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Dear Care and Feeding,
We have a child who’s still very young and one more on the way this fall. We live in a part of the country where COVID is very much in the rearview. We are fully vaccinated, have had COVID, and are still reasonably cautious, but both work full-time. We’ve also resumed many activities, outdoors when possible, for our daughter’s developmental benefit, at the urging of her pediatrician. I think we have overall done a good job of balancing risk versus the reality of everyday life, but preparing for a new baby is throwing me. I have already been through one pandemic pregnancy and one pandemic newborn period. My own case of COVID was relatively mild but not so mild that I sailed through it, and the childcare and work challenges in isolation were truly horrible. I know that I cannot spend another vulnerable postpartum period arguing with family over vaccines, visits, etc. It nearly tore my mental health to shreds last time to have so much conflict. I also know that I might contract COVID again despite our best efforts, just from work/childcare exposure. So here is my plan…
For the first three months of the baby’s life, I would like to limit visitors to immediate family and allow no children. This way I can limit our possible exposure. But that three-month period will coincide with the holidays and my older daughter’s birthday, so I know there will be pushback. Therefore, I’m not sure about the best way to handle this. Part of me wants to start managing expectations now so that everyone knows what to expect re: meeting the baby during the first 12 weeks. Another part of me feels that we shouldn’t borrow trouble and just deal with everything on a very ad-hoc basis, informing folks of our boundaries as things come up. I am honestly not sure what is best, but I’m worried that in my post-partum haze I won’t be emotionally equipped to deal with a lot of pushback and anger again. What do you think is the right approach?
— Pregnant and Anxious
I feel your pain, I do. And I get that you are conflict-averse (and honestly, we are all exhausted by the constant conflicts around COVID risk and attempts at protection), but putting off the inevitable confrontations, arguments and counterarguments, and hurt feelings is not a good solution. So, while I don’t know if there’s a right approach here, in your shoes, I would get it out of the way. If people give you a hard time, you are much better equipped to deal with it now than you will be come fall and winter. I say go ahead, lay out your (perfectly reasonable!) boundaries, and avoid the holiday rush.
And mazel tov. You’re going to have a baby! May your child grow up in a world that is more peaceful, more tolerant, kinder, and more understanding than the one we live in now.
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