When I saw the August 12th issue of Time, I immediately picked up a copy and scoured it for answers, validation, and basically anything that might make the kid decision a little easier. What I found is some insight into why this decision has been so hard.
In our 20s, none of our friends had kids. In fact, only a handful of them were married. So our social life was robust. There were parties at the beach. Dinners at nice restaurants. Game nights. Destination vacations. Life was good. And then, one by one, each of them disappeared into parenthood uttering the same famous last words: “Nothing will change.”
Our 30s find us in social Siberia. As of right now, only 3 childfree couples remain. One is getting married next month and already talking about having a baby, the second is already married and working hard to pull together enough money to start a family, and the third is still dating (but knowing my girlfriend, kids are definitely in her future). Soon we’ll be all alone, it’s only a matter of time.
This article summed up our dilemma perfectly. “It’s toughest in your late 30s and 40s. That’s when social isolation tends to peak among people without kids.” It goes on to say that the real stress point is the “loneliness between when friends have babies and when they become empty nesters.” As one couple puts it, “You build strong relationships and then they change. It’s great for them, but it sucks for you.”
Though Fynn and I are pretty introverted and prefer to exist in our own bubble, we miss the friendships of our 20s. We feel their absence in our lives. There’s one couple in particular, who stands out in my mind. We used to go to concerts and theme parks, we got together for dinner and drinks almost weekly, and we even took a few trips together. We tried archery. And dog sledding. We played darts. And shot pool. We went camping. And canoeing. We even built an igloo one time. When they announced their pregnancy two years ago, they swore that nothing would change. Famous last words.
Of course things changed. All of the fun times are now just distant memories. Whereas our nights used to end somewhere between 2 – 4 a.m., they now conclude at 8 p.m. sharp when, in full attachment parenting style, the three of them go to bed together as a family. More recently, we invited them to go see their favorite band in concert and they told us they’d get back to us. They never did. Despite breaking their promise that things wouldn’t change, we aren’t mad because we knew they’d been kidding themselves all along. But now while they’re off building their family, we’re left to grieve a friendship that was once the source of so much joy.
I guess it all boils down to a simple conclusion: we need new friends. I think we would feel more at ease with our tendency to be childfree if we had other people in our lives that shared our point of view. But where do you find such people? You would think that since childlessness is on the rise, making childfree friends would be an easy undertaking. But it’s not. I’ve found that it’s hard enough to make new friends when “childfree” isn’t a requirement. Add to that the fact that we live in a relatively small, suburban town with good schools and we’re screwed. It’s Mommyville up in here.
That’s why I’ve decided to launch an official quest for childfree friends. It’s going to require us to venture out of our comfort zone and put forth some real effort, but if we ever want to reclaim our social life and stop questioning the kid decision, we have to make some changes. After giving it some thought, I’ve identified 3 things we can do right now to find new friends and improve our social life:
- Connect. I just joined the “Childfree Couples 30+” group on Meetup.com. The group is based in the closest major city, which is a little over an hour away, but hopefully the change in scenery will send new people into our lives.
- Take a chance. Last year, I met someone professionally who told me that he and his wife will likely remain childfree. He also told me that he is a huge introvert and doesn’t need many friends. Because of that caveat, I never tried to connect with them. But for the sake of the quest, I’m going to reach out and propose dinner.
- Savor. I suppose we’re guilty of already writing off those childfree-but-not-for-long friends I mentioned earlier. Sure, our paths may be pulling us in different directions, but for now we’re in the same place and we should take every opportunity to enjoy that.
I’ll be sure to report back on my progress, but in the meantime…do you have any suggestions for how/where to find childfree friends?