Yesterday my neighbor called Corbin and me “Breeders” after seeing my big, 36-week pregnant belly. It wasn’t so much delivered as an insult but it was certainly accusatory. At the time we giggled and dismissed it as another wacky thing our wacky neighbor said. See, this is the same 40-something guy who holds badminton tournaments in his backyard (pretty rad) and sings Willie Nelson songs at the top of his lungs on Wednesday nights (pretty well). You just take things he says with a grain of salt and know he means well or least well enough.
But then I retreated into my hyper-sensitive mind and mulled over the label. I recalled a similar statement by a good friend of Corbin’s after hearing about the baby; something about “ticking things off the list of American Dreams.” Another reaction that came off more as slur than an innocent observation. Like that “list” is just too predictable for our generation. I felt guilty for breaking a vow I inadvertently took as a mid-80’s-born Millennial that I’d make every effort to avoid anything remotely cliché.
I wish that these were the only two scenarios where its been made clear to me that come baby, my relationships with folks without kids will change and not for the better. It's not an evolution, or a normal shift as we all grow a bit older, but a one day you're here, now you're not kinda of situation. Having your cake and eating it too? Nope.
I have a short time left in this grey area of pregnancy; bouncing between the freedom of no children and being bound to parenthood; so perhaps its naïve of me to ask why we can’t all get along? Is it not possible for those who want kids or already have them to be friends with and support those who do not? And can those that do not want children not empathize and understand those that do? Why are we always so damn quick to find reasons that differentiate us from other people rather than embracing what we might have in common?
Clearly we have co-existed peacefully for centuries and there are certainly many relationships that buck the trend of what my neighbor implied was certain social doom, but I'd by lying if I didn't acknowledge the palpable shift of some friendships already.
I do realize that the reality is fairly simple; it comes down to time. Parents simply spend their time very differently than people without kids. And pregnant ladies, too. But so does a person working a night shift vs. a classic nine to fiver. Or a twenty-something vs a thirty-something. An introvert vs an extrovert. The examples are endless but none seem to be quite as polarizing as with vs without children. The ability to compromise is a foundational characteristic in friendship but never is it stretched so thin as when two friends get together, one being a parent and the other not.
As I round the corner of parenthood, enjoying each day I still have “to myself,” I’ll continue to reflect on how I can sustain the extremely valuable relationships with my many friends without kids while growing my community with those who do. While my little girl will be the most important thing, friendships are a damn close second and its not just their job to make seeing each other possible. It's both of our jobs. And it'll mean compromise. And we should be okay with that.