Care and Feeding

What I Miss Most Now That I’m a Full-Time Mom

A woman unspools a ball of yarn and knits.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by avitrapero/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,

I am a stay-at-home mom of two toddlers, a 3-year-old and a 1½-year-old. Before my husband and I even got married, we always imagined I’d stay home with our children when we had them. At the time, I was teaching high school, but teaching was never my career or passion. There’s honestly nothing I’d rather be doing … at least, outside of the home. The thing is (and I sometimes feel like a spoiled, privileged brat for admitting it) I have a ton of hobbies. And I’m good at a lot of them! Most of them are artistic in some way—knitting, sewing, needlework, painting, writing, making elaborate and impractical pastries, making the entire family’s Halloween costumes from scratch—and many of the things I like to do involve education in some way. Making games and materials and learning aids, that kind of thing.

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Between cooking three meals a day for everyone, cleaning up after my kids and our menagerie of animals, and engaging with my kids and looking them in the eye for at least 15 minutes of the day, I don’t have much time left for my hobbies. Or I end up putting on the TV so I can finish sewing something for them, and then I feel guilty for sitting them in front of the TV too long. I have a babysitter come in about two times a month for a few hours at a time to occupy them, but it isn’t much. I’m looking for guidance: How can I be a present and engaging mom and also indulge my frustrated inner artist?

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—Stifled in Suburbia

Dear Stifled,

First off, you’re not a spoiled brat for having hobbies. Contrary to popular belief, parents don’t exist only to take care of their children. We’re allowed to have fun and dreams like anyone else.

One suggestion that works for me is to get your kids involved in your hobbies. I’m a basketball junkie and usually my free time is consumed by watching or playing the game in some fashion. When my kids were toddlers, I brought them to a local playground to dribble a ball while I chased them around, and they loved it. Later on, we would sit together and watch professional games together, and I taught them the nuances and fundamentals of the game. Fast forward to today, and I coach my 8-year-old daughter’s basketball team, and I still play with both girls on my driveway almost daily. In other words, there’s a way to have your cake and eat it too.

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Thankfully, many of the hobbies you listed are ones that your kids can participate in as well. Baking is an activity that most kids love, and you can teach them the skills of making elaborate and impractical pastries at a young age (assuming you have the patience for it). Painting is another fun hobby that parents and kids can participate in together. It might be extremely messy, but it’s a great way for the entire family to bond.

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If the issue is that you want to do these activities alone, then you won’t get any judgment from me. You’ll just have to mentally prepare yourself to stay up late and/or get up early do them. In committing to them, you might even consider finding ways to make your hobby profitable, if that’s of interest to you. A lot of people have turned their side hustles into viable businesses during this pandemic, and there’s no reason you can’t do the same. If you’re as talented as you say you are, then there could be a market for your work. Making the time for your hobbies may not be easy, but most things in life worth having aren’t easy. You can do this!

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My husband and I are both fully vaxxed for COVID-19. From the beginning, I took it seriously and was adamant about masks and social distancing. We live in a really rural, conservative area, so many people around us are vocally unvaxxed and anti-mask. My husband is pretty susceptible to the opinions of people around him, and when the science is too complicated he defaults to feelings. He works with a bunch of conservative men who buy into all kinds of conspiracy theories. That said, he’s (as I said) fully vaccinated and will wear his mask, especially since I’m five months pregnant.

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My question is about our almost-7-year-old. I’m absolutely for getting her vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is available to children. I understand that even a mild case of COVID-19 in her could contribute to the spread, that it can occasionally be serious in children, and I don’t want to risk infecting the baby after birth. My husband does not want her to get the vaccine. I get the urge to protect his daughter, but he believes it’s riskier for kids, that the vaccine has “gotten worse,” and all kinds of other nonsense he’s heard his co-workers say. I don’t want to go behind his back and vaccinate her, but I also don’t want to leave her unvaccinated. Any discussion about it leaves my husband defaulting to his fears of inadvertently harming our child, without considering that leaving her vulnerable is far more likely to harm her. His logic is turned off and he seems to be thinking about this purely through his emotions. Is there a way to convince him, or even compromise?

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—Pro-Vax Mama

Dear Pro-Vax,

As a fully vaccinated person myself, I’m totally on your side here. As a matter of fact, I’ll be first in line to put my two young daughters in front of a syringe filled with the vaccine the moment it becomes available to them. Many have died from COVID (including children), but I’ve also come across people who survived COVID but wish they hadn’t due to the horrific “long haul” symptoms they experience on a daily basis. There’s no way I would want my children to experience that.

People like your husband completely baffle me. So, he’s cool with getting vaccinated and wearing a mask in public in order to protect you and your family—and he does these things because they’re backed by science—but he’s unwilling to have your 7-year-old vaccinated? Doesn’t he realize that the same science is behind the vaccines for kids? Good grief.

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We have three major problems in America right now: COVID-19, racism, and misinformation. If we eradicated misinformation, there’s a chance we could put an end to the other two issues. In situations like yours, I always advise vaccine cynics to speak to experts—like your daughter’s pediatrician—when it comes to vaccine information. I wouldn’t trust a mechanic with my dental work, would you? Doctors are trained professionals and understand vaccines, unlike the carnival barkers found on YouTube or in your husband’s workplace. You should schedule an appointment with your pediatrician and have all of your family members attend. That way, your husband can have all of his concerns addressed.

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In the meantime, you need to have your husband give you facts on how the vaccine is riskier for kids or has “gotten worse.” Hearsay from his buddies isn’t going to cut it. If he can’t provide solid information to back up his claims (and he won’t), and if you speak with a pediatrician who is on your side, then I would tell him that you’re going to get her vaccinated whether he likes it or not. I mean, it’s not like you’re talking with an anti-vaxxer here—the same juice that’s running through his veins will be running through his daughter’s. This shouldn’t be a hard sell.

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While you’re at it, you need to get your hubby on board with thinking critically. I’ve always believed that conspiracy theories exist only to make dumb people feel smart. I’m not saying that your husband is dumb, but he certainly is very gullible and easily swayed.

Let’s all do our part and do what we need to do to rid ourselves of this pandemic.

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

• Discuss this column in the Slate Parenting Facebook group!

Dear Care and Feeding,

Growing up my mom was always compared to her older sister. Due to this lifetime of comparison, my mom tends to embellish her stories to make her life more interesting, and she has a tendency to exaggerate.

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Lately, I’ve noticed these exaggerations come into play with my kids, and I don’t know what to believe. For instance, my mom recently brought my 5-year-old son to sports practice. After it was done, my son walked out of practice on his own. My mom, upset that he wandered out before she picked him up, went inside and says a coach “yelled” at my son, “blamed him” for what happened, and tells him how “he didn’t listen all practice.” She and I got into a lengthy back-and-forth about it all, and it’s just really hard to know how much my son was at fault and how much the coach was at fault for releasing my son prematurely. I’m finding myself regularly wondering how much to believe of what she tells me. Any advice?

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—What Do I Believe?

Dear What,

In situations like these, I think it’s best to go with your gut. What is it telling you? Based on what you’ve told me about your mom, my gut tells me that she’s full of it. I think you probably feel the same way.

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Additionally, I’m a youth basketball coach and I’ve coached kids who are your son’s age. Short of a kid putting another kid in danger, I can’t picture a situation where I would yell at one of my players. If a player broke COVID protocols by leaving the facility early or on her own (I coach girls), then I’d firmly remind her of the rules, but I certainly wouldn’t raise my voice or blame her. Your son is 5! Most kids at that age need constant reminders to do the right thing, and if coaches don’t have a superhuman amount of patience to deal with that, then they shouldn’t bother trying.

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I would start by talking to your son to get his side of the story regarding how the events took place. There’s a chance that both stories will line up—although I think that’s unlikely based on what you’ve told me—and if so, then you should have a discussion with your son and coach to address it.

If his story is different from what your mom said, and your son has no history of lying to you, then I would believe him. From there, I’d have a direct conversation with your mom to tell her that you don’t believe that the events took place the way she described—and also explain to her how her lies can negatively affect others, including her grandson, if his coach is accused of something he didn’t do.

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If she pushes back or tries to gaslight you into believing she’s the victim, then I would start finding ways to love her from a distance going forward. Maybe after not seeing her grandson as often as she’d like, she’ll learn to curb her lying ways.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I’m white and one of my white mom friends is married to a Black man. We live in the South, and I’m one of the few people in my town who is vaccinated and wears a mask in public. Lately, this unvaccinated friend has been comparing mask and vaccine mandates to slavery and even went as far as to say that the government is treating us like the N-word by treating us like this. I was appalled that she used that word in front of me, but she said that because she’s married to a Black man and had two of his children, she can have the green light to say whatever she wants. Is this true? If so, I don’t want her saying that word in front of my children. Please help!

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—Confused in Georgia

Dear Confused,

Imagine if I used a misogynistic slur when making the same complaint about masks. And what if you were rightfully disgusted, and I said in return, “Hey, I’m married to a woman, so I have the right to say whatever I want about women”?

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If that sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is ridiculous. My point is that being a white person married to a Black person doesn’t give her the right to say racist things, just like being a man married to a woman doesn’t give me the right to say misogynistic things. I’m not the spokesperson for all Black people, but I’ll gladly go out on a limb to say that 99.9 percent of Black people would not be cool with your friend using the N-word in front of them.

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I’m not going to address the stupidity of this woman for comparing a choice to get a free vaccine backed by science to keep herself and her community safe with one of the worst human rights atrocities in American history. Instead, I’m going to focus on the importance of finding better friends.

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Why would you willingly spend your time with someone who offers little value and could endanger your son? Use this opportunity to let her know this friendship isn’t going to work any longer if she uses racist slurs and refuses to be vaccinated and/or wear a mask in your presence. Stand firm in your beliefs if she pushes back. Life is way too short to deal with this nonsense.

We live in a country ravaged by racism, misinformation, COVID, and many other things. Find people in your life who want to fight against America’s ills, not contribute to them.

—Doyin

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