Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)
When my cousin Betty’s son was born a year ago, she asked me to be his godmother. I was surprised by this for two reasons: 1) She and I weren’t and still aren’t particularly close, so I figured I’d be the last person she’d ask for something so big, and 2) She’s not especially religious from my knowledge. I agreed to it more out of ignorance than a real desire, which was a huge mistake. As it turned out, Betty didn’t really want a godparent as much as she did a free nanny, which was how she treated me in regards to her son. She’d either have me come over nearly every day to watch him when I wasn’t at work, or have me take him home so she could have some “downtime.” (She’s a housewife, by the way, AND has a maid, so it’s not as if she was overworked.)
I didn’t confront her about this at first because I thought she might’ve been going through postpartum depression, but given how energetic she was and how she never hesitated to pamper herself, I now suspect that was never the case. I get the feeling that Betty doesn’t have much interest in motherhood; from what I gathered from overheard conversations with friends and hints she dropped towards me, it was really her husband who wants kids. I recently told her that I will no longer be able to take care of her son, and she became furious. She threatened to revoke my godparenthood, and I simply told her to do so. From what I’ve come to understand, you can’t really “fire” a godparent, and even if she could, I was never officiated as her son’s godparent; again, she’s not religious. This leads me to think that Betty either doesn’t understand a godparent’s role or she does and simply used the term to get free babysitting. Whatever the case, I have learned that she plans to ask someone else to take the title. I know this person just enough that I’m tempted to give them a head’s up about what to expect. If I do, though, they might tell Betty what I said. I’m not personally concerned about us falling out since we already have in a way, but aren’t sure how to deal with the drama. What should I do?
— Not Your Free Nanny
Dear Free Nanny,
You’re exactly right about Betty finding a creative avenue to secure free childcare, and you did the right thing by stepping down. I don’t think you need to go out of your way to warn the new godparent though. It would be one thing if Betty had tried to snag your social security card and steal your identity when picking up her kid, but what she did was more rude and thoughtless than dangerous. And who knows, someone else might be fine with the arrangement. Godmother #2 will be able to decide for herself whether she wants to babysit at all, and when it becomes too much.
I have been with my boyfriend for two years and have lived together (he moved into my home) for most of that time. We have a blended family. Whenever I question anything his ex-wife does, or have a question about something regarding his boys, my boyfriend immediately goes on the defensive. For example, if I ask “what time are the boys going to their mom’s so I can plan dinner,” then I am met with it not being my business or why does it matter. I have gone above and beyond to provide for and include his kids as though they are my own, including having an additional room built in my house so they could have their room. I pay 90 percent of everything due to him being financially strapped. He lets the ex dictate everything, but I am the bad guy if I question him and am called names and belittled. This weekend, the boys arrived on Friday and didn’t speak a word to me until Saturday night when one asked me to buy him something. My boyfriend didn’t see a problem with this at all. Am I wrong for feeling disrespected and hurt!?
— Does Having Feelings Make Me a Narcissist
Dear Having Feelings,
No, you are not wrong for feeling disrespected and hurt. And you would not be wrong for deciding that living together isn’t working, or that it doesn’t make sense to treat his kids as if they are your own. The boys not speaking to you is rude, but I don’t blame them—they’re simply following their dad’s lead in treating you like you don’t matter. If I were you, I would take a huge step back. Ask your boyfriend to move out. If and only if he demonstrates the ability to disagree with you without calling you names and belittling you (and makes a reasonable plan for respecting the time you put into co-parenting with him) should the relationship move forward again. But honestly, kids aside, he sounds like a jerk. Why don’t you break up and find someone who acts like he likes you? I promise, it’s not too much to ask.
This weekend, we decided to take a short trip to the coast, despite a lot of misgivings—our first trip in 18 months. Although the beach close to D.C. did not have a mask mandate, as we do, we did our best to protect ourselves. One early evening, we had taken a beach walk before getting a car back to our hotel.
As a bit of context, ride services were the one “risk” we had to accept at the start of the pandemic, as we don’t have cars and Metro/bus seemed even less safe than ride services. One of the things that I most appreciate is that the ride app we use requires both riders and drivers to mask up. This hard requirement removes the situation where either a rider or driver has to argue about mask wearing—we just all agreed to it for that specific ride as part of the offer/acceptance of the ride arrangement.
Long story short, this area’s car availability wasn’t as robust as we were used to, and it took us 10 minutes to find a ride that was 20 minutes away. We were only going 20 blocks, but it was getting a bit later and this car was a godsend. Until the driver showed up and, once we were in the car, told us that he was vaccinated and didn’t need to wear a mask and we should feel free not to do so as well.
I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to argue (the whole thing the policy was designed to avoid in the first place). If we had turned down the ride, who knows when we would have gotten home, and my boyfriend didn’t show an interest in getting out anyway. I wanted to report the driver. My boyfriend said this would be “Karen-adjacent” behavior. At the end of the day, I didn’t, but the more I think about it I wish I had. Should I have?
For the record, I have over 5K rides under my belt, and have never filed a complaint, always tip extra, and if I had a problem with service, I just don’t rate the driver at all rather than ding the person’s rating.
— Am I a Jerk?
Dear Am I a Jerk,
When I think of being a “Karen,” I think of someone going out of their way to unnecessarily antagonize people for things that aren’t a big deal. Wanting your driver to follow his company’s rules to protect your life doesn’t fit the description. That said, it doesn’t sit right with me for you to report this person—who’s obviously doing gig work to make a living—and threaten his livelihood when you didn’t take the opportunity to say something in the moment. I think you should let this one go and take it as a lesson about what you’ll do next time you’re in a situation like this, which should simply be to say: “We’d really appreciate it if you would wear your mask. Thanks.”
More Advice From Care and Feeding
Can you please weigh in on the subject of “who should one love more” between a spouse and your children? My husband and I recently had an argument (the first of 2020, actually) over this issue. He believes spouses should love each other first and “more” than they love their children. His reasoning is that this love provides the stable base for the family, and our partnership comes before the children. Until now, it has been my opinion that a person who puts anyone, even a spouse, before their child is wrong, and I know many moms who would call me a bad mother for sharing his opinion. “No man comes before my child,” so to speak. I did research online and found many articles sharing my husband’s opinion, so I am now rethinking what I originally thought was a no-brainer. I’m incredibly conflicted and confused. What do you think?