My son’s 5th birthday is coming up. My boyfriend and I always take him out to do something every year on his birthday, and my son’s father has asked me if he could be included this year because he’s missed a lot. I ran it by my boyfriend and he didn’t seem too into the idea, so I told my son’s father he can just do something separately for now. He’s planning a small birthday party for his son at his mother’s place, and he invited me. I had all intentions of going because, at the end of the day, that is my son’s birthday party. However, my boyfriend says he feels left out because he wasn’t invited (keep in mind he has yet to meet my son’s father). What do I do in a situation like this? My boyfriend is making me feel as if I should not have a healthy relationship with my son’s father, and this is leaving me in a distant head space. Any tips and advice are appreciated! — Confused Mom
Your boyfriend is clearly threatened by your son’s father’s sudden interest in being a dad, and the best way to navigate this is to focus on what’s best for your son in a way that doesn’t compromise your own sanity and well-being. You know your son is going to have a great time with you and your boyfriend doing something special for his birthday, right? Would he be happier if his dad could join? Probably. But then your boyfriend would bow out, and that would make your son unhappy. So now your boyfriend is having a party for your son, which will likely make your son very happy. Would he be happier with you there? Maybe. But maybe not significantly enough to warrant compromising your relationship with your boyfriend. Maybe doing something solo with his dad and his extended family on his dad’s side, whom he probably doesn’t know well, would give him an opportunity to deepen his bond with his dad. And it would give you a chance to show your boyfriend that his feelings matter to you.
This is all new, and I don’t think your boyfriend is necessarily over-reacting or being selfish in his resistance to your son’s dad’s sudden re-appearance. After all, for the past three years, your boyfriend has been the father figure. It probably feels a little weird that this other guy who’s been completely out of the picture is now ready to take back the father-figure mantle. That doesn’t mean your boyfriend has any right to stop him – or to stop you from joining anything you’ve been invited to – but he has a right to feel what he feels. In a show of loyalty to him, you could, just this once, politely turn down the invitation to your son’s birthday party and explain to his dad that you want them to have some time together without you, to get to know each other better. And then you could let your boyfriend know that your absence from the party is also for his benefit because you understand that this new dynamic in your lives will take some time to adjust to. But also let him know how important it is to you to have a good co-parent relationship with your ex – that this is something you didn’t think was possible and, now that it looks like it could be, you want to work on achieving what you believe will be in your son’s best interest. For you, that might mean introducing the two men and making it known to both that you would like to be co-partners in raising your son together. Let your boyfriend know that while you are willing to give him time to adjust to this idea, you do want and expect a willingness from him at some point to form an amicable relationship with your ex.
If your boyfriend continues to resist sharing the role of father figure with your ex to the point that it interferes with your emotional well-being, your relationship, or his relationship with your son, you’re going to have a tough decision to make. You’ll have to decide whether you want to continue a relationship with a man who is emotionally unable to prioritize your son’s well-being. If he’s not able to, that gives you a pretty clear idea what kind of father-figure he would be long-term. And if your son’s dad is stepping back into the picture, eager to take on the role of dad, your son may be better off without a man who feels too threatened to share him.
My province (I’m in Canada) has been under a stay-at-home order since Boxing Day, and my in-laws have really been looking forward to watching my baby, since there’s an exception for childcare. My husband had a conversation with them recently reminding them not to see other people for at least 10 days before I return to work. Yesterday my BIL and his girlfriend dropped by for an outdoor visit and the girlfriend let it slip that they’d just been at my in-laws’ for lunch and had been visiting regularly during this lockdown because my in-laws are so lonely and isolated. I know they’re not taking the pandemic as seriously as we are, since they told us they attended a NYE party.
I feel sad, frustrated, and scared. My husband called his mom, who apologized and said she’d wear a mask the whole time she’s watching our baby. But she’s talked about how unpleasant it is to wear a mask for a long time, and my daughter constantly grabs at masks, so I can’t see it staying on properly the whole day. My husband is struggling with having told his parents not to see their other kids and grandkids, especially since they’re doing us a favor. Even if his parents see some people, he feels it’s still safer than daycare. He’s been working from home, and my maternity leave encompassed the entirety of the pandemic, so we’ve been fortunate to have had a very low risk of exposure so far compared to essential workers and people with kids in daycare or school. We wonder if we’re expecting too much.
I don’t know how to feel or what to do. My husband suggested I could delay going back to work, but that would create a whole new set of stressors (financial, delaying future family planning, probable job loss). For context, my province has a population of around 14.5 million and we’ve been reporting around 2K cases daily lately – things are not as serious here as they are in the US. My in-laws and my BIL and his girlfriend live in regions where numbers are worse than where my family lives. Any advice or insight is appreciated. — Worried Mom
You can’t dictate to your in-laws how they live their lives, especially since they would be doing the favor of babysitting (for free, I’m assuming, right?). You have to accept that they will live in a way you don’t think is safest, exposing themselves to Covid, and indirectly exposing your child and you as well. You’re probably right that this is still likely safer than sending your child to daycare where your child would be exposed to everything all the other kids are exposed to outside of daycare, expanding your bubble a lot more than it would be by just including your in-laws.
At the same time, beyond safety, you have relationships to think about here. How much will it destroy your relationship with your in-laws knowing that they are not being as safe as you’d like them to be between babysitting visits with your child? How resentful are you going to feel every time it slips that they did something you don’t approve of? If the stakes have already felt high, they will feel even higher when they are in charge of your child’s care two days a week. Feeling anxious about whatever your child is exposed to at daycare won’t affect your relationships in the same way resenting your in-laws will. So you have to weigh safety vs. relationships in a sense, considering the risk to both with either decision you make (daycare vs. grandparents babysitting). There may be other factors to consider as well, like price of daycare, safety measures the daycare employs, vaccination distribution, and the likelihood of Covid cases increasing as the new variant spreads (like we’re seeing in Europe, which is a few weeks ahead of North America on that trajectory).
It’s a hard and personal decision to make. None of us can tell you what to do. But I can say that if preserving a relationship with your in-laws is important to you, then you have to accept that they are not going to live by the Covid precautions you wish they would and you have to just be ok with that. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you or their grandbaby. They’ve simply assessed the risk and reached a different conclusion about it than you have. It’s frustrating, I know. But there’s literally nothing you can do about it. Knowing that, you have to decide how willing you are to be exposed to what they’re exposing themselves to and whether the exposure from daycare, which is likely even higher, would be worth preserving a relationship with them (assuming it would, and even that is an unknown). I wish you and every other parent in this boat could be spared such a difficult choice.