How Friendships Change When Childfree: Can They Survive?

brunette woman wearing an orange dress holding a glass of white wine in a restaurant

Hello there, I am the childfree friend. Yes, the lady who has witnessed many friends marry, have children, and some even divorce. Now I am in the stage of my life where my friends are planning weddings for their children. Some friends are even having grandchildren. Friendships change through all of these phases of life.

As I write this post, I am in my late 50s. I have been married to the same man since 1991. We experienced the ebbs and flows of friendship together. What many don’t think about is that it not only affects female friendships, but also male friendships.

Here are some other posts I have written about my childfree journey. You might want to check them out before reading about how friendships change and evolve when childfree.

midlife couple sitting at a bar having cocktailstalking about how friendships change and evolve

Friendships Change Through The Decades

I get it. Sometimes you may feel like you are the only one without children. I know that feeling oh too well. My husband and I have lived in the suburbs of Atlanta for over 30 years. Seems like everyone around us has or had multiple kids. What’s interesting is that according to the CDC 1 in 5 women (19%) are unable to have children. Are you like me and wondering where all of those women are?

The subject of being childfree is much more open than when I was going through fertility treatment in the 1990s. Today both single and married women openly discuss their decisions to remain childfree and I applaud that. Many are now experiencing the ebbs and flows of friendships that I experienced years ago. I thought I would share my experiences as to how I found a healthy balance through my 20s, 30s, 40s, and into my 50s.

Looking back now, my words of wisdom to any woman who is young and childfree would be to set boundaries. Come up with what you are and are not comfortable with. What you will and will not go to (baby showers, birthday parties). It will save you lots of frustration and probably some tears.

Here’s how I have survived friendship changes over the decades.

midlife couple arm in arm, each holding a glass of white wine

My 20s & 30s – The Most Difficult Years For My Friendships

As a childfree person, I am sure that you can relate to this. It seems like every time you turn around there’s an invitation to something. Wedding showers, weddings, baby showers, birthday parties.

My husband and I married when we were in our early 20s. Many of our friends did as well. Some started having children right away, while others waited. We had planned to wait for a while. In our late 20s and early 30s fertility treatments did not work for us so we chose the childfree lifestyle before it was really a thing.

Since we were trying to have a family, being around friends who seemed as if they could sneeze and get pregnant was very difficult for me. I began to avoid many social situations. I got good at coming up with reasons as to why I or we could not make child-related events. The conversations at the events were just not in my vocabulary. Birthdays parties, especially 1st birthdays, were definitely a no-go. I knew that I would not be experiencing this and it was hurtful.

I just couldn’t relate to their schedules and priorities in life and I am sure that they felt the same way. Most of my friendships faltered during these years.

I found myself doing things by myself much more or with my husband. It was just easier on me emotionally.

How Things Changed For My Husband At the Same Time

My husband, Mark, also saw his friendships change. As his friends became fathers their schedules changed. No more going to or watching college football games on the weekends. Family duties and activities came first. The things that they had in common to talk about also lessened.

We don’t always think about the male part of the childfree equation, but it is something to consider. Their friendships change just like ours do. And it is not easy on them either. So if you have a partner or husband on this journey with you, give them a little grace too. I didn’t always do that. I always felt it was about me and missing out.

New Friendships and Old Friendships Change Again In My 40s

In our mid-30s we moved to a different suburb of Atlanta. With this move came new refreshing friendships for both of us. Yes, we still lived in a neighborhood where there were lots of families. The difference was that most of them were older than us by several years. I was finally able to connect with neighbors and other women who were not talking about their children 110% of the time.

My new friendships brought me lots of joy. I had women that I could talk with about cooking, travel, workouts, and things that truly interested us. Not what their children were doing. These women had raised their children and had recently become empty nesters. They were so ready to have friendships that did not revolve around their children. As couples we dined out, we hosted parties, we traveled together. This era was when friendships clicked for me and for my husband again.

A Special Friendship Rekindled

In our late 30s, a special friendship came back as if we had never missed a beat. When we moved into our first home in our 20s, there was a couple that we befriended. They lived a couple of blocks down the street. We had so much fun doing things together. She and I became good friends, then she started having children. She had one and we still saw one another (I was still enamored with babies at that point). Then she had another two years later. The friendship just naturally parted ways. They moved to another neighborhood (bigger home) and had two more children. We also moved.

Fast forward about 10 years. We were building a new home and guess who lived two blocks away? The same couple. The children were now in high school, middle school, and elementary school. Our friendship with the parents picked up where it left off. Their children were now fun ages and we enjoyed spending time with the entire family. We watched the kids grow up, graduate high school and college, get engaged, get married, and start another generation.

So if you drift apart from true friends in your 20s and 30s there is always that possibility of rekindling a friendship and I hope that you have that happen for you as well. We do have other friends that we have not drifted back together with and that is OK too. We also have lots of other friends who are older than us that we enjoy spending time with. Many of them are now retiring and that is just a cycle in life. I am sure that friendships will change again as we get closer to retirement.

My 50s – When I Finally Started Sharing My Feelings About Being Childfree

It’s funny that I didn’t open up about my friendships and how I felt as a childfree woman until I was in my mid-50s. I didn’t have any childfree friends when I was of childbearing age. Struggling with friendships and relationships is something that I think I suppressed.

What I do think is that my husband and I are closer as a couple. We do a lot of things together and can focus on one another versus other humans that we created. We have had many experiences that our friends did not because they had children. It can also be said that they have had many experiences that we will never have. One experience is not necessarily better than the other, they are just different.

So if you are struggling with friendships changing, just realize that it is a season of life.

Thanks, Let’s Stay In Touch

Thanks so much for stopping by today to read this post. I kept thinking about Carrie Bradshaw while I was writing this for some reason. Change is something that can be good or bad. I think that we have to realize that like life in general friendships ebb and flow. Some survive and others do not. Doesn’t mean that one person or the other in the friendship is better. Everyone changes with time.

I hope that you just give your friendships flexibility over the decades. The friendships may change, but they can still be treasured.

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  1. Constance J. Falcone says:

    I am also childfree (and nearly 68 years old now). I don’t regret not having children, particularly, but I do miss not having grandchildren! Funny, that.
    I LOVE the dress you’re wearing in the photos! I’m sure it’s no longer available, but where did you find it? That color is stunning!
    Thanks for your helpful blog!
    Connie Falcone

    1. Hi Connie, that is interesting that you miss grandchildren. I’m not quite to that age. Some of my friends are starting to have grandchlidren in their lives and like that they can return them so that they can rest. The dress is Veronica Beard from a few years ago. Yes, that is a dress that will be in my closet for many years. Glad you found my blog! Beth

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