By Anna Ilona Mussmann
Loneliness is on the rise. Many people find it difficult to build and maintain the kinds of relationships that human beings need. This culture of isolation and increasing polarization is tragically dehumanizing--it not only cuts us off from being loved, but also from the chance to love and serve others.
One of the best ways to resist the tide is to build and nurture friendships. Doing so isn’t always easy. In particular, I’ve heard many young women lament the challenge of actively staying friends with the ladies in their circle who have had children.
When your friend has kids and you don’t, spending time together can begin to feel awkwardly difficult. Maybe your schedules no longer mesh. Maybe you can’t get her to focus on the conversation because she is interrupted every three minutes by her children or starts talking randomly about potty-training. Maybe she doesn’t even invite you over anymore because she doesn’t want to impose the ups and downs of toddlerdom on you.
Yet if you can both let the friendship stretch and grow with her new stage of life, you are striking a blow for what is good. It isn’t just that we all need friends--in a world where narcissism happens to be one of our pet sins, it is especially helpful to nurture relationships that help us see beyond ourselves and our own stage of life. Moms benefit when they are reminded of the wider world beyond the so-intense challenges of babies. Non-moms can learn a great deal about humanity by observing the earthy reality of early childhood. Furthermore, it’s a wonderful thing when children are able to learn from “extra adults” who care about them and when childless folks are able to enjoy intergenerational friendship.
I have little ones, and I am deeply grateful for the childless ladies who are willing to enter the world of kid-land with me. Here are my top tips on nurturing a friendship with someone who has kids when you don’t.