It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.
“No matter the cause, no matter how well-managed the reaction, the disagreements arising over parenting practices can hit hard and cut deep. Because what’s at stake is much more than different ideas about Ferber versus Sears, or organic versus conventional, or the use of timeouts, or the limits to be put on TV time. What is often triggered, in the divide between what mothers and fathers do or don’t do — whether or not those differences escalate into out-and-out confrontations — are convictions that push all the most basic parent-buttons.” (“Friends For Life? Wait Till Kids Enter the Picture”; New York Times, 4/20/2012)
Of all the things that could cause a friendship to break, it never occurred to me that differences in parenting styles would be one of them. Perhaps that’s because I don’t have kids.
Here’s how I see it, er, saw it: The way you parent is behind closed doors and really has no bearing on friendship. It seemed, to me, similar to saying “she runs funny, we can’t be friends.” (Nod to Rachel and Phoebe.) What does running have to do with friendship? How does one affect the other? That’s how I felt about parenting, until I read this article.
It seems I was wrong. In some cases, how you handle your kids can come in direct conflict with your friendships. Especially if how you treat your kids is to never leave them, forcing them on girls nights and asking pals to adjust their environments to fit your needs. I was struck by this story in the article:
One woman, a professor from New York, remembers clearly when she reached the breaking point with close friends. The trouble had started when the friends instituted a 6 p.m. bedtime for their preschool-age son. Then there was the banishing of all creativity-squashing, bright-colored plastic toys. Then there was the diet — raw parsnips, duck eggs, sunflower butter — all ordered up by a naturopathic doctor, who had diagnosed multiple food intolerances in the boy. … In the end, it was a birthday cake that did her in. The dad baked it — “some kind of spelt hoecake,” she recalled. As a memory formed of the little boy, once joyfully eating chocolate cake and ice cream, she lost it. “I said: ‘This is insane. This is bordering on abuse. I can’t take it anymore! I love him, and I think he deserves a birthday cake!’ ”
I’ve always known that how people parent is a really personal thing. The couples I know who have kids all do their care taking differently. I even know that people judge how other people parent. What I didn’t know is that it can have a direct on the relationship between two adults. But clearly I don’t know much, because, apparently the “clash of [parenting] visions can be explosive.” Yikes.
Have you ever butt heads with a friend over your different approaches to parenting? Can’t we all just get along?