Friendships are invaluable to moms. We need them for balance, parent support, and playdates for our children. But if we’re too strict on only socializing with moms who share the same parenting philosophy, we may inadvertently isolate ourselves.
On the other hand, if we’re not confident in our parenting style, another mom’s child-raising approach may rub off on us — and not in a good way. Or, another mom’s parenting style may be so opposite of ours that it exposes our children to discipline or other care situations that we feel are unhealthy to our family values.
But let’s assume that you’ve befriended a mom whose family values are similar to yours but her parenting style has some aspects that bug you. If you’re lucky, you’re both part of the same attachment parenting group and can discuss the differences in parenting in a non-threatening way or perhaps understand if the other mom is struggling in a certain part of parenting.
Living in a rural area, though, I have to drive a couple hours to the nearest attachment parenting group. I did this when my kids were very young and I was also very young in my parenting and needed to be around other moms with the same parenting philosophy. But as my kids grew, and especially when they began going to school and my daily schedule filled up, I found it harder to justify that drive.
I also grew more confident in my parenting style and found that online attachment parenting groups served me just fine.
But, while many of the moms near where I live practice some tenets of attachment parenting, most have some key differences particularly in the areas of daycare use and discipline. As a younger mom, these differences in parenting could’ve compromised our friendships because I needed support as I was finding my way.
Now that I’ve been doing attachment parenting for 12 years, having friends who don’t closely follow attachment parenting principles aren’t a threat to my own parenting style.
Here are 5 ways to keep and make friends who don’t practice attachment parenting, even while you’re still figuring out your own parenting style:
1. Have a Parent Support Network Already in Place
Make sure you already have a solid parent support network in place. Maybe this is an attachment parenting group, or a close friend you can go back to ask questions. If you’re going to venture out and socialize with others who don’t raise their children the way you do, you need to be able to lean on your own parenting support all the more.
2. Make Mom Friends For the Right Reason
Don’t compromise on who you’d be friends with, even if she’s the only other mom on your apartment floor. If you wouldn’t become friends with her before having children — like she’s just not someone you’d naturally hang out with, or she seems toxic to your life — don’t try to force the friendship.
Friendships with other moms should come as easily as friendships did before you had children. Trying to force a mom friendship is like being married to the wrong person — it magnifies your differences, and will probably end badly.
3. Focus on Your Goals For This Friendship
It’s okay to have different friends for different areas of your life. You may never invite your coworker friend, who spanks her kids, over for a BBQ but she’s still a great friend at work. Or you may have a mom friend who really helps you sort out your like-minded discipline styles but you don’t necessarily like that she allows her kids to trash their bedrooms.
Especially when key parenting differences are involved, it’s important to focus on the goals for this particular friendship. If it’s for parent support, that friendship is likely not going to last very long. If it’s because both of you like to go for a morning jog or have common interests outside parenting, then that’s what your friendship will be based on.
4. Don’t Offer Unsolicited Advice
Just as you don’t want to hear parenting advice on how to sleep-train your baby, your friend doesn’t want to feel judged by your comments on her parenting style. Sometimes the best way to advocate for attachment parenting is simply to continue doing it so others can see that it really works.
Now if she’s asking for your specific advice, this is different. But be careful about how you phrase your advice. It’s not about correcting your non-attachment parenting friend but about offering suggestions from your own experience that she might want to consider. But no pressure. Remember that your goals for this friendship weren’t based on parent support!
5. Don’t Compromise On Your Parenting
Guard against your friend’s parenting differences rubbing off on you. Remind yourself of why you parent the way you do, and how your parenting style aligns with your family values. If you are susceptible to compromising your values in favor of another, consider limiting the time spent with your non-attachment parenting friend until you’ve built up your parent support network.
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