It’s 10 AM on a Friday. I am sipping coffee at my breakfast table and watching the Today Show. Hoda Kotb is talking to her co-host Jenna Bush Hager about making friends later in life. Jenna suggests that she naturally makes friends with her kids’ parents because they all have their children in common. This got me thinking. How many things am I missing out on because I don’t have kids? Or rather, am I? Missing out on anything, that is?
I’ll never make those friends that I perhaps would have made because we don’t have the kids in common. But then it begs the question: What else do you have in common? And if you didn’t have the kids in common, would you be compatible as friends at all?
My boyfriend and life partner (of 9 years and still counting) always says that when couples have kids, they disappear. They make new friends with other people who have kids. We don’t get invited to the barbecues, the birthday parties, the this, the that, because we don’t have kids to bring. That’s what he says. I used to laugh at him, but I am finding it (sometimes) to be true.
I compare this situation to all the “friends” I’ve had at various jobs over the years. I spent every day with these people. We ate meals together, went to parties and functions together, celebrated birthdays and promotions with each other, commiserated about any setbacks of the day, the new boss, the lost promotion. I always thought these were real friends and surely we would continue to be a huge part of each other’s lives after the job. Well, that hasn’t really turned out to be the case most of the time. (Sound familiar)? I have a few friendships I have made at work over the years that have been long and enduring. But what about the rest of them? It seems they are simply casualties of the job change. It’s not that they weren’t meaningful friendships at the time. They were and I look back on those times fondly. But they were situational. Once the common denominator that tied us together was eliminated, the relationship dissolved.
Back to the kids. As I contemplate the friends I’ll never have because I don’t have the child denominator, I wonder if this is just one aspect of the whole experience that I am missing by not having children. So what else am I missing?
When I think about my life, I (rightly or wrongly) divide it into segments. There is everything that came before something and then everything that came after. Only you can characterize those events. For me, law school was one of those events that completely changed my life and was so monumental that there was a pivot in my life experience that was identifiable.
I think for many people, that “pivot” is having children. Not only does your daily life change by necessity (it’s no longer about you) but your focus and your intentions change as well.
Whereas before, you could be selfish, and me-focused. You could spend more time planning personal development, educational pursuits, make aggressive career moves, and just go out to dinner whenever you want to! After kids, your focus shifts to what the children need, how to be the best parent, how to juggle work and childcare responsibilities, etc. (I don’t have to have children myself to see that this is how it is).
There is also the experience of being a parent. Having your kids cry for Mommy (or Daddy) when they fall down. Fretting over whether your school district is the best choice for your children. Are they going to fall behind the other kids? Are they developing normally? Is it too early to give them peanuts? Is she ready to start toilet training? Am I a good role model? Am I modeling bad habits?
I was recently a witness to a conversation among some moms who were sharing their experiences about decorating the Christmas tree so the kids couldn’t grab the ornaments and buying presents without revealing the true nature of Santa. These are all wonderful sentiments. I had nothing to add. The common denominator is missing.
It seems that what is missing for me is the pivot. I will never know what life was like before or after the children. My childless life will be one continuous experience.
What is there instead are other pivots. Perhaps pivots that others will never experience. For me, those pivots have been going to law school, which changed my life forever (I was the first one in my family to even go to college), and then becoming an entrepreneur and owning my own law firm.
There are more pivots in my future too. I can focus on what I may have lost or sacrificed, but I choose to see what I have gained.
Christina Previte is the CEO and Co-Managing Attorney of NJ Divorce Solutions (Previte Nachlinger PC) a law firm focusing exclusively on divorce and family law.
Christina believes that while a divorce is a stressful time in a person’s life, it is also a time of growth and new beginnings. Christina’s law practice caters to providing not only outstanding legal services to clients but also compassionate guidance and coaching for individuals who are planning a new life for themselves and their children.
Christina has a special interest in promoting women’s empowerment. Read more on her blog here: www.ChristinaPrevite.com