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How to be mom friends when you disagree on parenting

Once upon a time, there were two moms. They both had five-year-old boys, lived in the same town, and liked the same coffee. Their boys liked the same superheroes and ate the same snacks. And one of those boys was completely up to date on his vaccine schedule.

For all the foods and cartoons and thrift stores and toddler-parenting and playgrounds they had in common, these two mamas did not agree on this one thing. 

And that was okay.

They still met at playgrounds, still picked up coffee for each other, still shared snacks and laughs and frustrations and selfies. And everyone was happy, and everybody won.

Here’s how they did it.

1. They remembered that we’re all in this together.

Both of those mamas were fully committed to the ultimate mom tribe. They recognized that—even though they disagreed on one aspect of parenting—we rise by lifting others. That all the mamas are on the same team. That we’re stronger together than we are divided (and if anyone needs extra strength it’s the mama of a five-year-old).

2. They gave each other the benefit of the doubt.

If the topic of vaccines makes you really uncomfortable, pretend it’s something else—anything that media or money want to divide mamas over: schooling, religion, nutrition, discipline, screen time, etc. The specific issue doesn’t matter.

What matters is that these two mamas, first, chose to assume that the other one also loved her man-cub more than the breath in her own lungs. Each of these moms chose to assume that the other had good reason for believing what she did and that she was working hard to do the best for her kid.

That takes humility, but it’s a powerful step to unity in the tribe.

3. They only talked about the disagreement when they wanted to listen.

Neither of these mamas set out to convert the other. They didn’t pretend that the disagreement didn’t exist, but they only talked about it when they wanted to listen to the other’s perspective.

They asked honest questions freely, and each allowed the other to have honest questions and to ask them without fear. They talked openly, but respectfully, and changed the subject when the question was answered.

4. They defended each other.

Occasionally, others joined the conversation (more often on social media than on the playground benches). When respectful conversation turned to emotional rhetoric, both of these mamas came to the defense of the other as a good mom who is doing her very best. It’s as simple as, “I don’t agree with her position on the topic, but I know that she is a great mom who is working really hard and giving her all for her family.”

5. They focused on other things.

Seriously, there’s so much more to parenting and mom life than whatever that one issue is. In practice, for these moms, that one issue hardly came up. They talked about preschool and developmental milestones and how to get Sharpie out of upholstery fabric and fair trade coffee and the new thrift store and social justice and chores and their husbands and a thousand other topics. 

No parent can be defined by any one issue, and it’s very likely that we agree on so much more than we disagree on.

Expand your mom circle

Does this mean you should get coffee and set up playdates with every mom of every same-aged kid you know? Of course not. There are those moms who disagree with you on lots of parenting topics, or whom you just don’t get along with, and neither of you need the stress that would come from trying to force that relationship. 

But can we—should we—learn to rise above that one disagreement for the benefit of shared coffee and happy kids? It’s worth a try.

It doesn’t require an awkward conversation. You go first, and model the respect and humility required. If it doesn’t work out, remember that you’re still in the same ultimate mom tribe, but you can respect each other from a distance. If it does work out, you might even be surprised at what a great new friend you (and hopefully your kids) have found.



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