Posted by Amy Reiter on Oct 5, 2011 at 11:28 AM
Most of us have had it happen to us, and if you haven't, you're unusually lucky: You have a friend whose kids are around the same age as yours. You may know this friend from before you had kids, or have met her after, but either way, now that you're both in the same parental boat, she proposes a mom-kid double playdate.
But then -- like something out of a horror film -- the dream friend turns into something out of a terrifying nightmare. (Cue scary Psycho music.)
Her kids are hellions and you hate the idea of subjecting your child to their atrocious behavior. But what's worse is the way your friend deals with her obnoxious offspring: pure denial, or a demented way of justifying even the most dreadful, even dangerous acts. (I once had a mom pal smile and shrug benignly at me as her son pointed a toy gun at my then-3-year-old daughter's head and slowly and painstakingly described in grisly anatomical detail what he imagined would happen to her when he pulled the trigger.)
Can you be friends with a mom who has different parenting philosophies than you do?
These sorts of interactions prompted Imperfect Parent writer Eliana Osborn to pose the question "Can you be friends with a bad mom?" (The question was recently picked up by Washington Post blogger Janice D’Arcy.)
Osborn doesn't think so -- and I totally get why she'd just want to run far and run fast from the encounters she describes from her own life. (Personally, I'm really in no hurry to see that toy-gun kid again.) But -- call me a cock-eyed optimist -- I think there's hope for those mom relationships.
Here are three reasons why:
1. Bad moms don't always equal bad friends: The laissez-faire attitude that allows your mom friend to overlook her child's horrible qualities may help her overlook yours. There's something to be said for a friend who doesn't gasp and judge when she walks into your messy, crumb-strewn house or give you a hard time when you show up for coffee 10 minutes late and with a peanut-butter-and-banana-stained blouse.
2. She could be the key to a rare night out: If you like the mom but not the kids, it's not the worst idea to negotiate with your partner for a little time off the parenting duties. Leave the family at home. Meet your friend for drinks or dinner or a movie or -- heck, if you miraculously have the energy for it -- dancing. And make a rule that you're not going to talk about your kids. That way you don't have to think about all the choices she's making that you think are cracked (or the glowing descriptions about her kids that make you want to roll your eyes or scream), and you can get a break from incessantly focusing on your own brood.
3. Kids do grow and change: Sure, some wretched babies grow into wretched toddlers and then wretched teens and adults. But sometimes, truly bad behavior is just a phase, or rooted in something that is, at some point, diagnosed and treated. Good friends are hard to come by; it might be worth taking a break and giving your pal another chance.
Have you had a good friend who turned out to be a bad mom? How did you handle it?