This is a slate.com open discussion on an issue many will be facing in the short term. Should you visit your mom on Mother’s Day and break social distancing rules to celebrate and appreciate your number one lady during a pandemic?
Covid19 has really changed our lives in a number of way, some irreparable, but the fact of the matter is the pandemic is taking a huge physical and emotional tole on those most vulnerable in our society. This discussion article weighs the pros and cons of breaking the social distancing orders and help you to come to a conclusion on if you should visit mom.
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Should you Break Social Distancing for Mom on Mother's Day?
Dear Care and Feeding,
This is a question about parents and adult children, but I’m hoping you can help. I’m a mid-30s woman, single, no kids. My parents are just over 70, and they live a few hours away. They are thankfully in good health. I haven’t seen them for about two months because of the pandemic. My siblings are both married with a couple kids, and everyone in their families is generally staying home, including the kids. My siblings, who live close to my parents, have been getting them groceries, and my parents have been taking socially distanced walks outside with them. Twice, they have gotten together for a meal at someone’s house where they promise that everyone is 6 feet away and washing their hands religiously. I had objections to these gatherings, but I let it go. So far, everyone is thankfully healthy.
My mother wants to see me for Mother’s Day. I normally see her once or twice a month, so this has been hard for her. I think she doesn’t see much risk in it since she’s been seeing my siblings regularly. She insists we would keep the proper distance apart and would stay outside, but of course people would have to go inside to use the restroom, the kids are running around, etc. I’m still going into work once or twice a week, albeit in a low-risk setting. I live in an area with a much higher infection rate than where they live. I also deal with anxiety. It was mostly under control before all this happened, but now it’s … not. I spiral into what-ifs and worst-case scenarios at least once a day. I’m working on that with a therapist, but I think this is just how it’s going to be for a while.
So I guess my question is, how do I rationally assess the risk of a Mother’s Day visit with appropriate safeguards when my brain is incapable of rationally assessing risk right now? How dangerous is this proposal, really? Relatedly, even if restrictions ease, I can’t see an end to social distancing requirements until there’s a vaccine or at least an effective treatment. How can I tell my mother I’m not coming for Mother’s Day when I have no idea when it will be safe to see her again?
—Muddled About Mother’s Day
Let me assess the risk for you, because you’re both emotionally compromised (of course!) and already someone grappling with anxiety.
There is nothing magical about Mother’s Day, which is about selling greeting cards and also making people with horrible mothers or deceased mothers feel awful. You love your mother every day, which is why you have been trying to protect her from the possibility of inadvertent transmission of something that could end her life. Your siblings have made different choices, but those choices are their own.
You live in an area of higher viral concentration, so it is not unreasonable or paranoid to love your mother enough to cause her temporary pain in order to risk bringing the potential of great, great harm to an area that so far has been lucky enough to avoid a major cluster.
I want to see my mother on Mother’s Day too. One of my dearest friends has a mother who may already not be with us next Mother’s Day, and every day she loves her mother by not getting on a series of planes to go see her, however much she is desperate to. This is the crummy way you get to love your mother this year.
I’m so sorry. As to how to explain it to her, you have two basic options: lying and the truth. You can pretend you’re coming and then announce you are flat on your back with the flu and cannot possibly come. This will open you up to “Well, we can pretend next Sunday is Mother’s Day.” Not a great solution. A better lie, which, like all successful lies, is tied to the truth, is to say you asked your doctor their opinion, and they begged you not to go. A doctor would certainly tell you not to go; we’re just skipping the middleman.
Or just tell the truth: that you don’t want to risk making her sick, or any of your other relatives sick, that you are following the recommendations of expert virologists, that you desperately wish you were there, and that you would love to have a Skype or speakerphone dinner with your extended family that night. If they think you are cruel or heartless or paranoid or anxious, let them.
You’re doing the right thing. You’re a good daughter.
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