You’ve been BFFs for years – since school, college, or maybe your first job. Even when the babies came along, you didn’t see why anything should change – you’d carry on as before, just with little ones in tow. The problem is, you really don’t like your friend’s kids.
It’s not an uncommon situation, so don’t feel bad. We don’t get on with everyone we meet, and there’s no law that says just because you love the parents you should feel the same about their offspring.
You need to be careful how you handle it, though – because a hint of your true feelings could end that cherished friendship quicker than you can say ‘Where are the baby wipes?’ It really won’t matter how many times you’ve rushed to the rescue with a bottle of cheap wine or belted out ‘I Will Survive’ together on the karaoke after yet another heartbreak.
So, with that in mind, here are a few strategies you can try to make sure your friendship endures the childhood years.
Ask yourself ‘why?’
Is it that you genuinely don’t like your friend’s child, or is it just that they’re different from your own? Perhaps they’re noisier than you’re used to, or you feel they boss your child about. Maybe they’re not as careful with toys or with your belongings when they visit.
Have they done anything specific that’s set you against them – broken or lost something from your home? We’re more tolerant of our own children’s accidents, but it can be harder to forgive and forget when it comes to other people’s.
Bite your tongue
It could be the child’s behaviour you find so irritating – perhaps they interrupt constantly while you’re trying to have an adult conversation. The problem is, if your friend doesn’t intervene there’s not much you can do – parenting someone else’s child is a definite no-no.
If this is the case, the best you could do would be to initiate a conversation about parenting techniques, swap tips and hope some of yours sink in.
Arrange to see her without the kids in tow
Start suggesting girls’ lunches or grown-up nights out. If you invite them for dinner, get your own kids to bed early or arrange a sleepover elsewhere and tell them it’s adults-only. It may take time to change things if you usually see each other as a family group, but persevere.
If she questions the new arrangement, say something like: “I just thought we have so little time to catch up these days, I want to enjoy spending time with you properly rather than us both having to keep an eye on the kids.”
Introduce a third party
It’s inevitable that sometimes you will have to spend time with your friend’s kids, but if you can introduce a few more into the mix it can make these occasions more bearable. You’ll be less aware of your friend’s child in a group, and you might find they don’t irritate you as much when they’re with others.
Your friend might assume that, because you’re such good friends, your kids will be too. You might find yourself under pressure to have her child round at your home for a playdate – or even a sleepover.
Try to distract her by suggesting you plan something for the grownups instead, or get her to suggest a date first and then say that doesn’t work for your schedule. (Of course, your child may love spending time with her children and want them to come over; we’d still advise avoiding this where possible, but sometimes you might just have to grit your teeth and pour yourself a large gin & tonic.)
If she asks you, tell the truth (gently)
There’s always the chance she’ll realise something is wrong and confront you with it. Your best bet in this case is to be honest – but keep it simple and kind. Make sure she knows her friendship is important to you, and that you want it to continue.
Try something like: “You mean the world to me, but I find it difficult when your children are with us as I don’t feel they respect my boundaries – I find it hard when they keep interrupting our conversation or want you to go and play with them.” This tells her how you feel without laying all the blame on her kids.
- How Temperament Influences Your Parenting Style
- ‘Our Kids Seem To Hate Each Other’ – Why It’s Good For Siblings To Fight