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Mothers or not, all female friendships matter

Tori Bowman Johnson

Tori Bowman Johnson

Tori, a freelance writer, has worked in production, talent management & branding since her agency role at Vivien’s Model Management in Melbourne in 2011. Tori has recently launched, The First Word; a conversational podcast for women, particularly those who juggle young children & paid work. Tori is also a very proud mum of two little boys.
Created on May 07, 2024 · 6 mins read
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One woman’s highs and lows don’t take away from our own - and vice versa. Because yes, mums are tired.

Exhausted. Obliterated. Spaced out. Touched out. Starving for a meal that isn’t a random Bluey cookie from the car floor. Busting to pee because it’s been four hours. Desperate to change their clothes. In need of a brush. Deserving of a card at 5 pm that says, “You are a trooper.”

This is all true. Mums are tired for good reason.

But so are our other female friends. Those without children but with big and brilliant lives. Lives in need of attention and nurture, and deserving of our time. 

As women, we need to be very careful that we don’t subconsciously forget or reduce the lives of those we know without children.

When we enter parenthood, the universe naturally seems to invite us into the unofficial but very real ‘mums club.’ Lovely for us, but exclusive to everyone else. Regardless of why some of our female friends may not have kids, inclusivity in life should be a non-negotiable.

While we let the reasons for our aching minds and bodies spill out for the world to hear (mothers are fabulously well versed in an outward-facing vent – myself included!), it’s important to action our ability to be self-aware. And kind.

Checking in on our non-mum friends

When in the company of women without children, remember to ask how they are. To let them choose or lead the topic of conversation. 

On top of this, I’d say it’s always polite to avoid frivolously saying, ‘I don’t know what I did with all my time before kids’ or “I can’t believe I used to think I was so busy!’ 

Comments like these can be extremely patronising to those around us. Even if your girls WhatsApp thread starts to separate into two chats – those with and without kids – don’t assume the non-mums want to be excluded based on children.

Tips for balancing the conversation

You can try to initiate a frank conversation before subconsciously leaving people out. 

Example icebreaker: “Hey girls! If anyone feels the baby chat is taking over, we can always keep this thread for ‘girl talk’ and start another for ‘mum chat’? Open to suggestions to keep everyone happy!”

When you are in the company of your friends without kids, make sure you’re genuinely engaging with them as they recount, celebrate, vent, unwind, or ponder. 

It might sound like a completely obvious thing to do, however having observed groups of women over the past few years, I feel as though we (mothers) tend to hold the microphone a lot of the time. I truly appreciate motherhood is the hardest job in the world but that doesn’t equate to us being superior in the female pond.

A few suggestions. Before you’re asked about your baby’s sleep or their latest milestone, next time try and beat them to it with: 

  • How’s your week been? 
  • What is new in your life at the moment? 
  • I feel like we have been focusing on me for a while – I want to know about you!
  • When can we catch up properly for a coffee or a wine, so you can tell me all about the project you’ve been working on?
  • Thank you so much for your support of late. I know my life has dominated the conversation. It has not gone unnoticed, I appreciate you so much. 

Personally, I find catch-ups with friends without children to feel richer when I am out of the house and away from my kids. Not always (as it’s not always possible) but at least some of the time. When friends come to my place, usually because it’s easier for me, there is a bias that hugs the room in terms of where the focus will lie. This bias is held by the kids – God love em’.

When someone comes knocking, the little people sprint to the door with immense excitement and immediately ask your guest if they can show them everything they own, perform a dance concert, and lead a group trip into the trampoline. 

This is then followed by a fall, tears, and a diplomatic conversation about which bandaid is most appropriate for the slight bruise showing. 

The level of negation in said conversation is extortionate, leaving less time for you to focus on your friend.

Now while our gorgeous guests might want to see our kids (which is lovely and so kind), they also want to see you, hence their visit), hosting the catch-up within the home where the kids are playing can make it difficult to direct your full attention their way.

Defining a middle-ground space

Occasionally we need to create new space; an unbiased space. 

If you’re thinking ‘There is no time to leave the house!’ or ‘Who will watch the kids?’, these are fair questions and valid points. 

To leave the house requires organisation ahead of time (and some help). While we won’t be able to secure these elements every single time, we should do our best to get a 60% success rate.. And if you really can’t get out, perhaps suggest a phone call after the kids have gone to sleep. 

From a different perspective, this – a kid-free catch up with a friend – is a beautiful opportunity to find yourself within your friendships. Your voice. Your stance. Your freedom. Think of it as self-care if you need the extra convincing. And if guilt creeps in, tell that guilt to take a hike. You deserve time off and time away.

We owe it to ourselves and our friendships to enjoy conversations that trickle into realities outside of our own. We owe it to ourselves and our friendships to ensure the ‘baby-free’ version of ourselves can exist too.

Their milestones have equal value

One final point and perspective. Our gorgeous friends without children are very likely to share in so many of our family milestones in the years to come. Our child’s 1st birthday, their 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th …. 18th, 21st and all the rest. Then, if and when baby number 2 or 3 comes along, our friends will open up their social diaries to double the time they dedicate to the 10 am park shindigs to mingle with people they’ve never met and eat miniature food that is free of sugar, dairy, flavouring, and taste all in the name of friendship. 

So, how nice would it feel if we returned the favour by acknowledging the milestones in their life with the same level of devotion applied? 

Every woman is contributing to the world.

Every woman needs to hold the microphone.

Every woman is deserving of a card at 5 pm that says, “You are a trooper.”

Mothers or not, all of our female friendships matter.

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