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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

I have a long term and close friend who has no children of her own. She never fails to send the kids gifts at Christmas or birthdays and often fly’s in to visit us. I have noticed her tolerance for
my children seems to get shorter and shorter. For approximately the last 12 months our conversations end in her giving me parenting advise.

My kids are not naughty they are just your average children. Yes they can be loud, and
they do demand attention especially, it seems, when you pick up the telephone to talk. Her comments are never constructive. They are just plain criticisms of my parenting style. She tells me I shouldn’t give them the attention I do. I find her comments hard to swallow because she is not a mother and doesn’t live everyday with the trials and tribulation that motherhood brings. For the last year I have bitten my tongue and suffered in silence from her criticisms. Every conversation I have with her ends in me questioning if I am a bad parent, and if I have bad children.

Even though I have said nothing to her about this situation, there is definite tension in our friendship on both sides. She now makes excuses to see me without the kids. I don’t know if I should approach the subject with her, or how to approach it, as I am sure she will be offend. I don’t want to lose a friendship of 20 years. I also don’t want to be questioning my
parenting abilities or have an attack of paranoia every time I see her or talk to her on the phone.

Ah! The age old issue of receiving unsolicited advice from somebody who has no clue what they are talking about.

You may feel like the only reason you have this issue is because your friend has no children of her own. This isn't the case, of course. Every friendship goes through a time where there are issues of this nature. This is especially true when two friends with children have radically different views on parenting. Some friendships survive this test and others don't.

Unfortunately, I can not tell you exactly what your friend is thinking. I can only guess at her ordeal. I imagine she is feeling a bit threatened by the attention you give to your children. They are demanding and certainly take priority over her. It can be difficult to understand for somebody who has no children and has never been in such a position of responsibility.

You both know that there is a problem in the relationship. Ignoring the issue will not make it better. You will resent her for forcing you to be separated from your children. She will resent you for choosing them over her. The only way to save the relationship is to discuss the big white elephant that's sitting in the middle of the room. Otherwise, you're friendship is certainly doomed. I can't guarantee that talking about it will make it better, but there really is no other option. Plus, talking about it will alleviate your mind and free you to move on with or without her in your life.

You should approach the topic when you can give her your full attention, so you need to talk to her when your children are otherwise occupied. Perhaps you could arrange a meeting while the kids are at school. I also recommend that this take place face-to-face because conversations over the phone can be easily misunderstood.

When you talk to your friend, you should be very careful about your choice of words. Whatever you do, do not say anything about the fact that she has no children of her own. That will certainly end the conversation. You should start by telling her that you know your children can be demanding of your time and energy. Let her know that you are concerned for your friendship. Then ask her if she wants to talk about whatever it is that's bugging her. Don't interrupt her as she speaks. Truly listen to what she has to say.

You should, near the end of the conversation, express that you understand that she means well by offering advice regarding your children. However, she also needs to understand that you know what is best for your children. Politely ask her to refrain from remarking on your parenting techniques in the future. Give her the freedom to her opinions while asking her to keep those opinions to herself. It never hurts to explain how her comments make you feel.

On a final note, if she wants to see you without your kids then what harm is there in accommodating her desire to spend time with you alone. Kids can be quite distracting. When you have your kids around, you really aren't paying much attention to your friend because the demands of parenting requires us to focus on what our children need. Besides, it's important for us as parents to have a life away from our children, and spending time with your friend sans kids will allow you the opportunity to reconnect with her on a more personal level.

1 comments:

Liss said...
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