Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

I’m reading a new book, “The Invisible Kingdom,” published just a few weeks ago and included on a list I saw recently of the “best books of 2022 so far.” I saw that it was about chronic illness, including long Covid, and put it on my holds list at the library. For many months – well, nearly two years – I’ve been experiencing a host of new symptoms, or exacerbations of pre-exisiting symptoms, that might be related to long Covid, or maybe to perimenopause, or which could be the result of flare-ups from my multiple autoimmune disorders (and maybe additional ones that haven’t yet been diagnosed) or perhaps just the chronic, low-grade stress of living and parenting through a pandemic.
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We’re a queer family living in a liberal bubble in a conservative state that struggles to take any advice on COVID safety. My daughter, who is two-and-a-half, has some unique health conditions that would make her vulnerable to complications should she ever get COVID. Consequently, when things shut down in 2020, we pulled her out of day care, my wife restructured their career to work at home, and we totally shut our lives down completely. We’ve had literally zero childcare or help from the time our daughter was seven months on.

Two years into this pandemic, by taking every precaution, doing all our shopping online, cutting our own hair, shooting up every vaccine as soon as we could, and enrolling our daughter in the Moderna Vaccine Trials, we’ve successfully kept her and my wife’s grandparents safe from COVID. (They have lots of health complications.)

I’ve been a devoted Dear Wendy follower since The Frisky days and we’ve occasionally messaged on Instagram and email over the years. We share the same beliefs about COVID and take it deadly serious, but my wife (they/them) takes it to the next level and has become agoraphobic. They are so black and white with all things COVID. And it’s getting harder and harder for me as COVID is becoming endemic, and I imagine what it would be like to open up our lives to a more sustainable normal. My wife is very slow to let their guard down even a teeny bit.

Two years into this I feel like a prisoner in my own home. I do work outside the home, so I get out and have some social fixes with my coworkers. But I feel like if I do anything less than what we did at the height of cases, I am somehow being unfaithful to my family. Like, is it okay to participate with in-person meetings now that I’m the only one wearing a mask at my plant?? Am I allowed to have lunch with my closest coworkers??

I’m not itching to go to restaurants or parties or weddings, but I would like to go shopping (masked!) without feeling like I have to hurry in and out, take my child to the library, go back to my community orchestra or an outdoor running group, and see my family without drama.

My parents are not so shut down as we are. My folks and the vast majority of people they interact with are vaccinated/boosted. My parents both have careers, 90+ -year-old parents to care for, and my mentally-ill brother living with them, which all weighs on them. They will occasionally go out for dinner parties, they are active in their church, snd my mom has a group of friends she sees a couple times a year—-stuff that, frankly, they need to do. My wife doesn’t see it that way. To them, anything less than hyper vigilance is nearly a moral failing.

Often these events seem to coincide with when we make plans to see them. My parents, specifically my mom, can’t button up their social lives for 10 days leading up to a visit with us. We’ve canceled or altered all our plans to see them in 2022 so far because of their social calendar. During this lull in cases, it’s probably safe enough, but if I notice anything on social media that suggests my parents are out being social leading up to a visit with us, I spend days fighting with my wife, arguing about what’s safe and not safe, and I’m so tired of fighting to see my family. For the record, we see my wife’s family at least once a month, but her grandparents rarely leave the house and my little niece and nephew just had COVID during Omicron. I never say no to my wife about visiting her family, but it doesn’t go the same way for me.

I hope I don’t come across like someone who wants the world to get over COVID, because I’m not. We don’t know what’s next and we need to be mindful. But for our own social-emotional health, my wife and I need to find some way of actually living in this new world. Idk how to navigate this when I don’t even know what I want. All I know for sure is I want my family (our little family of three) to feel happiness and joy again. I want to experience normal stuff without anxiety clouding every experience. I want to see my parents and extended family again without fighting for days leading up to potential visits. Any advice, Wendy? — Frustrated Mama and Daughter

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Here’s what we’re discussing this week in the forums:

Friend taking me to court

Love story gone wrong … from amazing to embarrassing too quickly …

Trapped at home by family

Lost love

My boyfriend’s habits are making me question our relationship

How do I handle a friend who’s not being open and honest

How do I handle my sister damaging our relationship?

My anxiety is taking over me

Family problems

Mom-daughter relationship

Covid Support Thread