Surviving the In-Laws After You Have a Baby

Surviving the In-Laws After You Have a Baby

Surviving the In-Laws After You Have a Baby

“Isn’t she eating solids yet?”

“I never put anything out of reach. I just smacked mine and they soon learnt not to touch!”

“Jelly beans won’t hurt – goodness, you can buy them in the chemist, they must be o.k.”

It is easy to take offence when you are confronted about your parenting choices, especially when criticism comes from family members. But could you be over-reacting or perhaps just a little oversensitive? Is your mother-in-law really going out of her way to needle you or could she actually be trying to impart some well-meant (although misguided) information?

Family Values

You may have heard a million jokes about mother-in-laws, but when it comes to dealing with your own, up close and personally – especially when you become a parent – it isn’t easy to see the funny side.

Unfortunately, we can’t choose our in-laws – they come as part of the package along with the person we fall in love with. And, here lies the root cause of most problems: the difference in upbringing between ourselves and our partners. Each family has its own values and traditions as well as ways of behaving as a family – some families talk to each other every day, while others go weeks between phone calls; one family might tell each other everything, while another may have clear boundaries about what issues are private, even between family members; some families will be outspoken and not at all backwards about offering advice while others may express disapproval in more subtle, but none-the-less intrusive ways.

Taking a Chill Pill

To deal more calmly with interference, it can help to try and see the other person’s perspective. If your mother-in-law seems all too ready to undermine you, it may be a sign that she needs to increase her own self-worth, albeit at your expense. After all, she brought up the partner you love and have a child with so she probably feels some credit is due. At some level, your mother-in-law may be feeling that she has to compete with you for her own child’s love and respect (that is, your partner); your different parenting style may be a threat to the way she brought up your partner (or you, if it is your own mother who is being critical).

On the other hand, Grandma may be genuinely trying to make things easier by sharing her hard-earned knowledge or she may simply want to be more involved with her grandchild.

Ultimately, the issue here is not who ‘wins’, but encouraging a positive relationship between your child and their grandparents. So when you disagree with in-laws (your parents or your partner’s), it is worth remembering the old adage, ‘you catch more flies with honey than vinegar’. Because your relationship with your child’s grandparents will be an ongoing one, it is important to try and find some common ground. Try asking for Grandma’s opinion on a fairly neutral topic or invite her to be more involved and give her positive feedback. For instance, ‘would you like to give him his bath?’ Or, ‘he loves it when you take him to feed the ducks?’

If you are confronted by unwanted advice, no matter how well-meaning, you can either tell her honestly, but politely, that you feel undermined by her advice or you can simply stay calm: take a deep breath and respond, ‘this works well for us,’ or (baby’s name) feels happy when we… (whatever you are doing that she is advising against). Another option is to thank Grandma for her tips and say, enthusiastically, ’I’ll remember that,’ then choose what information suits you and your little one and discard the rest.

You might also like to share some up to date information with your mother-in-law (or mother) by commenting enthusiastically about a new book you have discovered or perhaps some written information or research that reinforces what you are doing. It will work better to do this pro-actively before she bombards you with out of date information, so she isn’t put in a situation where she feels defensive.

If all else fails, you can deflect unwanted advice by bringing in the ‘big guns’: “Our Lactation Consultant/ Doctor/ Maternal Health Nurse says …”

A United Front

If your partner starts to side with his mother against you, it is only natural that you want to cut the apron strings between them – with a very sharp pair of scissors! But again, the best advice is to remain calm: enlist your partner’s support by telling him how you feel without becoming angry or putting him in a situation that makes him feel he must ‘choose’ between you and his mother. It is also important to tell your man how much you value his parenting efforts (“You are a great Dad! I love the way you…), then help him see how vulnerable this criticism makes you feel and how much you need his support so you can be a confident, competent mother.

It can be difficult to stand up to your parents, but if you and your partner can agree on what really matters and you can support each other, you are more likely to succeed in setting boundaries. Sit down together and make a list of what bothers you about each other’s families and decide which issues are worth standing firm on. What you feed your baby or how you choose to discipline your child may be priorities that you won’t compromise, for instance. But if your mother-in-law wants to iron your husband’s shirts ‘properly’ or complains about how you mow the lawns (or don’t), perhaps you could let this one go or share it as a mother-in-law joke. After all you, your partner and child(ren) are a family now, and it is time to establish your own values and traditions.

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International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Parenting Editor, Author, Infant Massage Instructor & Mum of five

  1. helpful , but how can I make it work for my situation. My mother in law lives with us and speaks Spanish only and I speak English only. It’s definitely a tough situation

  2. Sure easy to say but what about crazy demands from the moment they’re born and undermining what you want. When s woman becomes a mother she needs support. For the first while it’s all about that bond. The mother in law can suck it up until the new family is ready to share more time with her. She’s had her kids and needs to respect the needs of her daughter in law.

      1. Going Through the same tng with my inlaws they are so creepy and they had they kids four of them infact wasnt that enough for them!!!

  3. This article is very helpful. Thanks. But how can I deal with a MIL that lives in a different country and when she comes she stays for a month with us plus does not speaks English. I am learning her language but still there is lot of misunderstanding (Slovak) plus she is very possesive with the kids. I just had the third baby and I am dreading the visit…my husband wants her to come when I go back to work. She does not follows instructions with the breastmilk i pump…”the baby was not thirsty and I did not give it”, etc.. She even sent me email for taking good care of the kids because she is far…like if they were hers…She comes and wants to take over the house, the kids and even me like if I could not do things…

  4. My mother in law can’t speak English and my worry is that once I’m back to work my kids will not be able to learn English. Also my mother in law practises a different religion than me and she does share a little kan my kids when I am not too inclined for her to. How can we make this clear to her.


    1. You are right mother in laws are not the enemy and they do love their sons and their families. As a daughter in law I can tell you that my mom in law does try and help and I do appreciate her help and do recognize and see that she means well. There are times however where I feel that my mother in law is trying to ‘teach’ me how to act in accordance with her family’s rules and that I do take offense to. Respect is mutually given and earned. I want her to respect my thoughts and ideas and my family’s way of doing things too.

      Also, sometimes you/we may not recognize when perhaps boundaries have been crossed. I know my mother in law doesn’t mean to say condescending things but sometimes does and I’m sure I’ve done the same. Also, sometimes I find her overbearing and too involved but I’m sure she would disagree. I know from my own experience if I got a bit more space I would be more obliging too. Some breathing room could work wonders. If she felt the need to add in ‘short’ visit perhaps they were afraid of you staying too long or taking over or perhaps it is something they added to everyone’s text. I know this isn’t the easiest thing to hear but you cannot compare yourself to her mom. A daughter and mother’s relationship is very different then one shared between a daughter in law and a mother in law. Please try to remember who you wanted close to take care of you when you delivered. There are things (intimate help) you are comfortable asking off your mom/sister etc that you cannot ask of your mother in law. That is probably the reason her mom is staying with them (to help her as she heals) and you are being asked to stop by for a short visit. Please try to understand this and not take this so personally…the new mother needs assistance herself during this time and this is likely a role you don’t want.

      I would say respect your daughter in law’s and son’s wishes and respect their boundaries and see how that goes. If you consistently show that you respect their wishes and honestly believe it is not a contest, then perhaps you will see change & or think differently. I would say go over for a short visit just as they requested, make something you know your daughter in law likes, during your visit show interest in your daughter in law’s health as well as excitement for the baby and your son and shower love on the baby and the new parents to be without doling out advice–this will help relations far more than anything else.

      If you still feel left out or hurt then you should have a conversation with your son and daughter in law about what you are feeling, but be prepared to really listen to them too. I hope this has helped or at least shown a different perspective to think about. Best wishes and congratulations to you and your family on this special time and new addition!

      1. I totally agree with this a daughter in law does need space. Distance helps alot when our in laws are in your face all the time you would just want to push them away more i am going threw the same thing it isnt pleasant at all. I have my father in law constantly saying to me my little boy is always going to stay with them its hurtful an annoying. My sister in law is too clingy me an my partner went away for the weekend an she was demanding photos of my son we cant even go away with them constantly askig for photos etc

  6. What about a mil that detests you breastfeeding. When my baby was a few days old she insisted that my milk was all dried up bc I was feeding on demand. She also made comments about how I should pump her bottles so she could pack my nearly 2 week old baby up and take him home! From that time on I was determined to NEVER stop bf bc I didn’t want her to take him. Moving on to Mother’s Day when baby was 3 months old my mil came creeping over my shoulder while I was nursing and pulled my breast out of baby’s mouth 3-5 times insisting he play peekaboo with her and why does he need to eat again!? I always had a good relationship with her as I have been dating her son and living with him for 6 years prior to getting pregnant. I noticed a cold feeling from her from the time of my baby shower-which she planned and deliberately had it on a day that my mother could not attend. Just last week she came over for breakfast and tried to give my 7 month old coffee from her cup. When he wouldn’t drink it she dipped her stink dirty finger in her coffee and shoved it in his mouth!!!! Now I just cringe at the sight of her and I really wish I could feel better about this. Maybe I’m just ultra sensitive??? I wish I could battle her with love and kindness but it’s so hard!

    1. Oh my god… this is as if I wrote it. My MIL is very selfish.. she doesn’t care if baby is napping or eating or just wants her mom she’s determined to get her time in no matter how we or the baby feel. And she refuses to wash her hands before she touches her. She says she is clean enough and babies “need some dirt”. We’ve both had convos with her about it and she deliberately ignores our pleas for even hand washing.. and she sticks her dirty finger in my infants mouth (still under 3months!) .. it’s so disgusting. My then 1 month old got a bacterial infection in her mouth that required an antibiotic and messed up our exclusive breastfeeding to the point that she’s mostly formula fed now and I know her disgusting hands gave it to her. I feel a rage no matter what she says or does now because she refuses to comply with basic needs for cleanliness since she raised her son this way and he was fine. She also brags his first solid food was lobster.. uhmmm.. what if he had a shellfish allergy?! I’m the crazy one? I cringe when she holds her now and that stinks because before the baby we had a great relationship. She’s flipped the script since I got pregnant. It’s never for us or the baby.. it’s her baby .. I’m like an outsider in my own family now.. and I have a 7yr old who’s seeing this behavior.

  7. This does seem helpful. my problem is that we live with my in-laws and his mom has never been a big fan of me. when we were dating, it was good and better when we got married. Once i had my daughter, it went all down hill. My in-laws are Filipino and always wanted my husband to marry the same race due to them always working in the medical field. I ended up not being one of those, I’m mexican and a preschool teacher, Since my daughter has been born and will be 1 in 2 months, my mother in law and I have been going down very quickly. She has even threatened to call child services and think I cant take care of my daughter. We are trying to leave but not fully financial stable yet. I tried to be the best daughter in law but I know now that it will be perfect.

  8. I want to move out from my in laws house..but we dont have our own place yet.. I always feel that there is a competition between us in terms of raising my daughter since my husband is working i feel like my child loves my in laws more than me, her mother.i feel hurt.i dont want to be angry with my in laws, they’re nice but i dont want to live with them.sad to say, i had to endure the pain.

  9. I really wish my MIL loved me like her daughter, but she doesn’t. I’ve gone out of my way to do things for her and get closer but my efforts have not worked. When she visits us, she only talks to her son and totally disregards me. In my case, I have an outlaw. She didn’t call to congratulate us on our sons birth either. Seems she only calls when she needs help with money. But on the hand, she must be a good person as she carries her bible everywhere. I’m just hurt on the way she has treated me personally. For example, I put my 1st son in timeout and she took him out of timeout and stated that as long as she is present we the parents shall not punish her grandkids. I told her I’m the mother and get to decide how to decipline my kids and she started crying and my husband ran to console her. Then she said she is never stepping foot in my house. Ouch. Dramatic a little?

  10. I live with my in-laws. Never had any problems.
    I’ve always made it clear I don’t tell other people how to parent so no body ever tells me how to.
    It does annoy me occasionally when I have to do things so I let my LO cry it out and since both of them don’t work they will come rushing in to pick him up, but then I realise that’s not so bad because I see how much they love playing with him and I don’t ever want them to feel unnapreciated so I just take a deep breath let it go and say thank you. My LO loves being held at ALL times which is the down fall BUT I have plenty of hands to do that for me when o need mine so it’s not the end of the world…. The only thing we really disagree on is religion but I put a ban on that conversation to anyone really.. So we all just live in peace..

  11. My son and daughter in law Kristen are at the hospital as I am typing this comment. He is my only son and I am so very proud of him.
    Kristen has made their choices very clear, maybe not as sweetly or comforting as I would have liked, but I get it. Although I did feel hurt a bit when She txt and said “We will let you know when we get settled. Just don’t say anything to anybody yet ” . I cried, threw my phone, txt back and said nicely, just tell Brandon to txt or call when he wants me to come. Lol
    I then came to my senses and realized she probably doesn’t mean it the way I took it. I’m 56 years old and know how to behave myself. I’m not pushy or over bearing. I just want to be there for my kids, when they need me. Therefore I Googled what is the procedure for mother in laws during delivery. Wow!!! I really wasn’t expecting so much. Negative comments about mother in laws, almost makes me not want to be one. Ouch!!!
    I am and that won’t change so I will have to suck it up and learn the ropes. So with mucH thought her was my reply to my son:
    He txt saying: she is dilated 2 cm at 80 percent, if baby isn’t here by noon, they will induce labor. DelI very may not happen untIl tonight.

    My reply:
    Ok. Great don’t worry about us. Just keep me updated as you can and enjoy your time with Kristen be a good supporter she’s going to need it. I’ll be praying for the both of you mostly Kristen to have a quick and easy delivery and baby Remi to be as Happy and Beautiful, heath and comfortable as she can be. We love you guys.

    Feel free to txt and or call if you need anything from me. I would love to bring you lunch if that works for you guys. Kisses and Loves


    I am going to see her sweet face soon! Meanwhile enjoy the comfort of my home. (His sisters however will be a whole other chapter)

    The Mother-In -Law

    1. You actually seem very supporting, caring and understanding. Being almost 9 months along I was literally dreading having to speak to my in laws about when they should come. Its their first granchild and we live in another state but we’ve never been close and its also my first child. I’d like time to be settled, bonded, get the hang of breastfeeding etc before I’m overwhelmed with company. My FIL already announced that he was looking for flights the day the baby is set to arrive but my fiance is dealing with that. DIL’s don’t view you as the enemy but its a hard transition and I’m thankful you cared enough to research great ways to support your son and DIL!

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