“Ask A Dad” is a regular parenting column by author, speaker and dad Doyin Richards, in which he tackles some of the toughest questions today’s parents face. Have a topic you’d like him to take on? Email email@example.com.
My parents are hosting Thanksgiving dinner for about 20 people this year ― including my uncle, who has extremely inflammatory political views. Last year at Christmas, he “joked” with my husband that if President Trump built his border wall, my husband would be working on a Mexican farm instead of here in the U.S. as a sales executive. (My husband, who is Hispanic, is an American citizen. I am a liberal white woman.) Then, during the 4th of July, my uncle put MAGA hats on our 3-year-old twin boys without us knowing, took a quick photo, and posted it on his social media pages with the caption, “This is one way to keep kids out of cages.” He later removed them at my angry request, and we haven’t seen him since.
My mom (also a liberal) excuses her brother’s behavior as him “being silly,” but it’s anything but silly, and I’m worried a physical altercation will occur if his antics continue. What do I do?
– Liz in Dallas
First of all, nobody should ever post photos of someone else’s kids on social media without the parents’ permission ― that’s straight out of the “Common Sense 101” handbook.
Secondly, your uncle’s “jokes” about kids in cages and your husband working on a Mexican farm are racist AF.
Today’s political climate is completely different from that of a few years ago. This isn’t just about Republicans vs. Democrats or conservatives vs. liberals anymore ― it’s about basic humanity.
I’m also a liberal, and I have a lot of friends with conservative views, but I’m still friends with many of them. Why? Because they denounce racism, bigotry and misogyny at every turn. But I’ve had to purge many others from my life who support hateful politicians simply because they promise to appoint a conservative Supreme Court justice, or because they vow to criminalize abortion, or because they’re similarly low-key racist.
You can’t say you care about marginalized groups and then cast votes that make their lives more difficult. It doesn’t work that way.
By no means am I advocating violence, here, but your uncle’s behavior is going to result in his ass getting kicked someday when he pulls that nonsense on the wrong person. And the last person you want delivering that ass-kicking is your husband. On Thanksgiving. At a family event.
Since the gathering is at your mom’s house, I’d start by talking to her about your uncle’s behavior and draw a very distinct line in the sand. No, don’t tell her that she needs to make her home a “politics-free zone” ― it’s good to have people show their true colors. Instead, tell her the moment your uncle unleashes offensive garbage toward your family, you’re going to grab your kids and leave.
Your mom might say you’re overreacting or being too sensitive, but I don’t think having a zero-tolerance policy for racism qualifies as either. And if she’s worth a damn as a grandmother, she will do whatever it takes to ensure her child ― and her grandchildren ― are as comfortable as possible.
That said, if she fails to get that message across to her brother, and if he does something offensive, you need to make a scene. Not a “square up and flip the furniture” scene, mind you, but enough to call out his behavior and, yes, straight-up embarrass him in front of everyone in attendance.
And it won’t take much. Using the “Mexican farmer” comment, for example, you could respond:
Why would you say something like that? My husband is an American citizen, just like you. I’m not going to tolerate this behavior any longer; I’d rather spend Thanksgiving with my family alone in a hotel than here with you.
Then, grab your stuff and bounce. Don’t let anyone try to change your mind. You gave your mom a warning, and she didn’t make her point clear enough. Head out the door and don’t look back.
Why make a scene? Because I’m tired of the emphasis on civility. Because civility is what allows racists to say racist shit without being called out on it. Civility is saying, “Yeah, he posted photos of my kids on social media wearing MAGA hats without my permission while making an offensive joke about kids in cages — but he’s my uncle, so I’ll let it slide.”
No. We need more people standing up to racism and bigotry than ever before. Because guess what? The racists aren’t worried about offending us, so why are we worried about offending them?
At the end of the day, there are only two types of people in the world: those who bring things to the table and those who take things from the table. It sounds like your uncle is the kind of guy who doesn’t add a ton of value to your family’s well-being. If so, maybe it’s not worth sharing a table with him at Thanksgiving ― or any other holiday ― if he doesn’t change his ways.
I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for five years, and I’m itching to get back into the workforce. Without telling my husband, I submitted my resume for an accounting job, had a couple of interviews, and they offered me the position.
When I told my husband, he was very upset and said I should decline the offer because my first responsibility should be to our two young children (5 years old and 3 years old). But both of them are in school for at least part of the day, so why can’t I go back to work? Does it make me a bad mom to desire more for myself besides playdates and laundry?
– Allie in Phoenix
It doesn’t make you a bad mom for wanting more for yourself, Allie. But it doesn’t make you the greatest wife in the world for going for it without letting your husband know.
To be clear, I’m not saying you need your husband’s permission to do this. You’re a grown-ass woman who can do whatever she wants. But don’t you think you should’ve at least given him a heads-up about your unhappiness since he’s your life partner?
I get it. The “it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission” route is well-traveled when the other party isn’t keen on big changes. You knew he wouldn’t be happy with this move before you made it, so you might want to think about why that’s the case. Is he really concerned about the kids’ well-being with you going back into the workforce, or is it something else? Does he feel like “less of a man” because the perception is out there that your family needs an additional income to survive?
I’m spitballing, here, but I would do my part to get to the bottom of this and help ease his concerns. Because if the kids are in school, why should you sit at home? If working makes you a happier person, it’s going to make you a better mom and wife, as well, and then everybody wins.
I think the biggest issue here isn’t your new job. It’s the fact that you don’t feel comfortable communicating with your husband about important issues. Maybe you feel that he has 51 percent of the vote in your house because he brings home all of the income, but I’m here to say that your contribution to the family is just as important — if not more so. I recommend telling your husband that taking this job is something that you’re going to do (meaning, that you’re not asking for his permission) and you want to sit down and review any concerns he has about this change.
Almost 50 percent of two-parent households in America have both parents working full time, so this is hardly groundbreaking stuff. If you feel that it’s best for you to take this job and it doesn’t negatively impact the lives of your kids, then I think it’s an absolute no-brainer to go for it.
With that said, you need to nip the “mom guilt” in the bud, stat. You’re a good mom if you choose to take the job, and you’re a good mom if you decline the job. But you won’t be the best mom you can be if you make a decision due to outside pressure.
Doyin is a father, husband and author dedicated to creating and celebrating a world of great fathers. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook at @daddydoinwork or ask him a question for a future column at firstname.lastname@example.org.