I'm 'That Mom' And Here's What I'm Going To Ask Before We Hang Out

by Megan Benoit Ratcliff
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Yes, I am “that” mom. The one who asks about guns, pets, and people in the home before agreeing to let my child come over for a playdate. And now I am asking new-to-me families where they stand on Covid-19 precautions.

To be clear, this isn’t a dog whistle, political screening question to ensure our yard signs match come election time. This is a public health issue. Anyone who thinks otherwise, well, you just told me all I need to know.

I believe in science and am a proponent of public health. I also believe that people should be able to make whatever decisions they need to for their families as long as no one is harmed in the process. Believe what you want, do what you want…


The right to choose is not a full access hall pass. The right to choose comes with parameters. If this, then that. It’s an age-old truism.

Working in healthcare, the expectation is that employees will receive an annual flu vaccination. In one unnamed healthcare setting, I could choose to wear a mask if I did not feel inclined to get vaccinated. In another unnamed healthcare setting I was told I could kindly find my way to the door unless I had a small-print religious exemption for not getting vaccinated. The choice was mine, the parameters were clear.

Likewise, we all have a choice right now when it come to the pandemic. Like seat belt laws, measles/mumps/rubella vaccination requirements for kindergarten, and bans on smoking in public places, mask and vaccine requirements are public health interventions implemented in an attempt to limit the spread of a deadly virus that has already claimed over 649,867 American lives. People are going to feel imposed upon and disagree with the data, the rationale, and the conspiracy-theory-of-the-day. But ultimately what it comes down to is this: if you want to play the game, you have to pay the entry fee.

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It’s kind of like a corporate dress code: you can dislike it all you want but your opinion doesn’t matter to HR. I would wear jeans and Tevas to work every day if I could, but I choose employment over wardrobe.

When it comes to playdates (or hangouts as my tween prefers to call them), I am going to ask some questions. How many people are going to be there? A group of six girls, known to live life in close-enough-to-touch proximity, getting together for an indoor gathering where bowls of snacks and countless hugs will be shared? No, thanks. I never thought chicken pox parties were a good idea; having a party while the Delta variant is surging seems a one-off iteration. Perhaps if the playdate was outdoors, if it was only one friend, if the parents proactively mentioned masking, or if a negative covid test was required at the door (purposefully exaggerated for literary purposes but I am sure someone somewhere is doing it) I might think differently.

Truth be told, I did think differently earlier in the summer. We unmasked briefly in June when it looked like infection rate were decreasing but we resumed mask wearing shortly thereafter as rates skyrocketed.

Our family has not been living in a bubble. Both my husband and I continued going into our respective hospital and outpatient clinic throughout the pandemic. We chose face-to-face schooling as soon as it was an option and kept our kids engaged in their competitive sports as soon as the ice rink and gym were reopened. We are out in the world, but choosing to do so as safely as possible. My husband, son, and I are vaccinated; I am counting down the days until my youngest is eligible. Until then, we do what we can.

No, vaccines aren’t perfect. But the data is clear that for most people any side effects associated with the vaccine are significantly less dangerous than developing Covid-19. The Delta variant is more contagious and affecting our kids at much higher rates than when the pandemic first started. If I can protect my kids from death or badness such as Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), why wouldn’t I? Masks aren’t perfect either; respiratory viral particulate size, filtration capacity of different masks (based on design, fit, and material) and adherence (including wearing masks correctly and consistently) are all factors to consider. But isn’t some protection, even if imperfect, better than nothing at all?

So please don’t be offended if I ask about masks or vaccine status. Or do, that’s your prerogative. What you think about my questions matters less to me than my kids’ health and safety.