“Weight gain is the thing no one wants to talk about," says a Circle of Moms member named Brittany. If you've ever tried to broach that subject with a friend, hoping for her support or maybe just her ear, and were confronted with an inappropriate or insensitive response, you know exactly what she's talking about. There are thorny or deeply personal family experiences that are hard to share even with close friends, and Circle of Moms members say that breaking these conversational taboos can introduce awkwardness into a relationship rather than seal its closeness.
Other than concerns about your body, what are these touchy subjects? Here moms suggest four more personal dilemmas and challenges that are hard to share with friends, plus some suggestions on how to be a good friend when someone does broach an uncomfortable subject.
1. Your Children's Accomplishments
We moms are proud of our children's accomplishments, and rightfully so. But several members suggest staying clear of the subject with other moms. There are so many unforeseeable landmines — for instance, you may not be aware that a friend's child was left sitting on the bench during the football game while your son scored a touchdown. Dianne I. adds that talking about your children's accomplishments "often comes across as obnoxious or competitive," and is always careful not to unless specifically asked.
Becky F. agrees: "Yeah, every mother thinks their child is the cutest, smartest child in the whole wide world, but when you go on and on about it and get quite insistent about it, it gets annoying."
2. Family Finances
Many Circle of Moms members feel that anything related to family finances is way too private to share with friends. Jennifer M., for one, finds it rude when friends ask about money, as they did when her husband made a life change:
"A few friends found out my husband is going to a university next September and the first thing they asked was, 'Will you have enough money though, as you're not working?' I was like Yes, and anyways it's none of your business."
3. A Cheating Spouse
Though most of us assume that telling a friend about her spouse's cheating is the right thing to do, some warn that this can backfire in the worst way. Tau D., who has broken this particular kind of bad news to a close friend, says, "It seems like a no brainer, right? I told my best friend her boyfriend was cheating on her, she called him, they had it out and broke up. She called me back and told me I was the reason she didn't have a man. So I, being hurt, informed her that if he was cheating, then she didn't have a man when she thought she did. It strained our relationship."
What to Say When You Don't Know What to Say
Sharon B. warns that many moms who have lost a baby often have tremendous difficulty getting support from friends. This situation, as difficult as it can be to talk about, offers some ideas for how to react to a friend whose news leaves you speechless.
As a friend, she advises, you should not feel compelled to comment. In fact, the best thing you can do is to just be present: “When the grieving mom or family wonders aloud why this happened, they’re not actually asking for your help in finding a reason,” she explains. “In reality, they are expressing their bewilderment and sorrow that such a happy thing has gone so wrong.” She suggests friends tread lightly on sensitive subjects. “Don’t try to make them feel better,” she says.
Rosemary A., another mom who has been through miscarriage, agrees, explaining that it meant a lot to her when a friend or acquaintance allowed her simply to "talk, cry or whatever I needed to do and loved me anyway." She found solace in hugs and simple words of kindness, such as:
'I can't say I know how you feel, but this must be very hard.'
'I don't know what to say but I want you to know how sorry I am.'"
What subjects do you find difficult to discuss with friends?
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