"Does it bum you out that so many of your friends are about to have babies?"
Me, blinking like my cat does when I ask her if she wants to watch "Chopped" or "The Golden Girls":
"Bum me out? Why?"
"Oh, I don't know, since you don't want kids yourself, does it feel like your friends are moving on without you? Like you're on the outside of something? Like you're losing someone?"
"Are you kidding me? I want all my friends (who want them) to have all the babies! ALL THE BABIES. I love it. Plus I can't wait to imprint on my friends' children and mold them in my image."
I want to say "Oh I'm kidding! I don't ACTUALLY want my friends' kids to take after me! Oh my! That's cray cray!" but that would be at least half a lie. PREGNANT FRIENDS TAKE HEED -- nothing would please me more than if little Nestor or Francine or Jamboreena developed an unnatural affinity for cats, pickled foods, and ghost stories.
But getting back to the point, the above question is one that keeps popping up in conversations. The second wave of child birthing has commenced among my friends. And as many of the women in my life are preparing to have their first, second, or even third child, I, as ever, am preparing to clean my cat's litter box and have cheesy bread rolls for dinner -- sans child.
Happily sans child to boot. Now and in the foreseeable future.
But how does the saying go? Is it even a real saying? "You don't have to be the same to be in love"? Did I get that from "Dawson's Creek"? Regardless, I think it's important, whether you're talking about friends or romantic relationships.
I don't want kids, but few things thrill me as much as seeing my friends happily welcoming a child -- birthed or adopted -- into their lives.
Quickly, as the topic of "women who don't want kids" has been talked about ad nauseam, I'll fill you in on my "No Kids for Lou" thinking: it's a non-issue to me.
Raising kids isn't for me and my husband. I like, even LOVE some kids, and I feel no enmity toward women and men who choose to have children. And in turn, I find that most logical, well-adjusted, sensitive parents or would-be parents feel the same way toward me and other childless folks. You do you, I'll do me, and as long as we can respect each other's choices, we'll have a big ol' goopy love fest when the good things happen in our lives.
Now I'm not going to lie and tell you that I don't mourn the end of an era once a friend has a child. And yes, a part of me knows that my friend is entering a part of their life that I'll never fully understand. I can be there, and cheer them on, and hold their hand, but my advice will always be that of speculation and deduction, rather than experience. At some point, I will have no point of understanding and no idea how to remedy a problem.
And a part of me is really sad about that. There will be a certain level of commiseration I will never be able to unlock. In that way, I completely understand why parents seek out other parents to befriend, because it's got to be exhausting either listening to your child-free friends trying to get it, or having to constantly explain to them what is now the overriding experience in your life -- at least for the time being.
So yeah, maybe I do feel a little bit on the outside of something, and maybe I'll forever be on the outside of something, and that's okay. Nobody is everything to everybody. But moving on without me? That I'm losing something? Those questions suppose that I'm staying behind or letting go.
The truth could not be further. I'm like a vampire -- invite me into your life once and if we hit it off, you have to fend me off with holy water and relics to get me out. Now that, for example, one of my best and oldest friends is pregnant with her first child, I feel like I have the privilege of witnessing a teeny-tiny bit of the wonder, fear, and enormity of what awaits her in a few short months. At least, in the only way I know how.
Hearing her talk about her expanding belly, the weird bodily functions that come with pregnancy, and the new worries that have begun to invade her life, I feel more than ever the desire to hold tightly to the moments and conversations that make up our friendship. I feel like we're on a precipice. She is more dear to me than ever. And her little baby, though frankly a curiosity to me, occupies an unnatural amount of time in my thoughts.
I guess what I don't understand is this idea that women who choose not to have children, can't be gobsmacked by the excitement of a loved one having kids. Sure it's scary, baffling, and the thought of actually having a child myself sends me into a panic, but finding out there's going to be more pieces of a dear friend of mine running around on this earth, never ceases to fill me with glee.
"You are so adamant about not having kids yourself, I didn't think you could be this excited over MY kid," I've been told.
If I'm going to be honest, I think a big reason why I get so excited over a friend's baby is that it is the closest I will ever come to motherhood (and yes, I know, it's not all that close).
While I know being a parent to a human is not for me, that's not to say I'm not curious about it, and even at times envious of some of the experiences, and the intimacy of parenthood. I do sometimes catch myself imagining a time 20 years in the future in which I'm spending the holidays with my grown, TOTALLY AWESOME, kid. But that fantasy does not make me want to live the entirety of those 20 years in charge of a human. I essentially want a "Star Trek" baby that I encounter, all grown up, in the future via a time traveling accident or something. Can just that happen?
But with friends I get front row seats. I get to ask all the gross, weird, bone-headed questions. I get to watch their hearts and brains explode and expand in becoming a parent. I get to watch them change in sometimes subtle, sometimes drastic ways. I get to see them go beyond what I understand. It is a pleasure.
And while I will never be able to say to them in complete earnestness, "Yeah, I get it," I'm intensely grateful for the little glimpses of parenthood, at its best and worst, that my friends have given me. Every time I get to see children infiltrate a friend's life, I understand a little more why people want to have kids.
Strange words I guess, given my "No Kids for Me" stance.
So in the coming months, as the babies are born, the next generation inherits a "Crazy Aunt Louise," and I devise new and ingenious ways to leave an indelible mark on my friends' children, I do feel like times they are a-changing, and friends are moving on.
But I don't feel left behind. I've decided to keep up. And I couldn't be happier.
Are you child free? How do people react to that? How do you feel when your friends have children?