Friday, June 6, 2014

Ending a Mom Friendship Because of Their Kids: Taboo or Understandable?

Mom Friendships.

We moms need them just as much as our kids need social interaction with other children. We need friends to talk to, to share advice with, to bond with, and to make motherhood just a little easier.

So, what happens when someone you become Mom Friends with has nightmare children?

Do you speak up? Do you keep your mouth shut in the name of having a Mom Friend? Is it wrong if you want to end the friendship; does that make you a bad person?

The subject of Mom Friendships has come up quite a bit for me lately, and with each conversation I'm a part of, the same problem is posed, and the same question follows:

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"I like her, but her kids are absolutely horrible. I just don't know if I can handle being around them anymore, but I can't end a friendship with someone because of their kids, can I? That's really wrong of me, isn't it?"

Because of what I learned from my past, I now answer this with, "Why is that wrong of you?"

I was once in a Mom Friendship that I wasn't sure about. The Mom herself was great; we had a lot in common as individuals, shared the same interests, and laughed (a lot) when we were together.

But her toddler was a whole different story.

This child was spoiled (to say the least). She dictated which restaurants the family ate at, where they shopped at, and even which car they drove when they went out, and the parents just gave in to the child to prevent a temper tantrum. It was their story that the child's temper tantrums were so violent that she threw up during them, due to her acid reflux, so it was just easier for them to give in to whatever the child wanted, because if they said no, they'd have a huge mess to clean up.

I shook my head at this when I was first explained it all, but I gave them the benefit of the doubt... until I saw it in person one day...

The mom, her toddler, and I were out shopping, and the child wanted to go to the toy section.

"Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy...." This went on for about a minute and a half straight before I looked at my friend and said, "Um, are you going to answer her?"

"Oh, what? I don't even hear it anymore," the friend replied.

The child stated she wanted to go to the toy section, and the mom told her we would go later.

That's when the child started crying. When the mom didn't respond to that, the child started screaming, to which the mom just replied, "Stop screaming or we won't go to the toy section at all." That's when I watched the child hold her breath until her face turned bright red, and when she started breathing again, and took that first huge breath, she started coughing. The mom whipped her head around quickly, grabbed a napkin, held it to the kids' mouth and looked at me, saying, "Can we go ahead and head to the toys now? It'll just take a minute and she'll be fine." 

The second I agreed, the child stopped coughing. Coincidence, right?

The mom was relieved, and commented about how thankful she was the girl's acid reflux didn't cause her to throw up in the store.

I was shocked. That was some of the best manipulation I had ever seen of another individual, and the child was only 2 1/2 at the time.

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Over the course of our friendship, which lasted roughly a year, I started out saying things like, "Hey, maybe you should tell her not to run on the furniture at this store, because she could fall and get hurt," as the toddler used the display furniture for parkour practice. The mom would discipline, the child would hold her breath, start coughing, and the mom would let her go. Eventually, this evolved to actually telling the child, myself, not to run on the furniture, because the child didn't hold her breath when I would discipline her.

Time spent alone with this mom was starting to wear on me, too. We'd sit and have coffee, and she'd vent and ask for advice: The child never slept (Maybe not let the child drink caffeinated beverages, including coffee, all day long?) and they couldn't do anything at all unless the child wanted to (Maybe not let the child have so much say-so in family events?) and how the child never wanted to play in her actual room, but always wanted to be stuck to the mom like glue (Maybe clean out some of the floor-to-ceiling toys from the room so she can actually see what awesome toys she has?).

This is what I got in return:
Coke wasn't bad for her toddler, and it was the only thing she'd drink. The child napped right after coffee, so that couldn't be it, either.
The child would throw a temper tantrum until she vomited, so they had to do whatever she wanted.
There was no way in hell she was getting rid of any toys she had bought the child; she had spent money on them. Cleaning them out and rotating the toys wouldn't work either.

So, it was like the mom wanted to keep her life, and her child, exactly the way everything was, despite all of the constant complaining she did.

I began thinking, "What if I just ended the friendship? That would make me a horrible person, wouldn't it? Ending the friendship because of a child? That would make me the worst person ever..."

So, I continued the friendship well past its expiration date, to the point where I'd come home after time spent with her and her toddler with my blood boiling, and would spend the next hour of my life filling Hubby in on everything that had happened. I started distancing myself by making excuses as to why I couldn't hang out with her during the day, when our husbands were at work, and how we'd have to wait for husbands to get home to watch kids before we ventured out together. Time spent together during the day was filled with me disciplining her child, which she didn't even care about; it was less she had to do, she told me.

I only offered parenting advice when she asked for it (a personal philosophy of mine), and explained how I felt the child was manipulating them and they were allowing the manipulation. She didn't take any of it under consideration and brushed it all off, so I withdrew myself even more. The guilt I had of ending a friendship because of her child got to me, though, so while I distanced myself, I still maintained the friendship through phone conversations and occasional trips out together. At the time, I truly felt it would be taboo to cut all ties with her because of her kid.
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The straw that broke the camel's back that led to the final end of our friendship came when she made some extremely hurtful comments one day after she and I had a conversation about some personal issues I was going through. I had already distanced myself from her greatly at this point because of my feelings about her child, so I sat down, thought about the 5 things listed below, and the answer was clear to me: End the friendship now. I severed all ties with her and never looked back.

The weeks that followed the ending of our friendship, The Girl even commented that I seemed more relaxed, didn't cry as much (yes, the friendship caused me to cry out of frustration many times), and seemed all around happier. I couldn't deny that.

So when I'm in a conversation with people who are going through the same thing I did, with the same feelings of guilt over possibly ending the friendship, I always tell them my story. Then I tell them to think about some things:
  1. Picture your life without the friend in it. Is your life more relaxed and happier because the child is no longer a factor, or more stressed and sad because your friend isn't there?
  2. Is the friendship negatively affecting you more than it's positively affecting you? Do you spend more time venting about that friend or her children than sharing positive stories with others?
  3. Do you like the person you are when you spend time with that friend?
  4. Could the children of the friend negatively affect your children or family, or have they already negatively affected your children or family?
  5. Are you keeping this friendship alive solely to have a Mom Friendship?
When you take the time to really sit down and analyze the friendship, the answer will probably be very clear. 

But should you have feelings of guilt because you ended a friendship with a mom because of her kids? I don't think so. Everyone has different parenting techniques, but when someone is parenting their children in a way that you are really not comfortable with, that results in children you aren't comfortable being around, why is it a bad thing to walk away from that friendship? You need to do what's right for you, your family, and your sanity. 

Of course I do advocate talking things over with the mom prior to just walking away, if you feel the friendship could be salvaged by doing so, and you want the friendship to continue. Maybe the mom has no idea her kids' actions and behavior are causing such negative feelings for you. 

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If you have gone that route, though, and things didn't change for you, then the friendship wasn't meant to be, and there's nothing wrong with that.

At the time I cut the friendship with this mom, I didn't have any other friends here (my best friend is still on the east coast, 2000 miles away from me), so I think that's why I allowed the friendship to continue as long as it did, for the sake of having a Mom Friendship. But when I weighed the 5 things above, my decision was pretty clear, and to be completely honest, I've never looked back.

Before I went through this myself, I thought that it was possible to be friends with someone despite how you felt about their children, and thought that ending a Mom Friendship because of kids was taboo. Now, I realize it can just be another reason why some friendships fall to the wayside.

I feel, too, that if you take care of yourself and your family, and get rid of things that cause negativity in your life, that things will get better for you. Shortly after cutting this friendship from my life, I met several friends that I adore, with amazing kids who my kids love being friends with. I share common interests and beliefs with them, and our kids get along wonderfully. 

We moms have 5,732 other things to feel guilty about on a regular basis. Ending a poisonous relationship with a Mom Friend shouldn't be one of them. Make sure that any friendship you have in your life positively affects you and your family, and if it doesn't, don't hesitate to walk away.

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  1. To grow some things must's understandable I say. Great share.

  2. No one should feel guilty about ending a friendship over something like this, because it wasn't about the child; it was about a huge difference in core values which manifested itself in the way she parented her child and refused all blame for the child's bad behavior. I don't blame you, I wouldn't have been able to continue a friendship with someone like that either.