When BFF’s Are Very Different Kinds of Parents
June 24, 2015 · Posted in Parenting · Permalink

Sarah and Laura have been friends since prenatal yoga. Now their kids, Joshua and Tara, are two years old and conflict is creeping into their very cozy foursome.  Sarah feels agitated when they are together with the kids.  She feels that Sarah doesn’t ever say no to Joshua.  He hits and kicks alot and Sarah worries that Tara is going to get hurt. It feels too scary to address it, but she finds herself preoccupied about the issue.

Sound familiar? It often feels trickier “co-parenting” with your best girlfriend than your spouse. Spouses feel comfortable arguing, haggling and critiquing each other. Friends are usually much more respectful. So many disagreements or opposing viewpoints stay underground and simmer. This can cause a great deal of angst and discomfort for friends.  It is normal and natural to have conflict over approach and ideas with good friends. Decisions about raising children are deeply personal and disapproval from friend, family or even foe will be felt keenly. So tread lightly and carefully.

Practicing healthy self -esteem and boundaries with friends about parenting will be critical to preserve friendships.  Here are some things to think about that may help soothe the agitation.

  • Remind yourself that no one person is better than another.
  • Remember that if it is not your child acting out now, it will be soon enough.
  • Do not offer advice unless solicited.
  • Ask yourself how the particular thing bugging you connects to your own childhood.
  • Address the conflict from the “I” position with gentleness

Sarah thought long and hard about why Joshua’s behavior, and her friends approach to it was not just annoying, but preoccupying. When she looked at it’s connection to her childhood she realized that she herself had bullied her younger sister. She was pidgeon-holed in the family as the bossy, domineering one, but got little help in controlling herself.  A lot of guilt and anger remains toward her sister to this day. So in fact, she was identifying with Joshua, seeing Tara as her sister and experiencing Laura as her parents letting her down. This perspective was helpful. Sarah actually started opening up to Laura more about her childhood experience. As their friendship deepened, Sarah was able to say, “I think I get a little worked up when Joshua hit or kicks because it reminds me of ME! I really needed more help from my parents, so If I seem weird when you are dealing with it, that is the reason. I think I get a little over protective over Tara.” Though this was not an easy conversation, Laura also opened up about feeling really confused about how to handle things  with Josh and asked Laura for some help.  What could have been a real rift became  a tender but work-out able situation.

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