That's a crap title but I wanted to get your attention as someone who perhaps has children or has chosen to not have children. I am sure that it's hard knowing what to say or do when you have a friend who is involuntarily childless. I often think of how much I'd hate to be the person having to cope with me when I was at my lowest. This piece was written during World Childless Week but wasn't posted until now as I think it's more timely. I hope it's useful.
- Give your friend a get out. Rather than stress how great your Halloween, Bonfire night party, works do will be, and that they have to be there, it's okay to say it'll be nice to see them but no pressure.
- Meeting in smaller groups might be easier. Tea and cake might be better than a full-on party with lots of social minefields.
- Be balanced in your conversation. I don't think it matters how long it's been since we knew that we'd not have children, a conversation about nativity plays the cost of presents for children is still excluding. This chat is better with other parents so save it for them. It can be even trickier if your friend has paid for IVF as we did.
- Check your FB feed. If you haven't set up friends lists so you can share your library of photos of your little ones dressed as ghosts or opening their presents with fellow parents then do that now. It saves your friend from an avalanche of news that may mean they unfollow you.
- Beware the round robin letter. My parents had a letter a few years ago that assumed they had grandchildren. It was hurtful to them - and it's also a good point to say, be mindful their relatives too. They may also be struggling.
- See the small steps your friend is making. Thank them for a book they told you about, a TV show you watched or better still if they blog about their experiences - read about it. Appreciate each other for being who you both are.
- Be supportive by giving space. Without question, the one thing that nobody who is involuntary childless want to hear is fixes. By that I mean adoption, surrogacy or another suggestions. Simply saying 'sorry, it's crap', is enough and allowing them space to get mad and have a cry is okay.
- Be mindful of who they want to meet too. Christmas parties sat at the table with expectant parents is not fun, so be the friend that moves the table settings. I know I put on a brave face and often wish I hadn't.
- Give them space to create new routines. We always go away for Christmas, only an hour away to the coast but it gives me breathing space. I often mourn for the huge family Christmases we had as children with numerous dogs and relatives in my grandparents big house. Part of my sadness is caught up with those memories as I would have love to recreate that with my gran and my parents. Instead, my cousins have this honour and that's hard to come to terms with. My parents think nothing of me or my brother not being around and I'm very grateful for that. It means that I have created new memories with my dog on the beach. Try to give them this space and you may also find you can create new traditions too.