5 Coping Strategies For When Your Friends Have Kids, You Don’t, and You Are Angry About That [Updated]

Disclaimer: None of these are very good coping strategies.

1) Drink

On Sunday, Husband and I went to a charity alcohol tasting event. Because I am not pregnant, both of us sampled a lot of alcohol, and both of us had to sit in the parked car for an hour after the event because neither of us was sober enough to drive home. We did eventually get home, pass out, and wake up only marginally hung over.

That actually turned out to be the highlight of my Monday. You know your day sucked when getting to work late because you’re hung over is the best part of the day.

Drinking alcohol is a time-honored coping strategy for many problems. Not a smart strategy, but certainly time-honored. Photo by Maurício Mascaro from Pexels

2) Wear a Mask

Local Sibling and I met up. Local Sibling is pregnant. Local Sibling proceeded to complain about the physical pains of pregnancy. I nodded sympathetically. Then Local Sibling decided to give some advice:

Pregnancy sucks. Don’t get pregnant. Don’t have kids.

-Local Sibling

In fairness to Local Sibling, everyone in offline life, including Local Sibling, thinks the reason we don’t have kids is because we are happily child-free by choice. It’s not a ridiculous assumption. I don’t even necessarily disagree with the “by choice” part. I believe in free will, and I take ownership for the, in some cases, poor choices that led me here. (The reason I do not have children is less the work of G-d punishing me and more the work of me being a fucking idiot who failed to make decisions that would lead to that end point.)

However, “happily child-free” is not true, and I can actually feel my facial expression change from “I care about you, and I’m sorry to hear about your physical ailments” to “Fuck you“.

Fortunately, I am wearing a mask and this hides my facial expression.

I’m surprised mask wearing didn’t catch on more for that reason alone. Do other people have honest relationships with their friends and relatives or something? Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

3) Buy Gifts That Communicate The Right Message

Later on in the day, I receive the news via email that (now formerly) Pregnant Friend had the baby. Ours is a friendship that started out of convenience (two people of approximately same age/life stage living in the same geographic area) that had just started to transition to actual friendship. I am happy for Said Friend.

However, I refuse to maintain friendships with friends-turned-parents as a matter of principle. Friends-turned-parents expect you to be a pseudo-aunt to their kid, which I refuse to do. I will not play this crappy role so that you can feel better about yourself and pretend like we are still friends. And friends-turned-parents are awful about putting any effort into the friendship. So I refuse to put in effort either.

I am going to provide them a meal as per the communal norm, and I am even considering buying a gift from their baby registry (not the communal norm, but whatever). And then I’m going to end this friendship.

Still, the goodbye message should be “Congratulations! I enjoyed our friendship, which will now come to an end. I wish you well”. It should be a thoughtful gift, not a backhanded slap in the face. But it should be a gift that says “I do not wish to have any relationship with your child.

If anyone has any ideas for what baby gift communicates those messages, I am open to suggestions. Photo by Kampus Production from Pexels

4) Make It Awkward

We went to a kiruv (Orthodox Jewish outreach to get Jews to become more observant) event. I don’t remember why I thought this was a good idea, but it was an in-person social event with some Jewish learning, free food and free wine, so it didn’t sound like a truly bad idea.

Kiruv Rabbi gave an informal short talk referencing Torah. I liked the talk and I told him so.

JYP: I enjoyed your talk.

Kiruv Rabbi: Thank you!

JYP: That verse you quoted, (quotes verse), that’s from my Bat Mitzvah parsha.

Kiruv Rabbi: We just celebrated my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah on Sunday.

JYP: Oh very nice! Mazal tov!

I meant it. A Bar/Bat Mitzvah, when a Jewish child becomes an adult, is a very joyous occasion.

Kiruv Rabbi: *tells some story about when this daughter was born twelve years ago about how his wife is some heavily pregnant superhero hosting Shabbat meal guests while she was in labor*

This story pissed me off on many levels. I didn’t ask about your daughter’s birth story. I hate stories of pregnant superheroes, superhero moms, and superhero Shabbat hostesses. And finally, what kind of asshole tells a potentially not-happily-child-free person, a person who may never have a child, a story about their kid’s birth? Especially after I was kind enough to tell him I liked his talk and congratulate him on his kid’s bat mitzvah.

I deliberately do not give him the response he wants to hear.

JYP: (deliberately ignoring Kiruv Rabbi’s daughter’s birth story) I celebrated my Bat Mitzvah anniversary at my hometown synagogue and I leyned the whole parsha again. It was very nice.

Kiruv Rabbi: That’s a long parsha.

JYP (sweetly): I know. I’m an excellent leyner.

The previously pleasant conversation becomes awkward, and Kiruv Rabbi manages to exit the conversation. A good thing, as Kiruv Rabbi believes women should not be allowed to read from the Torah.

I feel like I ought to feel bad for making the conversation awkward, but I really don’t. Honestly, Kiruv Rabbi started it.

Embrace the awkward cringe. Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

5) Travel

I chose to cope with this already awful week using my go-to maladaptive coping strategy (thanks, Ashley) of daydreaming escapism, and I researched vacation options. I searched for retreats planned by some organization because I can’t deal with the decision-making of planning a trip from scratch.

I found a trip for young professionals organized by another Kiruv group.

JYP: We should go!

Husband: (reads trip details) This is for singles.

(Note: it doesn’t expressly say singles only; Husband has inferred this from the organizers’ language of “Young Professionals“)

JYP: We can pretend to be single.

We could, and pretty convincingly! I don’t cover my hair, neither of us wear our rings these days, and most relevant, we have different legal last names.

Husband: That sounds dumb.

JYP (lovingly hugging Husband): I think it would be fun! Holding hands on the bus, making out in the hallways before someone catches us, quickies before our roommates get back… it’ll be like summer camp or something.

Quickies aren’t usually my cup of tea, but I find myself getting turned on by my own idea.

Husband: This trip makes no sense. It’s expensive. We’re married.

At that point, something in my mind kind of snapped. Like if Husband had said something like, “This destination does not interest me”, “This destination is on the CDC Very High Risk List”, or even “Why are we going on a kiruv trip when we aren’t interested in becoming Orthodox” those would have been a reasonable points in opposition. But the idea that we couldn’t go on a trip because it cost money and we’re married really rubbed me the wrong way.

JYP (no longer hugging or loving): That is what meals, programming, and lodging cost. Can you plan an equivalent trip yourself? Would you actually bother to plan an equivalent trip for both of us, or would you just expect me to do it? And yeah, we’re married, which apparently means we don’t get to go on any trips because you have a million restrictions and you always think the cost is unreasonable. So we don’t get to go anywhere, and we don’t have children so we have nothing to look forward to because our lives are pointless and meaningless. I love that we’re saving all this money for the sole purpose of dying and leaving it to the nieces and nephews, since we’re apparently not doing anything with the rest of our lives.

I can’t remember how much of the above I said out loud and how much I was just yelling in my head.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter. If I decide to go on the trip, I’ll go by myself. It’ll make pretending to be single more convincing.

This probably goes without saying, but you probably shouldn’t take relationship & marriage advice from this blog. Or any advice from this post.

****

So yeah, my week sucks. How’s yours going?

***

UPDATE:

I booked a spot on that “singles” trip for myself.

My COVID risk tolerance is such that I am willing to travel basically anywhere that will let me in and do pretty much anything short of an orgy (too much mouth-breathing with strangers, you know?) and I’ve already been to a country that was on the CDC Very High Risk List at the time, so I’m not particularly anxious about COVID. The crime rate statistics for this destination are somewhat troubling, but this seems like a heavily guided group trip.

I’m actually kinda excited that it’s a kiruv trip with a Shabbaton (big communal Shabbat experience, often with special talks and song). It’s funny – I posted that I wasn’t going to keep Shabbat anymore, and then I’ve found myself keeping more of Shabbat than anticipated as more communal Shabbat stuff came back. I mean, I’m not keeping it 100% and I don’t see myself going back to full observance, to be honest. But I still like Shabbat parties.

Anyway, the week has improved somewhat. It feels good to have travel plans.

How was your week?

63 comments

  1. I had previously assumed that your child-free status was because you were estranged from hubby & living separate lives. Idk why I thought that… reading something into your posts that wasn’t there, I guess. But it sounds here like you are together, so it’s just confusing. Not that you should alleviate my confusion! I just had the wrong idea about your life and will commence to adjust 🙂

    On another note, rabbis (of all denoms) can be super awk!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. All that really sucks. You made some good points on travel. What’s money good for if you can’t have fun? I really like your sarcasm, ornery attitude toward life, and your no nonsense, straight foreword policy of having no friends with children. Makes perfects sense. It’s easy for me as I have few friends, and those very few who have children, their children are grown.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Exactly – outside of necessary expenses, what’s the point of money if you can’t do anything fun with it?
      It’s less a hard and fast rule and more of a, “if you’re not putting in effort, neither am I”. Like Bestie (due any day now with #3) is an exception, but she’s the only one. But I think a huge part of that is that Bestie and I have been besties since we were 14. Friends I made in adulthood seem to think that I’ll happily play that pseudo-aunt role because it’s convenient for them because we became friends out of that same age/same life stage/same geographic area convenience. Whereas Bestie and I remained friends even when it wasn’t convenient.

      Liked by 2 people

      • It’s funny I have two besties, one wast born 4 days after me and there’s not a time we can remember we didn’t know each other. Up until he got married we did everything together. His wife is a total, you know what, so we rarely see each other. I only met his kids at their graduations, I sat next to the woman who called me the Antichrist at one of their graduations. Lucky she didn’t remember me or all hell would have broken out. Anther friend from high school I see once ever six months to catch up on life. I like his wife, but have only seen her a few times. I only know his daughter through our lunch conversations. She’s in college now. As I said it’s easy when you have few friends.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’m sorry about your besties. It’s definitely not easy to watch your friends marry someone awful. Bestie’s husband is an absolute sweetheart, but Bestie’s first husband was a dick.

          For me and my bestie, we never tried to transition our 1-on-1 friendship to a couple’s friendship. Our husbands actually like each other, but they have few common interests and to be honest, we were much more interested in maintaining a girl’s confidante relationship than in becoming “couple friends” who do stuff together as a couple. She never expected me to be an auntie to her kids and I’ve found myself much more willing to engage with her kids as a result vs. the kids of less close friends who seem to think my engaging with their kids is a condition for the friendship to continue.

          It is also different when the kids are grown up.

          Liked by 2 people

          • We never had many friends that were couples. The few that we did that we did thinks together as couples have moved away, died or both. When I was racing bikes, I spent hours every week with my training partners and teammates, I have no idea what has happened to most of them. I’m not one to keep up with old friends.

            Liked by 1 person

          • I find “couples friends” to be a strange and overrated concept. Husband and I have totally different interests (there’s some overlap, but not a ton)- finding an activity that the two of us want to do, let alone that both halves of another couple also want to do, is a stretch. Then you have to coordinate four people’s schedules. And that’s assuming you even like your friends’ partners in the first place.

            I am sorry about your friends who passed away.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Fortunately, Laurie and I have many of the same interests and our couples friends did too. So when we got together we could discuss life the universe and everything into the wee hours of the morning. We rarely did any activities other than walking in the bosque. We sat around and discussed religion, politics, art, music, travel, books, firearms, whatever. All the things people are split over these days.

            In the early 1990s when we were doing a lot of salsa dancing and we had a flood of Cuban refugees in town, we had weekly dance sessions at our house. We had Cubans, Japanese, people from various countries in South American, Mexicans, Italians, Spaniards, Christians, Jews, atheists, agnostics, pagans, witches, gays, lesbians, professors, professionals, laborers, musicians, artists, people with all different cultural backgrounds and with various skin colors hanging out together learning to dance and discussing all the taboos we can’t discuss today. I told people they could debate, agree, disagree all they wanted, but no fighting. Everyone got along. It was pretty amazing. That’s one reason our daughter grew up with now racial biases. She had contact with a lot of different people from different cultures, religious affiliations and sexual orientations growing up.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Sounds nice!
            Friendship and political discourse are two things that I think have gotten considerably worse in quality in today’s world. No one has time for real friendships so we have social media ones, and we build Facebook echo chambers and block anyone with a different opinion so we don’t have to hear it.

            Liked by 1 person

          • It’s the phenomenon when people unfriend or block their Facebook friends who have different political views because they can’t have civil discussions together (admittedly, Facebook is a terrible forum for discussion). Basically the exact opposite of what you’d want from an actual friendship.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Most of the people I can call friends have very different polital views than I have and we get along. I can’t deal with people who are violently rabid about their politics.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. I never realised you had such a penchant for sarcasm 🙂 I’m sure you’d make a good mom. “child-free by choice” and “child-free” are different things and it’s sad that people assume things. Hope things get better soon!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I might have asked this before, but have you looked into adoption? Other childless friends of mine (who could not have children due to physiological reasons) adopted, and they have lovely families with happy children.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I would be overjoyed to adopt children. But there are enough logistical obstacles to adoption such that I don’t have confidence that adoption is any more likely an outcome than having biological children (which I also do not have any confidence will occur). I cannot go into further detail on this point.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. People shouldn’t make assumptions about why other people don’t have children. End of story.

    I manage to avoid “Why don’t you have children?” conversations because most people in the real world think I’m still single. I don’t know why they don’t ask why I’m not married; maybe they think I’m too weird for that to ever happen.

    E and I would like to have children, but don’t know if it’s going to be possible for a whole range of reasons. It is hard to be in the area where I live and see people (mostly Haredi) ten years younger than me with a whole brood of kids and not know if I will ever manage to have one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • People don’t ask me directly either (something to be thankful for, I suppose) but the assumptions are not much of an improvement. I don’t exactly wish people would ask outright instead of making assumptions. (I do have some deeply inappropriate comebacks in response to rude direct questioning, but still).

      It is difficult. I wish I could offer you some positive coping suggestions for dealing with the “these people are ten years younger with tons of kids and who knows if I’ll ever be a parent” feelings, but, as evidenced above, I honestly don’t have any. If you’ve got suggestions, I’m listening.

      Liked by 1 person

    • In fairness to Husband, there were some legitimate reasons to think this was not the most ideal trip. Concerns about the safety of the destination (COVID and other safety) and the “why are we going on this trip if we’re not the target audience for the Orthodox outreach programming” – those are valid points. But like, “it costs money” seemed relatively idiotic. Everything costs money!

      Anyway, don’t feel bad for me because a) I really could just go on this trip by myself and b) the end result of my travel day-dreaming escapism exercise is that I found yet another international trip idea that’s a better fit from a programming / destination comfort perspective and it doesn’t even require pretending to be single (although I still think that could have been fun)

      Liked by 1 person

      • We have found the best way to keep marriage fresh is to lead both joint and separate lives. We have joint, overlapping and separate social lives, go out and travel together or separately according to which of us wants to do what, go where and with whom. We have interests and activities we share and others we pursue largely independent of each other. To make this work requires an underlying mutual respect and trust that I see as a primary condition of marriage from the outset. I don’t mean to sound preachy, just saying something like this can work if that is what you both want.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. This must have been a hard post to write and your honesty is much appreciated. I’m in a similar boat though not married yet (engaged). Clock is ticking. I don’t know what I want–but I want the luxury of options and the opportunity to make the decision. I don’t have married friends my age, so I don’t deal with this firsthand too often. Where I work, the issue is more the single mom at seventeen, so I don’t relate there, and at church it’s grandma with fifty grandkids, so ditto. I too don’t want friends with kids. I’m not babysitting and going goo goo ga ga. Sorry. All I want in life is options.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Weirdly, this post did not feel so challenging to write and share. Probably an indicator that I should feel more ashamed and embarrassed about having written this bluntly.

      It makes sense, the anxiety and fear around losing options. I felt good about options for a while – I was and still am very open to adoption, so I thought I had more options. But adoption is a whole other set of logistical challenges and I’m feeling the pressure of losing the biological option too.

      You’re not missing anything by not having married friends your age. I think having married couple friends is the most overrated concept. Socializing with the church grandma is far better.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. As always, I appreciate your honesty and candor (that’s why we have blogs, right?!). My ex-wife and I decided not to have children for a variety of reasons, and for me they remain valid all these years later. I have no regrets, yet I’m still amazed at friends/family who verbally tip-toe around conversations about their kids, as if I might be hurt. Their intentions are honorable but nevertheless misplaced. I mean, I affirmatively want to hear about my adults nieces and nephews at this point!

    I laughed at your exchange with the orthodox rabbi. A couple of years ago, we went to a vigil in our town for those killed at the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting massacre. Afterwards we went up to the orthodox rabbi who spoke, and thanked him for his earlier eloquence. As we were about to part ways with him, my wife inexplicably went in to hug him goodbye (she’s a hugger; I forgot to warn her). His complete 180 in self-defense was comical. Live and learn!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing your story. I wonder if I’ll get to a place of acceptance. Right now, I just feel so angry re: not having children and I cannot even fathom getting to a place of acceptance, a place where I’d be happy to hear about and even have relationships with children-of-friends. I kinda wish my friends would be more considerate and do more verbal tip-toeing!

      I went for a handshake with an Orthodox Rabbi too once and then had to stand there awkwardly. I had a shomer negia relationship with an Orthodox guy for years, so I knew all about shomer negia, and I just totally forgot. In your wife’s case though, I feel like in the face of tragedy like this vigil, people are in that state when they feel more vulnerable and seek more connection. Especially if it was a communal event where not everyone was Orthodox, I have to imagine she wasn’t the only one with that reflexive hug reaction!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Had some friends once–all siblings to each other–and got married, had a kid, the friends stopped associating with me and my new family, “fast-forward” to kid is grown up and moves away, said friends now want to be friends again. No. Of course, not to make a generalization.
    So I do understand the phenomenon. No blame. I’m sure that as parents, my wife and i were obnoxious to our non-parent friends, and visa-versa. Two very different paths and it’s unrealistic to expect much overlap. Like, someone who goes to AA and tries to keep all the drunks as friends.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. You wrote: ‘…Fortunately, I am wearing a mask and this hides my facial expression.’
    Sometimes, masks can be extremely useful, like when I’m upset with someone. I’m really glad my face doesn’t show it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Love your honest and relatable life update here and how I feel like you are talking right to me! Good rule of thumb: do not volunteer stories people have not asked for. Another good rule of thumb: ditch assumptions . . . wish I had a gift idea to suggest, but my mind draws a blank.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I feel like if you can’t be honest on your own blog then what’s the point, you know? Yeah, I hate the tone-deaf stories and assumptions.
      I wound up giving New Mom Friend a homecooked meal (arguably not a great gift because I’m not that good at cooking, but whatever, it’s the communal norm) and a self-care gift of sorts for her and nothing for baby and she didn’t send me a thank you, so I’m not getting her/baby anything else. Yes I am petty.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. I love the candid honesty of this post. And I admire the brave conciseness of deciding not to be friends with people who have kids because you would be treated as the pseudo-aunt and it becomes an inauthentic friendship. I totally get it. Also the husband being a killjoy. Despite your grievances, I still find your posts amusing JYP 😊💛

    Liked by 1 person

  12. […] I suppose that arguably, seeing the future could potentially quell certain anxieties. Like right now, I am driving myself mad because I don’t know if I will ever raise children, so potentially, seeing the future and knowing that children are in my future could be a good thing. But who says the future will be what you want? I could also just as easily find out with 100% certainty that I will never have children, nothing but that shitty consolation prize of Auntie roles to other people’s children to look forward to, which would suck. […]

    Like

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