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How to handle friends with baby envy

If you are reading this, you are likely one of the many parents out there who have been blessed with parenthood. You are filled with the emotions of pride, happiness, and joy. And of course you want to share every moment, picture, and milestone with the world because in your eyes, your baby is so perfect! But what do you about the best friends who have been trying for months or even years to conceive and still have no baby of their own?

Baby envy is real and can damage even the strong and oldest relationships. Your friend who has had trouble conceiving will likely have very mixed emotions. On one hand, she will be happy for you and want to celebrate with you. On the other hand, it can be a reminder of the tiring efforts she has gone through to conceive.

Your first instinct may be to refrain from sharing the news with them. You want to protect them from hurting further, and you don’t want to appear as if you are rubbing your fertility in their face. However, it can cause more hurt and controversy if you hide your news from your friend. This communicates they do have something to be ashamed of and reason to distance themselves from you.

It is best if the news comes from you rather than someone else. This way you let them make the choice of how involved they want to be in your journey instead of making the decision for them. Could they isolate themselves from you? Yes. Try not to take this personally. This is not due to any wrongdoing on your part. They are simply protecting themselves from hurt and emotional pain because they wish to share the love and joy that come with having a baby of their own.

Another response may be to highlight all the negative aspects of having children, as if to communicate they are better off childless. But do you actually feel that way? Parenting has its challenges, but trying to talk someone out of wanting to be a parent can be demeaning and insulting.

Maybe the worst thing anyone can do is to say that maybe it is not for them to have children. This communicates they are not worthy or there is something wrong with them preventing or keeping them from having a baby. This is not for you to determine or decide, nor would it be appropriate to suggest.

You may find that your friend wants to be closer to you to get their baby fix. In this case, you can accommodate within reason. If they treat you poorly out of their own emotional pain, it may be necessary to distance yourself in order to protect your own feelings and hormonal mood swings.

Have you ever experienced baby envy? Share your story in the comments.

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About Dr. Raquel Anderson, Bundoo Behavioral Health Specialist

Raquel Anderson has 14 years of experience as a mental health provider in institutional and private practice. Aside from her private practice, she is an advisory board member for the Mental Health Association of Palm Beach County’s Be Merge Initiative and is a contributing author to Raising Boys with ADHD.

Comments

  1. I’m looking for support regarding a difficult family situation. I have 1.5 yr old daughter and am 22wks pregnant with a boy. My husband’s older brother (10 yrs his senior) lives close by with his wife and a new rhodesian ridgeback puppy (they do not have kids). We moved to the area within the past year to be closer to family, specifically, the brother and his wife as they’re the closest family in the tri-state area. We lived with them a few months while looking for a home here, but now live in our own place (we got pregnant after moving into our own home). My husband’s brother recently booked 2 international vacations for him and his wife, one this month and another over Christmas. With their trip to Italy only a few weeks away, I offered to walk their dog once a day (it’s a 30 minute round trip to their house). Their response was along the lines of “we thought the puppy could stay with you.” I explained that I’d love to help but it would not be realistic for me to watch their dog by myself in our small townhome while pregnant and caring for my rambunctious toddler (who screams and hits the dog when she sees it). There is no way to keep my daughter and the large puppy separated in our house and it would be very difficult for me and potentially unsafe for my daughter. My husband works hours that would not allow him to help with a dog during the week. Oh, and he’s allergic!

    Anyway, their response to me offering to walk the dog shocked me. They said they would never have gotten the dog if they didn’t think I would watch it and that I had already “promised” to do it. This is just untrue. While living with them, I cared for their two sick/elderly dogs, that they put down once we moved out. While grieving the lose of their dogs, we were supportive of their desire to get a new dog but never promised to take it into our home. They just assumed that because I am a stay-at-home mom that I would watch their puppy whenever they needed. This disagreement has resulted in my sister-in-law yelling at me on the phone (and hanging up on me) and my brother-in-law suddenly blocking me on Facebook (a month after the initial argument). I am stunned and hurt that this is how they’re treating me, especially while I am 5+ months pregnant.

    Now, my brother-in-law is 43 and his wife is 38. I do not know if they want children. They have given mixed signals over the 6 years I have known them. She has said she’s not someone that ever really wanted kids, and they work hard to enjoy their money and the ability to travel. However, at other times she has said they were going to eventually start trying to conceive and would consider IVF down the line. I would love nothing more than for them to have children. But also understand that it might not be what they want. I am sensitive to the fact that I am 5 years younger than her and pregnant with my second baby, so I may not be the person she wants to talk to about it.

    I do not want to speculate, but I can’t help but think that it’s not just the dog situation that’s bothering them. Could it be something deeper and they’re using the dog as an excuse to distance themselves from me? They seem to have no problem with my husband, but have been outwardly aggressive towards me. When my husband confronted his brother about blocking me m, he said I was overreacting and that I was making the situation worse than it needed to be and that maybe I blocked him. (?!?) This made no sense whatsoever since I had done nothing, and it infuriates my husband that his older brother has total disregard for his pregnant wife’s feelings. I am feeling a lack of support, love and understand from two of our closest family members, during a time that should be very pleasant and joyous for our family. I just learned about the term “baby/pregnancy-envy” and am wondering if that’s what’s actually going on here. I am keeping my distance to protect myself at this particularly vulnerable time, but it’s hard to not feel abandoned and sad.

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  2. Baby envy, as with all sort of negative motivations related to envy, is a serious emotional blocker to women to achieve their goal. It may come about not only specifically and directly related to a close relative or friend giving birth, but to other achievements such as a new job, monetary gains or life improvements. Those who are affected by this issue are not usually moved to these emotions by weakenesses or somber attitudes, but by a positive-neutral force that makes that person’s focus to be directed to what specialists call a “entropy object”. It is hard to detect once that loop of “gain-status-power-establishment-nourishment” begins, specially at younger ages, when a person is not open to admitting one’s problems or seeking professional help. If left undetected or untreated it can have devastating effects in one’s life. The way our society can overcome this issue will depend on choices our government and leaders make in the future, specially regarding economical distribution and keynesianesqe controls of the malthusian curve. Once those signals are clear, we can decide one of the two options we have to tackle this: break the cycle (VERY hard), or add one additional element to it: pacifism. Either way, solving it will solve baby envy, and, by consequence, bring us closer to our single objective: a truly free enterprise and free trade society.

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