Parenthood: What’s A Couple Of Kids
Suzanne Braun Levine,
A few weeks ago my 25-year-old daughter mentioned that the first of her friends was pregnant. “It’s weird,” she said. To which I replied, “I know. In my experience, having a friend get pregnant was much more disruptive to the friendship than having one get married.”
I was reminded of that conversation when I saw the new movie Friends With Kids. Charming as it is, I was disappointed that the movie didn’t really address the stresses between friends who never have kids and those who do. I have been both.
For the first 20 years of my marriage — until I was into my 40s — I was the one who dreaded being handed a baby and tuned out baby talk. My friends and I managed to find neutral territory; since most of them went to work, we could meet for lunch and we had other things to talk about besides the kids. What was going on with their children was of interest to me only to the extent that it was going on for my friend. But it wasn’t the same for either of us. Others simply disappeared from my life — for a time at least.
Then I became the friend with kids to my friends without and got the other side of the picture. I bugged my parent-friends for advice, but babies were so long in their past that they often couldn’t remember what to do. I felt unappreciated by my childless friends, who didn’t seem to be paying attention to such a meaningful and stressful change in my life. I finally understood why a father-friend of ours was so outraged when, in our childless phase, my husband said he was getting interested in “having the experience” of parenting. As if that even began to describe it.
Of my many close and long-time friends who never had children, I don’t know how many would have liked to had things turned out differently or weren’t able to, and how many would say it was a choice. Now we are all past the child-rearing days (though the parenting goes on forever) and I am wondering how it is for those who have no children at our age. And why we have never discussed it.