Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.
This week… What to do when you are expecting a baby but your friends or family members do not abide by basic COVID-19 safety guidelines? Have your own questions? Email [email protected]
Dear Scary Mommy,
I’m going to have my first baby in January, and my in-laws are anti-vaxxers and do not adhere to COVID-19 guidelines. We have asked all grandparents to get a flu shot and a whooping cough booster before visiting the baby, as well as wear a mask at all times. My parents and step-parents all agreed with no issue. His parents have refused the shots. They also do not practice social-distancing and only wear masks when legally required (stores) but not to birthday parties, church groups or potlucks. My husband is frustrated and really sad, but thinks they are too high-risk to be near the baby. This situation really sucks. What would you do here?
Damn. This sounds like a seriously stressful situation for you to be in. You are expecting a new baby during a pandemic, and that has got to be hard enough. But to have close family members who are not in line with the safety precautions that you feel comfortable with? That’s got to be an awful feeling. And it’s totally unfair for you to have to be in this position right now.
First of all, let’s get down to basics. You. Have. Every. Right. To. Feel. This. Way. After all, we are living in a freaking global pandemic. Although babies and young children are usually spared from the worst effects of COVID-19, there are no guarantees here. Children—and even babies—have died of COVID. We don’t know the long-term effects of the virus on children yet either. We do know that newborns have less developed immune systems than older children, and are more vulnerable to many viruses and diseases. Recent research suggests that children under the age of two are more likely to require hospital care if they become sick with COVID.
But besides your baby, there’s you and your husband. Yes, you aren’t elderly, but all adults are vulnerable to the devastating effects of the virus. You didn’t mention any comorbidities you have, but many of us—even healthy, able adults—live with pre-existing conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and weakened immune systems.
The idea that you’d want to protect yourself from COVID-19—especially as you perform the demanding job of caring from a newborn—is the most freaking rational request I’ve ever heard.
So now that we’ve established that you are totally in the right here, let’s talk about what you should do about your in-laws. Navigating situations like this can feel super-icky. Your in-laws clearly view COVID-19 safety measures completely differently than you. It sounds like they put themselves at risk of contracting the virus pretty regularly. Attending large gatherings like church groups and potlucks are pretty high risk to begin with, but refusing to wear a mask while doing so? BAD IDEA.
So the probability of them coming over and infecting you and your family is, unfortunately, high. But obviously, they love you and your husband and want to see their grandchild. This puts you in the position of having to be the “bad guy,” and no one wants that job.
Thankfully, it sounds like your husband is on your side here. This is so helpful, because if you and he were not on the same page, things could get super prickly. So I think you know your answer here. You will need to stand your ground and tell them that they can’t see the baby in person without strictly quarantining for a few weeks and/or practicing strict social distancing and mask wearing. They should also comply with your request to get a flu shot and a whooping cough booster. Those are very reasonable requests.
After you’ve outlined your boundaries, you will just have to sit back and wait for their reaction. It might not be pretty, but this about your baby and your family, and you need to do what you need to do to protect yourself right now.
You can give them other options, such as Zooming, or maybe getting to see your baby outside, with masks, and with hella social distancing. But you are under no obligation to satisfy their whims if they can’t do the decent thing and listen to your (very reasonable) request right now.