when i was in my twenties i recall being a regular shabbos guest at a particular family's house. the wife was in her early thirties and the couple had five children. i had a friend who used to sometimes join me when i went for a shabbos meal at this family's home. my friend was in her early thirties and never married. once i when i was visiting this family without my friend and the wife told me that she felt uncomfortable having my friend over because they were the same age and that my friend was single and childless. it was an honest reaction but at the time i was taken aback. my friend should have been the one feeling uncomfortable but she was not. i think a lot of times the haves feel more uncomfortable about having than the have nots feel about not having.
several years later when i was in my late twenties, early thirties i remember visiting a former childhood friend who had been married for ten years and had five or six kids. when i went to visit her i remember feeling ignored. i didn't say anything because i just figured she was very busy with her kids and that sometimes its hard to concentrate on a guest with so many little kids around. i also figured that i wouldn't be visiting again any time soon because she seemed too busy to have guests. when she drove me to the monsey bus stop motzei shabbos on her own she apologized for not spending enough time with me during my visit. years later i visited this same friend in monsey and though she had some small children at the time her other children were older. i think that by then she adjusted to juggling her kids and having guests. this of course is quite a difficult task.
i realize that my being single can make people uncomfortable. even as a younger single it made my married friends feel uncomfortable which i thought was quite odd. in my twenties i always had the attitude that my bashert must be right around the corner and i wasn't worried about possibly always being the odd woman out. i think that many people who are married with children unconsciously do this to singles. i think its because they feel bad for us and they don't quite understand it. unfortunately sometimes it makes them feel so bad that they don't want us around. which makes the situation worse . who wants to be excluded on the basis of one's lack of marital status?
i have a friend whose husband had cancer . he went out of his way to make sure people felt comfortable around him when really it should have been the other way around. people should have made sure to make him feel comfortable . after all , he was the one with cancer.
i had a friend who would hesitate to tell their childless friends about her children because she thought that it would make them feel bad. personally i think they were just thinking of themselves. it made them feel uncomfortable that their friends did not have kids. well, no one wants to be the one that everyone is afraid to talk about husbands or kids with. it makes a person feel even more left out . yes it does feel bad that others are fortunate and have families. it feels even worse to be the one everyone walks on egg shells around. there is always something someone else has that another would like to have. its far better to concentrate on what we all have in common than on what others lack.