I’m Losing My Best Friend Over Our Differing Parenting Styles

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Sarah and I became friends in college. Since then we’ve traveled together, partied like rock stars, and helped each other through some dark, difficult times…but things started to change when I had my first daughter, six years ago. Of course Sarah liked my baby and we even met up for the occasional “girls drink” but (as much as I hate to admit it), having kids changed me. If not my personality at least my priorities and my availability. “Hey, come and meet me for drinks at this new rooftop bar!” she’d scream into the phone over the din of already-drunk models and business execs. But it was already 8 p.m. and time to put my daughter to bed, so I bailed for the hundredth time. I couldn’t wait for the day when Sarah had kids and would finally be able to understand that you can’t drop everything and go to a party or take strollers to a nightclub. One day she’ll finally get it, I told myself.

And then it happened. Sarah got married and within a year she was pregnant – coinciding with my second pregnancy. Yay! Not only would she finally understand everything I’d been through, but we’d be in it together! We could lament together about missing parties and having to lame-out early in preparation for that 5 a.m. screaming wakeup call. After years of drifting apart we had common ground again, and we shared everything from pregnancy aches to ideas on parenting. During those nine months, we saw each other constantly and Sarah would tell me I was the coolest, most straightforward mama friend she had, always asking questions about a weird pregnancy symptom or which carrier I thought was the best.

That summer, my second daughter was born and then so was hers; they could be BFFs just like us, I imagined! We continued to hang out and coo over our adorable girls lying together on play mats, but pretty soon it became apparent that we had different parenting styles and things started to get weird. Sarah still asked me for advice, but I could see that look of disdain when I said something she didn’t agree with, or watched me pop a pacifier in my daughter’s mouth. She didn’t see the need in a habit-forming crutch that could cause dental problems (even though — hello ­– they might reduce the likelihood of SIDS).

There were other awkward moments. Though we both breastfed our girls, I introduced solids on the early side, at five months, whereas Sarah kept her baby on mush and breast milk until she was a year old. Seriously? I tried to swallow my judgment, but it got awkward when we were picnicking together—my robust toddler chomping on broccoli stalks and bagels while hers dismally swallowed strained soup.

As bratty as this sounds, it bothered me that Sarah would so frequently ask for my advice and then blatantly disregarded it. While I co-slept with my baby until she was about 8-months-old, Sarah put her daughter in a separate room almost immediately, insisting that her baby would never enter the marriage bed. Did she look down on me for my decision? I kind of look down on her for hers, but who was right, anyway?

Another thing that gets me is watching Sarah drop her daughter off with the in-laws for an entire weekend. “We’re going sailing on Saturday,” she’ll tell me over the phone, adding that they’re not bringing the baby because – y’know – “all that water.” The truth is, I’m jealous. I love spending time with my kids but I’d kill for the chance to dump them on volunteering family members on a regular overnight basis so I could hit the beach or try out a new restaurant, but they all live too far away. It annoys me that it’s so easy for her, and that she does it without a second thought.

Now that our girls are 2, the differences keep on coming. My kid has eaten an entire packet of M&Ms, whereas the closest thing to hit her daughter’s lips has been the organic agave gluten-free cocoa cupcake at her second birthday party. And, yeah, maybe my daughter has caught (lengthy) snippets of all seven Star Wars films with her big brother, but does that make Sarah’s daughter—who watches 10 minutes of PBS a week—better than mine?

People change over time, I know that, but I really thought having kids would bring my best friend and I closer together. Instead, I am constantly trying to inch around the wedge that it has been driven between us. I know it sucks to judge and be judged by other parents, but we all do it. I just never thought I’d have to do it with my best friend.    

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