Have a Baby, Lose a Friend
You say tomato, I say tom-ah-to.
If only parenting were this simple.
The fact of the matter is that giving birth is the equivalent of drawing a line in the sand between longtime friends and other parents. The how-to’s and how-not-to’s of raising children is a particularly sensitive area that seems to bring out the best – and worst – in otherwise lovely people.
Arguments ensue. Feelings are hurt. In some cases, long-time friendships end, much to the chagrin of one or both parties.
What gives? What evil lurks in the hearts of men – and women – that emerges at the very moment that they earn the monikers “Dad” and “Mom?”
No one seems to know for sure, but there are a few hypotheses that have been bandied about.
According to a recent article, particular parenting styles may be attributed to specific “emotional flashpoints” for parents. Some years ago, psychoanalyst Selma Fraiberg argued that “ghosts in the nursery” were residues of “vulnerabilities of the parental past.” In other words, your past experience as a child will color your present behavior as a parent.
A more recent theory espouses that previous family disruption experienced by present-day parents will manifest itself in what some would describe as “overprotective parenting,” to say the least.
Case in point: there have been examples of women quitting their jobs because of concerns regarding the office Xerox machine; others where worried parents make sure that they blow-dry their baby’s car seat to warm it before the infant could sit in it.
Perhaps. But not in the minds of the parents who are actually doing these acts that they feel are best for their children. And therein lies the problem. The vast scope of what constitutes “good parenting” is a chasm that is not easily bridged. When it comes to our precious babies, we all have thoughts about what is and is not acceptable treatment of them, and, let’s face it: we’re unlikely to be swayed by others’ opinions. Consider how this reality must play out when discussing long-time friends. It can break a bond that seemed unbreakable because, at the end of the day, blood is thicker than water. We love our children more than anything and do what we feel is best for them – all others be damned. That’s the unfortunate reality that so many of us have learned as we’ve entered the world of diapers and doulas. Our kids come first, and who can blame us?
Of course, as with any other trend, Hollywood has been quick to jump on this reality, with one of the more recent movies, Friends With Kids, adding a humorous twist to the issue of parenting and relationships. Sure – it might give us a chuckle when we watch the machinations of your typical parent on a given day (think diapers, meltdowns and otherwise), but listen closely: there is a hint of nervousness in that laughter. Is it perhaps borne of the fact that somewhere deep down, we believe that parenthood and other relationships are mutually exclusive? More specifically, are we realizing that to become a parent is, by definition, the real relationship in our lives where we actually will “forsake all others” if we have to? At the end of the day, most of us parents know that our kids will come first, always. Unfortunately this reality doesn’t necessarily bode well for our friendships. Once we become “Mom” or “Dad” our other relationships are held to a much higher scrutiny than ever before, hence the disappointment when we realize that those of whom we thought were cut from the same cloth as us don’t actually pass the test.