You can’t choose your mother-in-law just as much as you can’t choose your own mother. And both can be a bit overbearing at times, especially when you’ve just had your first-born. But how do you navigate around the situation without hurting the two well-meaning women?
They come with the package
It is inevitable. Most mothers and mothers-in-law will have the urge to drop by. They come with the newborn-package. But how you and your partner choose to bring up your child is not always how your mother-in-law or your own mother would. This can cause great conflict. The key is to be open-minded. They might not have the same idea of raising a child, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from them. Understand that they come from a different time, where rearing methods differed quite a lot – this is all they know. Your task will be to slowly introduce your own unique methods to them, without alienating them. Explain the reasons behind your thinking as you kindly lay down the law.
Set out their and your job descriptions
It helps to be clear about what you need. They can’t help you if you don’t speak up. Take their personalities and specialities into consideration and assign different tasks to them.
According to Erica Lyon, an independent maternity educator in New York City, “If Mom is overbearing and involved, I would ask her to do very specific things. Say, ‘I really need you to give the baby a bath.'”
Erica Stoller, a social worker and supervisor in the parent-education program at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City says, “You say, ‘It would be particularly helpful if you’d hold the baby while I shower,’ and then you show her you appreciate it.”
Handling the conflict
On the subject of handling conflict, Mary Jane DeWolf-Smith, founder of Family Works in San Rafael, California, says a mother of a first-born should take the sting out of a conflict situation by acknowledging that her ways are not wrong – yours are just different. She suggests that you have to let them know that you are not judging their methods. “Grandmas who nag are grandmas who sense they’re being ignored or not taken seriously.” DeWolf-Smith suggests a method called “reflective listening.” This method is simple: you simply mirror what the other person said in the form of a question. This will make them feel as if their advice and concerns are heard and being taken seriously: “Oh, you’re wondering whether the baby would be better off sleeping in the crib?”
“Understand that the grandmother often feels this new relationship is a sign of approval or disapproval of her parenting,” says DeWolf-Smith.
A solid partnership
The mothers can never, ever, see a kink in you and your partner’s armour. You need to be in unison. Don’t have disagreements in front of the mothers – sort out your differences in private. Support your partner’s decisions, just as your partner should support yours.
Let it slide
And if all else fails, just give them a break. It is important to remember that they are just well-meaning human beings that are flawed, much in the same way as you are. Sometimes you just need to cut them some slack, sit back, and let the situation play out. Sometimes we fuss too much and forget that some things just have a way to sort out themselves.