact, we feel the same regrets you do about not being able to see our friends as much as we used to, especially the ones who don't have kids (because when we hang out with our child-having friends, the conversation always defaults to what the small people have done recently, and that eventually wears thin). We're just really busy as a default state, and have to schedule things further in advance. Why don't you come visit us after the kids are asleep? We'll drink daiquiris and play board games and commiserate about what a useless putz Trump is with you. We just have to be able to hear the baby monitor and peel off for a few minutes if something goes south, y'know?
posted by Mayor West at 6:58 AM on September 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

How about making friends with people past the whole childbearing phase? I wish I would have figured this out sooner, but some of my most adventurous friends with great perspective are older. I started talking to the bartender at one of my favorite places and a few years later, she's one of my favorite people to go to yoga, art openings, new restaurants, and political stuff with. We're talking about going on vacation together with our spouses soon. As my friends were having kids, my friends skewed younger and younger, which was cool, but I feel like I missed a whole category of potential friends by looking down and not up in terms of age.
posted by *s at 9:04 AM on September 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

Is it possible that some of the those people knthe first round might be more free again? Often the intensity of child care can lessen around 2-3 yrs old. Unless they're having another.

In my experience, parents aren't really ready to be friends with people who don't have kids until the youngest one hits about age 5-6. My parent friends had to get past that age before they could really do other things.

I'm still kinda waiting on some folks who decided to have a second kid, but I've pretty much given up on them really, the wait's been too long and we're at "once a year, and even then they can't talk because they are chasing kids" status.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:33 PM on September 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

The thing about kids is that even if you don't much care for the tasks inherent in raising them, they give their carers a convenient and relentless sense of purpose.

Yes, the purpose parents receive is to pass on the grueling search for purpose to their kids.

OP, I'm struggling with this same question. I've come to the conclusion that it's completely useless to attempt to remain friends with breeders; they will never have the ability or willingness to return the effort an equitable friendship demands. You have to find your own purpose and reason for existing that isn't just procreating and forcing some future generation to grapple with the same questions.

Our society tells us, directly and indirectly, that people without kids don't matter. That's bullshit. You matter and you're important, even if you feel lonely and unfulfilled right now.

I agree with the suggestion above to try to find friends who are older and either have adult progeny or are otherwise past the point of having to worry about small children. So far I've had more luck with befriending people in the 50s and older than I have with my peers (I'm 30). I tend to have more in common with them than with people in their early 20s, who also don't often have kids but find many other ways to be obnoxious.
posted by a strong female character at 8:22 AM on October 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

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