All my friends have had babies and I feel marginalised | Dear Mariella

It’s hard when you don’t move in unison with your peers. It doesn’t mean abandoning friendships, says Mariella Frostrup, but don’t be afraid to keep a distance when needed

The dilemma I’m 34 and have been in a close friendship group with four other women since university. Our relationship has been a constant comfort, but during the past year I’ve found it incredibly difficult to connect with them as all four have had babies. Suddenly our WhatsApp group looks more like Mumsnet – and I just can’t relate. I don’t know if I want kids or not. My husband puts no pressure on me, but this is bringing out the worst in me. I feel left behind, confused and judgmental as these friends enter motherhood. I feel isolated and incapable of contributing, and when I do I feel disingenuous. I try to widen the conversation, but it always reverts back to babies. I don’t want to lose these people, but I feel marginalised, as if I’m fundamentally missing out on some intensely female purpose. How do I step back without being overly dramatic?

Mariella replies It’s definitely a problem. I am sympathetic. But stick with me first, because I have to draw attention to how emotionally over-sensitised we’ve become as a species. Growing up, friends shacking up before we do, marriages and divorce, babies born and infidelities committed – they’re all part of life’s rich pageant. Some are profoundly upsetting, some manageably so, and others so natural a part of life’s flow that they should barely bother us at all. Some of these emotional traumas are dumped on us, some committed by us and some are not directed at us at all. In the latter case, it’s generally our own unresolved issues that make us vulnerable to being wounded.

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