There’s a good deal of talk about how the childfree often lose friends when kids come on the scene, or at least about how the friendships change. Here’s a woman who asks the friendship question from the perspective of the parent-to-be: “How can I keep my childfree friends in my life when I decide to have a child?” My answer:
First, in her case, she describes her childfree friends as her support network, her “family” and that they are “vehemently” childfree. She is reticent to tell them that she and her husband plan to begin trying to have a child next year. Should she tell them now, wait until she pregnant, or…?
I say vehement or not, tell them sooner rather than later. If they are truly dear friends, lines of communication deserve to be open and come from a place of love and desire to keep the relationships strong. Some tips for going about talking with childfree friends include:
1. Before the talk, be very clear about why you want to have a child. Outside of talking to friends about the decision, this is critical for making the decision have a child in general!
2. Plan how you want to express your desire to have a child and your concerns about how it will affect your friendship —beforehand. Don’t wing it. Gather your thoughts, and even plan to have notes if you feel that will help you be clear in how you communicate to your friends.
3. When you talk with your childfree friends, start with your concerns about the friendship first. For example, say something like, “I want to talk to you about something important and it feels hard because I have concerns about what you are going to think, that you won’t understand, and what it might do to our friendship, which means so much to me.”
4. Call out the “shock” factor first. If you think your childfree friends are going to be shocked about your decision, say just that, e.g., “I know this is going shock you, but so and so and I have decided we want a child.”
5. Express why you have decided to have a child.
6. Return to your concerns, and hash through each of them. Try to get to the real emotions. Are they disappointed? Find it hard to accept? If so, what is it about them that they find your decision hard to accept? Maybe like you, they are scared how kids will change the friendship?
7. Express your commitment to the friendship and willingness to make a plan to navigate through the changes so you stay close. This can start as soon as when the parent-to-be starts trying to have a child. It could involve regular check-ins, where in addition to what you would already talk about in catching up with each others’ lives, commit to talking about how each is feeling about the upcoming change, and ways to stay connected and close.
The main thing is to start with your love for your friends first and come from that place. If the love bond is there and kept in the forefront, kids will not ruin a friendship. It’s about how to adjust to a major lifestyle change on the part of one of your friends, and how to keep the friendship alive despite that change.
What would your advice be?