“Why don’t you have kids, Mara?” That’s usually my cue to snap back that asking about my personal business is off-limits. But I couldn’t. My friend’s innocent young daughter was the one who piped up from the backseat of a minivan. All I could do was laugh and tell her it’s a long story. Not that her words didn’t sting. A woman who lacks children also lacks a protective shield, allowing others to pose awkward questions and make judgments.
Here’s a quick (and unfiltered) etiquette lesson for mom friends of all ages.
1. Never ever ask why
Count me among the guilty. I recently asked a married friend why she didn’t have kids, figuring I had leeway because we were both without offspring. She responded by telling me that she had an awful miscarriage a few years back. I felt terrible for being so insensitive and intrusive. We all have our own reasons for not having children. Nobody has the right to play Nancy Drew and find the answer. If we choose to volunteer information, we’ll do it on our own terms.
2. No need to throw a pity party
They won’t outright admit it, but I know some of my loved ones feel sorry for me because I’m not raising a mini-me. Here it is once and for all: I live a content and full life, even though my Facebook feed isn’t full of photos of kids in dance recital or Halloween costumes. There are pros and cons to both lifestyles, and I enjoy taking advantage of the pros. Besides, no moppets got me sick with the flu this season!
3. It’s OK to exclude me
Promise I’m not going to curl up in a ball if my friends don’t invite me to their kids’ birthday parties or some big weekend retreat. I’d just end up ducking out early because “I have soooo much work to do.” On the contrary, I think my friends are being considerate when they leave me off a guest list and don’t put me in an ill-fitting situation. I like your adorable children, but I prefer one-on-one time.
4. Don’t ask me if I’d like to hold the baby
Um, no offense? I’m thrilled you had the little bugger. But if it’s all right, I’d rather not take him (or her) (or them) in my arms. That’s an ultra-intimate — and often messy — moment that doesn’t make me comfortable. And if I politely refuse, it will just make both of us feel bad. Best to just let the moment go. That is, unless you’re juggling five gazillion things and the phone is ringing. I’m still an understanding friend!
5. Assumptions are worthless
I adore my young niece and nephew. I cherish your family holiday cards. I do have second thoughts about my decisions. So please don’t be so quick to draw blanket conclusions about me — e.g., this woman must be a selfish, antichild diva!!! — simply based on a few tried-and-true personal preferences. Like other child-free women, I’m just trying to muddle through this life the best I can. Let’s please respect each other for our differences, not write us off because of them. Hey, want to grab lunch?
Everyone needs a girlfriend!
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