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: When you’re the only mom in you know not allowing indoor playdates, how do you handle it? What do you say to your kids? Have your own questions? Email email@example.com
Dear Scary Mommy,
I’m the only mom in my group of mom friends/acquaintances who isn’t cool with indoor playdates right now. You know, because we’re in the middle of a pandemic, cannot account for who everyone is around or exposed to, and numbers are skyrocketing everywhere. But it’s causing a lot of tension with my mom friends, who clearly feel defensive and think I’m just being judgemental. My daughter also doesn’t understand why she can’t have sleepovers or playdates at her friends’ houses right now, and we live in the type of neighborhood where she can see fellow friends and classmates of hers going to and from one another’s house. I’m trying to keep my cool and explain my decisions, but it’s hard AF and I hate confrontation.
Yep. This has been quite a year for shifting relationship dynamics. Before I get into actually dispensing advice, please know this: if anyone is more upset about the precautions you’re taking to keep your family safe during a global pandemic that has robbed millions of people of their lives than they are about the global pandemic that has robbed millions of people of their lives, you do not need this person in your life.
You are not a scapegoat for your friends’ unwillingness to alter their lives. You are not a scapegoat for your friends’ selfishness. You are not a scapegoat for their guilt and subsequent defensiveness. You are not the bad guy because you’re doing things that will, in ways big and small, keep your family safe as well as others.
Risk mitigation and critical thinking are two very large, very nuanced, very important things that can see us through this pandemic until there is a vaccine that a majority of people are willing to get. Summertime playdates outside riding bikes when the national case numbers were far lower is a very different thing than an indoor playdate inside someone’s home, presumably maskless and without ventilation when case numbers are off-the-charts and hospitals are running low on available beds and frontline workers are begging us to avoid gathering. Being able to discern between these two scenarios takes a certain level of critical thinking. Realizing that one of these scenarios could be far, far more dangerous than the other scenario is mitigating risk.
You are not being judgemental. You are being a good mom. That’s not to say your friends are bad moms; but they are engaging in behaviors that are inarguably risky and could potentially put many people in danger of being exposed to COVID-19. You can love your children and be a selfish parent. You can love your children and still put them at risk.
You are choosing to love your children, protect them as best you can with the knowledge and resources available to you, and show that love and protection by telling them “no.” Watching your child see other children playing, touching, going to school, and carrying on as if nothing is happening is heartbreaking. Being the mom who says “no, that’s not safe right now” while Sally and Timmy go off and do that very thing you just said “no” to sucks. It suuuuuuucks. But by doing it, you’re teaching them to care about their lives, their family, and their community.
I’ve said it in this very column more than once and I say it in my own daily life until I’m blue in the face: It’s not personal; it’s a pandemic. Living responsibly right now is not “living in fear.” You might piss some people off in the process, but if they’re getting mad at you for being cautious, you can tell them that you don’t believe there is such a thing as “overly cautious” during a pandemic. How they choose to interpret that or treat you because of it is on them.
Indoor playdates are not a good idea right now. They won’t be a good idea for a long time. I’m sorry your friends are projecting their own guilt onto you. Maybe it’s time to find some new ones.