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tinyfaery's avatar

Can you help me out with yet another awkward situation with my sisters-in-law?

Asked by tinyfaery (41548points) 2 months ago from iPhone


SIL has asked my wife and I to be the godparents of her second son. She 100% knows I’m an atheist. I’m not sure what SIL thinks her sister believes. My wife doesn’t like to share what she’s thinking with others and SIL has never been very perceptive.

Well, we feel awkward about it. Neither one of us is comfortable vowing, in front of our family and the eyes of god (teehee), to guide our nephew in the ways of the church. WTF?

I’m saying no, but my wife feels obligated even though she is very uncomfortable with the situation. Wifey thinks if she says no her sister will get “all butt-hurt” and it will put a strain on their relationship.

Why would she put us in this situation? She had to know I would say no at least. My wife wants to say no, she really doesn’t want to do it, but she will to keep the peace.

I hate that she constantly puts the feelings of her sister over herself and I know it’s her choice, but I hate the way it hurts her.

Can you think of any way my wife can just politely decline and have her sister not feel rejected?


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25 Answers

KNOWITALL's avatar

Could you sit down over a quiet dinner and ask what exactly it means to SIL? A lot of people skip the ceremony and just like the concept. I wouldnt refuse without an honest conversation.

chyna's avatar

I love you sis, but I think being godparents means to teach the nephew the ways of the church and Tinyfaery and I are not the ones to do that in the manner you would expect or want. However, we will always want to be a part of his life, just not the religious aspect of it.

augustlan's avatar

Is the SIL very religious? I know a lot of people just use ‘godparent’ to mean ‘special relationship to child’ and/or ‘child’s guardian if I die.’ Find out what exactly she expects from a godparent, and if it really is all about the religious aspects, go with @chyna‘s advice.

LadyMarissa's avatar

Since she intimidates your wife, maybe YOU should be the one talking to her about what is expected. Then YOU can decline for both of you & she can get mad at you & hopefully leave your wife out of it!!!

Do you think that her purpose is that she’s trying to draw you into the church???

seawulf575's avatar

I’d just tell your SIL that being a godparent is considered a big responsibility that comes with ensuring the child is raised in a Christian way. As an atheist you would not be able to fulfill that responsibility correctly and so you have to decline.

tinyfaery's avatar

SIL became more religious after she married. Her husband and family seem to be religious for show and definitely not by their actions.

I don’t think the problem is with being a so called godparent. I don’t think SIL expects my wife to have anything to do with my nephew’s religious upbringing. It’s more about the ceremony.

When SIL’s first kid was baptized his godparents had to say a vow and my wife is not comfortable with that, at all.

Adagio's avatar

If your sister-in-law wants a ceremony, perhaps she would be happy to not involve the church but rather use a celebrant at a private ceremony, focusing on the special relationship between you both and the child, and your commitment to the child. It can be a formal ceremony, if she is looking for that, or more relaxed, you could work that out together so everybody has a voice. My daughter and son-in-law are “godparents” to their friend’s little boy, there was no church involved. Just my two cents worth tinyfaery. Best of luck.

JLeslie's avatar

I would thank my SIL for asking if it was me, and then ask her what she considers the role of the godparents. Maybe she just sees it as a ceremony and place of honor for you and your wife.

Is your wife her only sibling? Maybe she wants it to be family.

I am not religious, but if my SIL and her husband had died when their kids were little, and my husband and I had been named to have custody of their kids, I would have followed through on their Catholic upbringing even though I am Jewish and an atheist. You don’t have to be religious to honor, or show respect, for the religion of the parents. My SIL isn’t extremely religious though, but she cared they went to CCD and had communion, etc.

One important thing your SIL should check. If they are Catholic, the Priest may require the Godparents be Catholic.

About the vow, is there some way to word it that will be comfortable. Like clergy now work with couples, and brides often don’t want to use obey or submissive in vows.

Jeruba's avatar

Is there any chance that she might have felt obligated to ask you first—giving you the right of first refusal, as they say—and is expecting you both to decline so she feels free to ask whomever she really wants? Could someone (a parent, say) be putting pressure on her to ask you and your wife?

JLeslie's avatar

@Jeruba Here I am thinking she possibly wants it to be family, but then I read your post and it also could make sense that she feels obligated to ask family. That’s a nightmare if the SIL is actually hoping the OP and her wife will refuse. Seems like a very risky crapshoot.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I’d like to offer a different take on the situation. Take it as a heartfelt compliment.

Your SIL knows you two well. She knows your religious beliefs. She knows your living arrangement, your jobs, and your intelligence,
She looked around at everyone she knows and picked you two! She is offering you her most precious possessions in case something were to ever happen to her. She is showing you and her entire family that she supports, respects, and trusts you both.

It’s a tangible and public sign of love and respect.

(OTOH, she could be doing it to drag you into the fold. in which case a dick punch is totally warranted. )

flutherother's avatar

It is an honour to be asked and while it is expected that you will take an interest in the child’s development, show a good example and care for the boy I think the religious element, at least here in the UK, is not much stressed nowadays. Your sister in law may have other ideas in which case I think you are obliged to point out that as you are not church goers or believers yourselves you do not feel competent to assist in this aspect of the boy’s development. The ball is then in your sister in law’s court.

It is an honour and I understand how your wife feels. If you can get over the religious aspect of godfathering I would let your wife make the decision and support her whatever she decides.

tinyfaery's avatar

1. The religion is Lutheran. We do not have to be Lutheran, obviously.
2. I do not and never will respect 95% of religions. I respect people, but I would never, and neither would my wife, bring up a child in a religion, no matter the circumstance.
3. Perhaps we could work out a different wording. Great idea, @JLeslie.
4. The father’s sister and her husband are the godparents of the first kid. I think we are just the next in line. I don’t think SIL would ask us just because she was asked to or is expected to. And my mother-in-law would never get involved in this.

I think I’ll ask my wife to get more info from SIL and ask about what needs to be said in church.

Thanks all. I’ll let you know.

rojo's avatar

We went the godparent route for our kids to make my wife and her family happy.

Subsequently, my wife has lost faith in the Catholic church; my elder childs godfather has become an avowed agnostic, his godmother moved and we have not heard from her in 30 years. my youngest’s godfather became a baptist and her godmother converted to Judaism.

But you know what, it made people happy at the time and no one has given much thought to it in the intervening years.

So, if you can, then why not.

chyna's avatar

@rojo I get what you are saying, but it seems like such a sham, why do it?
Unless there is cake. Then I might do it.

rojo's avatar

@chyna Perhaps. Then, as now, I was not religious. But to have my child baptized, christened and godparented made my wife, her folks, my mom and many others happy and it cost me nothing. I could justify it if for no other reason. And then there was the cake afterwards….

KNOWITALL's avatar

My godchild knows who I am and we’re friends on fb, that’s about it. Of course if she NEEDED me, she would have my undivided attention, but any child would that asked. She doesn’t need a mentor and I wasn’t included in her formative years, so means nothing really. I said the right words in church though so everyone was happy.

tinyfaery's avatar

Well, the vow cannot be changed. This is how the facetime call went yesterday:

SIL: So you know you have to say that you will guide him in the ways of Jesus?
My wife: (In a miffed tone) Yeah. I don’t really have a choice do I?
SIL: No.
My wife: I’ll just cross my fingers.
SIL: Okay

That’s all folks.

chyna's avatar

Well let’s pray that no one dies. lol
Ok, bad joke.

JLeslie's avatar

@tinyfaery So she’s going to do it? It would be hard for me too, but I think I could, for my niece and nephew, because it’s their religion. Still difficult. I couldn’t do it for my own kid to satisfy “the family” if my husband was Christian.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@tiny But in reality its maybe 15 minutes of discomfort for peace and happiness. SIL could have been more communicative, geesh.

JLeslie's avatar

@KNOWITALL I can’t speak for tiny or her wife, but for me it would be more than discomfort if I had no plan in honoring what I’m promising. A vow that is a false promise would be very very hard for me. Just like you wouldn’t want to tell a lie under oath before God, I don’t want to make a false oath.

tinyfaery's avatar

Yes, @JLeslie. That’s why I said no.

raum's avatar

Do you both have to agree to it? Would your wife be upset or relieved if you said no to them?

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