The Occasional Isolation of Living Childfree

By Victoria Fryer 

In a recent conversation, my husband and I were talking about how life seems to go in waves. The way everyone within your circle of friends, seems to be going through the same thing at the same time. It started with the marriage wave. Engagements were celebrated, wedding invitations came in the mail left and right, photo galleries showed up on Facebook every other Monday morning.

But after the initial marriage wave, then comes the baby wave. The Facebook feed becomes a minefield of “We’re excited to welcome,” baby bump shots, and cute gender reveals. I called 2013 The Year of the Baby because two old friends, two cousins, and several colleagues were all pregnant—and then it happened all over again in 2014. (Turns out lots of people have more than one baby. Who knew?)

But when a wave passes by that you can’t catch—whether that’s by choice or by chance—you can feel a little left behind. As you watch all your friends and family grow their little families into bigger and bigger ones, celebrating milestones almost every day, your own life can feel a little lonely.

As my husband and I have found as our friend group continues to mature, it can be an isolating feeling to be the only couple that doesn’t have children. At a table with other mothers, the conversation will inevitably turn to a wrestling coach that two kids share, or the grueling Little League schedule in which several of the children are participating. I sit quietly and listen, but I have nothing to offer.

In the first several years of our relationship, we went to all the summer barbecues and birthday parties our friends threw, the children playing together in the yard while the parents sit at picnic tables and eat macaroni salad. But, over time, we dropped off a little bit. It’s not that we don’t want to keep up our friendships. We do. But it gets harder and harder to feel like part of the group.

And it goes both ways: there are specific things we go through, common experiences, as people without children—by choice or by chance. I remember starting to wonder if anyone really cared about or understood those things. In the face of child-rearing, were those things even important?

I would never, not in a million years, let go of true friends because they had children. That’s not even an option on the radar. But, particularly when the children are young, the relationships inevitably have to shift and change a little bit to accommodate these new little lives. What I began to realize after too many backyard birthday barbecues was that I needed, at least sometimes, people who could truly understand the different place that I was in.

This isn’t a poor-me or a poor-us story, and I hope it’s not interpreted that way. It’s really a self-care story. Part of growing up is watching the community you’ve built around yourself change into the individuals they want to become, and that’s a beautiful thing. Life is a constant ebb and flow, and even the strongest ties still leave us wanting sometimes. Just like parents sometimes just need other parents to talk to and commiserate with, sometimes I need people who look like me.

Victoria Fryer is a 31-year-old writer and content strategist. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two pit bulls. You can find her on Twitter @extoria.

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  1. Hi Victoria,
    Great article. Unlike you and your husband, we do not have many friends these days, and tend to keep ourselves for ourselves. In the past, we did socialise with a few friends and the majority had children. Our priorities have changed as we get older and one of the things we have noticed is that friends can hold you back in terms of personal development, particularly, if you do not share the same values.

    There is nothing more depressing than coming back home from meeting friends and feeling so low that you wished you had not agreed to meet them in the first place. When that happens, you know that you are no longer on the same page and that it is time to have the courage to move one.

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