Losing a Friend

I wrote this for Marcia Drut-Davis, a childfree trailblazer, a while back. Thanks for allowing me to re-post! If you don’t already, you should follow Marcia at her blog, Facebook page, and on Twitter.

Without further ado…

Losing a Friend

Losing a Friend childfree by choice childless by choice childfree life childfree living no kids life without kids life without children no children DINKS GINKS

Losing a Friend; In Scotland, Laphroig Distillery

I have to admit… being childfree has been fairly easy for me. First and foremost the woman I’ve been married to for 18 19 years, Amy, has known for many years that she doesn’t want kids. Effortlessly being on the same page with my partner has made my choice to be childfree less painful. Additionally, neither my family nor Amy’s has really given us any grief or significant pressure. I haven’t been completely immune though. There have been the occasional offhand comments and questions from family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and of course, complete strangers.

The most memorable questions for me have always been some variant of “When are you going to have kids?” The question really never bothered me much – it’s more memorable because of the effect my answer had on the asker. My response varied over time starting with the early “We’re probably not…” evolving to a more solid “Never!” as I became convinced Amy wasn’t going to change her mind about not having kids. In all cases my answer was accompanied by a huge grin. This usually appeared to fluster my questioner…Not having children? And so happy about it? Whuh?

That was always pretty fun for me.

Like I said, I’ve had a pretty easy go of being childfree. But there is one thing that really has affected me. That is watching a number of friends disappear into parenthood.

The list of friends that I’ve lost to parenthood is fairly long. There was the couple that lived in downtown Minneapolis who gave us never-ending shit for living in the suburbs…who then bought a McMansion in the burbs as soon as they got pregnant. There’s the colleague that accidentally knocked up another colleague; the first of an extensive list of bad decisions including marrying the woman and fathering more kids in short order. Like many other friends, after pregnancy, these folks’ lives changed to revolve nearly 100% around their kids. They seemed to acquire new friends, always with kids of their own. Meanwhile, Amy and I were essentially locked out.

Of all the friends I’ve ‘lost’ to parenthood, one in particular sticks out.

My best friend – let’s call him Joe – was a confirmed bachelor for the longest time. We spent a lot of our free time together… coffee shops, bars, and each other’s homes. We brewed beer together, sometimes with explosive results. We both loved to cook and drink Scotch, so gatherings featuring both happened often. He was always there for me and I’d like to think I was there for him.

Another bonus was that Joe and my wife were close. It’s not always true that your guy friends get along well with your wife. Trust me on this one. But Joe and Amy did, so when Joe met a woman and they got serious, we easily added her to the friendship. The four of us traveled together extensively including trips to the family cabin in northern Wisconsin, a ten day trip to Scotland, and a long weekend in New York to name a few.

And then about 6 years ago everything changed. Joe and his wife adopted a boy.

Let me say this in no uncertain terms: Joe and his wife are exactly the kind of people you want parenting. They are great parents and they are raising a great kid; a kid that I like a lot. We knew this would be the case and that is why when they asked us to give a character reference for them we didn’t hesitate.

However I can honestly say that I was horribly naive about how this would affect our relationship. Prior to fatherhood Joe was always the kind of guy that took care of people. He’s the guy that always showed up to help you move or build that deck or, in my case, pick up, acclimate, and put away shipments of marine fish at 2 AM. Suddenly that formidable caring side had a singular target that superseded all other obligations. His son became the center of his world and there was little time, money, or energy for me. This remains true.

So, do I regret that character reference? Absolutely not. As I said Joe is a great parent and having a child makes him and his wife happy. That makes me happy. There’s also the kid, a boy who was in an orphanage in a 3rd world country, who now has a better life ahead because of what Joe and his wife chose to do. How could I regret that?

So how does the story end? Joe and I are still friends and always will be but I miss him. I hope that as his boy gets older, Joe will find that he has more time for our relationship. Maybe I’ll have to wait until the boy is a man on his own. Who knows? In any case, I’ll still be waiting for my best friend.

6 Responses to Losing a Friend

  1. Sven March 17, 2014 at 1:43 am #

    Whilst I fully understand your gripe I think you might actually reach out to your “best” friend and give him more than lip-service as he struggles with managing the various claims on his time in life. If you don’t then your friendship will not only continue to diminish but it will eventually die, as you will grow too far apart. Your hope that he will return to the person he formerly was is futile as he is having experiences which will change him forever.

    His interests have broadened as he has a new person with other interests in his life now. This happens, whether it’s a new partner or a child, if we love them we experience something called personal growth, where we learn about and adopt some of the other person’s favourite hobbies and likes. I’m sure this happened to you when you met Amy. Your friend now has his partner AND another person who have different personalities and likes and dislikes, and he is being exposed to this and having to incorporate this in his life.

    If you love your friend and want to be a part of his life you will be wanting to grow with him as he grows. This mean maybe sacrificing some of your personal fishing and drinking time to sit next to him and watch his child play a sport. this might mean actually accepting his child not as a foreign object or a rival, but as just one more individual who is a part of his life.

    • Lance March 17, 2014 at 10:18 am #

      All of what you say is true. The problem is that we live halfway across the country from each other. There’s little option to causally get together (and when we have it has always been me traveling to him). When I’ve been in town, I have attended his boy’s football games, etc. What has really changed is that on the occasions that I (or Amy and I) are in town, we can’t get any time with the parents without the kid. If I knew that my friend was coming halfway across a continent to see me I’d like to think that I’d be able to plan some free time to be alone with my friend.

      • Sven March 17, 2014 at 5:10 pm #

        Ah, you should’ve mentioned that. Because I agree. Even if you both had children it is important for adults to spend grown up time with friends. Maybe you should mention this to your friend? Good friends are hard to find and even though he no doubt has other friends (with or without children), he could really make an effort to go out with you when you’re in town. I wonder, does he have a good support network at home? You can try getting them to have an adult weekend by suggesting, next time you go down, that you go on a couples weekend somewhere. Or suggest somewhere half way where you guys can meet for a weekend or longer once their child is older.

        It can be hard for parents to switch off when they’re around their home. We used to do that and leave the children with gran for the weekend. Great time to remember that there is still a you behind the mummy and daddy role.

        Having said that you might still have trouble getting them alone. We have friends whose marriage is in trouble because the husband can’t get alone time with his wife. She is so wrapped up in their child that he feels abandoned. We tried to suggest this to them but she wouldn’t even go out for a evening and leave him with a baby sitter.

        Good luck. Try to honestly tell your friend that even though you love seeing him and understand he’s got a child now, things feel a little lopsided to you and you really would like some time with them as just adults. It might be hard for him to accept that you’re not saying it because you are anti-kid, since people with children often act defensive towards people without children if any “grown up” time is suggested – so say it with all the finesse you can muster.

        You might suggest that he and his partner could no doubt do with some adult time or that you understand parenting is harder than what you can imagine so maybe they should take some time to recharge their batteries and strengthen their relationship with time-out from parenting.

        Good luck!

  2. Jen February 28, 2014 at 5:46 pm #

    I’m so sorry about your friend. I’m constantly afraid of the same thing happening to me, but I do have some CF friends so I’m lucky. I’m only 31, so I think the worst is yet to come on that front.
    Totally unrelated question… but how did you organize your ten day trip to Scotland? I love scotch and would love to do what it looks like you did.

    • Lance February 28, 2014 at 10:57 pm #

      Thanks. Re: Scotland, flew into Glasgow and drove to the west coast where we caught a ferry to Islay. We stayed in a great cottage across the loch from Bowmore.

      If you want more details email us at werenothavingababy@gmail. com.

  3. sunglint February 28, 2014 at 10:56 am #

    I really appreciated reading a man’s perspective on this sad event that frequently happens to us childfree people – the loss of friends to parenting. I have definitely experienced this as a woman, I felt like I basically no longer had sisters after they had kids (though thankfully my best friends who are moms also still make time for our friendship), and that female experience of this is talked about on blogs. But it’s nice to read about the other side of it too – childfree men mourn their guy friends disappearing down the daddy rabbit hole. The upside is that childfree (and childless) people can keep each other good company until the parents come back.

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