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The Mommy Wars

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The Mommy Wars: The battle between mothers with different parenting styles, who think any other parenting choices are invalid. It originated between stay-at-home and working mothers and expanded into the issues well past those of employment.

Tracy used to enjoy spending time with a college friend who had children around the same ages as her 9-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son. “As my friend’s daughter was getting older, around 8, she continued to sleep in her parents’ bed, well past the age most people would consider appropriate,” recalls the Wilmington, DE mom. “Over time, it began to affect my friend’s relationship with her husband. She’d tell me that he moved into the basement to sleep on the couch. It got to the point where I didn’t know if I should support her or judge her for what I thought was a problem that was causing a bigger issue in her marriage. It was difficult for me to understand.”

Though Tracy and her friend agreed to disagree about this topic, the difference of opinion ultimately strained their relationship. They’re not alone. 

Among families and friends, the tendency to judge instead of accept different parenting styles about everything from children’s eating habits to punishments and TV-watching limits can drive a wedge in even the strongest of personal alliances. The common occurrence contributes to the ongoing push-pull of the so-called “Mommy Wars.” But there’s no need to get up in arms. Knowing when it is appropriate to share your opinion and the proper way to convey your message can spell the difference between helping someone you care about and ruining a relationship.

Stop judging other moms' parenting styles

Even when a friend shares a kid-incident anecdote you feel you’d have handled in a different way, experts insist it is almost never OK to offer unsolicited parenting advice. If you feel compelled to say something, “Empathize first, no judgments, and open a door for conversation,” says psychologist Richard Selznick, PhD, director of the Cooper Learning Center in Voorhees, NJ. 

Coming from a position of curiosity can be a conversation-starter. “For example, if your friend is still breast-feeding her 4-year-old, you might say, ‘I’m just wondering what your plan is and how much longer you’re planning on breast-feeding Ed,’” suggests Jacqueline Hudak, MEd, PhD, clinical director of the Center for Couples and Adult Families at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. Feedback will be different when you ask a sincere question rather than make a statement that could be interpreted as criticism.

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