Care and Feeding

I Hate That My Mom’s Boyfriend Calls Himself My Baby’s Grandpa

My partner and I barely know this person, and what we do know of him, we do not find particularly pleasant.

An older couple smiling together, and a pregnant woman looking down.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images Plus and Prostock-Studio/iStock/GEtty Images Plus.

Slate Plus members get more Care and Feeding from Jamilah Lemieux every week.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My partner and I are expecting our first child in March. Both his and my parents are divorced, and we both have living grandparents, so naturally, timing the announcement to each individual set of family members was tricky and important. My mother, “Charlene,” figured out the news and confronted me about it before I was ready to tell her, and immediately shared with her boyfriend of two years, “Michael.” Michael is not someone whom my partner or I get along with or particularly like, and we were stunned to learn that he felt that it was appropriate to pass along the news that we were expecting to his family. My mother relayed this story to me excitedly, even expressing her delight at how he referred to himself as my child’s grandfather.

In the moment, I nodded along, but later on, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated and annoyed. My partner and I barely know this person, and what we do know of him, we do not find particularly pleasant. However, as a child of divorce, I understand that having more people to love a child is never, ever a bad thing. That said, he is not someone I want to be very involved in my child’s life. Is it worth having a conversation with my mother about our discomfort with Michael thinking of himself as our child’s grandfather, or should we just let it go?

—Grumpy About “Grandpa”

Dear Grumpy,

Yes, it is worth having a conversation with your mother. First, you should confront the fact that Michael shared information with his family that you did not want to be public yet; let your mother know that you appreciate his enthusiasm, but that when you tell her something in confidence, it is not your expectation that he would share that information with anyone. Acknowledge the role that Michael has in her life but remind her that he has not built that sort of relationship with you and, consequently, you were a little caught off guard by the “grandfather” stuff. Regardless if this is a matter of you not liking this guy, or if you simply don’t know him well and don’t see him as a member of your family yet, your mom should be clear where you stand with him.

Figure out what you are comfortable with and set boundaries accordingly; Michael can be yet another source of love without taking on a larger role than you are willing to let him have. What are you comfortable with him doing? Simply being a part of family gatherings? Is this someone who’s going to want to try and take your kid fishing, or is he just your mom’s plus one? Is he allowed to post pictures of your kid? What should they call him? You have time to decide what this should look like, but consider that he may end up being in your mom’s life for the long run and, thus, may end up positioned to play a more traditional grandfatherly role than expected. Communication is critical, and now is the time to start. Wishing you all the best.

—Jamilah