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Advice, Parenting

Dear Care and Feeding: My Best Friend Has Turned Into a Mommy Influencer, and It’s Getting Ugly

Is all of this kid “content” just normal now?

9/25/2021 7:47:00 AM

Is all of this kid “content” just normal now?

Parenting advice on kid content, sibling disparagement, and wanting to move.

Dear Care and Feeding,My fiancé and I recently tried to talk to his anti-vax parents about COVID and our wedding. It did not go well. They refused to consider vaccinations, which we expected, but were also offended at the idea of wearing masks. Since then, we’ve changed to asking for a negative test the week of the wedding, which we’re waiting to see if they’ll agree to do.

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The bigger problem is that my future in-laws and my fiancé got mad at each other during that conversation. I’m upset, too, but my feelings feel secondary in all this. This has dug up a lot of old wounds for my fiancé, some of which he’s only just telling me about. Growing up, and even in early adulthood, his parents belittled him, got physical with him, invaded boundaries, and didn’t take his mental health or autism diagnoses seriously. All the COVID stuff is the last straw for him. He’s trying to see a counselor, but in our area, there are not enough openings for him to get in quickly. I won’t say he’s handled everything perfectly, but I also see his family not taking his pain seriously. I’ve tried to challenge him when I see him overreacting, but mostly I’ve been supporting him, telling him that his emotions are valid and he is loved.

AdvertisementAdvertisementI just don’t know where we go from here. His brothers are siding with his family, and I feel like I’m the only one who sees how much pain he’s in. I also greatly feel like this is my fault. I’ve made comments to him over the course of our relationship that I didn’t love how his parents were treating him, and it was my idea to have a conversation with them about COVID in the first place. The wedding is less than two months away, and I feel like I’ve just turned this into Romeo and Juliet. How do I avoid the tragic ending, and really, what’s my role in this anyway?

Advertisement— Coronavirus CrisisDear Coronavirus Crisis,First, this is not your fault at all. You were absolutely right to want to talk to your families about vaccination—you have an obligation to all your guests to ensure that your wedding doesn’t become a super-spreader event. If it helps to know you aren’t alone, I know several people in the same situation, trying to convince parents or other relatives to get vaccinated so they can attend their child’s/family member’s wedding. I don’t think you’re headed for a Shakespearean ending, but I can see why you’re upset! And the truth is, there is not much you can do about this, other than listen to and support your fiancé (which it sounds like you’re already doing). Your feelings and opinions about your in-laws are important, too, but ultimately, it’s his decision as far as what he wants his relationship with them to look like. If they’ve been dismissive of his situation and mentally and physically abusive for years, there may not be much of a relationship to salvage or a reconciliation in sight. That would be hard for all of you, especially with your wedding so soon, but it would not be your fault, either.

AdvertisementAdvertisementFrom what you’ve shared, it sounds like your fiancé has reached his breaking point with his parents, and they may be unable or unwilling to change or do whatever else needs to be done to remain in your lives beyond this wedding. It seems likely that you haven’t so much come between them as you have shown your fiancé another version of what family can be, and what real love and acceptance looks like. Before, perhaps he wouldn’t have felt he had anyone if his parents and/or siblings stopped speaking to him, but now he has you. The adjustment may be hard, but in the end it may well be a

goodthing if he decides he can no longer endure poor treatment from his family. Sometimes you can’t just keep papering over all those old and new hurts, or pretend that everything is okay when it’s not.AdvertisementAdvertisementIn addition to being there for each other, I hope you both get the support you need from others who love you, and from good therapists if you can find them. I’d urge you not to let yourself think of any outcome here as a “tragedy”—you’re not trying to force a separation between him and his parents; it sounds as though their behavior has done that. They can make different choices if they want to be at your wedding, or have a relationship with their son. Continue to listen to your fiancé and validate his feelings, and try to take comfort in the fact that while you cannot solve this problem for him, you’re being as supportive as you can.

AdvertisementDear Care and Feeding,I am a 30-year-old wife and mother to an 18-month-old. I’ve lived in the same area my entire life. I’ve wanted to move for years now—partly to experience something new, partly because I currently live in a super conservative, very hot state. Both my husband and I are progressive and love nature, and our current location is sorely lacking in both respects. Adding in the pandemic and having a young child, I frankly don’t feel safe in a culture dominated by people who deny COVID is an issue and refuse to enforce mask mandates or require vaccines. I’ve also been through quite a few traumatic events in my current area, and I feel constantly reminded of these events as I’m going about my daily life.

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AdvertisementThe problem is that my husband is extremely attached to his immediate family. They live about four hours from us and we see them regularly. I love my in-laws; they are great people, and I want them to be part of our lives. However, the thought of moving further away from them is very distressing to my husband. To him, family is everything, and he feels like if we move away we will never see them. Now with a grandchild in the mix (my son is their first grandchild), it makes it that much more emotional for him. My family is also within a couple hours’ drive, but there is not the same pressure to stay within a certain distance of them—if I announced I was moving tomorrow, they would cheer me on and begin planning their first visit.

AdvertisementAdvertisementAdvertisementI’ve really tried to be sensitive to my husband’s desire for familial closeness over the years. But sometimes I feel like my need to relocate is secondary to his need for regular family contact. A big dream for my life is indefinitely on hold because of this. I love my husband and his family, but I feel very stuck right now in this dynamic. Am I selfish for wanting to move? I want my son to know my husband’s family, but I really hate my current environment. I still think about moving constantly, and my desire to move doesn’t seem to be going away despite my best efforts to talk myself out of it.

— Stuck in TexasAdvertisementDear Stuck,It’s not selfish to want to move, and you have real and valid reasons for wanting to change your current situation. Your husband should be able to at least have the conversation with you. You might discuss it and stay where you are, but you haven’t even really gotten to that point, because it sounds like he’s not willing to entertain the possibility.

I can tell that you understand and care about what he wants (and perhaps he also cares about what you want), but the fact remains that your respective wishes are opposed and ultimately based on completely different concerns. As you aren’t going to be able to single-handedly change any of the problems you’re experiencing where you are, your concerns can only be assuaged by moving to a new environment. Your husband’s concerns can actually be addressed while living elsewhere—

ifthe two of you are truly committed to addressing them. I think you do need to hear and make space for his feelings about moving farther away from his family, because he obviously needs to express those feelings—and it sounds like youhavelistened. But he needs to understand that the conversation cannot always end or get shut down by those emotions: While emotions are valid, they won’t lead you to a resolution in this case.

Read more: Slate »

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