I just turned 30, and naturally, most of my friends have children or are expecting. My 18-20 year-old self assumed that I would probably have children by my mid-twenties, but circumstances haven’t worked out that way for my husband and I.
If you are in a similar situation, you know it can be challenging. Parenthood is a wonderful thing, but your friends with kids don’t have the same availability to hang out that they used to. They can all relate to one another about the joys and challenges of parenthood, and as much as you might try to chime in, you simply don’t have much to say about weaning or potty training. Sometimes you may feel hesitant to share your own struggles when the stress of parenting is written all over your friends’ faces. All this can leave you feeling lonely and isolated.
Whether you would like to have children or are simply trying to adapt to what friendship looks like with friends who are parents, here are some ideas of how to live with more grace than grumbling when you’re the friend without kids:
Befriend the Lonely.
The very things we lack are often what God uses to help us reach out in love to others. It’s counter-intuitive, but when we feel most entitled to mope around in self-pity, we can actually be used the most to minister to others if we shift our perspective. This seems to be the way compassion often works. We may not give certain demographics of people a second thought until we are faced with something that helps us to imagine what life might be like for them.
As you experience loneliness, you might be able to identify more with people who may feel this way on a regular basis: single moms or dads, single people in general, the elderly, international students, a new person at church—the list goes on. Empathy for people in these categories can give us added motivation to care for those Jesus had a special concern for (Matthew 25:35-40), and in the process we may find our own need for relationship being unexpectedly met.
Stay in the Present.
We are all probably aware of our propensity to constantly want “the next thing.” When you’re in high-school, you can’t wait to be in college. When you’re in college, you can’t wait to graduate and finally be in the career that you’re in school for. Somewhere in there, you can’t wait to be married. When you’re married, you can’t wait to own a house or have more money to buy the things you want or need.
And at some point in your marriage “the next thing” is usually having kids. If having kids isn’t on your radar right now, you might be tempted to pine after “the good ol’ days’ when time with friends was easier to come by.
The challenge in all of these stages is to be fully present in the season of life in which you find yourself. As followers of Jesus, we’re never given the option to simply check out. My husband and I recently woke up early to watch the sunrise over the Bay near where we live. This intentional act to relish life and the beauty of creation helped anchor me in the present. Later as I reflected upon it, I realized that small adventures like that would be difficult with children. Although my desire for a family is still very real, opening my eyes to the blessings and advantages of this time in my life is really good for my soul and helps to keep me from constantly pining after something I don’t have.
Being grateful goes hand in hand with staying in the present moment. If we are thankful for what we have, it is much easier to fully be engaged where we are. But gratitude is something that we have to work at. We can choose to give thanks not only for what we’ve already been given, but for the help and rest available for us the moment we seek them (Matthew 11:28). God’s presence and resources are available for us at all times, including when we feel most alone. That’s something to be thankful for!
Stay Connected to Your Friends With Kids.
Don’t let the fact that it takes more effort than it used to keep you from enjoying valuable relationships. Your friends with kids still need your presence in their lives, and you both can benefit from the different perspectives that your life stages have to offer.
I wouldn’t want my single friends to stop pursuing friendship with me just because I got married, and I think the same goes for our friends with kids. Sure, spontaneous coffee dates might not be possible anymore, but conversation or movie nights after the kids are in bed can be just as good. It takes a little more planning and creativity, but if you valued the relationship before kids, it’s worth fighting for.
Even in the hardest situations, we can choose whether to be defined by what we lack or to become conduits of blessing to others. This doesn’t mean we minimize or ignore legitimate pain or longings, but it does mean that we can allow them to shape our character more toward Christ-likeness.
Maybe we could even change the label “Friend without Kids” (if you’re with me in feeling like you’ve adopted this one) to something like “Friend/ Servant of All,” not as something to flaunt, but as an inner point of focus towards a truly worthwhile destiny. After all, Jesus did say to his disciples that the greatest among them would be called “servant.’’ If we think of ourselves in this way and allow our actions to flow out of that identity, a fuller life for us and others will most likely be the byproduct.
Avery studied English in college and currently works as a Massage Therapist. She writes for personal enrichment and feels especially blessed if it can serve others at the same time. Along with her husband, Geoff, she enjoys ministering to the young adults in her church. She loves to spend time in nature, with a book, in good conversation with a friendÑor some combination of the three. Avery blogs at reflectivejourney.blogspot.com.