OPEN LETTER To my child-free friends

A shout-out to the non-parent friends who are part of my village – you are valuable and much appreciated!

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Dearest friends without any kids,

It wasn’t too long ago when our weekends were spent whiling away at a beach club in Sentosa and our weeknights checking out new restaurants and bars.

We would meet impulsively and indulge ― usually over a cocktail or two ― in candid discussions about love, career and what we were passionate about. We went away for girls-only trips, belly laughed over our latest dating mishaps, and held each other’s hands in rough times.

Whether it was the dead of the night or in the middle of a busy work day, we were always there for each other always, no questions asked.

Then, things started to change ― our lives took different paths. Some of us got married and one of us got pregnant ― me.

If you look back now, you would probably agree that things started changing the minute I announced my pregnancy. For one, you had to deal with a friend who could no longer could enjoy a cocktail. I was also super grumpy and kept complaining about my multiple pregnancy-related aches ― I even refused to meet in the evenings because I wanted to turn in at 8pm.

I was a nightmare to deal with it, wasn’t I? We thought things would return to normal after the baby arrived, but, oh, how wrong were we.

To the only friend who knew I was in labour, you were coaching my husband and passing on good thoughts and wishes via text messages the entire time. You had absolutely no idea what was going on in that delivery suite that day, but you were there in spirit and holding tightly to my free hand.

At the point when I was ready to give up on us, you decided to not give up on me ― or my baby.

The day after I gave birth, you took turns barging into my hospital suite armed with gifts and kisses for my little bundle. Your experience with babies had been minimal up till then, but it didn’t stop you from slipping easily into “aunty” mode, cooing and cuddling my cutie.

I promised to meet up with you soon, but then I went MIA for a bit there, didn’t I? I stopped picking up your calls, I was silent in group chats and I took the longest time to answer private messages. Even when I did communicate, it was short and very often, snappy.

The challenges of motherhood put me off my stride for a while. I was literally knee-deep in baby poop and tearing my hair out trying to figure out why bubba was crying all day. My days and nights were one big blur and I was so exhausted to make adult conversation. I felt you guys might not understand because you “didn’t have kids”, so I sought refuge with my new mummy friends.

When I gave up my career to become a stay-at-home mum, I worried even more that you would not be able to relate to me. Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be, I thought at some point. Once I have a kid, I will have to give up my child-free friends, because let’s face it, we had fewer and fewer things in common.

Just when I had convinced myself of this thought, you all stepped up and taught me that nothing can stand in the way of true friendship. Not even motherhood. At the point when I was ready to give up on us, you refused to give up on me ― or my baby.

Three years later, I can finally write this letter with clarity. I guess what I’m trying to say, in a very long-winded way is, thank you.

 

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THANK YOU FOR… LOOKING OUT FOR ME To the BFF who volunteered to come over to my house with delicious biriyani and hold my screaming baby while I ate with both hands. You had no idea how to appease a wailing baby, but you did your best and was adamant I finish my food before you handed him back to me. Then, there was that one time when my baby refused to stop screaming in his car seat during the entire 25-minute ride. To the friend who chose to sit with him in an effort to console and distract him while I drove, I have not forgotten your contribution either.

THANK YOU FOR… TAKING AN INTEREST IN MY MOTHERHOOD JOURNEY Babies are a boring topic to non-parents, but this hasn’t stopped you from taking an interest in my child. You even spend time to bring a fresh perspective to my motherhood struggle of the month. Every single mundane thing my child does is a picture-perfect moment for me, but I know it’s probably not the same for you. If you’re bored of the number of kiddie pictures I’ve bombarded you with via WhatsApp and Facebook over the past three years, you definitely haven’t let on. Snaps of my child are usually met with an “awwww”, “how cute” or “what’s he up to?” reply. Thank you for indulging this proud mummy.

THANK YOU FOR… ATTENDING MY KID’S BIRTHDAY PARTIES The parties I throw these days aren’t as wild as the one I used to give in my salad days, but you guys still attend. Not because your kid dragged you there, but because you actually want to. If I were child-free, I’m not sure that I would be obliging enough to sacrifice my weekend to show up at a kid’s birthday party. But you guys do and with so much enthusiasm. I still chuckle when I look at my son’s pirate-themed first birthday party. My wardrobe was probably least on point, theme-wise, but not you guys. You pulled out all the stops and came dressed to impress.

Thank you for loving me and my child, despite everything. Thank you, too, for valuing our friendship enough to stick with me through everything.”

THANK YOU FOR… WORKING AROUND MY SCHEDULE My spontaneous lifestyle went out of the window the day my baby was put in my arms. Most days, I wasn’t prepared to bring him out, but on the days I did, I appreciate that you were willing to meet me at odd hours for tea or an early breakfast, as I had to work around his nap schedule. I know how busy and precious your time is, so it’s much appreciated. Thank you for meeting me at kid-friendly cafes and allowing my pesky peewee to poke your eye, tug at your hair and play with your expensive branded belongings. There have also been times when you’ve sprung up from the table to run after him, so that I could take a break from doing so. Please know that your zealous efforts have not gone unnoticed.

THANK YOU FOR… LOVING MY CHILD LIKE YOUR OWN From the friend who lives in the US who made sure my son got his gift specially hand-delivered through another girlfriend, to the ones who live here and are constantly showering him with cute outfits, toys and books ― you are all such special individuals. Despite your busy schedules, you make the effort to buy something outstanding for my little boy. Even if he doesn’t show his appreciation for more than two seconds, know that I do. Some of you have chosen to not have kids and I respect your decision. For the friend who is desperately trying to conceive, I admire you for not showing jealousy or bitterness towards me because I have a child. Instead, I’ve only ever seen you love mine with your whole soul.

THANK YOU FOR… KEEPING ME CONNECTED TO THE WORLD OUTSIDE MOTHERHOOD If anything, this is what I’m most grateful for. Sure, it’s important to have your mummy tribe help you get through the everyday struggles of motherhood. But in my book, it’s even more important to have non-mummy friends who remind me you of who you used to be. Our conversations don’t gravitate naturally towards toddler-friendly recipes, toilet-training tips or preschool choices, as they normally do with friends who have kids. Instead, you keep me interested in every other topic ― exotic holiday destinations that will be completely inappropriate for a child, hilarious dating stories, your recent promotion, the latest hip restaurants to check out and so on. Thank you for recognising that there’s so much more to me than being a mother.

I may never be the same person ever again. Yes, there will always be days when I’m too distracted by motherhood to give you the level of attention you deserve. But thank you for loving me and my child, despite everything. Thank you, too, for valuing our friendship enough to stick with me through everything.

If anything, our friendship has only gone from strength to strength ― and this is all thanks to the effort put in by each and every one of you.

Friends forever,

Jassmin

 

Jassmin Peter-Berntzen, 36, SmartParents assistant editor, is mum to Andreas Dhiraj, 2.

Photos: iStock

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