End the Mommy Wars
Let's face it -- we moms need all the support we can get. But with everyone fixated on "the mommy wars" it's easy to fall into the trap of seeing other mothers as enemies instead of allies. Here are three ways you can make friends with moms you meet -- even when you disagree on the fundamentals.
Hold the Judgment
We wouldn't want anyone to make a judgment about the way we parent our kids, right? Especially if all they saw was the way we parented while standing in a long line at Target.
"It's easy to judge other moms when we're feeling flustered or overwhelmed," says Miriam Peskowitz, author of "The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars" (Seal Press) and co-founder of MotherTalk (www.mother-talk.com). But even those moms who look as if they've got it all together have bad moments. Not only that, but rolling our eyes inwardly or feeling smugly superior over something shallow -- such as a kid whose socks don't match or a toddler wearing a dirty shirt -- pretty much guarantees that next time we'll be the one who can't find two socks that go together, or who forgot to put the clean clothes in the dryer.
Instead, why not look for something positive when you observe another mom and her child? Look closely: Maybe she has a special smile for her little one or takes an extra moment to make sure the shopping cart strap is secured snugly. Most moms are doing a great job overall, but we all have our weak spots. Make it your mission to seek out the good instead of jumping on the negative.
It can be validating to belong to a community of like-minded mothers, but the problem with labeling yourself is that it automatically restricts you to a laundry list of expected practices (will you use cloth diapers? let your kid cry it out?) and encourages others to make assumptions about you. But what happens if you decide you don't want to (fill in the blank) anymore?
You can still gain confidence and commiseration from hanging out with moms who do some things the same way you do, but by refraining from tagging yourself as one type or another, it allows you to be flexible and meet your unique family's needs -- without guilt, explanation, or justification.
Seek Diversity In Your Mom Friends
Let's face it -- there will always be people with whom we have so little in common that there is nothing there to sustain a friendship. But almost every mom -- no matter how different her life is from your own -- has something to offer you as you navigate your motherhood journey: life experience, a great attitude, or a unique approach to something you're struggling with.
And even if there's not a single thing you want to glean from her approach to parenting, not all moms we hang out with have to serve as mothering role models. It's OK to agree to disagree -- or not even "go there" at all -- and like each other anyway. "Some mothers have a close circle of similar friends, especially when the kids are young," says Peskowitz. But, she says, it's a good idea to continually widen that circle to include neighbors and acquaintances too. How to reach out? "As hard as it can be, smile at other moms you meet, be friendly, join in," she says. "Stay on the lookout for that 'surprise' person who can become a new friend."