Skip to main content

The question

We have friends we've hung out with since high school. We all got married around the same time and had a bunch of kids all close together. However, our values are going in different directions. They thought we were crazy for having our kids in the hospital, and feel strongly that home birth is the only way to go. They will only eat organic, and consume only raw, unpasteurized milk that they buy right from farmers. I no longer like to ask them over for any type of meals, unless I cheat and go to Whole Foods and then scatter organic labelling everywhere to seem acceptable. God forbid the TV is on when they stop by as it is strictly no screens for their kids, and passing along our hand-me downs is a "no no" because we don't use/can't afford strictly organic material. In a nutshell, our formerly fun, easygoing pals are now "Healthier Than Thou" and getting together is a stressful, no-fun situation, where I don't feel I can be myself any more. Is the only thing holding this relationship together nostalgia? Should we just cut our losses and move on?

The answer

Only you can answer the first question. As for the second, I would say: Don't give up on your friends just yet.

I'm loath to cut ties with anyone unless it's over something huge. Maybe I'm just the clingy type.

But after all, this might just be a phase. Lots of people go through a sanctimommy/sanctidaddy phase early on in their parenting trajectory. Eventually, exhaustion kicks in with its little baby jack-booties, and they drop the raw, locally sourced milk for a scotch on the rocks, as nature intended. ("We don't do pop," a [recovering] sanctimommy said to a friend of mine once, refusing a proffered soda. Now she and her kid guzzle it by the gallon, apparently.)

It's all a blur, but I remember saying to myself (and, unfortunately, to others) before becoming a parent: "When I have kids, I might allow them to watch a certain highly restricted amount of television – but they will never, as God is my witness, play video games."

I weep with laughter, and roll my eyes at the naïveté of the callow youth who uttered these proclamations. Though it's true we have a "no screens Monday to Friday" policy chez nous these days, and I do feel good about that … But mainly, I've got three kids and my own problems! If they are uninjured at the end of the day, I feel like I've accomplished something. "My kids were raised in an atmosphere of benign neglect," I now tell people, "and I only say 'benign' to make it sound good."

Of course, there's an entire sanctiparenting subculture out there supporting your friends' obnoxious, hoity-toity behaviour. In my theory, it's because we haven't been involved in a world war for a while. Drop a couple of bombs on us, start rationing gas and chocolate, have some sterno-heated Spam for dinner (if you're lucky!), and people will very quickly start being less precious about what type of cotton a shirt's made from.

Anyway, I do think you should cut your friends a little slack. Think of them like people who just quit smoking, or found religion. They want to proselytize, baby! I'm sure you can find a friendly way to curb and curtail some of their more egregious excesses.

Like, I'm reading between the lines here a little, but it sounds like they come to your house and criticize – or refuse! – the dinner you offer them because it does not conform to their lofty standards?

Nix to that. That transgresses ancient, tribal law. You come into my tent and turn up your self-righteous, pompous proboscis at the food I have prepared for you? You need to bring a big old clown shoe down on that type of behaviour immediately. If they don't like it, they don't have to eat it.

And their position on hand-me-downs is absurd. Hand-me-downs equal thrift – which is better for the environment. Actually, don't even get me started on that one, I'm seeing red.

The screen thing falls in a bit more of a grey area, IMHO. Maybe all things considered your kids could turn off the TV when their no-screen friends come over.

But in general I'd say every time your friends get preachy or try to boss you around, firmly but gently push back. Just shrug and say something like: "To each his own." Or: "Well, works for us." Eventually, they should get the hint.

If not – if they continue to be all high and mighty – well, then you have my permission to drop your superior, self-satisfied friends like a locally sourced, organically farmed hot potato.

What am I supposed to do now?

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.