This Is What It's Like When Your Best Friend Hates Your Parenting Style
When I first met Shay in college, we clicked immediately. She was funny, genuine, and fun to be around. She made the wise decision to join my sorority, and we've been having a blast together ever since. We got engaged around the same time and loved planning our weddings together, so we were even more thrilled when she got pregnant only a few months after I did. Because we're so similar and have so much in common already, I assumed we'd raise our boys the exact same way, but as it turns out, our parenting styles are the polar opposite of each other's.
When my best friend and I were both pregnant, we had long talks about what we'd do about our jobs after our babies were born. I had a daycare under deposit and was adamant that I'd return to my law practice as soon as possible after giving birth, and Shay was looking forward to being a full-time stay-at-home mom. But once our kids actually arrived, I decided the cost of daycare wasn't worth my long work hours, and left my career behind to stay at home. Shay realized she missed adult interaction and her co-workers, so she went back to work part-time.
Our parenting philosophies are different in almost every way. Where I treat my kids' nap schedule as sacred and will always make the effort to be home for nap time, she's more laid back about naps and is less concerned if nap happens in the car or not at all. While I was firmly Team Formula and chose to bottle feed my sons, Shay breastfeed for as long as her body let her and was disappointed with her low supply. Now that our kids eat adult food, she's much better than I am at getting her son to eat veggies, and she also limits his sugar intake. I, on the other hand, bake cookies with my kids weekly and think having one treat a day is fine.
I knew I wanted an epidural from the moment I got pregnant and I was really happy with my emergency c-section, where she chose a birthing center and was upset when her birth plan didn't go according to plan and also had to have an emergency c-section. I tend to push my kids towards independence by letting them walk without a stroller and feed themselves messy food, and I transitioned them into toddler beds around age 2. Shay prefers to feed her son his yogurt to avoid messes and uses a stroller more than I do, and at age 3 he's still happily sleeping in his crib.
My best friend and I don't do parenting the same exact way, but we both know we share the same goals: to make it to bedtime with everyone breathing and to raise kids who aren't jerks. And we've realized that our relationship has thrived despite our differences because our methods don't matter as much as our intentions do.
We're both crafty, but where she only lets her son play with Play-Doh while in his high chair, I'll let the kids finger paint and sculpt on a mat on the floor, even though it means my walls are nowhere near as clean as hers.
But in spite of the fact that we are raising our kids in completely different ways, with the exception of a single short lived text spat about the efficiency of essential oils (I'm a skeptic, she's not), we've never fought with each other over how the other does things, and our friendship is still strong as it ever was. My best friend and I don't do parenting the same exact way, but we both know we share the same goals: to make it to bedtime with everyone breathing and to raise kids who aren't jerks. And we've realized that our relationship has thrived despite our differences because our methods don't matter as much as our intentions do.
It's not about which one of is the "better" parent, it's just about trying to have fun with the kids, and if that fails, surviving until bedtime.
And we love each other enough to support each other in our individual parenting decisions. Breastfeeding isn't something I chose to do myself, but if it matters to her, it matters to me, so if she needs help getting her baby to latch or reads that lactation cookies can help boost milk supply, I'm happy to lend a hand getting her boob to cooperate or jump into the kitchen and make some oatmeal cookies, because I want her to feel confident in her choices as a mom. The same goes for her when she agrees to plan our playdates around my super-strict nap schedule.
When we have all three boys together and we're trying to make it through a movie or IKEA without a meltdown, these differences in opinion don't matter. Our boys shuffle back and forth between the two of us, listening (or not) to either of us when we tell them to stop climbing on something or to stop singing so loudly. It's not about which one of is the "better" parent, it's just about trying to have fun with the kids, and if that fails, surviving until bedtime.
Parenting doesn't define who we are, anyway. Sure, we'll talk about who is or isn't sleeping through the night and the hell that is potty training, but most of our conversations revolve around the same things as before we became parents: TV shows we're loving, our complicated relationship with food, how our then-boyfriends, now-husbands are annoying us this week. There's so much more to our friendship than the fact that we're both moms, and that's why our different child-rearing strategies haven't caused a rift in our bond.
As a parenting writer, I know the Mommy Wars are real, and I've received the nasty comments to prove it. But I feel like so much of the judgment we pass on to other parents for doing things differently is because we're looking for reassurance that our own parenting choices are good ones. Shay would never raise her son the way I'm raising my kids and vice versa, but that doesn't mean either of us is doing anything wrong as a parent. In fact, it just proves we're doing things just fine.