Another childhood friend joined the ranks of the childed last week. He's a gorgeous little boy, even when not considered by newborn baby standards, and she's thrilled. But for the first time, I don't really feel a wall has been erected by his birth. It's odd to me that it would be she, the OB nurse, the one whose life revolves most completely around babies and mommies, that would be the most accepting of my decision, never questioning it, being completely understanding. It's a nice change.
I look at my other friends' kids, growing like weeds, the infants suddenly toddlers, the toddlers suddenly kindergartners, gathering together for playdates and such. I'm now the last of my childhood friends to remain childless, and it's interesting. We're all in our 30s and it boggles my mind that of all the people I knew when I was growing up that I'm the only one to decide that kids aren't for me. Oh, there's one friend from high school who's childfree, but we're barely acquaintances.
In the meantime I've got my cousins popping out kids, my (step)sister-in-law, and again I've got that feeling of being left out of a club I don't belong in and don't actually want to be a part of. It's the meeting at work that's just for the "real" employees (no freelancers please), it's the family events that I've stopped being invited to in the last year. I watch from the sidelines and think "my god that looks like a good time" while simultaneously thinking "that would make me so miserable."
The childfree life for women like me is full of such paradoxes, I think. The desire to be included is almost inherent, instinctual. I suspect it's part of the reason that so few women challenge the expectation of motherhood, even when they suspect it's not what they want. They pursue it because it's what they should want, and because the people with whom they surround themselves chant the mantras of "it's different when they're your own" and "everything changes, but it's the best thing you'll ever do".
Challenging these ideas is, well, challenging. Over the years I've been able to surround myself with people who understand me, letting those who refuse to try linger on the fringe except for an awkward "hello" every couple years at the club or a friend's party. It's better this way and I'm happier for it. But through their blogs, their Facebook profiles and the other forms of communication we still share I see a window to their world, and it honestly looks like a fun place to live in. Not for me, but for them, and I'm thrilled to seem them, surrounded by the kids that fill their lives in place of the things we did together in the good ol' days, and overflowing with happiness.
There's an ache to being left out of this world, but it diminishes the moment I consider how awesome my life is for me, and how I know they look into my window and wish they had the freedom to travel, to go to concerts and stay out all night dancing, to have the kind of grown-up time that we do. And I'm sure, like me, most of them wouldn't trade in their own lives for a moment.