My best friend is three years younger than I am, so by the time she had her daughter my kids were 7 and 2. I couldn't wait for us to have kids together and for them to become BFFs, too, so when she told me she was pregnant I was beyond excited. Then, I became slightly worried. Some friendships end over different parenting styles. Because all parents parent differently, there were definitely times when I didn't realize I was shaming my best friend's parenting. I swear I didn't mean to, but I'm sure some of the things I said came off as judgmental. I've felt my share of judgement from my friends, too, so I take comfort in the fact that while friends may disagree with some of my parenting choices, in the end, they all just want what is best for me and my kids (and vice versa).
One of the "licenses" I posses is being a mother of two. Now, you may say that means nothing, but I think going through pregnancy and delivery and infant-hood and toddler-hood twice is definitely a right of passage that earned me some sort of badge of honor. The experience of having two totally different kids of different genders grants me some credibility, right? Experience matters, right? I'm going to ahead and assume you agree.
Because my best friend and I are so close, we feel like we can say anything to each other. When my best friend had a baby, however, I found myself in this sort of strange position. I knew how sensitive parents are about the choices they make for their kids, but I also knew what works and what doesn't, since I've already "experimented" on my own children. So even though my heart was in the right place and I just wanted to help, I can understand how the following comments came off as nothing short of judgmental. (BFF of mine, I am so, so sorry.)
When You Talk About Breastfeeding Or Pumping Or Formula
Breastfeeding is a hot button topic. When I went to visit my friend at the hospital, after she delivered her incredible little girl, she told me she wanted to start pumping. I asked her not to.
Now, hear me out. For months prior to the baby's arrival, all my friend talked about was how important breastfeeding was to her. So when she told me she wanted to pump I almost yelled, "No, please don't." You see, I know how difficult, time consuming, and draining pumping is. In fact, I did it with my daughter for eight months. It was torture. So I begged my friend to give breastfeeding a chance because I wanted her life to be easier. I told her all of the pros and cons of both. She gave it a chance, but later told me she felt as though I had judged her. So even when you're offering genuine advice based on actual experience, you may be accidentally shaming your friend.
(By the way, this wasn't even a formula vs. breastmilk conversation. Definitely don't discuss those choices with your best friend. Just support whatever she decides.)
When You Talk About How Well Your Kids Slept
When your friend's kid won't sleep for longer than 20 minutes at a time and is making her miserable, something is not right. Well, that is what I told my friend. I told her that my kids napped for hours because I trained them to sleep. I just wanted her to give it a chance. I wasn't trying to shame her, but whatever she was doing wasn't working for her or the baby. Maybe I was slightly pushy, but once again, I was convinced it was for her own good.
When You Tell Her She Needs To Leave Her House
If I stayed home with my infants every hour of every day I would have surely lost my mind. So, when my friend decided not to take the baby out of the house, I am dumbfounded. I'm not even kidding, I took my kids anywhere and everywhere just so I didn't have to stay home all the time. It kept both of us busy until bedtime. I typically say something like, "I don't know how you do it, because I'd lose my sh*t," which is obviously not the nicest way to go about.
Also, saying something like, "You can't keep your kid in a bubble," is judgmental. I'm pretty sure I've said that to half of my friends, so my apologies.
When You Say [Insert Concern] Isn't A Big Deal
New moms worry about everything and since I know most of the things they worry about are not really that important, I often say something like, "It's not a big deal. Trust me."
The funny thing is, I know saying something isn't a big deal in no way makes that something not a big deal to the person who thinks that something is, in fact, a big deal. They say hope dies last, so I hope that maybe if I keep saying it, it will stick. It doesn't. Saying something isn't a big deal to a new mom is the equivalent of telling someone to "calm down" when they're upset: it does not work and often produces the opposite result.
Every Time You Jokingly Refer To Them As "Crazy"
Yes, I know this is mean. Sometimes though, when your friends do some things that you find completely, well, crazy, you may slip up and call them out. Like, say your friend won't let anyone hold the baby when they come to visit. Or, she doesn't let you walk up and down the stairs while holding her kid. Or, she researches baby mattresses for five months before picking one out. Or, she buys her newborn shoes every week.
So, yes. This is when you're shaming your best friend. Stop it, Dina. I mean, don't do it, everyone.
When You Ask, "Is There A Reason You Are Doing It Way?"
Obviously I'm asking because I don't understand why you are doing something a certain way. But, I'm also asking because maybe you don't know there are different ways of achieving the same goal. The phrase does sound condescending, but hindsight is 20/20.
Every Time You Mention How Much More Experience You Have
"Yes, both of my kids did that."
"No, my kids never did that."
"I have two kids, so listen to me." I know, I sound terrible, and I'm pretty sure I sound even worse to my friends. But like I said earlier, doesn't having two kids give me some kind of expertise? Like, I've done all of this twice. My kids went through it all already, so I know a lot. I'm not trying to pat myself on the back or anything, it's just a matter of fact.
When You Say, "Oh, I Did It Mostly On My Own And Without Any Help"
Sure, my mom came by to help a few days a week in the beginning. However, after that, I was pretty much on my own. I didn't have a live-in nanny, I didn't have a night nurse, and I didn't have a sleep specialist. I didn't have any of those things and I managed to raise two babies. But, that kind of mentality isn't important or useful. So when you say things like that, figure out why you care in the first place.
When You Say "Kids Need [Insert Activity]"
"Kids need germs for their immune system."
"Kids need to be outside so they aren't terrified of people."
"Kids need discipline."
You know what else kids need? Parents who love them so much that they will do anything they think is right for them. So all of our "your kid needs" comments only stroke our own egos.
We must remember, what we do with our kids isn't the only right way to raise kids. All parents find what works for them and for their psyche and stick to that. I know that a lot of my unintentional shaming is truly coming from a place of love. I just want to make my friend's lives easier by offering them my own experiences and the experiences of those who have grown children. Still, I know how sensitive moms are, so even when you think you aren't judging, you probably are.