Can Moms Be Friends When They Have Vastly Different Approaches To Parenting?

Within the first ten minutes of meeting the person who would end up being my closest and dearest friend, I had already decided (ironically) that there was no way in hell I would voluntarily spend time around this woman.

We had been introduced through mutual friends under the assumption we would have a lot in common – we were about the same age, both first-time mothers lived in the same apartment complex, and were both very physically active.

At the time, my son was about a month old and Jennifer was days away from giving birth to her own bundle of joy. I was excited to meet a fellow “new mom”; someone I could confide in regarding the excitement and perils that being a new mom afforded.

Jennifer was nice enough, but she came across as aloof and snobby. Being the talker that I am, I assume she was shy or just mentally drained from being pregnant for ten months (I certainly couldn’t blame her for that), so I tried to ask her questions about her pregnancy. Was she nervous about giving birth? Where was she delivering? You know, the typical small-talk that occurs when someone is about to have a human being come out of them.

“Well, my doula and I have been practicing breathing techniques with prenatal yoga, so I’m feeling pretty confident.”

“Yeah, and if worst comes to worst, just ask for the best drugs the hospital’s got!” I countered, laughing a little.

She was less than amused.

Now, I probably made a poor judgment call bringing up drugs to anyone who uses the word “doula.” I should have known the joke probably wouldn’t have been met with appreciation. Also, I recognize that a lot of people are strong advocates for natural birth and I totally respect that. More power to you, sister! You are a far stronger person than yours truly.

I, however, am of the mindset that the epidural was one of the best things mankind has ever invented. I’ve never been so excited to get a seven-inch needle injected anywhere on my person. I truly believe my epidural literally was the only thing that kept me from passing out from pain during my own birthing experience.

This is how much I love epidurals: If there were a Facebook page dedicated to pregnant women’s love for epidurals or nitrous, I would be on the board. I would declare January 15th “National Epidural Day” and hand out brochures letting all women know it doesn’t make you a cheater or a wimp or a bad mom if you can’t handle that kind of pain.

Anyway, over the course of our initial, 30-minute interaction, I found out Jennifer had every intention of having an at-home water birth (totally reasonable), eating her placenta after birth (gross, but whatever), and not vaccinating her child (OK, I’m out). I later told my husband there was no way she and I would ever be friends and I wouldn’t be surprised if she breastfed her daughter until the 5th grade.

Two years later and Jennifer is by far one of my greatest confidants and friends. We both lean on each other when we’re struggling as new mothers, as wives, and as stay-at-home moms that have little interaction with the “real world.” Our kids play together often and Jennifer and I sneak off to happy hour whenever we can swing it.

But our parenting styles and methodologies are vastly different, which has inadvertently affected our friendship in odd ways.

For example, Jennifer co-sleeps and thus HAS to be home at 7:30 to put her daughter to sleep. This means, if we want to go out for dinner or the movies, we’re very limited to what we can do, even though her husband is perfectly capable of putting their daughter to bed, himself. I’m flabbergasted what Jennifer thinks is going to happen if she doesn’t go to bed with her daughter. Like, does she think missing one night is going to scar her child in unfathomable ways later on in life?

Jennifer is incredibly protective of her daughter and responds to every little fall, bump, or scrape with extreme comforting measures. As a result, my son can’t play with her daughter because she cries over EVERY LITTLE THING. For perspective, my husband and I never made a big deal every time my son hurt himself or cried when he didn’t get what he wanted. As a result, my son is incredibly easy-going and rarely cries unless it’s warranted. This makes it tough for these two kids to play together because her daughter will have a meltdown if my son so much as touches her arm or tries to hug her.

Jennifer’s entire family is on a very strict, minimalistic diet (think gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free, vegan), so they often avoid social situations like birthday parties and barbecues because they don’t want their daughter exposed to burgers and cake.

Jennifer won’t let me babysit her daughter because she’s afraid I wouldn’t be able to give my full attention to her child if I also have to watch my own son. I might be insulted by this except for the fact that she won’t let ANYONE babysit her child. I can only presume she’s afraid a babysitter might indoctrinate her 2-year-old into the dark underbelly of the sugar world.

There are other parenting situations we broach vastly different, and it DOES cause some strains in our relationship. She’ll complain about her daughter’s behavior and I have to bite my tongue as I have very strong opinions as to why her parenting technique is staving behavioral maturity.

But then I have to remind myself that I certainly don’t know that I’m doing everything right. I’ve made plenty of mistakes and am far from earning the title of world’s best mom. Were Jennifer to be writing this very article, I’m sure she would have similar frustrations with our discrepancy in child rearing.

Ultimately, I wouldn’t trade our friendship for anything because true friends don’t judge each other. They realize we each have our own journey and parenting doesn’t come with a manual or a set of hard, fast rules. Most moms are just doing the best they can to raise happy, healthy children. To do anything less than encourage and support each other is counterproductive.

It’s difficult being friends with moms that don’t adhere to your own beliefs in child development, but it certainly isn’t impossible. Had I dismissed Jennifer based solely on her “new age thinking,” I would have missed out on a bond that has gotten me through some tough times. And though I want to roll my eyes at some of the things she says and does, I’ve chosen instead to try to understand and learn from them. In doing so, it has helped me become a better mom and friend.

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About Mcclain W.

9 comments

  1. birds of a feather flock together
    you spending too much energy trying to be a friend and hate her ways and attitude of life in general
    may be you trying to assure yourself that you not like her

  2. I c how redneck brats r broughtbup….2 luv guns, hate coloured people, like war games, disgust society w/ biblepunching propaganda, etc….

  3. Sounds like Jennifer is raising a kid that will ultimately have a very hard time coping in the real world. I’m certain that is not her intent, but if she gave it some thought (and was capable of being intellectually honest with herself), she’s really not doing her daughter any favors by being the way she is.

  4. Teaching resilience and how to handle conflict is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child. As a college counselor, I think over parenting is a key reason that 18 to 22 year olds threaten to commit suicide when life does not easily go their way,. I’ve had mom’s march their adult children into my office and tell me that her son/daughter/gender-neutral adult child will be seeing me for counseling! And then blame me when that adult chooses not to return. I appreciate your perspective but feel compelled to say that drone parents are hurting and not helping their child navigate this complex world on his or her own. Too many confused and suicidal college students these days!

  5. Good article… funny too! 😉

  6. This is a great post. For the simple reason you chose to respect Jennifer’s health conscious approach to taking
    care of herself and child. Some people are highly allergic
    to gluten and it is not always a choice but a health
    concern for those who need to eat specific foods to
    survive. As a far as natural child birth; most women
    would welcome as natural as possible. From experience
    when I was given an epidural for pain; it slowed up my contractions so much I almost wasn’t able to give birth
    naturally. Sorry, but I really can’t totally agree with you
    on that drug because I had to be given another drug so
    The contractions would continue to reach the necessary
    10 centimeters.

    I think we try to do what’s best to ensure a healthy child. As your son gets older he probably will want to play with children that have a common interest with him . Perhaps you could consider taking him to a park.
    It’s obvious from what you describe he is not in the
    Habit of acting out and that is a good thing and has everything to do with good parenting. Kids who act out
    Usually crave a great deal of attention.

    And who says you can’t branch out and have multiple friends who will also have different views on parenting
    but may even agree with some of your ways as well.

  7. Youre a much better person than I to pursue this friendship. I have no patience for those whom raise their offspring to be like the whiney incompetent snowflakes we find on college campuses, these days. Parents should raise their children to be tough enough to handle life, but compassionate for the underdogs, and to be responsible for themselves. We have too many marshmallows in our society.

  8. Sad you think you are good friends. It seems to me you are judging Jennifer all the time. And you say she is a great friend but you don’t say how you ‘connect’ it’s all about the differences.

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