Here we go, my first post of 2018. Bear with me on this one, as rather than being a post focussing on BG or an element of being “mum”, this post focusses on my Bestie. My child-free Bestie.
Bethany Ramos on http://www.sheknows.com makes an important distinction between child-less and child-free. A child-less person may plan for kids in the future or struggle to conceive. Childfree refers to those who do not have, and do not ever want, children (whether biological or adopted). My Bestie is child-free. To describe her as anything other than that would, in my opinion, be offensive.
Eleanor Tucker writing for The Guardian in an article entitled “I used to judge childfree women” talks about how her and her friends with children used to spend time speculating on their child-free friend’s “situation”, wondering if she couldn’t have children or didn’t want to. And if she didn’t want to – why not? Was she career obsessed? Did she not like them? Was she a secret drinker? As it turned out, like my Bestie, the person in question had simply chosen not to have children. She was happy for her family to be just her husband and herself. She had never felt the urge to be a mother. (https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/nov/08/i-used-to-judge-childfree-women)
My Bestie is not a parent. She has no intention of becoming a parent. She is gloriously child-free. To say that she is child-less, in my opinion, would somehow imply that she’s incomplete without a child, that she’s somehow ‘missing out’ or less of something. Given that she’s recently got married, it’s often a question (or an assumption) that children will follow – and it’s not. It’s not for everyone. The decision has been made and that, as they say, is that. I dare anyone to try and tell her she should have children… just to see my Bestie punch them in the face (shortly before I do!).
The Bestie and I met at school… not as students, but as teachers. Quickly establishing a very deep friendship, we have been as thick as thieves for 10 years. We’ve been through many birthdays, we’ve been through all sorts of life events, we’ve been each others’ chief bridesmaid and most recently, she became one of my daughter’s Godmothers. We’ve shared cocktails, we’ve moaned about work, husbands, parents, students and we’ve been there for each other when one of us needed a good cry (well, mainly, there was that time when she first cried on me and I panicked so I gave her to someone far more experienced… that person is probably reading this and knows who they are – thank you ‘N’). We’ve sent each other ‘extremely important, urgent, confidential‘ messages in brown envelopes across the school via students (these messages were 9 times out of 10 chocolate or something else that could be consumed) and we’ve been on several holidays together.
We are fiercely defensive of each other and would most probably fight anyone who offended or attempted to harm the other. We share a love of many things, Robbie Williams being one of them (as depicted by the attached picture which was one of my many ‘nights off’ parenting duty spent with her) and there are some things we categorically disagree on… the cultural value of the alleged ‘pop’ group Steps for example.
There have been many parts of my life over the last 10 years where I have wondered how I would have gotten through and ‘survived’ without her. She is one of my rocks and I know she will always be there. I sincerely hope she’s aware that this sentiment is reciprocated in full. Several people have said, my husband for one, that had we not met and married our respective menfolk, we’d probably be married to each other with lots of cats. I honestly do not know what I would do without her.
Not only is she amazing with BG but she is always there when I just need to be me!
She is one of only a small handful of people I know who is child-free. The vast majority of my married friends are currently ‘child-less’ with plans of starting a family of their own one day. Sometimes, she is the most welcome refreshing change – someone who does not simply ask about the “mum” identity of me. She asks about my “teacher” identity and she asks about my “individual” identity… that is, the parts of me that are not simply the wife or mother elements. She is a much-needed grounding point, a breath of fresh air. I am not for one moment ungrateful for BG, she is my world, but I as commented in “Identity Thief”, I am still me. I am a teacher, I am a person, I am an individual, I am a wife and I am a mother. I am many things, a combination of all of them and not defined by just one of them.
As teachers living a fair distance away from each other, our get togethers are usually arranged around our half term holidays and we always make a point of spending some quality time together. Sometimes this includes BG and sometimes it doesn’t. The Bestie is also of course duty bound to see BG as one of her Godmothers!
There are many articles out there on the web which offer advice to new mums about how to talk to their child-free friends about fitting in with your routine as a mum, and this got me thinking. I don’t agree with this sentiment.
When you have a child, your whole world changes. It’s almost unrecognisable. However, for your child free friend, nothing has changed in their own life… it is in fact yours that’s changed… isn’t it time we stopped expecting everyone to change their lives to fit in with us and our babies? I’m not suggesting that the child-free friends ignore the new, small human in our lives, not at all, but shouldn’t we as parents work our lives with small humans around the lives of those without small humans? Or at least attempt to compromise? We, as the “breeders” need to accept that those who are child-free appreciate times that are for adults and adults only… want to join in on that friend’s get together? Get a babysitter! Can’t get a babysitter? Then don’t go… send your apologies and go to the next one!
I would like to think that my Bestie knows we can always “hang out”… it’s just that sometimes we will be a trio and undoubtedly some food will be thrown, something will be chewed beyond all recognition, someone will probably run off in a random direction, someone will most probably poo themselves and someone will most definitely fall over (admittedly, some of these things have the potential to happen when we’re a duo… some more than others). My life might have changed, but hers has not. It is me and BG who need to adapt, not my Bestie.
That being said, she is still awesome, and probably has made lots of changes and adapted to the additional person who now shares my attention, it’s just not my expectation that she does!
Go out there and celebrate your child-free friends, make the most of them and use them to help you feel like you again… chances are they don’t want to talk about nappy changes, how many teeth little so-and-so has, how many hours you didn’t sleep last night or anything else related to children. They probably just want to talk to you about you, and perhaps talk a little about themselves in a grown-up kind of way. Tell them how thankful you are that they are still in your life and thank them for keeping you sane. To all the child-free Besties out there – thank you for being you… and to mine… love you Dude x