Welcome to our new feature, “Dear Childfree Girls,” in which we do our best to answer your questions as thoroughly – and as honestly – as possible (even if it hurts). Do you have a question for the Childfree Girls? If so, see the instructions at the end of this post.
Dear Childfree Girls,
Hello! I’m a fairly new listener and I LOVE your podcast!
A little about me: 33, single, childfree (and pet free), and I live in Texas.
Here’s my situation: I’ve been friends with someone for over 10 years, and she was always on the fence about having kids; she even had an abortion when she was younger. She has since moved out of state, found her “soulmate” and I was one of the first people she told when she found out she was pregnant. Both her and her boyfriend planned this, so she’s excited to start this new chapter in her life. She also asked me to be the “aunt” which I’m still undecided about.
I feel like I’ve lost my best friend because of this pregnancy. We barely talk anymore, and when she does call or text, it’s about the pregnancy. She even sent me a picture of the ultrasound when I didn’t want to see it. I’m still unsure if I’m anti-natalist or just hate pregnancy in general. But as of now, I’m finding myself resenting her for “settling down” and having a kid. As her friend, I’m trying to be supportive, but that’s hard to do when I feel like our friendship is over and I’m completely uninterested in her pregnancy.
Should I work through my feelings and accept the aunt role for her kid, or should I accept that I can’t relate to her anymore and cut ties? I’m not good with children; I’m awkward with them and I find them gross and annoying, so trying to be involved in the kid’s life would be a task in itself, especially since I’d need to travel to see my friend.
Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
ISABEL SAYS: Hola, Jennifer! I find that when people are in situations that involve a lot of mixed feelings, we tend to find solutions that are the complete opposite of one another: all or nothing, black or white. And if there is anything I know about life is that the best solutions are never extreme solutions.
I honestly don’t think that you should work through your feelings and accept the aunt role for her kid. The reason I say this is because of what you have expressed in your email: that you have no interest in her pregnancy, that you feel you are not good with children, and that trying to be involved in that kid’s life would be a task in itself. If you feel that accepting the “aunt role” means that you will have to make an effort to be someone that you don’t are not and do not want to be, it’s hard to tell for how long you will be able to fulfill this role and live up to your friend’s expectations before you could start developing other types of unpleasant, yet totally valid, feelings.
Also, I honestly don’t think that you should accept that you can’t relate to her anymore and cut ties. The reason I say this is because you also expressed in your email that she is a close friend, and I know how hard it is for those to come by.
Instead, I suggest that you find a third approach that doesn’t involve you sacrificing who you are and also preserving your friendship with someone who clearly means a lot to you.
I have two golden rules for when I try to find solutions for any situation that might be helpful to you:
- I do not negotiate or compromise on things that go against my core values or who I am as a person, because if I do I will almost every time end up kicking myself, feeling frustrated, resenting someone, and/or regretting my decision to give in.
- Communication is everything, and communicating should be easy, so I try to find at least one way to communicate my thoughts and feelings that works best for the people involved and for the issue at hand.
I wouldn’t be able to give you a perfect solution to your current situation because only you know what the perfect solution to your current situation is. What I can tell you is that if you were compelled to send us an email about this, it’s because this friendship means a lot to you.
KRISTEN SAYS: Hi, Jennifer. I think friendships aren’t very different from romantic relationships. Very few are going to last. When they do last, it’s because the people in the -ship, for some magnetic chemistry reason (love?), want to stay in each other’s lives.
In a strong friendship (and these are rare and precious), years can go by with the friends following different life trajectories and they’ll still know, as infrequently as they connect, that they’re always there for each other, if needed. They may not be personally interested in what their friend is interested in, but they’re happy that their friend is happy, and they’re willing to give, a little, by trying – even just a little. It’s like how in a romantic relationship an opera hater will go to the opera now and then because their partner loves the opera. It’s loving.
But many friendships fizzle out when someone moves, has a baby, gets married, changes careers, etc. The lasting love, the genuine desire to give, simply isn’t always there. And that’s fine.
There’s an Italian saying (according to the Hallmark movie The Wedding Veil, which happened to be on TV when I was thinking about how to respond to you) that goes, “You can make anything work if you really want to.”
There is no “should” when it comes to something like this. There’s just, “Do I want to?”
LENORA SAYS: Hey there, Jennifer. Quick answer: send a baby gift but make no other commitments.
Once you start becoming the person who has to tailor your schedule/do the driving to visit, it’s harder to change that. The friendship doesn’t have to end completely, but you are already feeling uncomfortable and forcing a continued bond is going to hurt you more than help you.
A few years ago, I realized I was the one making more effort to keep the friendships going, and when it was my turn to need support, it wasn’t there, because of the kids. I understood that and wasn’t resentful but I made the decision to invest my energy into my life and allow for new friendships to form, organically.
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