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Parenting strains readers' friendships

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When we asked how kids affected women's friendships, as either parents or child-free friends of them, you jumped in with laments ranging from resigned (“we can never go back to where we were”) to graphic (“babies ooze yuck out of every orifice”).

Both sides expressed anger and frustration. “Babysitting your children is the best birth control method ever,” one child-free woman writes. A mom declares, “There is simply no longer room in my life for people who do not understand what I am dealing with.”

Sometimes the anecdotes reflected a happy balance between new responsibilities and old kinships (“my friendship has gotten stronger through my pregnancy”). Even the men chimed in, proving that dads both single and married face similar challenges in maintaining friendships.

Here are a few of your responses:

Shortly after I became pregnant with my first child my very good friend who had recently had a later-term miscarriage told me that she could no longer be my friend. Being newly pregnant and hormonal I blew up at her, and we are no longer friends. I heard through someone else that she found out she was pregnant again shortly after that, but the damage has been done, and we can never go back to where we were.

— TH, Austin, Texas

Don't be party to the "mommy/daddy mafia." Please stop telling the rest of us, with or without children, how "talented, smart, pretty, handsome . . ." your child is unless we ask. . . And, no, I don't want to hold the baby. I enjoy children and news about children like I enjoy alcoholic beverages, in moderation. And please don't tell me how selfish my spouse and I are for not having children; babysitting your children is the best birth control method ever.

— Anonymous

When I became a stay-at-home mom, I felt that I was the one ditched by my childless friends — not the other way around. People who throw around names like "mommy mafia" hardly strike me as caring people that might sympathize with the demands of being a new mom (or a parent in general). Being a parent is wonderful, but sometimes people who don't experience it will never fully understand just how hard it can be.

— Anonymous

I am 39, and my husband of 10 years and I made the choice to remain child-free. I have felt hurt and disappointment from some of my friends who once they had a child seemed to stop ever putting themselves first. I know a child is a big deal and admire that they care, but when one friend (who has an 18-month-old) still refuses to ever get a sitter or keep him out past 7 p.m., the rigidity of that is something I can't deal with. Another friend wants to only talk about how advanced, smart and wonderful her child is. I wonder if she'd like to hear all that about my dogs?

— Michelle Kissel, Tustin, Calif.

My friendship has gotten stronger through my pregnancy. My friend couldn't get pregnant, so I always let her babysit my daughter whenever I needed a sitter, and she felt really involved!

— Kaylyn, Blakely, Ga.

I lost one friend because she could not have kids and just couldn't stand to see me have three while she couldn't get pregnant. However, most of my other childless friends are still close to me. That is because I make the effort to plan things with them and keep our child talk to a minimum. It's fine to catch up your friends with what's going on with your children, but if that's the bulk of your conversation, they're going to tune you out.

— JMc

Don't forget us grannies get the cold shoulder, too. I don't wear a sign that says, "I'm a granny and you'e not, so stuff it!" But there is lots of jealousy. It is very uncomfortable.

— Charlotte, Cathedral City, Calif.

I have two boys and my biggest obstacle is that they are now older, 6 years old and 8 years old, and many of my friends are still having babies. It seems my husband and I are left out because most of our friends are having three or more children. When all the girls get together, it seems that all we talk about is babies. I love my children dearly, but I am totally past the baby phase and would like to have some adult conversation.

— Jennifer, Springfield, Ill.

Don't forget about stay-at-home dads or single dads as I am. We experience very much the same thing only we have to learn to make the gender stretch in making new friendships since there are fewer of us. I find myself meeting moms on the sidewalk and discovering this bond were we immediately start discussing the latest rash or potty victories. My guy friends don't have many of these kid talking points and I have long since lost any capability to keep up with sports scores, books and the latest high-tech. I find I've essentially lost most of my close friends, but those who have stayed in touch and actually volunteered to help out have become a significant part of my life, and my kiddo a significant part of theirs. We all win.

— J. Gregory Barton, Washington, D.C.

What made me quit calling my friend once she had her babies was the sheer nastiness of watching someone deal with a third party's personal needs. Did you know that babies ooze yuck out of every orifice on their bodies? Pooh from the bottom, throw-up from the top, mucus, snot, you name it, they excreted it. You also have the smells and the noises that babies make during the excretion. EEEWWWW! Then there's the issues of public nursing, changing the little poop machines on a park bench, the sheer amount of paraphernalia needed for each kid, and dealing with grubby little hands on other peoples bags or parcels.

— Mary, Atlanta

(Childless women) seem to be in a much more self-centered phase of life where they have all the time in the world to spend on whatever they choose, and they tend to expect you to keep them at the top of your priority list or just shift a child around like they do with their nail salon appointments, in order to accommodate them. But motherhood doesn't work that way. It is almost impossible to explain this to a childless woman. . . . Yes, I've lost friends, but it was meant to be. There is simply no longer room in my life for people who do not understand what I am dealing with.

— Teresa Woo, Watchung, N.J.

My husband and I have decided to not have children, but ALL of our friends do. I have been given books on the wonders of parenting, been prayed for, and given names of therapists by friends that think I should have kids and something is wrong with me for not wanting them. I love children and am comfortable with my decision, but many of my friends are not. This has put a strain on our relationships. They are suddenly not able to talk about anything other than their children, and now they have new friends (other mommies) that take up their free time.

— Kim Campolattaro, South Carolina