Care and Feeding

I Know My Parents Are Going to Disapprove of My New Boyfriend

A woman with her arms crossed, and a father looking displeased.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Ranta Images/iStock/Getty Images Plus and deeepblue/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,

I have been secretly dating my boyfriend, and he is everything that my parents hate. My parents were immigrants that worked hard to financially support me and my brother. They grew up in a different generation and want their children to live “upward” and to “upgrade.” They are also very racist. For context, in my parents eyes I am considered a “purebred.” I am an educated young Asian woman graduating college on a full ride, have a strong personality, can speak my native language, grew up in a catholic background (even though I no longer identify as catholic), and am pursuing dental school.

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My parents and I often clash on matters since I am significantly more progressive on issues such as racism, LGBTQ, abortion, politics etc. Potentially, my parents could consider my relationship as “tainting.” He is Mexican, a DACA recipient/first-generation immigrant, blue collar, and pursuing business. Objectively he is everything my parents hate since he’s not a quiet Asian boy who’s pursuing a white-collar career. He is my first boyfriend and he treats me so so so so well. We have a happy relationship of 10 months and have very healthy communication. I would like to let my parents know about him in but am scared of the repercussions since I am still living with my parents, am financially dependent on them, and still have dental school tuition for them to help me out with. I don’t want them to cut me off financially nor restrict my freedom of seeing my friends and him. I also have a really happy and healthy relationship with both of my parents and don’t want to jeopardize that either. Should I wait until I go to dental school and move out to tell them? Should I introduce him as a friend wanting to take me on a date? What should I do?

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— Sad and Lonely

Dear Sad and Lonely,

It sounds like you’re working hard both to meet your parents’ expectations and to have some semblance of an independent life. Your instinct has been to protect your relationship with your boyfriend from your parents’ scrutiny and at 10 months, that protective instinct is beginning to feel like a betrayal both to your boyfriend and to your parents.

It’s difficult to stand your ground amid parental disapproval when you still rely on your parents for financial support. It’s reasonable to continue waiting to inform them of your relationship status until you aren’t so reliant on them to provide for you. You don’t owe them access to your partner if they’ll only criticize you both.

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You say that you and your boyfriend have healthy communication. Does this mean that he knows your parents would object to your relationship with him? Does this place any strain on your bond? Does he feel like a secret you’re keeping?

If he understands why he hasn’t met your parents yet, you don’t need to rush the introduction.

Just know that, whether it’s in this situation or another, you’ll need to grow comfortable pushing back on your parents’ more strident views and expectations. You don’t share them and won’t meet them and it’s important that they learn that about you eventually. You should brace for having a less harmonious relationship with them when that happens; it’s possible that your interactions with them are only as “happy” as they are because you have yet to defy any of their wishes for you and your future. They’ve raised an accomplished, capable daughter who will make choices they’re unhappy with. As hard as it is for you to face their disapproval, it’s liberating to make choices on your own terms and I hope you get to continue experiencing that liberation as you move forward.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My mom had some very disordered views on eating when I was growing up, which got worse when I came back from college 10ish pounds heavier than when I left (she panicked, commented constantly on my weight, etc). It has taken me years to unlearn some of her damaging viewpoints and build a relationship with health and wellness that is focused far more on physical activity and my ability to do things rather than weight or appearance.

In recent years, my mom has become even more rigid in her views. She hasn’t eaten bread in nearly two years. Once a week or so, she’ll read a new article online and “ban” a food from the house (last week it was bananas). Sometimes she’ll wind up reintroducing those foods, but sometimes not. She also only eats 1-2 meals per day.

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The issue? I have a four-year-old daughter who is starting to exhibit some of these same behaviors. She’ll come home from a night at my parents’ house and say things like “Gramma said bread is bad for you!” or “We didn’t eat lunch today, Gramma forgot.” I was of course livid when I heard. I went straight to my mom and laid out some clear ground rules: meals at normal times, no talk of good/bad food, no talk around weight or physical appearance. This worked for a few weeks but then things reverted back to “normal.”

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I really depend on my mom for childcare because of the impact of the pandemic on our daughter’s school/daycare situation. Is there any way we can keep my daughter healthy despite the messaging she’s receiving at her grandma’s house? Or should we just bite the bullet and never let our daughter go over there unsupervised? My mom has been like this for years so it’s unlikely she’ll change—at this point, I just want to protect my daughter. Please help.

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—Bread Isn’t Bad!

Dear Bread Isn’t Bad,

While it’s not ideal to have your daughter spending so much time around negative messaging around nutrition and food, you already know how to counter that messaging, having found a healthier approach to fitness and nutrition as an adult. In an age-appropriate way, share what you’ve learned with your daughter. Find photographs and books about people of different sizes and experiences and introduce your daughter to the concept that the world is filled with people who are not the same size and who are not starving themselves. Look for ways to illustrate to her that physical appearance is not the most important thing about the people around her, that many other people in your lives enjoy foods and don’t “ban” them from their households or diets.

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Consider packing meals for your daughter’s visits and gently encouraging her to “remind” Grandma about those meals during the day. If she still “forgets” to feed your daughter, try setting an alarm to remind yourself to call or text at the appropriate meal times.

It’s not likely that you’ll be able to spend the rest of your daughter’s childhood avoiding leaving her with her grandmother, unsupervised, especially if you continue to rely on her for childcare. So it’s important that you talk to her after her visits and seek every opportunity to share alternative perspectives with her—and to challenge your mother’s expectation that your daughter should follow her restrictive practices around food.

Remember that you are your daughter’s primary role model. Continue to be open with her about body positivity, healthy eating habits, and the importance of eating enough to fuel her growth, and don’t be afraid to stand up to your mother’s unhealthy habits in front of your daughter, either.

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Catch Up on Care and Feeding

• If you missed Sunday’s column, read it here.
• Discuss this column in the Slate Parenting Facebook group!

Dear Care and Feeding,

I’m feeling so frustrated about where my husband and I are about having kids together. I am 32 and he is about to turn 30. From basically the minute we started dating I told him that I 100 percent want children, and there was no reason for us to continue dating if he wasn’t interested. He’s always said that’s fine. For context, we are both physicians in training nearing the end of one stage of training and about to take the next step. That means 3-4 more years of subspecialty for me and one year for him after we graduate from residency in July 2023. My first year of my next training stage will be too intensive to have a baby, and I want to start trying soon so that we can try to have about 6 months between when the baby comes and when we have to move and start new jobs. He wants to wait and for me to take a year out of training to have a kid. I’d really prefer to keep on track with my career. Plus I’m just ready. I had a weird pregnancy scare (pregnancy despite having an IUD; it spontaneously resolved) that made me realize I really want to get pregnant on purpose.

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I don’t particularly want to wait much longer given my age, our timeline for work, and the fact that we’ve been married almost 4 years and can handle the finances. I’m just not sure how hard to push at this point. He’s always a little behind me on wanting to move things forward and usually won’t make big changes unless pressed. We are in a situation where I’m starting to feel resentful because of my desires, but I don’t want him to resent a child and me if I really push my timeline. But I also feel like I should have a little more weight in this decision since I have to do the whole pregnancy part, will realistically be shouldering the majority of childcare duties (which is fine with me), and I’m the one who would have to make a professional compromise. To be clear, I know a baby won’t magically happen because we start trying. I just want to have the chance to see what happens and then if it doesn’t work out we can reassess. I don’t know what to do. Should I really press or just keep waiting it out?

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— Frustrated By Waiting

Dear Frustrated By Waiting,

You sound like a planner. That’s a wonderful thing for a potential, aspiring parent, as children can benefit from the structure planner-parents provide.

Babies blow up plans, though. Even your best-laid ones. The timeline you’ve described may sound seamless now, as does your intention to “shoulder the majority of childcare duties.” You’ve even considered the resentment both you and your husband may feel if you do or don’t move forward with your plan now.

I can assure you that things will not go exactly according to plan here. You’ve acknowledged that you know a baby may not come as soon as you start trying, so you also know that the ideal six-month window you want before your work demands intensify and you relocate for new jobs may also not be in the cards. You may be in your third trimester during an interstate move. You may have a two-month-old when your workload is at its most exhausting. You may not feel emotionally or mentally prepared to juggle work and postpartum life as seamlessly as you believe you will. If you are having trouble communicating with your husband now about these feelings, you should be ready to have a whole host of new challenges to navigate together once a child comes along.

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Pregnancy and parenting come with tons of unanticipated variables. You already have some sense of that, given your pregnancy-despite-IUD experience. Resentments and their sources can’t be prognosticated; they pop up most unexpectedly between new, working parents. You have no way of knowing beforehand how either of you will feel about caring for a newborn during or just after your residencies.

This is not to say you shouldn’t try now. I’m also not saying you should. There’s no perfectly ideal time to have a child, especially for two physicians in training; for many aspiring parents, it just happens when it happens and you hope for the best. I simply want to encourage you to remember that this life change won’t fall neatly into a schedule you’ve mapped out, no matter how meticulous that schedule may be. I wish you and your husband the best.

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Submit your questions about parenting and family life here. It’s anonymous! (Questions may be edited for publication.)

Dear Care and Feeding,

I got put on bed rest for the last weeks of my pregnancy. I’ve felt spacy and emotional through the whole pregnancy, but since being stuck alone at home all day I feel like I’m losing my mind. I’m crawling out of my skin with how uncomfortable and foreign my body is, but at the same time even the thought of moving is exhausting. I got a list of bedridden activities from my doctor (keep a journal, join an online community, learn a new skill online, etc.) but I can’t concentrate on anything. The only thing I can do besides eat and sip water is listen to podcasts or audiobooks, because it’s so passive, but even then I keep losing focus and missing whole sections. I can’t regulate my emotions, and cry in frustration or loneliness. This makes me terrified of when the baby gets here, because the last thing an innocent baby needs is a mother who also acts like a baby (and this is before the lack of sleep and nonstop baby crying!). Worse, my wonderful wife is getting more excited by the day, and comes home from a long day of hard labor to clean up the nest of garbage I’ve accumulated around me, make me whatever meal I want, massage me, and listen to me complain about my body, all cheerfully and compassionately, even though I don’t deserve it. I should be excited and serene and glowing, but I’m miserable despite having every need met. I want a vacation from my body. What can I do to stop feeling so terrible before the baby gets here? Please tell me this is a big third trimester secret no one talks about and it goes away with the pregnancy hormones or something.

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— Bed Rest Blues

Dear Bed Rest Blues,

You do deserve the care and compassion you’re receiving. You aren’t a “baby” if you cry or experience discontent during pregnancy, especially on bed rest. Bed rest is literally immobilizing and to find oneself suddenly unable to move freely is absolutely grounds for frustration, loneliness and discomfort.

Give yourself permission to sit with your most uncomfortable feelings and fully process them. Don’t push them down. Neither you nor they are going anywhere right now. You’re growing a child and you’re protecting that growth, as best you can, by following your doctor’s orders. It’s okay for that not to be… fun.

It’s a myth that every expectant mother “should be” excited, serene and glowing. You don’t owe that to anyone. All you owe yourself is rest and time.

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Unfortunately, I can’t promise that all negative feelings about pregnancy and parenting disappear once a baby is born. Babies can actually be as challenging outside your body as they are inside it. But you’re not alone in your feelings and you don’t have to feel guilty for having them. Know that these particular emotions aren’t permanent. Get some professional help for them if they don’t dissipate, or your coping deteriorates further. And remember that these feelings won’t be the only ones you’ll have as a new mom. There will be awe. And joy. And hopefully, gratitude for the body that carried you and the baby through this hard time.

—Stacia

For More Parenting Coverage, Listen to Mom and Dad Are Fighting

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