I have this friend. She spanks. Before your brain dip dives into the gutter, I mean she spanks her kid. Me, I gave my daughter a tiny slap on the hand just once during a fairly horrible pinching phase and then vowed never again. Otherwise, my friend and I are generally pretty similar. We like to buy organic food but can’t always afford it. We’re not too uptight when it comes to our mothering styles. We both buy our summer dresses at Target. But she spanks, and I don’t.
Back when our babies were in strollers are we hadn’t yet really decided on how we’d discipline our children, we’d spend hours walking and debating the pros and cons of spanking. She was pro, I was con, and considering she spanks and I don’t, you can safely infer that neither of us convinced each other to come over to the other side. Still, I enjoyed our debates, and this fundamental difference in how we parent hasn’t impacted our friendship.
This isn’t always the case. In fact, this is part of what makes it so hard to meet moms. Moms who disagree on the following issues often have trouble being friends:
Vaccines. Circumcision. Breastfeeding. Cloth diapering. Homemade baby food. Pacifiers. Preschool. Religion. Spanking. TV. Veganism. Attachment parenting. Babywearing. EC. Co-sleeping. Going back to work.
There are plenty more where these came from. Too many. And especially on the Internet where no one has to look anyone else in the eye, moms are pretty quick to tear each other down over one another’s choices. Even moms who might otherwise be very close friends. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You CAN have mom friends who disagree with you on some of the fundamentals. Here’s how:
Don’t talk about it. Let’s say you and a friend fall on opposite ends of the vaccine spectrum. These days, it’s such a hot button issue that the key to preserving your friendship may just be keeping mum. There are so many other things to talk about in this world – do you really need to focus on that?
Don’t make it personal. When my friend and I discussed spanking, we talked in generalities. It was a little easier because neither of our children was of an age where spanking was a disciplinary tool on the table, but we can still talk about spanking today without mentioning each other’s kids. Debates over contentious parenting issues can be refreshing, as long as no one turns a talk into an argument.
Don’t talk behind backs. This one should go without saying, but if you meet moms who do things differently and you want to be friends, don’t go around bashing their choices. It will get back to them and you will lose their friendship.
Use respectful language. Maybe you and a mom friend disagree, but you’re more meh about the topic while she is deeply invested. In that case, treat the topic of your disagreement like religion (it may very well be religion) and don’t talk trash. You wouldn’t say “Oh, Christianity… that’s stupid!” so don’t say “Babywearing? That’s stupid!” Be nice. It’s a fundamental rule of friendship.
Consider what you can learn from each other. Sometimes moms with very different mothering philosophies can help one another achieve balance. Don’t discount how eye opening a diversity of perspectives can be.
Remember we’re all doing our best. The moms with whom you have to agree to disagree to get along aren’t making the choices they do to drive you crazy. They’re doing what they feel is right for their families just like you are. At the end of the day, if you’re both giving your kids lots of love and a happy home, many of these supposedly contentious issues aren’t going to matter very much.