September 27, 2010
Have a problem or question?
Write to Dear Mom and get an answer from an expert on relationship and family issues. Email your letters to Dearmom@dcspotlight.com or by snail mail to P. O. Box 10844, Silver Spring, MD 20914. Dear Mom is written by Cathy Enns.
I have two kids and my kids are pretty well-behaved, but my best friend’s kids are the total opposite. She has three kids and when they come over to visit, they destroy me home and terrorize my kids. It has gotten to the point where I don’t want her kids around my kids at all. My best friend and I have been together since high school over 15 years ago, so this is not a friend that I want to lose. How do you maintain a friendship when you don’t like the friend’s kids?
Trying to keep a friend in Vienna, VA
Since you indicate all three of your friend’s children are not well behaved, it seems like she has a different parenting style than you do. That’s something you’re not going to be able to change.
It seems to me you have two basic choices. To take the path of least resistance, you can try to maintain the friendship without having to address the kids’ behavior directly. Suggest a moms’ night out with her from time to time and try to find other occasions to see your friend without the kids in tow. When you feel it’s time to get together with kids, turn down in-home play dates and offer an afternoon at a local park or some kind of joint activity instead. If you choose this route, you may need a quick, matter-of-fact word with your kids about your friendship with the mom and how you feel about her kids’ actions.
If you don’t feel that’s enough, you can try to talk about the situation with your friend. The challenge here will be to focus on the difference in parenting styles, maybe touching lightly on a child’s behavior that’s ok and not ok with you, and not on the people themselves. After all, it probably isn’t the case that you don’t like her children—you don’t like the way they behave.
If you can talk with your friend about styles and behavior without seeming judgmental about the people involved, you may have a shot at preserving the relationship. But it may not work—parents tend to get defensive about their kids. If the friendship does become strained or worse, remember that your family’s well being is the most important thing in this situation.
It probably won’t help much to know this, but you’re far from alone. There’s a parenting website I visit from time to time: www.babble.com. For a well-written account of a mom having similar issues with a best friend’s kid, see http://www.babble.com/bad-parent-i-love-you-hate-your-kid-humor-essay-parenting-guilt-playdates-madeline-holler/index.aspx. The posting itself will have you smiling and nodding, and there are some well thought out comments that follow the piece.
I am at my wits end with my mother. As a child, she was overbearing, but when I gave birth to my daughter, she became controlling and possessive of my child. Every decision I make she questions. Even the food I prepare for my daughter is “not the right food for a baby”. I would definitely like to keep my mother in my child’s life, but at the same time I would like to raise my own child. How can I tell my mom to back off without straining our relationship?
Fed up in Kensington, MD
Dear Fed Up:
It sounds like you want to approach parenthood with a much more positive style than your mother had. That’s great!
Since you have thought through how you want to parent, make it your priority to stick to your vision. Continue with what you feel is right—you’ll also be serving as a better role model for your daughter than your mom was for you.
I’d suggest sitting down with your mother when your daughter is not around and talking things over. Prepare some ideas about what you want to say ahead of time. Start by telling your mom how important she is to you and that you want her in your life and your daughter’s life. Then come up with a couple of “I statements” that can serve as examples of what’s going on. Such statements might include: “I feel like you don’t have confidence in me as a mother when you criticize what I feed my daughter.” Or, “I would feel more like you think I’m a good mom if you didn’t feel the need to question so many of my decisions.”
Focus more on your need to feel competent and supported in your role and let her know how she can best help you, rather than criticizing her tactics (even though she is criticizing yours). That should make it a little easier to have light exchanges with her about this without causing a meltdown.
Be prepared to be patient with her; it takes a long time to learn new ways to interact. You may have to talk with her more than once. But if you’re very clear, and you can keep from blowing your top, you may get to the point where a raised eyebrow will stop her in mid-comment.
I am married with 3 kids. My husband and I are both African American. He husband works a corporate job, while I stay home with the kids. Last month, he sat me down and told me that he was having an affair with a white co-worker. He says he plans to marry her. I was shocked and angry and didn’t know where to turn. I am not prejudice, but it hurts more to know that he chose someone who is not the same race as I am. I know cheating is cheating, no matter what color, but I can’t get pass that fact. I feel rejected because of my color by someone whom I have built a life with. How can I overcome these feelings, and what should I do next to move on with my life?
Heartbroken in Northwest, DC
I’m so sorry to hear what you’re going through. I can imagine your husband’s news came as quite a shock. It seems that your feelings of extreme rejection aren’t unusual in this case.
It must seem as if your husband is not just walking away from you, he’s turning his back on your cultural identity—the one you felt he shared. Not that it’s exactly the same thing, but I’ve heard similar feelings from people whose significant other has left them for someone of a different sexual identity. Somehow the person being left feels extra inadequate, both personally and culturally. It seems like a betrayal.
So, the first order of business is to be gentle with yourself and patient with feelings that are challenging to understand. Know that you and your kids need plenty of time to process what’s happened. Draw closer to them and let them express what they’re feeling to you. But if you find yourself tempted to say something negative about their father as you talk with them—don’t. Do your best to help them preserve their relationship with him. It’s ok to make comments like, “It’s hard to understand why people do the things they do sometimes.”
Next, I’d recommend finding a women’s support group or therapy group you could join and start attending regularly. The best way to sort through confusing feeling is to work hard to articulate them to others. Sharing in a group setting can be tough at first, but it gets easier as you get used to it. You’ll find other women to be understanding and supportive—a real source of strength for you.