Dear “Mainstream” Friends: We Love And Respect You |
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Dear “Mainstream” Friends: We Love And Respect You

admin October 15, 2013

Parenting choices often result in a lot of judgment. Especially when it comes to mainstream vs. alternative choices. We fully respect your right to choose for your family and hope you feel the same about us.

Recently, some friends and I got into a discussion — which then continued on my Facebook page — about how to politely decline a snack offer from a friend.  The generic situation was this:

Two or more friends gather for a playdate.  All the moms have brought snacks for their own kids, but some moms have brought extras to share — to be nice!  Unfortunately, the snack is something that one of the moms would prefer her children didn’t have.  These moms play together often, so this isn’t a “rare treat” situation.  How do you handle it?

The ironic part about this is that treading lightly is necessary.  It would be perfectly fine to say, “Oh, I don’t really like chocolate,” or “My kid is allergic to wheat.”  But to say, “We choose not to eat that,” suddenly…it’s a huge problem.  An attitude problem.  Only, it really isn’t…it’s just perceived that way.

Parenting Choices: What I Say vs. What You Hear

Unfortunately, food isn’t the only area where this is true.  Many “mainstream” parents feel very judged by “non-mainstream” parents like myself because what I’ve said and what they’ve heard are not the same things.  And I need to tell you, mainstream parents…usually we don’t mean what you think we mean.  Really.  We aren’t saying anything to judge you; we’re just sharing our family’s decision.  We fully respect your right to choose for your family, and hope you feel the same about us.

Here are some examples, though, of what “I say” and what “you hear:”

Food

I say: “We choose not to eat that food.”

You hear: “That is junk food and any mom who feeds it to her kid is a bad mom.”

We meant: “I think that food is a less healthy choice for us, and/or my children don’t react well to it, but I understand and respect that others feed their children differently.”

Home Birth

I say: “I had my babies at home.”

You hear: “All moms who didn’t have their babies at home don’t love them because the hospital is a terrible place.”

We meant: “I’m happy to have had the option to have my babies at home and I enjoyed the experience.”

Homeschooling

I say: “I homeschool my children.”

You hear: “I shelter my children and don’t let them out to play with other kids, who are bad influences; plus the public schools and stupid and ineffective.”

We meant: “My children’s educational needs are, at this time, best served at home.  Every child is different.”

Vaccines

I say: “We don’t vaccinate our children/we use a selective or delayed schedule.”

You hear: “Vaccines are poison and only sheeple get them.”

We meant: “We don’t believe some/all vaccines are right for our children at this time, and we respect your right to choose differently.”

Babywearing

I say: “I love to wear my baby/toddler in a sling.”

You hear: “Strollers are baby torture devices and moms who use them don’t love their babies.”

We meant: “My baby prefers the sling but all babies are different.” (And hey, sometimes we use strollers too!)

Discipline

I say: “We don’t spank.”

You hear: “Spanking is child abuse.”

We meant: “Spanking isn’t a method of discipline that we choose to use, but all children/families have different needs.”

I could go on with many more examples!  But you see the point…we don’t mean to judge.

mainstream friends

Feeling Judged: Check Yourself

There have been plenty of times that I’ve been online talking with people, and I’ll make a comment like, “We don’t eat oatmeal.”  And someone else says, “We love oatmeal, it’s so healthy.”

Is that a judgment?  Sometimes it feels like it.  If another person shares their views, and they differ strongly from yours, especially if shared right after yours (and on the internet, where it’s hard to tell what people really mean, or what their ‘tone’ is), it can really, truly, feel like a judgment!

Not so fast, though.  It’s very likely that the other person is just sharing their opinion.  It’s not “at” you.  It’s not intended to make you feel defensive.  I have to remind myself of this sometimes, too.  It’s okay…they’re welcome to their opinion, as I am mine.  This wasn’t a jab at me.

The internet does make it really hard because you can’t see their expression or hear their voice.  In person, you would know if they were smiling or glaring at you. If they were using a teasing tone, a neutral tone, or truly being judgmental.  On the internet you’re left to imagine.

And you know?  It’s not always that people judge (or appear to judge) because “they’re just insecure and have to put people down.”  There are a whole bunch of reasons why people do or say what they do.  We don’t know what they are.  And we shouldn’t assume they’re about the other person’s issues, nor about ourselves.  It doesn’t really matter anyway.

Do what you do, mamas.  Be open to new ideas, but don’t feel pressured to change because your friend makes different choices than you do.  If something she says makes you feel curious, ask.  If it feels wrong for you, just smile and move on.  Because we all are different, we know that too, and that’s okay.

How do you deal with differences when it comes to good friends?

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14 Comments

  1. This is spot on! Lately I’ve been feeling extremely frustrated with the whole “being different” thing. In my circle I’m no longer included in parenting conversations (I never offered advice or opinions, a friend saw an article I pinned on punishment alternatives and that was that) and have all but been told I’m expected sit quietly if the subject comes up. It’s been similar with other non main stream subjects. While I want my friends to know how much I respect and value them, I also don’t want to feel I have to keep my life choices a secret to fit in or be respected.

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  2. I think the issue here is that it is both human nature to judge and human nature to compare ourselves to those around us. Let’s face it when we look around there are people who we aspire to be like and people we think Yikes, what are they thinking. For most of the issues listed I think that it is true. I don’t think issues like choosing to home birth are as sensitive and if you are home schooling you are probably having play dates with mostly families of similar mind. I think it is always more polite to say on that’s not on my diet or it doesn’t agree with little Johnny. Even if it is a slight stretch. The reality is judging, even if you try really hard not to, is human nature. If we were to change the topic we would not care about saying we judge. My son has 2 playmates in the neighborhood whose parents don’t make them use booster seats although they are still slightly under the weight requirement. My son is still in a booster with the back. Even though I don’t think anyone would disagree with the fact that I don’t let my child ride in those cars I never say to the friend “Well he can’t go with you because I don’t want him in a car without a booster”. The onus is on me to make the polite excuse. I usually just say. Gee we have a stop to make on the way so I will just meet you there or I just say that sounds great. I’ll drive. I think in a situation where you are the person in need of the accommodations you should make an effort to ensure you aren’t saying something that could be interpreted as judgemental. The same goes with our schooling choice. My son isn’t home schooled but goes to a very small religiously affiliated school. I just smile when pushed and say well school starts at 7:30 and they have I site after care for days I work so it is a good schedule for us and leave it at that. No point in getting into something that could sound judgemental. If a friend is considering our school or a similar schooling option I can get into the nitty gritty of some of the other issues otherwise I’m very careful to not sound judgemental or like there might be a greater reason I think my choice is better. We all are going to make different choices how what we choose to say and how we say it makes all the difference. On the blog of course that is different then in life since obviously the blog has a specific audience.

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  3. great post, Kate. This has been such a source of frustration for me. In fact, I lost my best friend because of it. She and her husband felt judged by me and my husband due to completely misunderstanding a few comments, and even more, just by the choices my husband and I were making for our family. I am apparently judging people when I make different choices for my life, whether I say anything or not. I don’t feel judged by people making their different choices, so why should they think I am judging them? Sometimes It is a very lonely prospect not living by the status quo. And when I say that, I am not judging people who make more mainstream choices. I just wish there wasn’t such a double standard. My choices for my family have nothing to do with other people’s choices. I just want to say to those people who feel judged by my words or lifestyle, “Don’t flatter yourself. I wasn’t even thinking of you, let alone judging you, when I said that or made that choice!” It stinks that I can’t even talk about the things that I value or care about, that are part of who I am, without someone feeling judged. makes it hard to have anything other than a surface relationship. People need to lighten up and not take everything personally. If you are going to assume, at least assume something positive rather than negative.

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    • I think it likely that those who feel “judged” are really feeling inadequate for not making the choices you have made, or for not having the conviction to make those choices. Few people can really argue against healthy eating or homeschooling and believe that these are not optimal choices for the most part. I think it’s more a matter of people judging themselves, feeling like they come up way short in comparison, and not knowing what to do with it except direct it outward.

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  4. Great post–I get tired of having to explain what I say. I once said in a chat room that we didn’t do Halloween. I got a tirade of lectures about it, and all I meant was that WE choose to not do Halloween.

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  5. I’m made fun or not taken seriously for my choices and then when I’m not looking my child is given treats,sodas,etc that I don’t approve of. It’s been that way since she was a few months old and if I kept her away from the people that do it she would never get to see any of her family. I’ve been told I’m starving her,that she NEEDS sugar and the thing I hear over and over again is “We ate x,y,z and we turned out fine” and “I gave this to you when you were a kid.” . It’s so difficult and sometimes I feel like crying that my own family acts like I’m doing wrong to my one year old daughter by just wanting her to eat organic/natural foods and only drinking milk and water and natural juices.

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    • We deal with the same thing! Now my options are to wait until they seriously injure my kids or be the bad guy who doesn’t let them spend time with family. It’s infuriating!

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  6. About refusing the food offer- wouldn’t a simple “no, thank you” suffice? and if they ask why, then go into how you don’t choose to eat the food? The first is a simple answer to their question; the second goes into your beliefs about the food, which were not directly asked for. Sure, you could share it, but you went over and above the simple offering of food.

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    • Well, if they ask. Sometimes they want to know why not. Or maybe that’s just in my circle of friends, where are LOT of people have allergies or eat real food and it’s discussed all the time.

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    • Maybe it’s MN nice but ‘no thank you’ usually doesn’t get far for me. I have to literally fight my in-laws to keep them from feeding my boys foods they have allergies to. They refuse to change how they act, and tell me I’m depriving my kids. I hate holidays now.

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  7. […] Epiphany. In the midst of this emotional dilemma, I came across this wonderful post from Kate at Modern Alternative […]

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  8. […] we really get started here, let it be known that no judgment is passed on the parents who do let their children “break all the rules” on Halloween or […]

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  9. I really like your post and I connect with it a lot. As someone who is a pretty straight forward person, and someone who has insecurities (which make me guilty of taking things too personally), I just want to say one thing.
    1. Because we live in a world of fallen human beings. A place where most people have been hurt in one way or another. I think I have learned the hard way that it is wise to say it more like (example:)”You know, I’m not against vaccinations, and I’m fine with how you have done it; we have chosen to wait to vaccinate till they are a year old. I’m not saying that the way we do it is the only way”. Go ahead and say a little more to keep peace – unless you don’t value the friendship.
    I’ve seen lots of friendships ruined and strained by straight forward people who aren’t gentle, compassionate, and affirming of others in their responses. I think I have ruined friendships in my own life because of this too.
    Don’t know what you hear when I say this…… I’m sure someone older and wiser than me would have been able to say it better.. 🙂

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  10. Wow, glad I don’t have kids!

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Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

I’m the author of Natural Remedies for Kids and the owner and lead herbalist at EarthleyI hope you’ll join me on the journey to a free and healthy life!

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