hey jude. hope you are well.
im sure you are aware how crazy the past couple years have been with the pandemic and have heard about how some people think it’s no big deal and others take appropriate precautions while believing in what’s happening. i know everyone is free to believe and think what they want in their own lives, and that has nothing to do with me and that’s fine for them. but how do you deal with it when it does affect you and is in your life? myself, my boyfriend, my parents and other family members have all taken precautions during covid and got vaccinated when it was their time to do so, with the thoughts of their own health and others in mind. but my partners mother and a few of my cousins and friends are all very anti-vax and believe that the vaccine is poison and that it’s worse than covid and that covid is only the flu and tells us that we’re gonna die soon because we are vaccinated. they believe all different conspiracies about covid, the government and vaccines in light of recent times and try to push it onto us and others around them. my partners mother has a 3 year old child and has even considered now home schooling her child and keeping him home because she does not want the child or herself ever being vaccinated. we also live 17 hours away from her and haven’t been able to see her all year, and she can’t travel to us because there are vaccine mandates for travel, even that doesn’t change her mind. this is concerning to me as i feel that eventually everyone will come into contact with covid one day and it’s not fair on a child who has no say. she also doesnt have much of an education herself which is no fault of her own but now wants to teach her son and is extremely religious to the point of not even letting her child celebrate christmas. she also is very anti social and doesn’t work or go out much. it’s her child and her choices, i understand that. but there’s a part of me that can’t help but feel kind of angry and sad for the sake of the kids future learning and not being able to make friends and have social skills. also the fine line of this being a public health problem and you kind of need everyone to be on a similar page to deal with it and protect others. i haven’t said anything to my partner about this as i feel it’s not my place and i can’t do anything about it, unless it’s anonymous. but how can i deal with this in my life and how i approach and feel about this? they are obviously going to be in my life and i’m going to hear about it and be around it, so what’s the best way for me to deal with this for my own mental health? and same for the others in my life with different beliefs as me, when they start going on about conspiracies do i just only talk about my own experiences with covid and the vaccine (as in i was fine having it) and then change the subject? do i say nothing? do i ignore it? i’ve even thought about future scenarios where what if i get pregnant one day and she wants to meet her newborn grandchild but refuses to get vaccinated. what do i even do in these situations? what are your thoughts? thank you so much
My sincere apologies for the delay! One of our quality control manager is consumed with the rigours of her university curriculum, so I hope to hire more managers alongside her:
The good thing about being an adult is that you get to establish your own boundaries and make your own choices. What I see here is someone who understands the need to respect others’ choices, but also understands that choices have consequences, some of which can affect other people. This is important because a LOT of people do not seem to understand that they should be mindful of how their behavior may affect others.
The thing to remember is that it’s fine to disagree with other people’s parenting choices, but you do not ultimately have control over that child. It’s the parents’ responsibility to properly care for and raise their children. Another point that will help add some perspective is that most parents genuinely want what’s best for their children and are very protective of them. They make choices that may not make sense to others, but they honestly believe it’s in the best interest of the children. Can they be flat-out wrong once in a while? Yes, of course! I have a feeling that’s what’s happening here.
One more note about the kid: you can keep your eyes and ears open for anything that Child Protective Services (or the equivalent) would want to know about. If you suspect mom is abusing or neglecting the child in any way, you can absolutely report it! They would rather you say something and start a paper trail (at minimum) than do nothing and the kid winds up hurt or worse. For example, if the kid winds up seriously deathly ill and mom stops taking the child to the doctor or hospital altogether, you can call CPS and get that kid medical attention.
I see in your post that your partner’s mom and family are a lot to handle. Use that 17-hour distance to your advantage! You are allowed to limit the time you spend with these folks or not spend time with them altogether. You can simply maintain cordial relationships if that’s what allows you to avoid the toxicity. You are allowed to protect yourself from toxic or draining people.
I do suggest getting on board with your partner about all this, though. It’s okay for you to talk to them about this and tell them that her behavior concerns you because you worry about the effect it could have on you and your future decisions. After all, assuming the mom raised them, your partner should know their mom’s antics better than anyone else, and thus should be on board with minimizing her influence. You never know until you ask.
Setting boundaries now will allow you to set more in the future. Say she starts in on some COVID conspiracy; you can change the subject, tell her you don’t want to talk about it, etc. and if she keeps going on about it, tell her that you’ll end the call/stop responding if she doesn’t stop. If she goes on, do what you said you’d do. Lay down a boundary and defend it. If you practice with small potatoes like this, you’ll be better equipped to lay down and defend larger ones later.
Furthermore, you do not need to justify your boundaries. You can just say you don’t feel comfortable talking about x subject and that’s it. If she tries butting in to a decision that’s not hers to make, tell her you appreciate her input, but you and partner will decide for yourselves. If she makes infantilizing remarks or whines, tell her that you’re both adults and thus she did a great job raising your partner to be so independent.
Speaking of parenting, I do have some reading recommendations for your partner:
When I Say No, I Feel Guilty by Manuel J. Smith
Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson, PSY.D.
These two articles have links and resources:
Your partner would certainly benefit from reading these, but you might, too. Reading them together reminds you both that you are a team. I don’t think that their mom is necessarily a bad person, but it sounds like she can be handled in small doses.
You do have a point about wondering about how much influence your partner’s mom may try exerting on you two or any hypothetical children. If you do plan on having human children in any capacity, you both lay down the law that you two are the parents and your partner’s mom is not parent #3. She does not get to make any crucial decisions, like the name, the birthing plan, the method of feeding the baby, etc. she only gets to do what you both say she can do. She can knit/crochet clothes/blankets, she can attend a baby shower as a guest only, etc. She does not automatically have full babysitting privileges.
If you don’t plan on having human children, don’t be too surprised if she gets on both your cases about that, too. She very well might even just try sticking her nose into your lives regardless of what you choose to do, so you both have every right to stick up for yourselves. Is she paying your bills? Feeding you? Responsible for you in any way? If not, then she should mind her own business. Besides, it sounds like she will be far too busy micromanaging her little one’s life to really bother you.
Ultimately, I think your partner’s mom is misguided. Consequently, you have every right to decide how much of her or your partner’s family you want in your life. Do what you believe is right and take good care of yourselves. We’ll be here if you have any more questions.
Hi there, @jane cecil ! Thank you so much for reaching out to Asking Jude. One of our peer counsellors, Angelica, will answer your submission shortly. Until then, stay strong!