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I got into an overblown mommy war with a pal. How do I protect our mutual friends from the fallout?

The question

A close friend and I got pregnant at the exact same time. In the ensuing months, she tended to dominate our conversations with all that she had read and learned about babies and giving advice about child-rearing choices. Not only was it information overload but I wanted to figure things out for myself and get advice from people I selected (my mother, friends and family). When she found out that I had said "new moms are annoying," (I didn't think this was offensive since I was also a new mom) our conversations became combative. As we could both feel the tension, we e-mailed each other. I apologized but said I was just overwhelmed and asked if we could be friends like before without so much baby talk. She spewed back an e-mail saying maybe we can be friends when our kids are 18 and asked that I not e-mail her again. Perhaps we aren't meant to be pals but here is the issue: We are in the same group of friends. Our husbands are close as are our mutual friends. No one is picking any sides – they see it as an overblown mommy war. I thought I had put it behind me but now she has accused some of our friends of taking sides. Now, they are afraid of offending her if she finds out they're spending time with me. What could I have done differently?

The answer

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Mom-fight! I'm not getting in the middle of one of those! I could lose an eye! (I kid – but I want to say this: In nature, the only thing scarier than an adult bear loping towards you is a baby bear gambolling in your direction. Happened to me once. I was frightened out of my boots! I knew mom wouldn't be far away, and she'd be coming to all kinds of conclusions about me being in the vicinity of her cub. I got in the car and blasted out of there.)

On to your problem. I agree with you: New moms can be annoying – new dads, too – especially if they instantly turn into "sancti-mommies" and "sancti-daddies," getting all prescriptive about other people's "parenting choices," saying stuff like "We don't do pop" (actual quote from a sancti-mommy friend of a friend) when you offer them a soft drink and so forth.

Even if they're not pontificating about parenthood, I do think it's possible even in the most genial way to speak too much about your baby, and all the talk of strollers and which organic baby goo is best and what it looks like when it shows up in your baby's diaper can get tired fast.

Infuriating, even. I remember a friend of mine went away for a weekend with some new moms (and dads, I think) and by the end wanted to rip off his head and throw it out the window.

But here's the thing. You have to have show compassion, empathy and patience when it comes to people with fresh-minted offspring. People who have new babies, like people in the midst of renovations, become so consumed by the project at hand they can't think about anything else, thus can't talk about anything else.

(Me, I never talk about any renovations I might have under way, or my kids, unless I have something really witty and pithy to say – but not everyone has my discipline.)

I think you should just grin and bear it, for now. I mean, you're not having much success telling her to talk less about her baby. You're just ruffling her feathers. Is it such a hardship to smile and nod and act interested?

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(Oooh, idea: get a pair of Google glasses, check your e-mails while she's talking.)

The other thing – and I only say this because of the way you framed your question ("What could I have done differently?") and because I've run afoul of this myself so many times – is: It's best, I've found, not to attempt to resolve arguments or convey anger or hurt via e-mail.

I don't know why. Maybe Marshall McLuhan could have explained it. But something about the medium seems to encourage flare-ups, distortion, posturing and friendship termination.

So if this is a friendship you want to hang on to, why not reach out to her in a friendly way, try to bury the hatchet. Face to face is best, ideally over a glass of chardonnay (now that you two can drink again!), and in a spirit of mutual empathy.

Life is (ideally) long, and, let's hope, so will your friendship be. What's a couple of years spent smiling and nodding and listening to your friend talk about the interesting configuration she found in little junior's diaper the other day? It'll pass, and your patience will pay off in the end.

What am I supposed to do now?

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