I had the most fabulous dinner out this weekend. I laughed so often that I swear shrimp almost came out of my nose. We all finished dinner and sat around annoying the waiter for at least another hour. When we departed, the conversation lingered in the parking lot as we were all reluctant to end the night. That's nothing remarkable to blog about - getting together with friends is always fun, and sometimes you find a group that just particularly gels together. I have lots of different circles of friends, and we all have fun in different ways. But this dinner was different, and I couldn't figure out why the night was so fun until one of the attendees pointed out that everyone at the table was over thirty and childless. (Although I'm sure that if someone read a transcript of the conversations that we had, they would put the age of the group at somewhere around 18.)
I was surprised at what a nice change that was. For once, I didn't feel like the 'crazy one who doesn't know what she's missing because she doesn't want kids.' We had dinner on a Saturday night and lingered with no timeframe in mind. We discussed a group skydiving trip and 6 out of the 8 in the group were in. I went back to a friend's house and we stayed out until 2:00am. We talked about group trips and didn't have to plan around school or baby sitting etc. etc. It was different, and that itself was surprising. So many of my friends now have children that making considerations for children when we make plans is just commonplace. (Note: it is not a burden to make considerations for children. Please please please don't take it that way. I am not here to bash my friends who have kids - especially since so many of them are awesome. This is just an observation.)
I've accepted that I'm in the minority since I don't want children. Each time a good friend of mine announces a pregnancy, I greet the news with joy and I attend the baby shower with a gift that I try to put some thought into (but seriously, I don't know the good things to get. I try, though! Specific instructions that don't include the words "breast" or "pump" are always appreciated...) I ask about updates on the pregnancy, I can't wait to know the sex and the name of the new addition... I even follow a blogger who is about to have her second child, and I anticipate each update as much for her writing and observations as for the subject matter and pictures. But I'm always a bit hesitant. Is my latest newly pregnant friend going to turn into "that mom?" You know the one. This is the woman who has a baby, usually quits her job, and is suddenly incapable of speaking about anything other than her child and the day to day "achievements" or "challenges" that she faces, much less hearing about the lives of others who don't involve her child. Dear God, just shoot me now.
Luckily, I've been largely unscathed. I can do a shout out to all my awesome mom friends individually, but that would take much too long. I can point out the people I've known who have become "that mom," which would be a much shorter list, but I'll keep the gloves up and try to be nice. I'll suffice to say that the awesome moms realize that there are different friends for different discussions. They help me out with the updates on their children (they know that I don't know what to ask, but they help me out with the important information anyway.) At the same time, they still keep it on a level that I'll understand. (The real in-depth mommy talk would be over my head anyway.) The awesome moms also still ask about my life and what's going on with me. Our conversation is not simply dominated by baby-talk, even though I'm sure they would like it to be, but it's also not dominated by dogs/school/politics like I would prefer it to be. :-) The effort put forth by both parties ensures that the friendship between "maternal" and "non-maternal" will endure. I might be biased, but I think that you need all sorts of friends in your life with all sorts of viewpoints, no?
I don't begrudge women their decision to have children. I just seriously dread the women who become "that mom." I thought it was mostly because of the loss of my friend when they morph into this completely self absorbed creature, but now I'm realizing the pressure that comes with "those moms" and how much that affects me, even if I don't want it to. My intense reaction to "those moms" is for a variety of reasons, but the most obvious one is that I don't like being called out for discussing topics other than their child (ahem.) You had a child, and they are your whole world. I know. But they're not mine. If you can't understand that I'm not going to want to talk about your child 24/7 or if you are incapable of discussing any other topic, well, it's going to stress me out to spend time with you and I'll probably do my best to avoid it*.
I thought that was it. But after a dinner with other childless friends, I realized that what I feel is implicit in that refusal to discuss anything other than the new child is a judgment on me for not wanting to have children. "Look at me! My entire life has changed in such a profound way! It is so awesome! This is obviously the right decision! Best thing I ever did! Emily, you should so totally be interested in this - what's wrong with you if you aren't? This experience is just so awesome. I mean, I just can't put it into words. It's just so....great. You wouldn't understand." Whether that's actually being put forth by some moms, or if it's in my head, either way it's a subtle pressure that I'm feeling more and more as those around me have children, plan to have children, try to have children, or can't wait to get married and have children.
I get it. I really do. Having children is awesome. It truly changes your life, perspective and everything in between. I just don't think it's a decision for me.
Feeling that pressure is my problem, and I get that. I have to work on that. But the thing is, I don't feel that pressure from the "awesome moms." All I feel from them is joy over their children. That, in turn, makes me enjoy spending time with them and their children whenever it's possible for us to get together. So then, what's the difference between seeing my "awesome mom" friends and going out with a group of childless friends?
Well, I guess that not only was the subtle pressure gone, but I see other people who have made the same decision I've made... and their life looks pretty darn good from where I'm sitting. In the absence of a "What to Expect" book to tell me how to circumnavigate life with no children, it was nice to see that others have gone before me and they're satisfied with their life and how they lived it. The decision not to have children isn't worse than the decision to have children. It's not better than the decision to have children. It's just a different path. I guess I didn't realize how nice it was to have that path reaffirmed every now and then.
*I tried to keep the gloves up. Really I did.