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Am I being a bad parent by... saying 'no' to being a godmother?

One reader is wondering if she can avoid godparenting duties without rocking the boat.

Image: Shutterstock/beshtanya

OFFICIALLY, GODPARENTS ARE appointed to play a role in a child’s spiritual upbringing. Unofficially, godparents are appointed to give great gifts. Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, and maybe even a few more along the way.

The role of godparent is something of a grey area in many families, but it’s still considered by many to be a privilege to be asked, and it’s something new parents often put a lot of thought into.

But this week, one reader is wondering if she can say a polite “no” to her in-laws request that she play godmother to their new arrival. Is there an easy way out – or should she just graciously accept?

Each week in our series, Am I Being A Bad Parent?, we hear from a reader who can’t figure out if they’re on the right track with a parenting choice, or if they’ve gotten something 100% wrong. To get a balanced view of the situation, we put the dilemma to a group of Irish parents, keeping things anonymous to encourage honest answers. 

We’re always on the lookout for new dilemmas, by the way. If you have one, let us know anonymously in our survey here.

This week’s dilemma

My sister-in-law is due to give birth next month, and we’ve heard via my husband’s mum that she’s going to ask him and I to be godparents. Neither of us are particularly religious at all and our own child doesn’t have godparents. While I think my husband will want to say yes to his sister, the idea of being a godparent makes me quite uncomfortable. I know it’s a symbolic gesture but I don’t like the religious links it has and I really don’t want to have to play a role at the christening. Am I being unreasonable to say no?

Our anonymous readers’ responses

Yes, you are being unreasonable. If it doesn’t mean anything to you, take it in the spirit intended – that you will be a trusted role model for their child – and don’t worry about the religious element. I am a godparent myself and it felt a bit weird to have to ‘reject Satan and all his works’ but ultimately having a special role in the child’s life trumped my discomfort. My own kids are not baptised but they have ‘guideparents’.

Yes, you’re being a bit unreasonable. Unless the baby’s parents are very religious and will have the expectations associated with that, I’d think about accepting for your husband’s sake. In this day and age, it really is just a symbolic gesture, a special aunt/uncle status which ultimately doesn’t mean much.

No, you’re not being unreasonable, but you don’t need to give a flat ‘no’. By all means be quite upfront about your reservations to your in-laws – let them know that you are not willing to provide religious guidance. But if you’re willing to act as a role model/trusted confidant of the child well, then why not agree to the role?

Yes, you’re being unreasonable. I think you’re making a mountain out of a molehill. Surely your in-laws would know that you are not religious? It’s mostly symbolic at this stage. Realistically being a godparent amounts to buying a birthday present, these days.

You’re not being unreasonable, but you really need to discuss this first. Turning it down out of hand feels a bit extreme – like you are putting your relationship with the parents in danger to make a point that, in the end, may not need making. Have a discussion with your in laws about what the expectations around the role are and whether it needs to have an explicitly religious element.

So what’s the final tally? Is our reader being unreasonable?

Yes – 3

No – 2

Tell us your thoughts in the comments! Have a dilemma you’d like to share? Let us know anonymously in our survey here. 

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