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When girlfriends are bad for you

Every mom needs a friend to confide in, but if yours leaves you feeling down when you actually needed a lift, it may be time to evaluate your friendship.

Are your mom friends positive or poisonous?

Every mom needs a friend to confide in, but if yours leaves you feeling down when you actually needed a lift, it may be time to evaluate your friendship.

We all need girlfriends, but sometimes we have girlfriends we don’t need.

What is a toxic friend?

A toxic mom friend…

  • …takes but rarely gives.
  • …is demanding yet unreliable.
  • …makes you feel worse instead of better about yourself as a woman and a mother.

Friendships among mothers must have balance to work. Toxic mom friendships are not balanced — they are unequal, unsupportive and unsatisfying, which means one person isn’t getting what she needs from the relationship.

We all have a bad day now and then, and that’s when we need our mom friends the most. But toxic moms always seem to be having a bad day and bring a consistently negative vibe — judging your parenting skills or insulting your child — to the relationship.

“I dread calls from my so-called ’best friend,’“ says mother-of-four Pam, “because I know that she will criticize everything that comes out of my mouth… if she lets me talk at all. Usually our conversations are all about her needs. It’s exhausting.”

The toxic hold

Whether you’ve talked with her in person or over the phone, the result is the same: You feel upset, frustrated, or just plain angry! Yet, for some reason, you just can’t cut her loose — no matter how she treats you.

Why do you continue to allow her to make you feel bad? There are a number of reasons:

  • Your friendship goes way back — she’s always been in your life.
  • You’re not bold enough or brave enough to stand up to her.
  • You can’t avoid her unannounced visits and unexpected calls.
  • Your children are friends with her children.
  • You don’t have good friends to take her place. (Or you worry that she doesn’t have good friends to take your place.)

Keep or dump?

When you let a toxic mom friend into your life, you’re allowing yourself to be hurt. How often and how much you permit this are entirely within your control:

Do an honest assessment of your friendship. You can’t fix (or end) a toxic relationship with another mom until you’ve identified it.

Take responsibility. Every time you extend your hand in friendship to the toxic mother, you’re giving her an opportunity to hurt you (or use you or dump on you). Make a serious effort to reduce the amount of time you spend talking to or hanging out with her — even if it means your kids may have to see less of each other.

Keep your guard up. If you decide to keep this person in your life, then you’ll have to protect yourself — and your children. Be willing to say no to her demands or call her out on her criticisms and negativity, but don’t be surprised if she doesn’t get the message.

Spend more time with good friends. Surround yourself with moms who make you feel better — not worse — about yourself. Talk to these positive parents about how to handle your not-so-positive mom friend. After all, isn’t that what friends are for?

End the friendship, if necessary. Breaking up is hard to do, but sometimes it’s necessary. When your toxic friend weighs heavily on you, when it affects the way you deal with others or when it becomes clear that things can never improve, it’s time to sever the relationship.

“Life is hard enough without cluttering your world with toxic friends,” says mom-of-two Janine. “Just say, ‘No!’”

More on friendships

How to break up with a toxic friend
Toxic friends: 5 Warning signs
4 Friends you just don’t need

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