I don’t have kids. I like kids, and probably someday I will want some of my own, but I’m not in a hurry. I have lots of life to live still. Thankfully, I am still in the phase of my life where most of my friends are getting engaged and married, not yet having babies, so there haven’t been too many instances where I “just couldn’t understand”. Almost two years ago, however, one of my closest friends gave birth to a beautiful baby boy – and I wondered what it would mean to be The Childless Friend.
We had grown very close in the two years we had known each other, as she and her husband lived in the top floor apartment of the house where I occupied the basement. We bonded over our shared love of our dogs, and she made my first few months in a strange and often unfriendly city so much better. I was a bit worried that with the new baby our friendship would change, that she wouldn’t really want me around anymore or feel she had anything in common with me. The majority of her closest friends already had kids, and they were great for sharing advice, passing down baby items, and generally putting her mind at ease. What did I have to offer in that department?
As it turns out, I had one very important thing most of her mom friends did not – time. With her husband often not getting home from work until 6PM or later, long days alone with her baby became my friend’s reality. She always kept a positive attitude, but she had previously been an incredibly social person. She was doing her best to get out to Mommy Groups and take baby and dog for walks, but I saw her becoming exhausted. One day I asked if she would like me to come up to their apartment when I got home from work, usually around 4PM and just help out in any way she needed until her husband came home. She hugged me, and told me that would be amazing.
And so it began that I would go upstairs a few times a week, sometimes just holding the baby so she could shower and do dishes and feel normal again. Sometimes I just took the dog for a walk so she could deal with a cranky baby without worrying about neglecting her fur-baby. Almost every time, though, we chatted while I sat in their living room doing what little I could to help her out. I think the conversation was as important to her as whatever I was doing.
She helped me, too. Her son was the first baby I ever held in my arms, and she didn’t know it when she happily handed him over to me. She didn’t get nervous when I told her, she never acted like I might not know what I was doing, and I was very shortly dubbed Auntie JoJo. I have a very special place in my heart for her now-toddler son, and it is because she allowed me to feel like I was an active part of his life, not just some strange other-person who wouldn’t want to be around him.
We have since both moved, living in opposite sides of our large city, and we don’t see each other nearly as much as we would like. I have babysat for her and her husband on multiple occasions though, and my heart nearly melted when I was informed I was one of only a few people they would trust to look after their child. Me, The Childless Friend.
So my message is this – never underestimate the value of The Childless Friend, whether you are one or you have one. If you are one, offer up your time to help out in ways that have nothing to do with actual parenting. Shovel a driveway, offer to vacuum, bring over a meal – things that allow the parents to focus on the parenting. If you have a Childless Friend, embrace them. Allow them to help where they can, and don’t feel nervous that they don’t know what they are doing, all you have to do is tell them. The best part of The Childless Friend is they won’t (hopefully) dole out unwanted parenting advice or pass judgment on how you are choosing to raise your child. Instead, they will just follow your lead, assume you know better than them, and help where you need it. Now, isn’t that a nice feeling?