Friendships with "Mainstream" Families? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 10 Old 09-10-2011, 12:52 PM - Thread Starter
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Ok, I feel kind of bad writing this, but I have a few concerns. Let me preface by saying I don't think "mainstream" parenting is terrible or that we are somehow better than other people.


I want to make some friends with some other SAHM's in our neighborhood so DD and I both have friends we can go spend time with. We live in a very "mainstream" area. Meaning - Lots of plastic toys, processed food, TV, no eco-friendly anything, Plus-- formula, CIO, and cribs. I'm sure not every family has all of these things, but that is just the way it is in our area. A while back I witnessed a teenage boy dumping oil or paint thinner directly into the ground in front of an electrical box in front of his house. I was kind of shocked, honestly. People also burn things they shouldn't burn around here (not in my neighborhood, but near here.)


So, basically, eco-friendly living isn't on the radar yet.


Anyway, I am worried that my DD will feel deprived or beg for the things her neighborhood friends have. I don't want her to feel bad or feel deprived if I say no to kraft mac n cheese, or fisher price stuff. That is the first thing.


The second thing is I don't want her to pick up on any weird reactions people might have. I have a best friend who lives in a different state. She is very into the mainstream stuff and spent some time defending my "crazy" parenting style to some friends of hers. All because of opinions they made based on my Facebook updates and pictures! 


When I choose to not give my kid stuff other people give their kids, I get a few reactions. One is that other parents don't care and are really live and let live about it. That is awesome. But I don't feel like it fits a lot of people, and it definitely doesn't describe my own family.


Two, people feel like you are basically saying the way they do things is wrong or bad. This is somewhat accurate, since if I thought certain things were good for my child, I'd let her have them. This makes them feel defensive. Then, they either put you down for being a "crazy" mother or for "depriving" your kid or "taking all the fun out of things" (all said to me by my own family), or they just decide you are stuck up and think you are better than they are (also said about me).


The other thing I've dealt with is being "Called out" if I stray from my ideals (by family). If I allow a plastic toy in the house or I order pizza instead of eating an organic salad for dinner, I get called out for being a hypocrite by the same people who criticize my choices. It is really obnoxious. I'm not militant about my beliefs and I'm not telling everyone they have to do what I do. All I do is insist that this is how we do things so to please stop trying to make it otherwise.


I don't want DD to pick up on any of these reactions, and I most certainly don't want other parents giving her the idea that she is being deprived by saying things in front of her.



We have a great natural parenting group, but all the meetings are 30-40 minutes away. I feel like DD would be too isolated if all her friends live so far away. We might be able to find some 15-20 minutes away, but I think it is important to have neighborhood playmates that you can just play with on a whim.


How do you all handle this? 


PS. I realize I might get some flack for this. I got flack for my post about feeling conspicuous before. Please understand that I am not trying to create some imaginary problem or something. I've lived in a lot of places. The Pacific NW, for instance, is A LOT different from where we live now. I wouldn't even have to worry about this if we lived there. I'd have a bunch of mommy friends to choose from who understood why I buy wooden toys. But I don't live there.


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#2 of 10 Old 09-10-2011, 03:36 PM
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Mostly I am fairly quiet about my parenting beliefs unless I'm with like-minded mommies. That means I smile & nod & focus the conversation on other topics.


When things do come up I try to make it clear that we are doing what works for our family.


Around others is also when we are more likely to allow things we don't at home. For example; we do not buy juice AT ALL. Ds can drink water or milk. I don't think juice is absolutely evil but I don't think any of us need the sugar. But a big part of us not buying it is that I know he will get juice at other people's houses or special events so I feel it balances it out.


As for how ds feels about it - we're not there yet. I tell him this is how we do things & we don't discuss beyond that - but he's not quite 3 yet.

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#3 of 10 Old 09-10-2011, 03:59 PM
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I understand where you are coming from and how hard it can be when no one around you seems to have the same beliefs.  Maybe there is a mom feeling just like you nearby that you just haven't discovered yet.  Can you go to a neutral area like the playground or the library - maybe you'll meet someone you haven't met yet or at the least find some company for a little bit.  Any meetings near you - maybe a LLL meeting, holistic moms, AP parenting group?  Have you tried the "finding your tribe" forums here at mothering to meet up with like-minded moms that might be close by? 


Recently I heard two moms with small children meeting at the library and it sounded almost like an interview - both talking about how much tv is allowed and what kind of snacks, etc.  Sometimes it helps to find things that you have in common and then just let the other stuff play out the way it will.  You won't love everyone but you might have more people to hang out with and end up finding one or two true friends that truly "get" where you are right now.  Plus, you might give some mamas a new way of thinking when they hear the cool stuff you are doing.


It's tough finding our way sometimes - I remember feeling like I was back in high school when my kids were younger and trying to find some momma friends to connect with.  As the mother of kids ages 15 to 3.5, I can say that it does get easier and things get less important as they grow and leave breast/bottle, crib/co-sleeping, CIO/AP issues behind. 


Best of luck in your new home!

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#4 of 10 Old 09-10-2011, 07:37 PM
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When it comes to friendships, it has to be a win-win situation for both parties.  They have to have something you want and you have to have something they want. Most of the time, what we want is good company and you can get that from people who are different from you.


I have the same expectations of my friends that they have of me. Here they are:


Assume good intentions and then come up with a reason why you have a problem.

  • Juice boxes? Friend is just trying to be a good hostess. Why I have a problem? Trying to keep sugar intake low for the whole family.
  • CIO being discussed? Friend was advised differently than I was. Why I have a problem? I don't. I keep it to myself since it does not affect me or my child directly. I do show compassion to her feelings if she is having a hard time with it. If she found it successful, I say "good for you!"
  • TV? Friend enjoys being entertained differently than I do. Why I have a problem? I don't. I keep it to myself. If it is a real problem, I decline future invitations.
  • Plastic Toys? Her children must enjoy them. Why I have a problem? See the solution above.
  • Being defensive? She is trying to protect the choices she made. Why I have a problem? If I am doing my best to see the good in how she parents, she should not feel this way.


  • This should solve your problem of being "called out." If you are called out, try to make a joke out of "yeah, those first time parents." etc.


Do not aim for perfection.

Allow myself and others to make mistakes, a chance to correct them or apologize for them and then forget about the past.

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#5 of 10 Old 09-11-2011, 08:50 AM
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I have crunchy friends, mainstream friends and child-free friends. As long as we are respectful of each other, everything is fine.


I've been pleasently surprised when I've gotten to know some mainstream friends. The family who looks totally mainstream on the outside? Turns out to be into very gentle discipline and is stricter about their kids diet than I am. The mom who always seem to watch intently when I nursed the baby at preschool? She pumped exclusively for a year and is still a little sad about not being able to nurse.


Just look for some commmon ground and focus on that.

Joy wife to DH, mom to DS1 (4/2005): DD (5/2007) : : DS2 (1/2009 :
I do what works and when it stops working, then I do something else.
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#6 of 10 Old 09-11-2011, 10:20 PM
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As far as your kids just paling around with neighborhood kids who are parented differently, dont worry too much about it. When they are old enough to play unattended they are bound to get exposed to stuff you would not choose to expose them too. Just keep to your ways in your own home and always explain to them why your family lives the lifestyle you do. It helps them understand and be able to make good choices when mommy is not around. So, for now, relax and enforce your beliefs. Later she will get exposed to junk food, materialism, etc but she will have a firm foundation in your beliefs and will weather it through. Also, if you laugh off the weird reactions of others your daughter will too.


Tell your family/friends who "call you out" that you really dont appreciate being spoken to that way. I think people who do that are just feeling insecure about their own choices but thats no excuse for harassing you for yours. You tell them that yes, you generally eat healthy but its your choice to vary your diet and they can just hush up about it! Or maybe call them out (in an intentionally patronizing tone) until they get it and stop.


Good luck, it's tough to swim against the mainstream but its worth it ;)

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#7 of 10 Old 09-12-2011, 07:00 AM
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I find having "house rules" works well and to let less important things go at other's folks houses, sounds like you do that already. And no matter what your beliefs, there will always be someone with more toys, a cooler bike, allowed to watch more TV, etc. Kids learn quickly that some people have more, some have less and that every family has different rules. The trick is to teach them that different rules work for different families and to help them understand why.

And to those calling you out, tell them your goal is to make organic/whole foods/non-plastic toys/etc. the typical, but a few non-typical things here or there you are ok with as long as they truly are the exceptions and don't become the new norm. I don't know that these folks are going to be receptive to anything though, sounds like they are just looking for ways to tear you down which is unfortunate. I also try to stick with the mantra of "I do what works for my family, I'm sure you are doing what works for yours." when folks start thinking I'm looking down on them for making different choices.

Katie trekkie.gif - Married to Mike 06/02/01, Mom to Sydney Anne born 11/21/09 and Alice Maeryn & Oliver Thomas born 04/24/13  hug.gif 



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#8 of 10 Old 09-12-2011, 07:55 AM
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Most 'nice' people aren't going to criticize you or call you out for doing things differently. If people are that negative toward you, they probably aren't the type you'd want to be friends with, mainstream or not. I think if might help if you give other people a little credit -- the world is not out to get you. smile.gif

One thing I am very strict about is DS's diet -- i.e. we are vegan and I also do not allow any artificial colors/flavors etc. -- not even for special occasions. Most of my friends are amazing about finding foods DS can eat so he doesn't feel left out, and I'm also on top of it too, bringing along special snacks/treats that I am OK with him eating. He does see other kids eating different foods and is really curious about it, but hasn't really gotten upset about not being able to join in (except once or twice when he was overtired or whatever!) He's only 2.5 so it will be interesting to see how it plays out in a few years when he has more autonomy and all, but right now, he does have an understanding that we eat differently than our friends and I am starting to explain to him why too. It's not a big deal as long as I'm straight-forward about it, and I try to save the long explanations for when we're at home, so we don't make our friends feel judged or anything.

And as far as plastic/battery toys and stuff, DS has a great time playing with them when we're out and has never asked to have them at home. I do find other kids are occasionally bored with DS's toys, but I have some things that are more universal (like a tent, tunnel, playdough) that I pull out if the kids seem bored.

As long as TV is not on DURING a playdate, it's not a big deal... the other kid might talk about characters DS doesn't know but then they realize he doesn't know what they're talking about and move on to other things.

People can get defensive but if you are generally supportive & open-minded, everyone is happy. If someone is talking about something I don't agree with, I just genuinely say a variation of, "I'm glad you found something that works so well for you," and make a mental note not to get into a big discussion about that issue with them.

Most of my friends are AP/natural types, and it is wonderful to hang around with a group of people who are very like-minded. We are able to support and advise each other and I think our similarities bring us to a deeper friendship. But there are so many differences within our group -- people who are more or less eco-friendly than the rest, moms who are strict or very free-range, parents who sleep train at 4mos and others who cosleep & nurse all night and many in between, some who follow careful diets and others who eat processed cheese, families with plastic noisy toys and others whose homes look like Waldorf catalogs. A major difference between me & most of my friends is that I am very religious and most of my friends are not just non-religious but almost anti-religion. But we all have a lot of respect for each other, a lot of genuine interest in how our friends do things, a true desire to help each other be the best parents we can be & raise happy, healthy, strong children. The more I get to know them, the less the differences matter.

I don't think it's a big deal to drive 15 or 30 or 60 minutes to hang out with a great group of people. I also don't think there's anything wrong with hanging out with the very mainstream parents we meet at the local playground or the library. I don't know them as well... to be honest, my best friends are in fact the like-minded (and geographically spread-out) ones, but it's nice to have a balance. I suspect as DS gets older that he will spend more time with neighborhood kids and the AP-mom gatherings will become less frequent, and that is OK, in a way I feel like it's like building the foundation to a house, as long as that foundation is sturdy, he will (hopefully) have the knowledge and confidence to 'survive' the neighborhood atmosphere without feeling deprived or pressured or whatever... and there will always be the more like-minded group of people to support us along the way.

Co-sleeping is really wonderful when your child actually SLEEPS!! familybed1.gif
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#9 of 10 Old 09-12-2011, 08:21 AM
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It's best to just not care what other people do, and keep quiet about what you do, IMO. My neighborhood is much like yours, and everyone knows I'm the odd one in the bunch, and they will sometimes lightly tease but it's become a very good natured thing. Also, very few people here breastfeed, BUT if someone talks about wanting to breastfeed, they now all tell that mom to ask me about it. So they think I do things in an odd way, but OTOH they refer people to me whom they think might also want to, and if they didn't know me I kind of wonder if they'd tell these new moms they were crazy.
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#10 of 10 Old 09-18-2011, 11:02 AM
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I've had some problematic friendships with more mainstream parents. I'm pretty low-key, live-and-let-live type, but sometimes those types are so stuck in the competition mode and by nature they just seem very forceful. Certain personalities and demographics seem to gravitate to mainstream parenting and as a consequence, those kinds of traits seem to show up in mainstream parents more. Not everyone of course, but the friendships I've walked out on have all had certain traits in common: intolerance, pushiness, and unwillingness to consider perspective and live-and-let-live. I disliked being interrogated about my beliefs and practises (which is information I don't offer up in real life unless asked, though it's kind of obvious anyway when they find out we unschool) and then put down for them and told I'm doing things wrong because they differ from traditional parenting/living.


At this point, I do stick to the AP crowd. It's pretty easy, even before I had kids I was around and was raised in the more artsy-independent social circles, and my homeschool co-op is almost exclusively relaxed homeschoolers and unschoolers which also lends itself to AP-ish types. We all have little things we disagree about, but it's very rare indeed that I come across other AP parents who are disrespectful and begrudging about it, let alone who it would even occur to to tell me my kids are going to be, and I quote, "horrible little shits who walk all over [me]" because I don't believe in punishment, specifically hitting. It's just easier on myself and my kids to try to make friends of our own kind., I've walked away from too many otherwise good relationships because they couldn't handle that I refused to engage them in the development races or parenting debates and always wanted it to be some kind of competition.

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