Have you ever noticed that adults could use a time out for childish behavior every once in a while? Being a working mom (stay at home or otherwise) brings a certain level of stress and frustration that can spill over into interactions with others. No one expects that every mommy from the Wednesday morning dance class will become the best of friends, but nasty looks and equally nasty remarks sometimes make me wonder what sort of examples we’re showing our kids about how to get along with others. If asked, would you be able to answer your child’s questions about a tough relationship with his best buddy’s mother? You could start by talking about point of view.
The way another mom sees the world is largely due to a combination of her experiences, background, and values—just like you, by the way. When the gal sitting next to you sees the world through a similar lens as yours, it’s easier to develop a friendship with her than it is to be friendly with the woman you think looks at the world through a busted kaleidoscope. Her unique point of view doesn’t necessarily mean she’s wrong, though, it just means she’s seeing things differently. Plus, you never know what’s going on in other areas of her life so to assume that her thoughtful expressions are scowls directed solely at you or that her motivation for heading up the fundraiser is to get back at your best friend for personal reasons may be all wrong.
We all know that facial expression and body language can speak volumes. Think about the times others have made you feel small. What were they doing? Not looking at you, preoccupied, or using a sharp tone of voice? If you have a tendency to do those things, work to correct them and be a little forgiving if you see another mom using sour expressions or biting language. When I observe that kind of behavior, I often ask, “Are you having a rough day?” If she is, she almost always melts, and if not, she at least knows she’s doing it. Of course, any time I ask I do so with the intention of being compassionate, not judging (which isn’t always easy, by the way).
So why bother to improve your relationships with other moms? No man is an island and no mom can go it alone. We need each other! The best thing about getting to know other moms is realizing how normal your struggles are. Plus, moms not interested in developing other mommy friends could be wasting their own talent and knowledge. There’s always going to be a mom experiencing a road you’ve yet to travel and another one who will be following on the path after you. Share what you know and be open to learning more.
Keep in mind that if a conflict arises between you and another mother, she’s not against you, she’s simply for herself. That means that if she’s disagreeing with you she’s probably defending something that’s important to her; like maybe respect or security. Seeing things from her perspective (which is not the same as agreeing, by the way) helps you figure out a solution that would work for both of you. Also, the words you choose can make a big difference in resolving issues. Use “and” instead of “but”; “I” instead of “you”; and be especially careful with words like “always”, “never” and phrases such as “that was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced.” That kind of language just makes the conflict about the words and doesn’t get to the core of what you really need to resolve.
Lastly, look at conflict as an opportunity. Many people see disagreements and tension between moms as a symptom of something that’s wrong. I say it’s an indicator for an opportunity to model good behavior for the kiddos. Improved relationships, better play environments, and strong alliances with other moms are all things that have the potential to come out of conflicts. The sooner your little one knows that, the better. Oh, and I realize dads have their own issues; but that’s another story.