I have friends who are moms. I have friends who aren’t moms. I have friends who desperately want to be moms but aren’t yet. I have friends who have lost children after less than a month, and after more than 40 years. I have friends who lost children before they were born. And I have friends who have survived every combination of the above, and any not included. I am lucky to have a range of women in my life that I call friends, of all ages and stages in life and from very diverse backgrounds. They enrich my life and teach me that there are so many lenses through which to see the world.
But here is the thing that makes me a bit different. I’m the girlfriend that you have that never wanted to have kids. Don’t get me wrong, I like kids. I was a nanny for the three girls who lived next door when I was younger, took great pride in looking after the kids who were out at my cabin when I was growing up, and have always loved teaching and being a mentor at every opportunity.
But I don’t want to have children of my own. I’ve always liked puppies more than kids. I’m pretty sure at this point that it isn’t going to change.
Just as importantly, and what I want you to know, is just because I don’t want to have my own children, doesn’t mean that I don’t support you in your decision to have them. Or your journey to try to have them. Or can’t grieve with you if you can’t or don’t have them or you lose them. I may not have firsthand experience, but I’d like to make the case for why you shouldn’t write me off just yet.
Think back to when we were growing up. Just because I didn’t want to join the team you did, didn’t mean that I wasn’t happy for you when you made it, or couldn’t be sad with you when you didn’t make the cut. Just because I didn’t want to date the guy (or girl) you did, didn’t mean that we couldn’t obsess together over the hidden meaning of every gesture, word, action, or clothing choice that the object of your desire did.
As your friend, I care about you. And as a result, I care about what you care about, BECAUSE you care about it. And if you’re sad, overwhelmed, exhausted, overjoyed, ecstatic, anxious, neurotic, concerned, surprised, confused, lonely, desperate, depressed, unsure, or anything else, as a result of your children, attempts to get pregnant, or lack of children, please feel like you can still talk to me. And please keep including me. Reaching out can be hard. I know, because I feel the same way. Just like I don’t call or text because I don’t want to impose on your already hectic life, I’m sure you don’t want to force the circus that is your life and your children on me.
But I want that to change.
Parenting well is hard. I know this. My parents did an amazing job raising my sister and I, and I have nothing but respect and appreciation for everything they have done for me to make me the person I am with the opportunities and lifestyle I’ve been privileged to have. I am constantly in awe of the majority of my friends who take on this task.
I simply don’t have the desire to do it.
This doesn’t mean I don’t have any desire to help YOU do it.
And I want you to think about this. Not in a guilt trip kind of way. Not in a “why haven’t you called me” kind of way. Mostly in an “I miss you” kind of way.
I have a lot of really great friends that I have collected over the years. We have met in various phases of our life – in preschool when we really didn’t get to pick our own friends, as awkward kids in grade 8 when no one has grown into their face just yet, in high school when we think we know who we are and who we like, in undergrad when we get our first taste of freedom with boy band soundtracks of our life, grad school and work when the responsibilities start getting real, and beyond, when the real world of adulting is something we can no longer avoid. Regardless of when we connected, somehow we’ve managed to establish and maintain our connection through a lot of shit.
And now you have a kid (or more than one kid) and I don’t.
As the one without the major life change, my message in writing this is simple – I want you to know that I don’t think this is enough to lose you over. Your kids won’t be perfect. Your life won’t be perfect. You will not be a perfect mother. But neither am I a perfect person, and neither were you when I met you. You may not have had a shower in the past two days, or the past week. But I liked you in undergrad when you also hadn’t showered in a week because of the test you failed or the boyfriend that broke up with you. Or that time you were puking in a garbage can because the night was a little more epic than anyone anticipated. Or two years ago when you found out your partner wasn’t as nice or as loyal as you might have hoped when you walked down the aisle. I’ve been with you when you were dealing with a lot of things that I wasn’t going through, and in those times of hardship, our friendship survived, and grew.
Really, I just want you to know that my loyalty hasn’t changed. My desire to make sure you’re okay hasn’t changed either. I want you to know that I’m still here for you. My offers to come over and do laundry, or watch your new child while you have a shower, or eat, or try to get it to sleep for 20 minutes while your child screams for two hours because it is a baby, and that’s what they do, is actually real. I mean it. I know what I’m getting into (really, I do), and I’ll do it for you. I WANT to do it for you. I don’t want my own child, but I will gladly step into the role of guardian of yours for as long as you need me, and I’ll do it to the best of my ability. Your child will be safe, entertained, fed, and well tended for as long as you need.
Why? Because you are my friend. And I want to continue to be your friend, even if we don’t, and won’t, ever, have parenthood in common.
I love you. I miss you. I want to help.
Lesley Duncan is a professional researcher and new entrepreneur, the owner of a mostly trained dog, married to a gem of a man, and proud godmother of two amazing kids in Kentucky. Always appreciative of her friends and family, she has helped to create ‘Ladies of Greatness’, a community of amazing women who meet regularly to share their goals and the challenges they’re facing reaching them.
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