Dear Care and Feeding,
I have never really agreed with the concept of posting about kids on social media. I think that sharing pictures and information should wait until they can understand the consequences and consent to it. Unfortunately, no one else I know, including my wife, seems to share this sentiment. Our kids are 3 and 5, and my wife posts pictures of them constantly, even though I have asked her to stop. She thinks that she has the right, since they’re her kids too. It’s not even just my wife; it’s also my MIL, who loves sharing photos of her grandkids, and friends who post pictures of my kids with their kids on play dates or outings. I can’t even ask those people not to post pictures because my wife doesn’t follow those rules. For the record, none of the pictures are bad or anything, just normal kid pictures. But I really don’t want my kids on social media, period. Is this just something I need to deal with in this era? I feel like the battle is over and I lost, but I don’t want to just give up.
I realize that your wife, MIL, friends, etc., are likely the rule, not the exception, when it comes to sharing photos and info about kids online, but I fully understand your discomfort. My own gut take is that even if your wife doesn’t think your kids’ consent is necessary, she should probably care that you are so uncomfortable with their pictures and details about their lives being out there. I disagree that you can’t ask family or friends not to share photos of your kid publicly even though your wife does it—I think it’s totally OK to let others know you aren’t comfortable with this and would appreciate them respecting this boundary. Acquaintances and even other relatives can’t claim, as your wife does, that sharing photos of your kids is a parental prerogative. And there’s a difference between your wife sharing things with her friends, whom she at least knows, and your friends sharing things with their friends, including many people you don’t know.
I’m not sure how specific you’ve gotten with your wife about what gives you pause, but perhaps you could also think about whether there are legitimate risks or safety issues related to kids and online sharing that you two haven’t yet discussed in detail? If my spouse were uncomfortable with what I shared about our family, especially if there were any safety concerns, I’d pay attention to that and try to respect it, even if I personally didn’t see what the big deal was. Ideally, parents should be in agreement about how much of their family life will be on display for those outside the family; I hope you and your wife are able to get on the same page. In the meantime, make sure the images and personal details aren’t public, at least—that they’re limited with privacy settings to friends only. And, as a potential compromise for now, maybe your wife could set up a narrower filter for select friends and family on Facebook and/or Instagram Stories, and the two of you could discuss and agree on the criteria for who gets added to the kid photo/details filter.
Help us keep giving the advice you crave every week. Sign up for Slate Plus now.
Dear Care and Feeding,
Two years ago, my then-11-year-old daughter tearfully confessed to me that “something weird” had happened with her uncle when she was 6. At the time, this man had just married my sister-in-law, a single mom of two young daughters whose husband had died six months previously. I was suspicious of him, mainly because my SIL and her kids were in such a vulnerable place and the marriage had taken place so quickly. I never would have allowed my kids to be alone with this guy who I didn’t even know, but my mother-in-law was watching them while I was working, and he came over and wanted to take all the cousins to a fun center for the afternoon. I told my kids on the phone to make sure they stayed together. Apparently, after they came back from the fun center, the uncle took my daughter in a bedroom to “rest” and closed the door. She remembers that they watched TV and snuggled, but nothing else.
This was all relayed to me five years later, and she said she thought it was “weird” because this is the only memory she had of this person. Their family moved abroad soon after the wedding. I took her to see a therapist, and the therapist told me she was pretty confident that nothing else had happened. I have gently asked my daughter about it since, and no additional information has come up.
My dilemma is that the SIL and her family have recently moved back to our area. She wants to get together often, and my excuses for not attending family gatherings are running out. We did finally tell my partner’s parents, and they were understanding of our reluctance to see this man, but my SIL is persistent. Is this something I should just get over? Should I talk to my SIL about my concerns?
—Undecided in Utah
The fact is we do not know, with certainty, what this man may or may not have done. You have a therapist’s “pretty confident” guess—which may not be entirely reassuring, especially if your child only saw this therapist once or twice. What we do know is that your daughter was in tears when she came to you about this, and years after the fact at that. Even if the whole story is that this brand-new relative isolated your child—a child he barely knew—took her to a bedroom, closed the door, and “snuggled” with her, that is still completely inappropriate. This is not something you or your daughter “should just get over,” and I don’t think you should put her in a position where she might have to see this man over and over at family gatherings.
I reached out to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network and consulted with Heather Drevna, RAINN’s vice president of communications, who agreed that your daughter should not have to see this uncle again and pointed out that there are a lot of unknowns here—no one can say for certain what happened, or what the repercussions for your daughter or your family would be if you spoke very frankly with your sister-in-law. What’s most important is making sure your daughter is heard and fully supported, so that if she remembers or has more to say at any point, she feels safe talking to you and/or others.
I’m linking a few more resources from RAINN (content warning, obviously, before you click). If you ever do suspect that your child may have experienced sexual abuse, or if you just want to talk about this confidentially with a trained service provider, you can contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE or rainn.org.
I truly hope your child has had the opportunity to continue seeing a good therapist, and that she gets all the help and care she needs. You may also decide that you want to seek professional help to talk through your own feelings and figure out how to navigate family gatherings and relationships while prioritizing your daughter. I believe it is far more important to support and protect her than to extend your SIL’s husband some unearned benefit of the doubt for the sake of avoiding awkwardness or family strife.
• If you missed Tuesday’s Care and Feeding column, read it here.
• Discuss this column in the Slate Parenting Facebook group!
Dear Care and Feeding,
I have always wanted kids and still absolutely do. However, I’ve slowly been realizing that I don’t know if I ever want to be pregnant. It terrifies me. My cousin almost died giving birth; my mom had a difficult C-section and recovery. I also don’t love how my body would change. I’m not sure if my feelings will change in a few years, when we’re ready to have kids. I definitely have motherly instincts, but feel like I missed the hormones that are supposed to make me want pregnancy. I admire people who do it and sometimes feel like there’s something wrong with me for not wanting to. My mom always talks about how much she loved being pregnant and it’s the best thing ever. When I point out the birth experience, she says that’s just a surgery she had, as if it’s totally unrelated.
I am very open to adopting and think it’s wonderful. I have friends who were adopted, my younger sisters were conceived with an egg donor, and my genes are not so wonderful anyway. I don’t think it would change how I feel about my kids. My boyfriend also very much wants kids someday, but he is very adamant on wanting bio kids. He has made comments like he’d be willing to adopt one of our kids, but wants to have at least one bio kid. This is super concerning to me for multiple reasons. I’m worried he wouldn’t love an adopted kid as much. One and one is not a compromise I can say I’m willing to make; either I’ll be willing to be pregnant or I won’t. I’m also concerned that I’ll officially decide that I want to adopt and that will result in us separating. Alternatively, I’m worried he’ll say he’s fine with adoption because he loves me and doesn’t want us to break up, but will always have some resentment/regret.
Do you think adoption is something he could genuinely become OK with? If not, how can I figure out what I want and talk to him about it? I just don’t want us to spend years building a life together only for this to tear us apart, and now I can’t let go of that fear.
—Beware of Birth
I sympathize with your feelings of fear and anxiety around pregnancy, labor, and childbirth; I remember feeling the same way. I just really want to stress this part: It doesn’t mean that there’s “something wrong” with you if that’s not what you want! It’s totally OK to decide that pregnancy is not for you.
As an adoptee, I can confidently say that adoption is not for everyone, either. Nor is it something that anyone should be pressured or forced into—that would be unfair to them, and especially unfair to any future adopted child(ren). For what it’s worth, I also don’t think adoption ought to be chosen solely because you don’t want to or cannot have biological kids (though of course those can be and often are contributing factors); I believe you also have to actively want to adopt for its own sake. And even if you do, that’s only the first step in deciding whether you should do so—I highly recommend that anyone considering adoption educate themselves about it as much as possible, and seek out and read the work of adult adoptees in particular.
What we’re open to and what we want can change all the time, of course, especially as we learn new information. It’s possible that one day your boyfriend might change his mind and be genuinely open to the possibility of adopting all your kids. But do I think that movement on his part is something you can absolutely, 100 percent count on? Not based on the information you have shared so far.
It’s all right if you decide, now or at some point down the road, that this is a deal breaker for you—that you really want to adopt, and that any long-term partner/co-parent will need to be fully on board with that. In the meantime, since you haven’t fully made up your own mind yet, I think you can just be as open as possible and talk with your boyfriend earnestly, as you do in your letter, about why you feel the way you do right now. You can acknowledge that this might change, but that you do want him to be aware of your current fear and hesitation regarding pregnancy and childbirth (he may not yet understand just how strong those feelings are for you). Maybe the two of you can try to read and learn more about both pregnancy and adoption. In the end, it’s completely OK if your respective ideal family situations are not identical, but should that prove to be the case, it’s a good thing to find out about and discuss now as opposed to later.
Dear Care and Feeding,
My son is almost 3, and we have another little boy due next month. Being active feminists, we believe our sons need to be very clear about consent, what it means, and why it’s important. When we’re tickling and our son says “stop” or “no,” my husband and I say, “Stop!” and then we stop—same when wrestling, or any other sort of physical play. What I’m struggling with are situations where it’s not safe for him to say “no”—for example, when I’m getting him into the car after preschool and he says, “No!” and sprints into the parking lot, I have to go after him and pick him up, against his will. We use redirection, which generally works, but sometimes the stakes are high, and him saying “no” or “stop” isn’t respected. Are there guidelines for determining when and how to respect a request or demand to stop, while still ensuring they know the importance of consent and respecting other people’s bodily autonomy?
—Consent in the PNW
Sure, I actually think you’ve already found and identified the line: when it’s a matter of your son’s safety or, potentially, someone else’s. There are times when he may need to be stopped, held back, picked up, or moved without his consent—either because you don’t have time to ask, only to react to prevent him from getting hurt, or because you have to override his “no” to keep him or others physically safe. You obviously can’t just let him run into the road, or climb a tree that can’t hold his weight, or punch another kid, just because that’s what he wants to do with his body in that moment. (I’m not saying he would punch another kid! Just saying that if he ever tried, you’d be justified in intervening, if necessary, to restrain him.)
I would think these exceptions are relatively few and far between, and hopefully will decrease as your son gets older, more mature, more aware of his surroundings and potential dangers, etc. I truly don’t think this should lead to him not understanding consent or respecting his and others’ bodily autonomy, so long as you’re consistent in every situation you can safely be regarding his boundaries! Sometimes we do have to step in or override our kid’s stated wishes to protect them or others from harm.
More Advice From Slate
My husband and I have 7-year-old twins. For the first few years I was a stay-at-home mom, but I rejoined the workforce about two years ago. My husband and I decided to hire a nanny instead of sending our kids to day care. After a diligent interview process, we chose “Gretchen.” She was an outstanding candidate with great experience and references. My children adored her and I did, too. Unfortunately, about five months ago I discovered that Gretchen and my husband were having a sexual affair. In my shock and anger, I fired Gretchen and kicked my husband out of the house. He begged me to reconcile, but I have decided to divorce him. As the months have passed, though, I realize that I regret firing Gretchen. My friends and family think I am nuts, but I want to rehire her! Am I crazy for wanting to take back my nanny and not my husband?
Get more Care and Feeding
Slate Plus members get more parenting advice every week. They also help support Slate’s journalism.