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Ask Scary Mommy: My Mom Is Making Bad Choices—And I Feel Like Her Parent Now

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My Mom Is Making Risky Decisions, And I Feel Like The Parent
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Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s new 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… How do you handle it when your parent wants to put themselves at risk, and there’s nothing you can do? Have your own questions? Email advice@scarymommy.com

Dear Scary Mommy,

Help! I feel like my mother and I have entirely switched roles and I’m the parent … and I don’t like it. My mom is in her mid-60s and absolutely dead set on going on a beach vacation with a few of her closest friends. If we weren’t in the middle of a deadly pandemic it would be okay, but hello, we ARE in the middle of a deadly pandemic and she’s in a vulnerable age group. You’d think that would be reason enough to postpone the vacation, but my mom isn’t using any common sense at all. She seems to understand the severity of her COVID risk but has taken on a really casual, “you only live once” kind of attitude about it. She’s flying there, and I worry about that. She says she’ll be fine because the beach is outside, but beaches are crowded, and I know they’ll be in restaurants and bars and gift shops all the time. I have argued with her about it so much and it’s like talking to a brick wall. She’s a grown-ass woman so I can’t make her stay home, but I’m really frustrated with her.

Isn’t it weird when parents flip the script? Suddenly you’re the one worried sick for their wellbeing, and wondering if it’s some sort of payback for all the risky shit you pulled in your younger days. But you summed it up so well in your last sentence: She’s a grown-ass woman.

I know that doesn’t make you feel any better, but until she gets to a point where you’re making care decisions on her behalf, she gets to make her own choices — whether you agree with them or not. And there’s literally nothing you can do about that, as maddening as it may be.

But what you can do is this: make sure she’s prepared. Send her with a hefty supply of masks and sanitizer. Remind her to follow social distancing protocols as often as she possibly can, and to opt out of situations that seem too risky (like people piled nearly on top of each other in bars). Make sure her house is stocked up with disinfecting essentials for when she comes home, so she can wipe down her suitcase and anything else she brings in. Tell her that she should voluntarily self-quarantine for two weeks upon her return, to minimize the risk to others — and then make sure she has an adequate supply of groceries and necessities so she doesn’t have to go out.

Obviously, convincing her not to go would be the best thing. But your mom seems firm in her decision, and all you can do at this point is provide her with the tools and knowledge to vacation as safely as possible. And then you have to accept that she’s going, which is the hardest part of all. Just know that you’ve done everything within your power to keep her safe, and — like she has probably done with you so many times — trust her to make the best decisions she can.

Have your own questions? Email advice@scarymommy.com

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