Dear Care and Feeding,
I am not a parent, but this advice column was recommended to me by a friend who’s a mom. I’m 34 years old and found out I was pregnant a few days ago.
I absolutely do NOT want to have kids, ever. I’ve been using birth control pills, but I know they’re not always 100 percent. When I saw the test, my husband and I both immediately knew I needed to schedule an abortion (luckily, I live in a state where reproductive healthcare is very easy to access). I have the procedure scheduled in a week.
Here’s the problem: My mother has a pattern of violating boundaries. I don’t know why, but the next time I saw her, I blurted out that I was panicked because of the positive test. I was crying and really stressed, and her response was … not great. She hugged me and told me congratulations and immediately started giving me parenting advice. I told her there was no way in hell I was continuing the pregnancy. Since then, she will not stop calling me and texting me, trying to convince me to keep it. My mother was extremely abusive (we had CPS show up multiple times when I was young), and I do not want to repeat those patterns. I have PTSD and am in treatment for it from my childhood experiences. She keeps talking about how she was single, poor, very young, and unprepared to have me, but she’s “so happy” she did it anyway. I finally blew a gasket and basically told her, “You keep telling me about why YOU are happy and how it gave YOU a purpose, but have you ever thought about how your lack of preparedness affected me?”
I told her that her line of reasoning was extremely selfish and that she was more focused on her feelings and wants than the safety and wellbeing of her children and theoretical grandchildren, and I wasn’t going to do that in my own life. I ended the conversation by saying even if I had the best childhood ever, this is my life and decision, as ultimately the burden of parenthood would be on me and my husband, no one else. She absolutely freaked out, called me names, and tried to call and text so many times I had to block her from my phone. My question is: Was I too harsh on her? Should I apologize? Or is this even a relationship worth maintaining? This whole ordeal has stressed me out to the point of not eating or sleeping. I know I shouldn’t have told her, but it was just a moment of panic. I really just never want to talk about this with her ever again. And is there a way for me to set some boundaries around my privacy? This has all made me realize maybe she has way too much information about my life, and I don’t think she’s earned a super-close relationship with me.
—No Kids Wanted
Dear No Kids Wanted,
I know how incredibly polarizing the abortion topic is, so I’ll just start by saying that I believe every person with a uterus should have the right to do whatever they want with their body. However, the only opinion that should matter regarding this isn’t mine or your mom’s, but yours.
The way you handled your mom is fine with me because you kept it real. Could you have been a little softer? Perhaps, but I’m not going to fault you for having years of unresolved childhood trauma bubble to the surface in a heated moment.
However, not eating or sleeping is a big problem. I think you should apologize for anything hurtful you may have said to help rid yourself of guilt, but in doing so, you also need to set clear and firm boundaries. You can say something along the lines of, “Mom, I’m sorry for being mean, but this is a really stressful situation for me. To be clear, I have no desire to be a mother, and I’m going through with the procedure—and if we’re going to have any relationship at all, I need you to respect that decision. I also do not want to talk about this ever again.”
At that point, you both will have a decision to make. She’ll either fall in line, and you can continue managing your complex relationship, or she’ll defy your wishes, which means you’ll have to learn to love her from a distance. Either way, you shouldn’t be forced to maintain a relationship with anyone, blood-related or otherwise, who doesn’t respect how you choose to live your life.
More Advice From Slate
My wife of more than 10 years has always been a bit of a nudist. Nothing public, but around the house and our pool and out in the boat she likes to be in the buff. Our son is now 6 years old and my daughter is 3. My children are being raised in the nude, the same way my wife was raised. They get home from school and their clothes come off. I come home at night to two naked kids and a naked wife. Now that our children are getting older, I think it might be time that everyone starts covering up a bit more.