- Liz Millican
The Different Mom
Have you ever felt like someone is so different from you that have no common ground to build a friendship on? Can pro vax and anti-vax moms get along? Do these issues really need to divide us?
What if we focused on what we have in common instead? What if we focused on understanding each other instead of proving our point of view? What if we respected those who were different?
Most choices as parents are individual and impact your own family the most. We don't need to force our opinion on others and we don't need to reject others if they make different choices. Trying to pressure someone to think like you ultimately reflects an insecurity about your opinion, not theirs. If you made the best choice for your family that choice isn't somehow worse because someone else made a different choice.
So how can we have friends who are different from us?
Accept differences. A different perspective doesn't have to change your mind. Some moms send kids to school with lunchables, some give their kids homemade sandwiches other moms make Pinterest perfect lunches. Ultimately if your kid eats what you send them with then you shouldn't worry about what someone else is doing. We can value what other moms do well without thinking that it makes us less for not doing the same thing. Play to your strengths as a mom, instead of comparing, value the strengths of other moms.
Learn from other moms. If another mom is good at something you don't need to compete with her. Acknowledging what she is good at (without putting yourself down or comparing) will help her feel like a valuable friend.
Sharing a different perspective can be off putting if it's done in the wrong way. Don't expect others to share your perspective or to do things the way you do. When you share focus on why it works for you without implying that other people should do it the same way. This kind of sharing allows people to consider different ways of doing things without feeling pressured to do things the same way.
When someone shares with you it's a great habit to thank someone for sharing their perspective even when you're not interested in making any changes. If someone is pushy about the way they do things you can set polite boundaries. "Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It's so great that works for your family, but our family loves the way we do things." You don't need to explain or justify why you do things different. If someone is interested then they'll ask. If you think they’re being pushy you can ask to change the topic of conversation.
Focus on getting her talking. That doesn’t mean you never speak or avoid talking about yourself, but so many moms are eager to have someone who will listen to them and we need to remember to take turns. If you show an interest in someone they are more likely to feel valued and want to continue a conversation. A little bit of interest at the beginning of a conversation can carry a conversation a long way.
If she's not interested in your passion find out what is she's interested in. Liking different things can help you learn about the world and help you appreciate people in different ways. When you're trying to build relationships with other moms showing an interest in what she cares about makes her feel valued. In our digital age, this seems to be an art of conversation that is almost lost. Some people aren't strong conversationalists and if you get her focused on what she cares about she will be more likely to open up and start talking.
If someone reacts negatively give her the benefit of the doubt. Another mom gave the advice of "Be kind to everyone because you don't know what someone is dealing with. Don't take things to personally... If someone blows up at you it is more likely something happening with them and not you." This has great application to motherhood because you don't know what battles that mom has been dealing with in the last day or week. If someone blows up at you take a moment to breathe and pause before you respond.
Being polite doesn't cost anything, but it leaves a door open for someone who could be struggling and too embarrassed to say it. I can’t remember moms ever blowing up at me, but I can remember moms being unusually short with me. This is typically followed up with an apology and an explanation of how she’s having a rough day. What a privilege to show support to another mom.
The more support we can show to other moms the stronger community we will build.