We all parent differently, but it's safe to say that (most) of us have the same goals in mind when it comes to raising our children: that they're happy, healthy, functional, and turn into kind adults that contribute to society. While we all have that end goal in mind, many of us choose to take very different routes to get there, meaning even our closest mom-friends will end up deciding to parent differently than we do. Because there are so many ways to be a mother, there are questions friends with different parenting styles should ask each other, to ensure those differences don't end up being the reasons why a cherished friendship comes to an end.
For some, being a good parent means practicing attachment parenting, while others might prefer free-range parenting. Some parents don't second guess their children's vaccinations, while others are very adamant in their anti-vaccination beliefs. There are organic parents, helicopter parents, strict parents and laid back parents. There are spiritual and religious parents, parents that co-sleep and parents that sleep train. I mean, there are simply all sorts of men and women with varying beliefs and parenting methods, but they all have something very important in common: they all want the best for their babies.
Sadly, that commonality is discarded while disagreements and disputes over what the "best parenting method" actually is (usually) take over. I mean, have you visited any parenting forums lately? The internet is filled with varying opinions that, often times, spark some pretty intense, and even hurtful, debates. If we could just start listening to one another and stop attempting to push our own ideas onto other people, we might just learn something of value that actually assists us during our own parenting journey. If you've got friends with different parenting styles, try taking the time to listen and learn about how and why they've decided to raise their children that particular way. Even if you don't necessarily agree with every decision they make, every parent could use the support of others who may view the multifaceted world of parenting just a little bit differently than they do.
Which is why, if you're face-to-face with a friend who parents differently than you do, try asking them these seven questions. Just because someone decided to parent differently, doesn't mean they won't continually support you or care about you and, inevitably, want what's best for you and your kid.
"What Lead You To Your Specific Style Of Parenting?"
Was it something that they read, or something that happened with their child that lead them to making a particular decision, or even something that happened to them as a child that has shaped their parenting style? Did they decide not to vaccinate their kids because they were worried about the possible harm, or was it a religious decision? A lot of factors can go into why a person decides to parent in any one particular way. By learning why your friend chose their styles or methods, you will also be prompted to take a look at your own choices and ask yourself why you made those specific decisions in the first place.
Some people are devout in their reasoning and beliefs, and learning why they feel so strongly could inspire you to take a deeper look at your own decisions and possibly improve in areas that you didn't even know needed improving. Or, you know, maybe they don't need improving, but you like the results your friend has seen so you might just give a try anyway. Constantly attempting to better yourself as a parent is never a bad thing, and who better to learn from than a friend?
"Did Your Own Upbringing Impact Your Parenting?"
Some people parent the way they do because of their own parents, and some people do it despite their parents' decisions. The way we are raised can have a monumental impact on how we raise our own kids. Parents that have grown up in divorced homes might find that their parents' divorce affects the way they treat their own children; people that have been physically or emotionally abused might also find that some of the decisions they make stem from them learning what not to do from the many mistakes of their own parents. Anyone that has grown up with a toxic parent is likely to make decisions that will ensure they won't become one themselves.
On the other hand, some people have a great deal of respect and admiration for their parents, so they mimic the upbringing they experienced when raising their own children because, well, they want their kids to have the kind of childhood they were lucky enough to experience.
"Have You Been Ridiculed For Your Parenting Decisions?"
The answer to this question is probably an astounding "yes," at least, for most parents. Not everyone is going to agree on the "best way" to raise kids, but that doesn't mean that differing opinions should merit judgment. A person doesn't stop needing support after they become a parent. If anything, they need more support than ever before.
Parenting is one of the toughest jobs any of us will ever have. When other people ridicule our parenting decisions or talk down about the way we've decided to raise our children, it can feel like getting a bad review at work, only much much worse. That's why it's so important to reassure any of your friends that may have experienced some sort of backlash or adversity for their parenting decisions. Just because we don't always agree, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't always support one another.
"Has Your Relationship With Your Child Benefited From Your Parenting Decisions?"
It's interesting and beneficial to see the results that another parent has seen with their child after making a particular decision. For example: maybe you co-sleep with your children, but your best friend let her kids cry it out. Your best friend thinks that letting a baby cry it out is a harmless and effective way of instilling routines, discipline, and self-soothing tactics, but you think that it's cruel and would rather have your child sleep with you for forever and/or until they're comfortable sleeping alone. Even though you don't necessarily agree with your friend's decision, you see that it has given her results, so much so that you're interested in trying some of her methods yourself.
"How Do You Relate To Other Parents That Don't Necessarily Agree With You?"
Parenthood is, at times, isolating enough without the added stresses of trying to relate to parents that don't relate to your methods. So, if your friend has experienced any sort of social isolation from other parents (due to their own parenting style), they need your support. They need to know that you are there for them, despite your differing views or opinions or choices.
The great thing about having friends with different parenting styles is that there really is so much that we can learn from one another, including how to deal with people who don't agree with you. Not only is it worth it to get to know your friend's unique parenting style, but it is super beneficial to learn how she deals with the "haters" because, well, you'll inevitably have to, too.
"Do You Ever Second Guess Yourself?"
While we all like to put our best foot forward and present a strong parenting front, parenthood is filled with so much self-doubt. Sometimes, it helps to hear that we're not the only ones constantly wondering if we're messing up or doing it wrong or could be doing better. Talk to your friend about the not-so-fun aspects of parenting, especially when you're unapologetic about your choices and, therefore, more likely to be on the receiving end of criticism. We're all human, and exposing that humanity to friends we can trust is, more often than not, exactly what we need.
"Have I Ever Made You Feel Bad For Your Parenting Choices?"
This question is a tough one, but one we should all be asking. We're not perfect; not in parenthood and definitely not in friendship. Sometimes, we end up hurting someone we care about without even realizing it. Maybe you said a remark that came across as judgmental? Maybe you gave your friend a look when she disciplined her child, that made her feel just the most awful? It's good to keep ourselves in check and make sure that we're being the best, most supportive friend possible.
And, you know, if the answer to this question is a resounding, "yes," it's a good idea to apologize and learn from your mistake. After all, whether it's being a mother or being a friend, we can all stand to be a little bit better than we were the day before.