The Baby Effect and Relationships in Your Life - Part 2

Your Different-Minded Parent Pals

You’ve been friends with Dan and Sue for years, and always appreciated their laid-back lifestyle - until you all had kids. Now you find yourself frustrated by the casual attitude they have and the way-too-flexible “schedule” they keep when it comes to naps, mealtime, and rules for their kids.

Your parenting styles are creating tension whenever the families hang out. Breast or bottle, crib or family bed, cloth or disposable: The ways in which you won’t see eye to eye with your other parent friends are endless. Just as you did before you had kids, at the end of the day you choose your friends based on their unique qualities, not on how much they mirror you. Your friends’ parenting preferences are not a commentary on your choices; they’re a reflection of their combined outlook and circumstances.

They may feel strongly about doing things a certain way, or they may be - like a lot of parents - winging it and just trying to do the best they can. “It doesn’t have to be a matter of right or wrong,” says Susan Heim, coauthor of Oh, Baby! 7 Ways a Baby Will Change Your Life the First Year. “It can simply be different.” If you’re having conflicts, you need to examine why Sue and Dan’s parenting philosophy is interfering with your friendship. Are they trying to convince you of the wisdom of their way or the foolishness of yours? If that’s the case, firmly say, “This works better for my family” to stop the unsolicited advice in its tracks.

Or is it that they’re insisting that you do things that run counter to what you think is best? If that’s happening, you need to confront them with clearly defined boundaries: “I don’t like scheduling anything during naptime because Timmy is horrible when he doesn’t get enough sleep” or “My personal preference is not to bring the kids when we go out to dinner; that just isn’t fun or relaxing for me.” If they ignore you, then you may need to distance yourself from them. When differences pose no real physical or psychological danger, place that factor in context of all the positive things you share, rather than becoming extreme in your need to be in agreement, suggests Bob Lancer, author of Parenting With Love ... Without Anger or Stress. When the kids are older, you’ll need to have the “in our house, these are the rules” conversation. Until then, focus on your friends - not their parenting playbook.

Your Makes-It-Look- Easy Mommy Friend

You and Lucy live pretty parallel lives: Your kids are the same ages, you’re both juggling work and family, and you like doing the same things. But while you’re struggling to keep it all together, Lucy is breezing through the transition from “me” to “we.” She lost all her pregnancy weight overnight, her house is always spotless, and you’ve never once seen her wearing a baseball cap to cover up unwashed hair. It’s never easy when a friend seems to have more than you do - or to have an easier time of it. We use our friends as a barometer to measure our own success, whether it relates to career, finances, relationships, or the can of worms that comes with starting a family. So she must be better at parenting than you are, right? Not necessarily.

She may be more easygoing by nature, or she may have the sort of family help you can only dream of. She might have more money, which enables her to pay a babysitter and go to the gym, whereas you’re stuck doing the stroller lifts. When lucky Lucy wants to commiserate about the trials of mommyhood, resist the urge to voice the little thought bubble over your head that reads “Cry me a river, pal!” “Being a parent, even if the role is limited due to outside help or different circumstances, still carries stress,” says psychotherapist Michelle Bersell. “Acknowledge the common ground you share, and remember that each experience has its pros and cons.” You might think she’s got it made, but you can’t know for sure until you’ve walked a mile in her fur-lined bunny slippers. Maybe you’d find that, despite all outside appearances, on the inside she’s struggling with her new role the same way everyone else is.