An Open Letter To Friends With Children

by Heather Harlen
Originally Published: 

Dear Girlfriends With Children,

You envy me at times. I don’t have to drag a lawn chair and a travel mug of chardonnay to 10 a.m. soccer games. I can sleep in on the weekends. I envy you at times, like when you come home from the movies and even though your kids and I had a great time playing Freeze Dance and building forts, nothing can ever match the shouts of joy when they see you. You always have a date for the zoo or the latest Pixar release.

Now that you have kids and I don’t want kids, our paths are different. Some friendships stay, some stray for a while, some disappear into sticky pages of photo albums. Most likely, though, if we’re still actively friending into midlife, we’ve got something good. Here’s what I’d like you to know about being a Friend (with a capital F) to a Friend Without Kids:

1. Embrace your imperfections. Don’t apologize because your living room looks like a Lego factory exploded or you have muffin top. Have you seen my house? Do you see my butt? I don’t have kids, so what’s my excuse? I’m more interested in seeing you and your family, anyway. To quote the movie you can’t escape, “Let it go.”

2. Invite me to playdates and parties. Just because I don’t have a cute little kid to take to the amusement park doesn’t mean I don’t want to share the day with you. I may be old and crotchety, but there’s still nothing like having a wee one wave to you from a spinning mini-helicopter. Chances are, I’d love to go to a movie night in the park with you or run through the sprinklers one afternoon. Just because I’m doing whatever my childless-self wants doesn’t mean I don’t want to hang out with you and your family. Plus, I’ll always spring for the ice cream.

3. Make time for adults-only playdates. Scheduling and child care can be complicated, but let’s just meet for lunch or coffee, without the kids. So what if our days of happy hour(s) debauchery are over? Let’s grab a beer while Hudson is at karate. I’ll even go to the grocery store with you, if that’s your free time for the week. If it means scheduling a month in advance, let’s do it and keep that time sacred.

4. Be specific about getting together if it requires travel. Please don’t say, “Oh! Visit any time! We’re always here!” or “We have to get together this fall!” Give me dates. Offer a few weekends my husband and I can travel to see you. We only have to schedule a pet sitter and pack up ourselves, so it’s probably easier for us to come to you. Sure, I’m on the go often, but I always have time for you. I’m just not inviting myself to your house. Even if you sincerely mean visit any time, it’s very awkward for me to ask you for some dates to visit you.

5. Honor my opinion like you would a fellow mom’s. One of my most infuriating work conversations was with a colleague who dismissed my opinion on preschoolers wearing graduation caps and gowns (save the pomp and circumstance for high school graduation) because I don’t have children. I was a kid once and I have children in my life, so I have perspective. I’m also fairly intelligent. Like a priest who gives advice about marriage, take from it what you will because I might have something worthwhile for you the few times I am daring enough to pipe in. Maybe my macro can inform your micro.

6. Talk to me about your kids. I don’t know how many ounces of formula are acceptable and cannot talk about the daily grind. I’m more interested in the joys, the struggles, what you’re learning, how you’re feeling. Parenting is hard, so please talk about it because you have a captive audience—I don’t have to be home for bedtime.

7. Talk about other things, too. Your bundle of joy has taken the main stage of your life, and I want to have a front row seat. At the same time, there’s a whole world outside the baby gate. No one asks about you anymore, right? Here’s your chance to critique Orange Is the New Black or tell me about books you want to read. Your goals and dreams still matter. Let me have the joy to affirm them and talk with you. The last thing I want is for you to lose yourself. I’ve seen plenty of parents do that and the consequences are horrible. You are my friend because you are awesome. You are a sounding board, a cheerleader, a goofball. I need you too.

8. Don’t tell me that I would still make a great mom one day (hint hint). I will give you that having kids is probably one of the best things in the world. For you, it might be the best thing. I appreciate that you think I’d make a good mom. I know I would. Your family occupies space in that part of my own heart, and I couldn’t be more grateful for all of you. I may not want children of my own, but I will always want other people’s children in my life.


Your Girlfriend Without Children

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