A couple of years ago we had lots of friends getting married. It was that time of our lives. Now we've got lots of friends who have had (or are having) babies. Call it natural progression. Some of these people have been our friends for years. Others we've met more recently. We've shared many memorable and great times with these people. We have our common interests and our differences. This is what makes our friendships so rich. So what happens when you mix friendship and parenting styles?
I am by nature driven by a thirst for knowledge and learning. I want to know the how and the why so I'm interested in reading differing views and I'm open to having my position challenged. These are all commendable traits in a lawyer, but, it seems, not so commendable in a mummy and a friend. I frequently share articles that I find interesting, thought provoking and challenging via social networking. A couple of weeks ago I shared an article that I stumbled across on Evolutionary Parenting. This got me in to a bit of trouble with some friends. What was an interesting and thought provoking article for me was a slap in the face to them. I did not intend to hurt, upset or insult my friends by posting it, but that is what happens when parenting styles collide. It left me thinking, "Where to from here?"
Differing parenting styles and decisions need not spell the end of a friendship. As DaddyB-B frequently says, "Everybody will raise their children differently". It is how we address, accept and learn from these differences that is important. Just because people do things differently does not mean they are doing it wrong. After all, the concept of "wrong" is largely subjective. What is wrong to me may be perfectly acceptable and logical to others. Likewise, what I deem to be perfectly natural and sensible may feel completely wrong to them. We can all learn something from each others differences.
When parenting styles collide it becomes a balancing act between respect for others and their decisions and the desire to share and discuss information. Friendships can be preserved when differences are approached with sensitivity and tact. This does not mean complete self-censorship, it means consider how you would feel if the shoe were on the other foot and it was your parenting decisions being questioned. Sometimes saying nothing and just going about your business is more powerful than any than any article you could share or conversation you could have.
The balancing act reminds me of a question posed by Sausage Mama on the SMATS Facebook page a couple of months ago. The question (and I am paraphrasing with great liberty here) was whether you prefer people to nod and smile at your parenting style, even if they do not agree with it, or to argue with you in relation to it? My response was that I would prefer people did not nod and smile and did not argue. Rather, I would prefer that people freely discuss with me my parenting style but ultimately accept that my parenting decisions are decisions DaddyB-B and I have made after careful consideration of the information available to us, the circumstances of our family and, above all, what we believe is best for BabyB-B. I am open to discussion but I expect our decisions to be treated with respect. If this is what I expect it is only fair that this is what I am willing to give.
Having said all of this, I am not sure that I could treat with respect something that I found completely repugnant. Fortunately I have not found myself in a position where my friends' parenting styles differ so greatly from mine as to enter such territory. While I feel passionately about breastfeeding and BLW, I respect that some of my friends have chosen formula over breast and "traditional" weaning over BLW. Frankly, it is really none of my business how others choose to feed their babies (although I would have something to say if they were shoving McDonald's down their children's throats!). It's hardly repugnant.
Coming back to the incident of the article, my friend and I worked it out. We had a long chat, spilled some tears, agreed to disagree and our friendship is intact and as strong as ever. I also removed the article from my personal Facebook page. I didn't remove it as an admission of wrongdoing. I removed it as a sign of respect for my friend because at the end of the day some things are more important than the sharing of information.