Care and Feeding

My Husband Sexted Me While Our Son Was Using My Phone

Uh, what now?

A woman looks embarrassed at her smartphone.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by fizkes/iStock/Getty Images Plus. 

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Submit it here or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My 14-year-old son’s phone broke a few days ago and the other night, when I had already fallen asleep, he used my phone to play games. My husband, who has been gone on business for over three weeks, sent some naughty texts during that time window. I know my son saw these messages because he blocked his dad. He has barely spoken to me in two days. I’m embarrassed, and I’m not sure what to say to him. My husband says to let it go, that he’ll be over it soon, but what if he’s not? Or am I overreacting?

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—Embarrassing Texts

Dear E.T.,

Tell your son you’re sorry that he saw those messages and acknowledge that this is awkward for all three of you, however, he’s old enough to know that his parents love each other very much and use their phones to express those feelings to each other on a regular basis, thus, he should not use either of your devices without permission if he doesn’t want to see something he’d rather not see. Also, let him know that you understand that no kid wants to ever see this side of their parents and that you guys don’t need to talk about what happened, but that there’s no need for him to feel awkward or ashamed in front of you—nor any excuse for him being rude to you or his father. He’ll likely move on quickly and want to never speak of this again. Hopefully, you’ll all laugh at this when he’s an adult.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

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I write this with a completely broken heart. Last week, I found out my middle daughter “Kayla” was in an emotionally abusive romantic relationship for almost three years during college (she just graduated in May). During this time, Kayla was so depressed that she took steps toward taking her own life. I had no idea of any of this. She ended up seeking therapy and being put on medication that has made her much more stable; she landed her dream job and is excited to start that in a few weeks. Kayla had told her two sisters a few details, including that she was unhappy, always anxious/on edge, and that she had sought therapy. The two of them said nothing to my husband or me. We only figured all of this out when Kayla’s college friend emailed me and wanted me to know the full story, as Kayla is moving to a new city without any support system or anyone who knows what happened. It seems Kayla and the abuser have broken up and gone no-contact. I immediately felt sick when I heard the news.

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I feel awful that Kayla was bearing this burden alone. I am so scared and sad for my girl. At the same time (as selfish as this sounds) I’m also navigating some hurt feelings and guilt that Kayla didn’t feel comfortable coming to me. We don’t frequently talk about vulnerable or sensitive topics, but I still would’ve wanted to help her. I can’t bear the thought of her feeling so alone and abandoned. We have our weekly phone call coming up—what in the world do I say to her? If I bring it up, how do I check in without being overbearing? Do you have any suggestions for how I can deal with my own hurt feelings without revealing them to my daughter? What do I say to my other two daughters? Please help.

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—Mom in Miami

Dear M.M.,

I am so sorry to hear that your daughter had such an awful experience. It isn’t selfish for you to feel hurt that she didn’t come to you about this, as that’s a natural emotional reaction—though I’m sure you know that there are many reasons that abuse victims don’t tell their loved ones what they are going through, and that her silence is by no means a measure of how she feels about you. Selfishness would come into play if you let those feelings you’re experiencing prevent you from providing the support you can now, as opposed to interrogating Kayla about why she didn’t choose to reach out herself.

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It’s great that Kayla sought out therapy, and as much as you wish that you could have been there for her sooner, I think you should focus on celebrating the fact that when she felt her life was in danger, she turned to a professional who is trained to deal with the very issues she was experiencing. I also think you should consider speaking to someone as well: This is a traumatic ordeal not just for your daughter, but for you as a parent, and I think a counselor or therapist could be tremendously helpful when it comes to both your own processing and your ability to show up for Kayla.

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If you don’t think you can wait until you have that support to let her know that you found out what happened, be mindful to focus on communicating that you are there for her, as opposed to mining for details on what took place, or asking why she never told you herself. Allow her to share what she feels comfortable sharing and assure her that you will never judge her. Make clear that you only want what’s best for her and that she can come to you with anything, but that it’s OK if she chooses not to as well. As far as her siblings, ask her what she feels comfortable revealing, and if she doesn’t want them to know more than they already do, respect that. Wishing you both all the best.

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• If you missed Thursday’s Care and Feeding column, read it here.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I am the mother of a 2-year-old girl and 5-year-old boy. My husband and I have strived to create a body-positive environment for our children while also steering them toward healthy snacks and meals (for the most part). I have been working from home for the last 16 months due to the pandemic. As a result of constantly having snacks available, and not getting the daily exercise I used to have through my commute, I’ve gained some weight—about 15 pounds. I have just started on a weight loss journey that involves exercising more and cutting out carbs and sugar whenever possible. This is the first time I’ve ever wanted to go on a diet, and I really want to commit to it. I know that my 5-year-old will eventually notice that Mom isn’t eating pasta or is declining a special ice cream treat. I do love my sweets! I’m wondering what I can say to him that doesn’t relay any negative messages about body image.

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—Feeling Like a Hypocrite

Dear F.L.H.,

When your son notices something different, just come up with an excuse that doesn’t make the food itself “naughty” or “fattening” in any way: “I’m not really in the mood for ice cream today,” “I’m feeling kinda full,” “I decided I’d rather have cauliflower rice.” Don’t make a thing of these changes; don’t complain about or comment on missing certain foods or how you feel about the difference in your weight, no matter which side of your preferred number it may be. Talk about feeling good after a workout or a healthy meal, but never disparage your body or past eating habits in front of the kids. Good luck to you!

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My dad is somewhat of an anti-vaxxer about the COVID vaccines—he has no issues with routine vaccines and the flu shot, but has been worried about getting the vaccine or letting me and my brother get it (although he continues to follow safety precautions like masking and distancing at least). I turned 18 in the winter and got both doses behind his back. Without giving a lot of details, I’ve been able to keep it from him so far. I don’t want to tell him because I don’t want him mad at me, and I don’t want to jeopardize him paying for my college.
However, recently, I’ve worn him down to saying he’s fine with me getting it, which I didn’t expect, and I’m kind of stuck now. The way I see it, I have a few options. I could tell him the truth, but again, I don’t want to put my college at risk. I could say I changed my mind, but he’d probably suspect something was up. I could also try and see if I can get a second round of vaccine. I’m also not above making a fake vaccine card, because it’s not like I’d be lying that I’m vaccinated and putting others at risk, just about when I got vaxxed. What do I do?

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—Vaccine Troubles

Dear V.T.,

Is your dad definitely the type to ask to inspect the card? I could be wrong, but something tells me if he wasn’t that into the vaccine to begin with (but not superhostile to it either), he’s not going to be overly involved in the details of you “getting it” now. It seems like a “yeah I got it while I was out today” white lie might be enough here. If you feel that something more drastic is necessary, while I can’t advise you to mess with official documents, I do support you doing whatever you need to do to make it seem as though you got the shot after he told you it was OK. It’s dishonest, yeah, but guess what? Sometimes, you just gotta lie. If you really think that telling the truth is too dangerous and that learning of your (responsible!) actions will put your college funding in jeopardy, then you do what you gotta do to make sure that tuition is paid. However, do not try and get a second round of the vaccine just for this purpose; that’s not a good idea without medical advice. But by all other means, get your money, honey!

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—Jamilah

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My amazing girlfriend of four years has been told that she will never have biological children. It was devastating to both of us. She is coming to terms with it and saying things like, “We can look into adoption.” While I’ve been trying to support her, the truth is, I’m now wondering if our relationship can make it. The more I think about adoption, the more uncertain I feel, and it would be unfair to adopt a child without being sure. I’ve researched a bit on surrogacy and donor eggs and all, and it sounds very complicated and expensive, and there’s no guarantee. I know this sounds cold and callous, but the whole infertility issue is beginning to look like a deal breaker for me. Am I being a jerk?

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