Ask Scary Mommy: Grandma Keeps Guilt-Tripping Us About Social Distancing
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 get firm with Grandma when it comes to social distancing? How do you tell her visits are totally off-limits no matter what she sees other grandparents doing? Have your own questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Scary Mommy,
My mother is one of those “this is no worse than the flu” people when it comes to the coronavirus and social distancing. She’s not a conspiracy theorist kook, but she definitely thinks because she’s been self-isolating and my family has been self-isolating that visiting us and the kids is no big deal. I believe in science and public health experts and I know that for social distancing to work properly, you can’t hang out with people you don’t live with. So many people are being a little too lax about this, which my mom sees on social media. She’s constantly guilt-tripping me about missing my kids and getting snippy with me for not letting her see my three kids. We tried to FaceTime a few times to keep everyone’s spirits up, and she started bawling and said “it’s not the same.” And yes, she’s right — it’s not. But it’s not supposed to be! It’s hard but it works. I don’t care what her friend Pauline is doing with her grandkids for Easter, she’s not seeing my children until it’s safe. How do I tell her this without causing a rift in our family’s relationship?
I’m sorry your mother is putting even more stress on you during an already stressful time. What Grandma needs to realize is that none of this is about her personally. Or about her at all, really. What we’re doing by practicing social distancing and self-isolation is honoring our part of the collective social contract we have with one another as a society for the greater good of everyone.
It sounds like you’re doing everything right: You’re self-isolating with your family, you’re not letting people you don’t live with come into contact with your family, and you understand that exposure to this relentless virus can occur anywhere we go, even if we’re only going to the grocery store. You can feel good about that.
Grandma, on the other hand, isn’t getting it.
Social media is allowing us glimpses into how everyone is handling this time, and, predictably, many people aren’t following the protocol or guidelines as well as they’re able to. When things are inconvenient for us — like not visiting our family members — we tend to bend facts to fit our feelings. “Well, we’re quarantining and you’re quarantining so what’s the big deal?” seems to be the mantra of everyone who got together for Easter and had a complete lack of self-awareness in posting those pictures (Pauline, goddamn you). What these people don’t want to realize is that if Grandma Pauline went to pick up groceries two days ago, Grandma Pauline’s grandkids and everyone at her Easter table is now exposed to everyone she came within six feet of at that grocery store and every other place she’s been in the past two weeks.
If your mom is guilt-tripping you this heavily about visits, she likely doesn’t believe the data that shows us the above scenario is accurate. Or she doesn’t care. Either way, it’s not good. Don’t waste your energy trying to get her to see why you’re not the bad guy here. Instead, I’d tell her during our next phone call that if she doesn’t cut the self-flagellation crap and get it together enough to have a functional FaceTime conversation with her grandkids who love her and want to see her, she can wait until a vaccine and herd immunity have eradicated the virus completely before she sees them again. Send her some snail mail handmade cards and letters to make her smile — hopefully she comes around.
And her friend Pauline can kick rocks for putting her own grandkids at risk.
Have your own questions? Email email@example.com