You Don't Have to Parent the Same Way to Stay Friends — Trust Me, I Know Firsthand

It's an unfortunate truth: Sometimes different parenting styles can hinder friendships. It's happened to me, and I hate it. Yes, all parents choose to guide and discipline their children in their own way, as they should. And from what I've experienced, most parents do a fine job of respecting their friends' choices and accepting their friends' parenting style. But just because two friends don't judge each other's every decision, doesn't mean that their parenting styles don't clash.

One of my longest and closest friendships is one that I intend on maintaining — despite our parenting differences. I'm a routine- and schedule-follower with my children; my kids eat, sleep, and wake up around the same time every day. I'm a little scatter-brained by nature, so the order eases my mind tremendously. I also think my kids appreciate knowing what to expect out of their day. My friend, on the other hand, is as free-spirited as they come, the complete opposite of me.

Her children nap on occasion, eat on the go, and don't have strict bedtimes. They travel on a whim and have daily adventures. To each their own — really, I believe that. If that lifestyle is cool with her and her kids, then it's cool with me. There are even times when I'm envious of her take-it-as-it-comes approach to parenting. But all in all, I know in my heart that it just wouldn't work in our house. I'd most definitely go crazy and I'm sure my kids would, too. Despite the fact that we take such wildly different approaches to parenting, we more than respect each other. However, that doesn't mean that it's easy to stay friends.

I'm sure she gets frustrated with me because we always have to plan our play dates around my kids' nap and bedtime schedules. I mean, I'm pretty strict (and I recognize that). And I'll admit that sometimes I get frustrated, too. Like when we have a sleepover with all of the kids so we can spend time together, it can take her hours to get her children to sleep because they're just not used to bedtime routines. I'm left sipping wine alone instead of chatting with my best friend because she's got to get her little ones settled. But while I'm sure the both of us feel frustrated at times, we are always, always, there for each other in our parenting woes — and everything else in life.

We always make an effort to respect how the other chooses to parent. And instead of confronting each other over small annoyances or slights, we just squash it and move on. The days will come soon enough when all of the kids are older and I'll be able to loosen up on the whole sleep regimen thing. Yes, the older they become, the tougher their problems will become, and my friend and I will need each other more than ever. We'll look back on days like today when the kids were little and be grateful we accepted each other through it all. And maybe by then her free spirit will have rubbed off on me a little, too.