By: Kristina Dapaah
The other day, I was reflecting on some of the topics that my ‘mom friends’ and I talk about. From sleep regressions, bottle-feeding, and breastfeeding, to pre-baby life and our bodies; the list is truly endless. I had a little laugh when I recognized that these topics are virtually universal amongst conversing moms. There’s something really comforting about someone being able to understand exactly what you’re experiencing, whether it’s a high time or a low one. There is something about empathy that can solidify a relationship in likeness. In fact, according to a study on empathy done by Lesley University, “it’s a key ingredient to successful relationships because it helps us understand the perspectives, needs, and intentions of others.” Many of us moms get that from our mom friendships – because we are in similar boats. Interestingly, an empathetic response to a situation can actually be traced to mirror neurons, which are cells in the brain that fire when we observe someone else perform an action, and they fire in much the same way that brain cells would if we did the action ourselves. As a result, deep and meaningful connections can be made.
Mom friends can help you feel like you're not alone. They understand the nuances of daily life and can offer meaningful encouragement and tips. I’ve learned about teething remedies, sleep training, and amazing schools in my area from fellow moms. I can truthfully say that all in all, my life has grown richer from the friendships that I’ve made with other mothers.
But I’ve also heard of the reverse. What happens when the moms in your life lack the thing that builds and sustains a connection? What if time spent with other moms leaves you feeling ashamed, guilty, and inadequate? What do you do then? The reality is, everyone has a different approach when it comes to parenting. All the topics that can be places where we find common ground and bond over shared experiences, can also become grounds for bragging and claiming superiority.
If your mom friends leave you feeling worse about your decisions as a parent, here are some things that you can do.
Set boundaries. There are some mom relationships that you will be around often. These moms may be your neighbors, parents, grandparents, or co-workers and it may be difficult to avoid conversations where children are concerned. Setting boundaries for conversations you are willing and unwilling to have with others will be the most beneficial to maintaining your inner peace. For instance, if a conversation on food and toddlers ensues, you can take an active role as a listener and lend as little information as possible about your children and parenting preference.
Recognize that you cannot control how you are received. When it comes to sharing information about your kids, recognizing that another person’s response to you often has nothing to do with you, can provide a level of relief. Sometimes a mom will share their approach to something like sleeping and another mom may chime in with a comment that isn’t encouraging. When we recognize that someone’s approach to life does not mean ours is less effective or invalid – we can walk in the confidence of the vision we have for our parenting.
Seek out new opportunities for friendship. Finding new friends as an adult can be challenging, but finding a group of women who can support you and who can receive the support back is worth the search. Mayo Clinic has an article outlining how a connection amongst a group of friends leads to a healthier and happier life.
Nurturing the relationships that provide you with positive energy is crucial to maintaining the wellbeing of any parent. Where the day-to-day demands of the job can be equally amazing and exhausting, a good friend is a great remedy! Now more than ever, having the support of a community where other moms are involved is a great idea. I have navigated online school, child isolation, and given birth during a pandemic, and a solid group of mom friends made it all the more more bearable!
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