On Managing Differences with Mom Friends
Raise your hand if you've observed a significant difference between friends during parenting, especially as your kids get older. I'm imagining the scene in Mean Girls when Tina Fey challenges an auditorium of high school girls on if they've ever said anything mean. It's inevitable. There are just too many choices in raising these little beings for us to be perfectly aligned with anyone.
Just like this evasive thing called balance, none of us have the same version and no one way is the right way in parenting. If, like me, you prefer avoidance to conflict and are apt to stay quiet when a mom friend asserts her style, does it eat at you later whether you should have spoken up?
I've been trying this simple trick to separate the differences that warrant addressing from the non-issues. For me, unless another parent's style interferes with mine it doesn't need to be addressed. Better yet, if I can be open and curious about their approach it can only make the relationship better by showing support and interest in things important to them. No matter how many times a mother brings up their no screen policy or home cooked food preference, I try (sometimes, very hard) to assume they are sharing personal preference with no significant concern about my family's choice.
However, if a friend imposes their style on Bodie or I, I've found value in engaging even if only to understand and diffuse tension from mounting. The best example is when a friend scolded my son for something that she rightfully doesn't tolerate, but I equally rightfully do. The first few times, I tightened inwardly and ignored. But all it did was make me a little crankier during play dates.
As much as it intimidates my non-confrontational soul, I've found the best way to address these sticky issues, is to do so directly and keep it 1. light and conversational 2. specific to a recent memorable incident and 3. framed in the context of how it feels as a mother and not as an attack or judgment on their style.
Lo and behold, when my friend and I spoke, our difference in "disciplining" became more benign to me - the reason she had repeatedly stepped in was not at all to change my style but because it's hard to turn off her own instincts. This conversation was in some ways the easiest and hardest I've had - raising children is so deeply personal, but ultimately we are both learning and making sense of motherhood together, even if differently.
In keeping sight of the big picture, raising children is made so much better by our comrades in arms - the women who are in it alongside us. While ignoring is often easiest and sometimes for the best, I'm improving at identifying when it's best to smooth the bumps before they drive wedges in my village.
Have you encountered a similar situation? How did a difficult conversation go? What helped or hurt? Would love to hear from you. xo