Baby bonding: When friends fight
Childless women can bond with their friends' children, but what happens when the two adults bump heads?
In quite possibly the dumbest argument I’ve ever been in, me and a childhood friend argued loudly in a car about parking. We were in Miami and just leaving a step show when a towing company threatened to take my rental car. I was able to rescue the car, but that spiraled into a conversation about how we would’ve paid for the towed car to get it out of the impoundment lot. I don’t remember the conversation exactly, but I do recall my friend since elementary school basically telling me, “If that car gets towed, I’m not helping you pay to get it out.”
I was furious. I’d paid for the hotel we were staying in and a considerable amount of other travel expenses, so this seemed minor. Again, I was driving the car back to the hotel so it clearly wasn’t towed. But this imaginary scenario made me feel like she didn’t have my back. We bickered back and forth, and we finally agreed to part ways. She was going to spend the rest of the trip with a relative who also lived in Miami. And I was going to hang out in Florida solo. (This is not abnormal. I love a stress-free solo travel trip.)
This would’ve normally been just one silly sisterhood argument where we wouldn’t talk for a few days and would be back to normal a week or so later. However, there was one comment she made before we parted ways that stuck with me. In so many words, she said she and her son would be fine without me. And that comment stung. I don’t even like (most) kids. I never want to be a mother. I put my hands behind my back at the sight of anybody trying to hand me an infant.
But there are approximately five babies who I absolutely adored and would actively request babysitting them, even planning a slumber party when two of them requested to do so on my birthday. Her child wasn’t the slumber party duo, but he was one of the kids who I enjoyed hanging out with. So that comment hit me like a brick. It was the kind of thing you’d threaten a baby daddy, boyfriend or husband with. And being that we are both two heterosexual women, that threat made me wince.
We stopped speaking for years. As messed up as it sounds, I felt like if the threat of hanging out with her child was going to be thrown in my face any time we got into a dispute, deuces to both of you. Years later, I did see her again because she’s still like family to my family. There’s no animosity. She’s happily married and has a second beautiful child. But she and I never made our way back to being friends.
In The Cut’s recent op-ed “Adorable Little Detonators: Our friendship survived bad dates, illness, marriage, fights. Why can’t it survive your baby?,” the writer discusses how women have to defend being voluntarily childless, finding ways to enjoy hanging out with new parents, trying not to be upset when IVF treatments don’t work, infertile women try not to be jealous of their baby-making friends, and how childless women and mothers start to feel like they’re socializing in two different worlds.
It was a brutally honest and solid read. But I never saw a word through the entire article about what friends should do when they’re at odds but still want to be in the life of the child. With adult children, it’s easy enough to just hang out with them on their own (and never insult their moms in front of them if you have an ounce of common sense). If the child likes the childless (wo)man, that person will want to hang!
The other parents: godparents
Growing up, I had two godmothers. And it was fairly common to find me writing letters, chitchatting on the phone, or making plans to go out to eat or to see a play with the first of these two ladies. (I was cordial with the second one, but we were never close. I was super close at different stages of my childhood with her two daughters though, all the way into my college years.) When I graduated from college, the first godmother made sure to travel out of state to see me (and had entirely too many jokes about me almost landing on the floor by my bed after partying too hard that night). When I lost my virginity, she was one of the first people I told. I gossiped with her about my boyfriends all the time. She was my ace.
On the other end, my poor mom had to invite herself along when I booked a plane ticket to hang out with my godfather (who bought me my first car) because he and I were going to paint the town red without her — even though that’s been her childhood friend since eighth grade. I have a photo album full of us two hanging out in bars, mingling with his family and at somebody’s backyard BBQ. From the release of my first book to a health scare, I called him. But when your godchild is a baby, pre-teen, young adult or a teenager, forming that bond is next to impossible if you don’t get along with the parent(s). So what are you supposed to do?