Becoming a mother for the first time can leave you lonely and vulnerable. It might even make you question what you still have in common with your single BFFs (who wouldn't know a bassinet from a basset hound). Naturally, it can be extremely helpful to expand your circle and add some other new moms to the mix. But before you get sucked into friendships that will do more harm than good, make sure to familiarize yourself with some of the energy-draining, stress-producing sharks that commonly infest the playgroup waters:
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"You know why you shouldn't use that kind of diaper, right?" "I can't believe you let her sleep that way!" Ah-the attack of the Sanctimommy. Her way is the only right way, and she's not about to let you believe otherwise. She gives her unsolicited and self-righteous opinion on everything-and we mean everything-from burping to co-sleeping to whether or not you should eat that chocolate (you're nursing!). Hey, advice is what we look for from others in the same frazzled, wobbly new-parent boat-it's often a lifeline that solidifies new friendships. But when that advice is domineering, condescending, and constantly makes it seem like we're the baby ourselves? We'll pass, thank you.The Passive-Aggressor
Sometimes, the judgment is a little more subtle, but no less annoying. Often overly competitive and insecure, the Passive-Aggressor wants to turn everything into a race for Best Mommy, but tries desperately to hide her motives. The questions she asks feel intrusive, not supportive, and she seems to bring up other moms in ways that undercut them. Nothing is what it seems with her; a simple "So, are you going back to work?" feels loaded with land mines. Let's face it: you don't need the stress. The next time she says, "I don't know how you manage with so little space" or "I could never deal with a husband like that," do yourself a favor and withdraw from the competition.
The beauty of friendships in rocky times (and yes, you haven't slept-or brushed your teeth-since Tuesday; this qualifies!)-is that you can lean on each other for support. But the Drainer takes up way more than her fair share, and she risks bringing you down-way down. She rarely asks you how you are, and when she does, she gives you about a nanosecond before launching into her latest hardship. She's already borrowed half the baby gear you own, and you're starting to feel like you should be clocking in and out, and getting a paycheck, for each of her frantic phone calls. Save your tender loving care for your baby-- and the people in your life who are capable of returning the favor.Little Ms. Sunshine
Having an optimistic cheerleader to remind you how sweet your baby looks when she's finally asleep, or to show that it really is possible to squeeze in a shower, can be worth its weight in gold. But a good friend also lets you vent about your frustrations and your confusion, and doesn't make you feel like a slob if you happen to be wearing the same pants since Thursday. Life with a newborn isn't always a bed of roses, a fact that Little Ms. Sunshine-who constantly waxes poetic about how perfect everything is-- seems incapable of admitting, to herself or to you. The next time she just stares at you blankly when you mention how stressed you've been feeling, or chirpily shows off her latest pedicure when your top is a collage of spit-up, remember: putting on a front does no one any favors.
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Andrea (Gaynor) Bonior is a licensed clinical psychologist, professor, and writer. For more than five years, Dr. Bonior has written the twice-weekly mental health column "Baggage Check" for the Washington Post's Express newspaper, known for its wit and frequent pop culture references. She's frequently cited in other media, with her expertise most recently appearing on CNN.com, MSNBC.com, Yahoo!, and Voice of America, and she makes regular appearances on Washington, DC's "Let's Talk Live." Her first book, "The Friendship Fix: The Complete Guide to Choosing, Losing, and Keeping Up With Your Friends" (Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's), is due out this Winter. In addition to serving on the adjunct faculty of Georgetown University, she maintains a private clinical psychology practice. Dr. Bonior received her B.A. from Yale University with distinction in psychology, and an additional major in American Studies. She completed her M.A. and Ph.D. in clinical psychology at American University, with a post-doctoral fellowship at George Washington University. She lives outside of Washington, DC, with her husband and three children. Her personal website is www.drandreabonior.com. Follow Dr. Bonior on Twitter: twitter.com/DrAndreaBonior.
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