After becoming a mom this past September, I was unpleasantly startled to find that there is a lot of drama out there in the world of moms. Whether it is between the boob or the bottle, bed-sharing or cry-it-out, the battles go on and on. It's exhausting. Can we even coexist amidst all of the opinions, research supported decisions, and varying parenting choices?
At first my response was no, we cannot coexist. I must find like-minded women to surround myself with. I was in a panic to befriend women who thought and viewed parenting in the same ways that I did. I thought that this was going to be the best and possibly the only way to approach mommy friendships. Guess what? I was wrong.
While there is extreme value in having like-minded friends to support you, it is also essential that we learn how to relate and navigate with others who have different approaches and perspectives. Why do we have to learn to do this? In all honesty, we do not have a choice. Whether we like it or not (and we probably don't), we are going to come in contact with parents who approach parenting differently. We cannot control what others may say to us but we can control how we chose to react.
React With Confidence
I didn't notice how insecure I was as a mom until my son was given a helmet to treat plagiocephaly. Honestly, I felt a lot of guilt and shame that his head had a funny shape. I felt like it was my fault. I also feared that people would judge me, or worse, judge my beautiful baby because he looked different.
After working through those feelings I realized that I was choosing a perspective that fueled feelings of guilt and shame over one that fueled confidence. So you know what I decided? I decided that I am a friggin' awesome mom. I am the best mom for my son. I have chosen to stand with pride when I do what is right for my family whether it is a medical decision or any other choice we intentionally make. And in that same vein: You are the best thing your kid has going for them. What you decide works for your family, maybe not your neighbors or that other mom at church, but when it comes to your family, you rock.
We need to remember that every family's needs vary which causes them to choose different ways of caring for their children. When you put life into that perspective it makes relating to other moms a bit easier and once you decide you are an awesome mom, no one can take that away from you.
React With Grace
Once we come to terms with the fact that people parent differently because each family is different, life gets a lot simpler. However, there will always be something that rubs you the wrong way. I have decided to approach these situations with grace (or at least give it my best effort). If a mom says something that I am super offended by a couple of times in regards to a parenting choice I've made, I have decided to brush it off. If there is repeated incidences of this, I have decided to have a quick chat with her, let her know that it rubbed me the wrong way and that I hope we can approach the topic differently next time. Letting your confidence show by letting the small stuff go and standing up when things are really out of line can keep your friendships going strong without suffering through uncomfortable comments that can feed into the "Mommy Wars."
Keep Your Mind Open
I grapple a lot with keeping my mind open as a parent especially after spending hours pouring over literature and research to make a decision. Then pops in another mom who has decided to do the exact opposite of what I have decided on! All of my instincts tell me to shout, "NO! You are making the wrong decision," but honestly, she is probably thinking the same thing about me. Rather than looking at the situation as a right or wrong thing, we can learn from each other. This doesn't mean that one of you has to change your decision, but you might get the chance to learn something about the other side of things that you never knew. You also might gain more respect for that mama, too. Odds are she didn't make that decision thinking that it was going to negatively impact her child and neither did you.
The other side to open-mindedness is remembering that there isn't always a "choice" in some matters. This one comes into play a lot with the breastfeeding vs. formula battle (or stay at home mom vs. working mom). People have their opinions on what is "right", but sometimes it wasn't a choice for that mom. Sometimes we are forced to make choices as a parent, and we definitely need grace and open minds when it comes to that.
How do you maintain your "mom" friendships despite the differences?