Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Mommy vs. Non-Mommy Divide (Part 2: Can Mommy and Non-Mommy be friends?)

Struggling with own my feelings over the Mommy and Non-Mommy Divide, I asked over a dozen of my girlfriends to weigh in...  with some interesting revelations!  Here's Part 2 in this blog mini-series.

Part 2: Can Mommy and Non-Mommy be friends?

I've heard the term "bros before hoes", but you'll never hear "ladies over babies"!

As I mentioned in Part 1, what bothers me most is not the kids, but what happens to the relationships between Mommy and Non-Mommy friends... how friends who used to enjoy a girls' night out together turn into complete strangers, even frenemies, as we navigate this invisible Mommy vs. Non-Mommy Divide.

Most of the women who responded felt that friendships had changed, if not ended, once someone in the relationship became a Mommy while another was not.  In many cases, the "phasing out" was similar to what happened to Becca, a newly married gal who doesn't have kids yet: "It's happened with my friends who've had children and we just don't hang out anymore, though it doesn't seem like any specific thing happened... we would make time for coffee dates in the beginning and they just got fewer and farther in between."

Jo: [Before I was a Mommy] I used to really hold a grudge, but when you switch sides you are able to see and understand how lives drift apart so easily.  When I wasn't a mom, I felt abandoned, but now that I am a mom, [my Mommy friends and I] have reconnected.  I do still try to make time for my non-mommy friends, but it's probably me doing the abandoning now.

Gabi:  I feel closer to fellow Moms than ever because we have all been through a sort of 'rite of passage'... there is a connection there that I don't have with other non-mom friends.

Ellie:  I think if you have a strong friendship, it will survive.  If it's a socially convenient friendship, maybe not.  I was a non-Mommy for so long; I now feel like I have abandoned some of my then-Mommy friends.  but I don't see it as abandonment; it's just a natural progression of all of us living our lives. 

I think that Ellie's words really caught my attention the most.  I thought about the friendships I'd lost when girls became Mommies... and realized that they weren't the strongest friendships to begin with.  They were socially convenient, and their dissipation as interests changed almost seemed inevitable.

Kim:  I wouldn't say I've lost friends... children tend to take over the mother's life in every area in most cases.  Birds of a feather, right?  But the friendships never had very solid foundations to begin with, [so] no abandonment, now way.

Jenna:  I have lost every friend that has ever become a Mom.  I can honestly say I do not have a single friend that is a Mom.  Their priorities change and they simply do not have the time or energy to devote to non-playdate friends. They do not partake in the same activities.  I have become numb to the process; I assume it will happen, emotionally prepare myself for the change, and constantly look for new friends of the non-Mommy variety.  I am especially close to women who cling to the ideals of not having children ever.

Kris:  I haven’t lost a friendship due to one of my friends becoming a mommy, but I would say our friendship has less time because they have different goals now. It does hurt at times when your friendship is lessened because the other can't make the time for you or the other person anymore.  I do believe that at times I could be the abandoner to the mommy friends.  [Sometimes me and my friends] who didn’t have children would go out on a Saturday night each month for dinner and a movie. We didn’t normally invite the [Mommies]  because then they had to get babysitters.

Kim's words echo Ellie's.  It's good to know that some women on both sides of the divide understand why it happens... but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt our feelings.

I did have another, more potentially incendiary question...  Is there jealousy towards each other involved in this separation?  The answers were across the board.

Becca: Yes and No. I think for the Mommies who weren't actually mentally prepared to be Mommies there could be alot of jealousy because they were not able to live out their young adulthood with less responsibilities and "get the wild out" so to say. And no because I think that some do make the choice and are tired of having the Non-Mommy lifestyle.

Maura:  I feel both sides have jealousy towards the other. As a non-mother, I feel those with children are jealous that I have a life that allows me time to work, volunteer, travel, and generally enrich myself with being involved in the local community. I’ve personally been subjected to jealousy from those who have to stay at home, or choose to stay home, and are just plain bored with their lives. They don’t have adult contact all day, and I pity them for that. I think staying at home and raising your family is very important and each family have to choose what is right for them. When it’s my turn to be a mother, provided we’re able to do this financially, I would love to have the job as a mother – it’s very hard work. But you have to be mentally and physically prepared to fend for yourself. Society is not responsible for your, or my, offspring.

Kim:  In my personal experience that is entirely circumstantial. Some of them have expressed moments of jealousy of the single or childless life, but it was fleeting, some of them express no jealousy at all and cannot imagine being anything other than a mother. I think it also might have a lot to do with someone's level of being secure in their lives... As for the flip side, I can personally say that I am not jealous of mothers. It is a hard and thankless job sometimes, and at this juncture in my life, I can't fathom having that responsibility, even though I love children, and I love caring for them. I really value my adult time, and the freedom that I have in traveling and career wise, etc.

Melanie: I've never been jealous; I think that I am sometimes frustrated that people who are still single don't give any consideration to people who are parents and what sort of dates/times for social events would work for them.  I am lucky that I have always been able to afford babysitters--though for many parents, especially single moms, this is not the case.

Amanda:  Yes. Mommies want to have the vacation and the alone time. I struggle with my own identity at times. I believe mostly because I'm just Mommy now.

Ellie:  I suspect for the moms who had babies young, and never had the years to have their own career, to have the fun nights out, yes, there could be a jealousy factor.  And I also think there is a fear among the single ladies out there who know they do want kids, that "what if" in the back of your mind saying, "what if I never find the right guy"  or "what if my body doesn't support having kids?"  or "what if this never happens for me?"  But, hopefully everyone can be supportive and happy with their choices and find the bright side in all of the scenarios.  I've lived both sides, and on any given day, it is a toss-up on which is harder/better/more rewarding!

Vickie: Everyone gets jealous.  If they say they don’t it’s a lie.  At the end of the day all that matters is that you are happy with your life.  If you’re not then it’s up to you to make some changes to make your life something that will make you happy.

Carrie:  I wouldn't call it jealousy.  Personally, while I wished I had my "me" time back, I felt that I had been there, done that with the partying/vacations, etc.  I was jealous that my non-mommy friends could be way more spontaneous than me, but I don't feel that they're doing anything that I didn't get a chance to do already.  I would probably feel differently had I been a young mom, though.

One of the ladies, Kris, shared a very personal and honest side of why, as a Non-Mommy, she is jealous of Mommies... because of her struggle with infertility.

Kris:  I believe the mommies have more jealousy issues because they are now responsible for another person. They can’t pick up the phone anymore and say, let's go out right now... On the other hand, I’m very jealous of the moms. My husband and I have been trying for 5 years for children. The doctors tell us we can’t have children unless we do in vitro. I didn’t used to be a jealous person but now any time I see someone pregnant or have children, I get angry. I have had times of fun with my husbands and the girls, I want my turn to have my children, but I can’t on my terms. I get jealous of those who can, even though I know rationally that I shouldn’t be jealous.

Others, like Jenna, a Non-Mommy with no plans whatsoever to have children, felt completely opposite.

Jenna:  I have never been jealous of a woman with a child. I commend them for their efforts but a child would be the most life-ruining event to ever happen to me. I'm glad that my future spouse and I feel the same way and we have taken permanent precautions to assure this never happens. I literally have no positive emotions when I think about a lifestyle with children.

What was my takeaway from all of this feedback?  It was kind of what I expected.  Mommies and Non-Mommies can be friends!  But the both sides need to work at it, and if the friendship wasn't that great to begin with, it might not work as priorities change.  The Non-Mommy life makes it easier to feel less jealousy towards Mommies; there's just more freedom/time to be selfish.  It also seems that some of the women who became mothers at a younger age dealt with more jealousy than those who became mothers later on.  It may have a lot to do with how many years of true, independent adult life they had without a child to care for.  As time passes, they feel more secure in their motherhood and proud of the hard work they've put into their child's life.  Many of the Mommies were so well-adjusted that jealousy is absolutely a non-issue.

As for me, personally I am happy in my life without children at this point.  I like being able to go out with my friends on a whim, splurge on shopping sprees and fancy dinners without feeling guilt, and getting lots of good, uninterrupted sleep.  I don't feel jealous of Mommies, but I also know that I have been a bit ignorant as to how my lifestyle/behavior might make them feel.

Stay tuned for Part 3: The Mommy/Non-Mommy Identity

P.S.  Have you entered my free jewelry giveaway???


  1. I think there is always a difference between moms and non-moms just like there is a disconnect between those who are married and those who are single. Different stages of life, different responsibilities, just a different focus entirely! It's easy to just stop inviting your mom friends out because it's hard to go out with a kid, but maybe meeting at other times, going for coffee, bringing your fun to their house perhaps could go a long way in saving the friendship. I love having non-mom friends over but it's much more difficult for me to go out with them somewhere else. Maybe later when the baby is older.

  2. It definitely is a challenge, and the more I think about it, friendships thrive when you have something in common. If you're a motorcycle enthusiasts, I bet most of your friends have bikes. If you're a dog person, I bet you have fellow dog-lover friends. And, to a larger extent, Mommies need other Mommies because they have this HUGE thing in common. They need someone they can relate to, and have fun with. So I see where everyone was coming from.

  3. I have a hard time finding moms that understand our decision to not have children and many times that gets in the way of us developing a strong friendship to begin with. I lost a very close friend a few years ago after she became a mom and I am not 100% sure why. But on the other hand one of my very best friends is a mom and I love her little boy to death. My mom hoped it wold make me want kids but it has really just confirmed that it isn't in the cards for me. My relationship with her though is very different because there are so many other connecting factors in our lives. Her having a child has not affected it as much. But so far that situation is unique.

  4. Aubrey,
    How interesting that you decided to do this as a blog topic! I have to admit, I've been following the recent posts that I think probably led up to this, and as someone who would love kids someday, I really find this fascinating. I do have to say that I think more than anything I find myself exasperated not by the fact that people I know chose to have children, (I love children) but by the fact that their lives are so subsumed with talk of children and parenting. I love these people, and I grew to love them because they had so many interesting aspects of their lives, but once they decided to have children, almost from the moment that they found out they were having children, all they can talk about is pregnancy and children. In most cases (but not all) every interesting facet they had disappears in favor of discussion about how many doulas they're hiring, or what cravings they had or how many times they vomited today.
    While I'm happy to discuss this sometimes, I understand that it's an exciting time in their lives, I would love to talk about other things as well. Like all the other things we used to talk about before they started incubating new humans. Ditto for people with children. Odds are I love your kids, but you could take some time to talk about other things and make an effort to be my friend and not simply expect me to be a potty-training cheering section 100% of the time.

  5. Mallory, it really drove me nuts when I was married and my ex's family and religious friends wanted to know when we were having kids. It's like they assume marriage means a baby is the next logical step. I have very happy friends who never intend on having kids, but dote on their nieces/nephews and have a totally fulfilled life. I think it's presumptuous for parents to assume other people need kids to find happiness just because they love their own.

    Jen, it was hard writing this because I do love kids. I recently got excited when my friend's 3-year-old told me over the phone that he went #2 in the potty... because I knew how hard they were working on that training. People assume because I live a single, working girl's life that I'm not into kids at all, but that's not true. I just dislike when people IMPOSE their children on me and don't parent properly in public.

  6. Aubrey,
    I ABSOLUTELY agree with you. Kids are awesome. Some parents are not. I know parents always say that childless people think they have all the right answers for parenting but once they have kids they understand that there are no right answers. To that, I say we (childless people) just haven't forgotten what it's like to care about other people's feelings. I"m not saying this is the case with all parents by a long shot, but so often parents only focus on their child's needs (and rightly so) they forget about other peoples'. The only example I can think of is with my dogs. I have two dogs I love like children. One is very good in new situations, the other is not. Yesterday, a friend invited me to the beach to have a doggie play date with her new puppy. I understand my dogs' limitations and because I know what each is capable of, I left one dog at home. She loves the beach and the water, but would not have behaved well with children or puppies. She really wanted to go with Max and I, but I had to leave her at home to keep those around me safe and happy. I could have taken her, but it would have inconvenienced everyone there if I had to continually ask them to accommodate my dog by keeping their children and pets clear of her. It hurt me to leave her, but if I couldn't cope with keeping her home, I would have decided not to go at all, as opposed to insisting that everyone else be inconvenienced.

  7. Aubrey, this is very interesting to read.

    I feel compelled to comment on the above comment regarding the dogs. Before I had children, I doted on my dogs all the time and felt like they were my children. Now that I have a child, I know that the love you feel for a child is so far beyond that you feel for a pet. It is also not as simple as choosing to leave your child home. It is perfectly okay to do so with a dog, but your ultimate goal is not to raise your dog to be a functioning, productive member of society. As a parent it is often necessary to bring your child into many types of situations in order to teach them how to behave. Sometimes it goes well. Sometimes it doesn't. But choosing to leave the child at home like a dog would not teach them anything, and to me that would be an ultimate failure as a parent.

  8. Maura,
    I'm really sorry if you felt like I was equating my dogs with your children. I do understand the difference, really I do. I love my dogs, but I understand that they are a separate species and have different needs and function differently than children do. I do think my point still stands. You can choose to leave your child at home with a baby sitter when you are going to engage in activities that are not designed for children (like adult parties, movies rated above your child's maturity level, events going on late at night) and still raise them to be functioning members of society and teach them how to behave at developmentally appropriate times. Please don't think that I believe children should exist in a vacuum and appear fully developed at adulthood. Maybe I should have made clearer that the only times I am talking about excluding children are from occasions where children are not expected by society to be, like the times I listed above. Because I feel I've hijacked this comment thread a little, I'll bring it back to the overarching point of the blog post and mention that if more parents would do this, they would be better able to hold on to and make more non-parent friends.

  9. My SIL phrased it perfectly "before babies, your pets are your babies. After baby, your pets are just that, pets."

    I think many people who don't want children assume that parents sacrifice so much. I guess I don't see it that way; I see parenthood as trading up. I've given up nothing of true importance...trips, expensive shoes, girls' nights out - irrelevant in the long run. I'll get my "selfish" time back one day. In the meantime, it's an indescribably wonderful experience to get to raise a being you'd give your life for in the world, and no amount of "footloose and carefree" living could compare. I still maintain friendships with non-mommies...the ones i've let go are those who seem to excuse their disinterest in my life's progression with claiming that I don't make more of an effort. You have to question if you're the reason moms have let you go and not just blame it on their reluctance to get childcare.

  10. Caroline, I think that some Mommies are fortunate enough to have that balance immediately, and financial stability to boot. Some of those I interviewed who had children much younger and didn't have the same opoprtunities early on.

    And it really is all about a change in priorities... to me, trips are truly important, and something I'm passionate about. They were to my family as I grew up too, even when my sister and were infants, so I never intend to let that change. Girls' nights out aren't irrelevant to me even in the long run, they are quality time spent with friends. I DO see that changing as I start a family...

    I guess what I'm trying to say is, if you play devil's advocate, those things are important and relevant to people who may not ever want to have kids, and there's nothing wrong with that! Your child does become your top priority, but to assume that because those other things aren't your priority and that they are meaningless to others isn't true.

    You are a very well-adjusted Mom, and you actually make an effort to stay in touch with those who aren't parents yet, and that shows your ability to balance it all!


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