Guest Blog: Making Friends When You’re Kidless
Blogger Biography: Karyn is a native Ohioan who lives for traveling, writing, reading, and eating. She never expected to marry a man in the military, but doing so has led to some surprising experiences that have greatly enriched her life. Wherever she is in the world, Karyn is determined to soak up as much of the local culture as possible. She and her husband share their home with two energetic rescue dogs, Reece and Blitz.
I’ve never really experienced any kind of traditional military spouse life. Since my husband and I married nearly nine years ago, we’ve never lived on a military installation. We just recently moved, but we live in a rural area forty-five minutes from the installation. Our first four years were at a NATO base in Europe, and the four years after that were at a detached unit. Because of this, it’s always been difficult for me to meet other military spouses and make friends within the military community.
What makes it even harder, though, is our choice not to have children. I’ve found that military spouses with younger kids often want to create a social life around their children, setting up play dates with other mommies. I’ve had better luck making friends with military spouses with children who can stay home on their own or who have left the nest entirely. There are some exceptions. I have a few good friends with small children, and I don’t mind tagging along on outings with them from time to time.
Being childfree was a choice that I never considered to be controversial, yet when my husband and I got married and I moved to Europe to be with him, I found myself having to constantly defend our choice. I was called everything from selfish to unwomanly by some of the military spouses that I met, and I never felt so alone in my life. It was confusing enough to be newly married to someone in the military when I had no previous experience with military life, but I also just moved to a country where I didn’t speak the language. I had these massive adjustments to make, and I needed a support system. The United States community at the NATO installation was also really small, which just added to my feelings of isolation.
Despite the rocky start, I continued to put myself out there and meet people. I volunteered with the Girl Scouts and with the international women’s group. I joined a book club. It took a while, but I met other spouses who bonded with me over interests that didn’t involve children. Some of these spouses remain my dearest friends.
Being active in online communities helped, too. I was able to reach out to other military spouses–some of whom were also childfree–and forge friendships based on shared interests. I’ve even met several of them in person. As is often the case with military life, you will end up in places where you already know people, even if you just know them from the Internet.
Nine years after that awkward beginning, I’ve learned to be upfront about my childfree status when I meet new people. One of the first questions people always ask is, “Do you have any kids?” I anticipate it every time, and I often bring it up first. I usually tell people that, while we don’t plan to have children of our own, we adore our two wonderful nieces. I always have photos of them to show off to people who are interested. I also gush about our two dogs. I find that it’s pretty easy to bond with people over pets.
Sometimes, the person I’m speaking with will end the conversation after finding out that we don’t want kids. I’ve learned to be okay with it. If someone has negative feelings about my childfree status, that’s probably not someone I want to get to know anyway. After all, that person didn’t care enough to want to know anything else about me.
Regardless of whether you’re childfree, you can only make friends by leaving yourself open to rejection as well as acceptance. The important thing is being okay with yourself and not making apologies for who you are. If you have that kind of confidence, you will naturally draw people to you.