February 11, 2009

Beyond Diabetes: Finding Camaraderie Without Kids

Filed under: Social Interactions — Tags: — Lee Ann @ 8:41 am
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This is only tangentially related to diabetes, and it definitely doesn’t apply to a good many of the people out there in the D-blogosphere, but it has much to do with my diabetes and I know there are others out there living with diabetes for whom this is relevant.

I know I haven’t written a lot about my existence as a non-parent. I have mixed feelings about my decision to not parent even though practically and logically I think it’s the absolute best choice for me. While there are a lot of factors that went into this choice, being diabetic is ultimately the main reason I’ve chosen to be child-free. I put my body through enough garbage by not taking care of my diabetes. Now that I’m doing right by my body, I want to maximize my mileage, and having babies is not a stress my body needs. Beyond that, as hilarious and charming as my genes are (that was a live demonstration of the pure hilarity), they’re also prone to depression and diabetes, and I couldn’t live with myself if I passed either, or heaven forbid both, onto another human. I can’t conceive of anything more devastating than that, and it wasn’t a risk I was willing to take, so I got my tubes tied in 2005. As I expressed to a friend out in the D-blogosphere just a few days ago, that’s a risk we all have to evaluate for ourselves. I’ve taken the less popular stance, but it’s the right thing for me.

After two of my friends got almost simultaneously pregnant back in 2004, my friendships with them changed. They wanted to talk about being pregnant and raising kids, understandably so, but eventually I got bored with those topics and really had nothing to contribute when it came right down to it. I had hoped that their interests would broaden again after the babies were born, and eventually that actually started to happen… just in time for them both to become pregnant with their respective second children. I remember sitting at my desk crying when I found out the one was pregnant again because I was an anomaly in a world of 30-something women racing to make babies. I didn’t have a friend in the world who understood what I was experiencing, and I didn’t know where to find one.

Maybe a year or two prior to that, I had discovered some diabetes message boards, and had experienced this incredible feeling of connectedness that had evaded me for so long, at least in regard to being diabetic. They weren’t real life friends, but they were always there, and had they showed up on my doorstep, I would have welcomed them in my home because they had become like surrogate family to me. It occurred to me that maybe I could find a similar group of people who had foregone the baby train, so I turned to the trusty interweb.

That’s when I found No Kidding, an international organization for childfree people comprised of local chapters that hold social events. I had never participated in any kind of social club, not that I can recall anyway, but I was willing to give it a try. Our social life had petered out with the birth of our friends’ children. It’s not that we never saw them, but it was much less frequent and the nature of our gatherings had changed since they now included young kids. I needed to befriend some other childfree grownups, and Jason was willing to try it in order to support me because he knew how sad I had been about the changes in my other friendships.

I found a South Jersey chapter and contacted the woman in charge. A few weeks later, I attended my first event, a women’s dinner, at a local restaurant. It was weird and I’m admittedly a little socially retarded so I was uncomfortable, but it was a favorable experience overall. This was almost two years ago. I don’t know how other chapters have their events organized, but South Jersey chapter members volunteer to host events, everything from dinners at restaurants to dinners at people’s homes to pool parties to hay rides to white water rafting. There are usually a couple of events per month plus a women’s dinner.

Contrary to how some people have described us or assumed about us, we’re not swingers or baby-haters. Most of us have nieces and nephews (or friends’ children) on whom we dote. Some of us have chosen to not have kids for every reason you can imagine, while others have tried and been unable to conceive. There are a few who want to have kids, but are happy to enjoy life without children for the time being, so the reasons for being childfree are many. There are couples as well as singles. There are people in their 20’s to as old as people can be. It seems that most of us have pets that are our children – and as someone who’s worked with too many poorly parented kids, I can say our pets get treated better than far too many kids.

As with any gathering of people who have a single common denominator, there are people we’ve meshed with more than others, and we’ve socialized with a few of them outside of the regularly scheduled events. It’s been a positive experience overall, and while I still love my other friends and their kids, I’m grateful to have a different set of friends who can stay out as late as they want, don’t have to schedule around babysitters, and with whom I can relate and I feel like I belong.

As I said, I know this is irrelevant to many people out there, but I was almost as grateful to find people with whom I could relate regarding this as I was to find other diabetics. Since diabetes has much to do with my decision, and I know there are other diabetic women who’ve chosen similarly (although I’ve yet to meet them…), I wanted to share this resource.

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13 Responses to “Beyond Diabetes: Finding Camaraderie Without Kids”

  1. Rachel says:

    We’re about 95% sure we don’t want our own children, mostly due to the diabetes and depression rampant in both of our families. The nagging 5% is mostly my biological clock ticking, ticking, ticking. I always said if I reach 33 and it hasn’t happened, then it’s not going to happen. 33 being the age my mom was when she had me, her youngest child. Now that I’m almost there (in April), I’m still not sure I want to close the door completely, but it’s likely we will.

  2. Karin says:

    And here’s your new child-free because diabetes friend! I made the decision a long time ago and fortunately married an older man that already had kids and got fixed! So no worries about babies for me. I do get the benefits of his older children having babies, so I get to dote on our granddaughter without all the problems of raising a potentially diabetic child! Here’s to us, Lee Ann, and the many out there like us!

  3. Cara says:

    It is a personal decision. At this point in my life (because I’m not currently in a relationship, I could change my mind) I have chosen not to have children, but want to actively persue adoption. So it’s different for all of us. On of my biggest fears is passing on diabetes. I hate the thought of that.
    Also, I’m at the point where I’m 27, single, and all of my friends (except 2) are married, have children, or both. It changes things. It’s different. And at times, very frustrating.

  4. I am definitely in the “I want kids” camp. I know there is a risk of passing on diabetes, but I also know that as far as diseases go, it’s a fairly small percentage of kids who inherit it. Besides, my parents didn’t have diabetes, and I still go it. Even if I didn’t have diabetes, my child could still get it. I also don’t believe that diabetes is a “bad” enough disease to warrant not taking that chance. If it was some really debilitating or terminal illness (like something they would die from, painfully, in the first few years of life), I would not have children. Hearing about Kassie and a few other parents whose children have developed diabetes definitely makes me stop and ponder my decision, but having a biological child is something I’d at least like to try to do. I also want to adopt, so if it ends up not being the best option for me, then I’ll make that decision when we (me and my husband) cross that bridge.

  5. Lora says:

    I’m in the no kids category. I made my decision back in high school, before I even had diabetes. I think my mom thought when I met “the right man,” I would change my mind. I didn’t. In fact, with every passing year, my decision not to have children became more firm. When I met my now husband and knew he could potentially be “the one,” the kid conversation was one of the first we had. I told him I wanted to be married, but I didn’t want kids. Luckily, he also had a no-kids decision in mind. We dated and lived together for six years before getting married, and every now and then, we brought up the conversation, just to check we were both on the same page. Almost nine years later, almost three of them married, we’re still in the no-kids-ever zone. I love my niece to death, but I just don’t want children of my own. While the decision was always there, the diabetes did cement it even further. You can count me as a no-kids friend any time.

  6. Kassie says:

    I’ve obviously already weighed in on the kid/no kid debate and I can honestly say that having a child diagnosed with diabetes sucks but is not the most devastating thing in the world to me – however, my personal experience with diabetes contributes heavily to my take on that, and I totally recognize that everyone brings their own experience and priorities to the discussion.

    I have some friends who don’t have kids – and I think that the relationship definitely changed when I became focused (necessarily) on having and raising my babies. But the best way to maintain the friendship, if it is worth maintaining, is to be honest and practical.

    By that I mean, if you have kids and are lucky enough to be able to pull your head out of the diapers and naptime world to notice that a no-kid friend is slipping away, reach out and grab them! Ask them to remind you of the things that you did and talked about before babies. Chances are you still have interest in a lot of those things, though you may be less able to indulge in spending time on them.

    If you don’t have kids and see a beloved friend slipping away because you don’t share child-rearing, fight for the friendship! Trust me, I am so grateful to my no-kid friends because when we do connect, I get to step out of mommy mode. When I hang with mommy friends, we just end up talking about our kids! And yes, appreciating the challenges that my babies brought to some of my friendships took a friend telling me, honestly, that she wanted a quick update on how the kid-thing was going but that she really missed talking to me about work, and men, and books, and non-animated movies.

    And the point of this post – which is that there are ways to connect and make new friends throughout your life as you change and grow and your friends change and grow – is a great one.

  7. Mom says:

    You know that Dad and I support whatever you and Jason want. BUT I am so glad that I had you and that Dad now has a girl in his life.
    Love, Mom

  8. Breanne says:

    You are really on a roll with these posts.
    I know that I am only 24, but as I get older, the more I am convinced that I really should not have children. I keep trying to explain this to my mother, who is, incidentally, counting down the years until I am 30, the age at which she had her first child. She says “I didn’t want kids with my first husband, but look, now I have you!” Which to me is a bunch of BS. I tell her ” I cannot have children because being pregnant and diabetic=a lot of work and with my high standards, I would NOT be able to have a pregnancy that was healthy.” I barely made it through college and I was only taking care of MYSELF.
    And I would blame every problem the kid had on my inability to be perfect while pregnant. The other thing I tell her is that I couldn’t deal with it—kids develop problems. With my luck, it would be diabetes, or an eating disorder or suicidal tendencies–all of which I have been dealing with throughout my life, and while I’m cool with me dealing with that, could not ever go through watching my child go through that–its hard enough watching my siblings go through it! I joke with her–”I can’t have kids, they might be autistic” and she comes back with “well, I had you and you’re diabetic!” That makes me just want to say horrible nasty comments…but I dont.
    This is why I love dogs. CHildren grow up and break your heart–I simply could not deal with that. DOgs…dogs only break your heart if they get hit by a car, and its not the dog that’s breaking your heart, its the situation.
    Anyway….glad you posted this because I got to spew some of my own mommy issues. HOpe the interview went well in SD.

  9. Dana says:

    I had my tubes done when my hubby and I were dating, the hysterectomy when married. I too, didn’t want to pass on depression and the eating disorder, the diabetes, I think I could of handled. But being a parent, would of killed me.

    Good luck to all, regardless of their choices!

  10. Carol says:

    Glad I checked the OC today. You are definitely not the only one. I’m 42 now,
    diagnosed T1 at 27. The diabetes educator told me to have kids by 30 or forget it…
    too risky. I was not ready at that point, and neither was my husband. I let her
    words be my “reason” for not having kids after I turned 30, and did not push the
    issue further. I have definitely experienced the friend distance thing, but as
    some of my friends kids get older, it’s easier for us to reconnect. Perhaps that
    will hold true for you as well.

    Our old neighbor was disowned by his mom when he was an adult. An older childless
    couple legally adopted him when he was 43. They became his family, and I recently
    attended his adoptive mom’s funeral. It was beautiful, and showed me that it’s never
    really too late to open your heart in love, whether through adoption or deep
    friendships.

  11. Lyrehca says:

    Thanks for your email and for elaborating on the topic in this post. I obviously have a different perspective but it is great to read your post and see the honesty and self-awareness in it.

  12. Lili says:

    I have other concerns besides the diabetes that would make pregnancy challenging, and I’ve gotten many different answers on whether or not I’d have to stop taking my mother medications. Then there’s the fact that we seem to have a lot of odd stuff going on in my family but no one really knows what any of it is. Anyway, adoption is always an option.

  13. Dad says:

    You have a great outlook on life and you and Jason have figured out what works for the two of you. You guys are way ahead of many of your peers. There is not a day that goes by that I think of the privilege I had to walk you down the isle and give you away. That will remain in my TOP FIVE.

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