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Simple Ways To Address The Uncomfortable Interactions With Your Mother-in-Law

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Simple Ways To Address The Uncomfortable Interactions With Your Mother-in-Law

Overall, I reckon I hit the mother-in-law jackpot. My relationship with my mother-in-law is fairly smooth. It could be because she doesn’t reside just down the road but is still close enough to lend a hand when needed. Nevertheless, we’ve encountered our fair share of disagreements, like the instance when she came over to watch our baby while battling bronchitis, or the time my little one called her out for not using the car seat strap as I do.

I’ve discovered that handling such situations can be trickier when it’s not your own mother you’re interacting with. If you find yourself grappling with in-law issues, you’re not alone. According to Elizabeth McCarthy, a professional in relationships, families function like systems striving for equilibrium. When there are shifts in family dynamics—such as the arrival of a grandchild—your mom or mother-in-law might feel the need to exert dominance. Moreover, “it can be challenging for grandmothers to step back and acknowledge, ‘This is not my child. I should adhere to my kid’s approach,'” noted McCarthy. “If our parents don’t appreciate that things have evolved since their child-rearing days, conflicts may arise,” she added.

Your mother-in-law expresses a desire to be present during childbirth

One of my friends not only faced her mother-in-law’s insistence on attending the birth but also another friend vying for the same privilege. Eventually, she allowed both to be part of the experience, stating that when the labor pains hit, she wasn’t fixated on who was in the room. While she appreciated the interest from those wanting to witness the birth and offer support, she later specified that only her husband would be present for the birth of her second child.

According to McCarthy, “while several aspects of parenting catch us off guard, having conversations about boundaries is something we can plan for.” She emphasized the significance of discussing your birthing and postpartum expectations with your partner even before the baby arrives.

Remember, this concerns your body and comfort, so clearly communicate your preferences. Express gratitude for the eagerness to welcome the new addition but make it clear that you and your partner prefer bonding time before visitors arrive.

She intends to stay at your house postpartum

Perhaps you prefer having your own mother at home to aid in the adjustment period. You may want to limit visitors while focusing on parenting with your partner. It’s possible that you feel uneasy nursing openly in front of your mother-in-law when your baby needs feeding. Whatever your reasons, they are valid.

Aim to agree on a suitable visiting schedule that aligns with your family’s needs and adhere to it. Developing the skill to be assertive and resolute will be beneficial as you progress on your parenting journey. Establishing this foundation now will serve you well in the long term.

“Being clear and firm is something you’ll have to work on going forward in your parenting journey, and building a foundation for it now will only help you in the long run.”

After the baby arrives, you might find yourself welcoming help to prepare meals, hold the baby while you rest, or take a shower. Then again, you might not. The point is, it’s your domain. You and your partner are responsible for managing the visitor roster, even when it comes to close family members.

She holds strong views on infant feeding

Whether you breastfeed exclusively, someone—be it your mother-in-law or a stranger—might suggest switching to formula when the baby cries. If you bottle-feed, unsolicited opinions on breastfeeding may come your way. I’ve heard of instances where mothers-in-law purchased and fed fussy babies formula without prior consent!

In general, people often feel compelled to weigh in on how others should feed their infants. McCarthy emphasized the importance of clarity. “The more transparent we are about our feeding plans or the baby’s routine, the better,” she noted. Clear communication is also compassionate—a sentiment rightly heralded by Brené Brown. Clearly outlining your decisions, in line with your partner’s agreement, is not unkindness but rather a means of asserting your parental authority. These conversations become easier as you grow as a mother, gaining confidence in your parenting choices. From the beginning, remember that how you opt to feed your baby is entirely your decision.

Your mother-in-law tends to be overbearing

This theme frequently surfaces on social platforms, mom chats, and more. Despite the generational differences between our mothers-in-law and their child-rearing eras, some moms relish sharing their insights on everything—critiques on your methods, declarations of their successes, comparisons of the time they spend with the baby versus your mom, or criticisms of new rules as nonsensical.

I recall my mom lamenting the complexity of modern car seats, reminiscing about the simple plastic tubs that passed as safety devices back in the ’80s. “But how can you be sure those old methods were safe?” I once queried her. “Have we ever been in a car crash?” We had not, so it’s safe to assume her theory is unproven.

Consider that, to some extent, your mother-in-law might be revisiting motherhood through your lens, seeking to connect with your journey. Nonetheless, if her counsel leans towards judgment rather than aid, strive to be direct and candid in your responses.

If you desire additional support, back up your points with research: “We adhere to the latest safety/feeding/sleeping directives from our pediatrician, hence our decision to follow XYZ.” Sometimes, letting an external expert reinforce your position to your mom or mother-in-law can ease tensions.Dealing with your mother-in-law’s schedule adherence could prove challenging.

When Your mother-in-law Won’t Follow the Routine

It can get tricky when your mother-in-law is also looking after your child. While you appreciate her free childcare, you also want to establish certain expectations, just like you would with any caregiver.

You have various ways to address the situation with your mother-in-law. Consider starting by expressing your emotions and explaining how her actions are adding to your stress with the baby. For instance, you could say, “I feel disappointed when he misses his usual nap because he’s tired by the time I return from work, and we don’t get quality time together.” Hopefully, as a mother herself, she’ll resonate with your emotional appeal.

If that doesn’t work, another technique is the sandwich feedback method, where you sandwich constructive criticism between two positive remarks. For example, “I appreciate how much you love spending time with your grandchild, but it’s crucial for us to stick to the 7 p.m. bedtime routine for everyone’s well-being tonight. We are thankful for your assistance today.” Be clear and direct about your routines, boundaries, and the reasons behind them. Repeat this approach as needed.

When She Keeps Getting Unwanted Baby Items

I recall returning numerous baby clothes, extra blankets, toys, and other items that didn’t suit my taste or were too large for our small house after my first child was born. Even my father-in-law contributed to the overload by purchasing a tricycle and a play kitchen for our newborn—sweet gestures, but she was way too young for them.

Show gratitude for their generosity, keep one outfit, take a photo in it, and have the baby wear it during their visits. Return or donate the excess items. Find a way to subtly mention what you actually need. My mother-in-law now follows a thoughtful tradition of buying a small gift for my kids on birthdays and Christmas while also contributing to their college fund. Our 529 plan allows grandparents to contribute directly without our involvement.

When Your mother-in-law Is Indifferent

On the opposite side is the scenario where your mother-in-law appears disinterested in your baby or makes no effort to connect with them. It could be that your child is her 19th grandchild, and the novelty has worn off, or she might not be naturally inclined towards grandmotherly behavior. The reason could be unknown.

All you can do is express your desire for your child to have a relationship with her. Encourage your partner to do the same. If you’re making an effort, and she chooses not to engage, she’s missing out on the joy of cuddling a new baby. Though hurtful, try to focus on the love surrounding your child—from you, friends, neighbors, siblings, or other caring individuals.

Parenting teaches us to prioritize and invest in relationships that enrich our lives while learning to let go of other matters. It’s a process we navigate over time.

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