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
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.