DEAR AMY: I’m about to have my first child. My partner and I are very excited! My brother and his partner have a young child. They have chosen not to vaccinate. While I am not looking to get into a vaccine debate with them, I have some concerns about letting their young child come into close proximity with my newborn. We plan to vaccinate our child, although I know that there are some vaccines that are not administered until our child reaches a certain age. Prior to our baby receiving those vaccines, I feel very uneasy exposing the baby to children who are unvaccinated. I want to make it clear to my brother and his partner that I do not want their child around mine until mine has been vaccinated. But I don’t want to upset them or, worse yet, get into a debate about vaccines with them. How should I approach this delicate topic without upsetting anyone?
Worried New Mother
DEAR WORRIED: Your job as a parent is to use your best judgment to do what is best for your family.
Your brother and his partner are using their own judgment, and have their own reasons, for denying their child vaccines.
According to my research, including conversations with pediatricians as well as recommendations published by many reputable sources, your unvaccinated baby is in a high-risk group for vaccine-preventable diseases.
You should be aware of the risks and consider limiting contact with unvaccinated children, possibly until your child is a year old. But obviously, you should speak with your child’s physician regarding this risk, including recommendations about what constitutes “contact.” Can your child be in the same room with this other child?
“Herd immunity” means that this other unvaccinated child is likely being protected by the vaccinated people surrounding them. (Your choice to vaccinate helps to protect other children from disease.)
Assume that you will have to have at least one conversation with these other parents regarding your own choice. Pass along your doctor’s recommendations using neutral language, and say that you will follow the doctor’s advice. (Pediatricians report that they don’t mind being cast as the “bad guy” in this conversation.)
Understand that there is a possibility, if not a likelihood, that your baby will be exposed to other unvaccinated children without you being aware of it — but you ARE aware of this risk among your family members.
Having this conversation may in fact upset some family members, but the risk to your child from “upset” is less than the risk of whooping cough, measles, flu and other diseases.
DEAR AMY: I am in a relationship with a beautiful girl. She is awesome. We are relatively young, mid-20s. I am worried that my love for her may not be real. I don’t question my feelings for her, but sometimes I catch myself wanting to do single things like going out and socializing with other women. I don’t like the thought of losing her and I know that’s selfish, but at the same time I just can’t shake this feeling. I know it’s not fair to her if I am not 100 percent committed, but I don’t know if these feelings are because in college I dated someone the whole time and now I wish I had used those years to explore and find myself as a person. Is it normal to feel this way as a man, and what should I do?
DEAR WORRIED: I can’t speak for the male experience, but yes — I do think it is normal to feel this way — if you’re not fully satisfied in your current relationship. This could be through no fault at all of your partner’s, but if you’re not ready to commit, nothing she could do would make you ready to commit.
I think it’s a little disingenuous to frame this as you wanting to “find yourself as a person,” however. You want to play the field; perhaps your girlfriend does, too.
Breaking up is a risk (this woman might be the one!), but it sounds like a risk you will have to take.
DEAR AMY: I couldn’t believe your answer to “Very Upset,” the mother who had turned herself inside out to take care of her son’s pets, when the son and daughter-in-law wouldn’t reciprocate. These people owe it to their mother to return this favor!
DEAR UPSET: The son and daughter-in-law did offer to take care of the mother’s dog; she just didn’t like the way they were going to do it.