One Step Forward, Then Two Steps Back with In-Laws! Can't Bring Myself To Trust Them.

Nikki - posted on 10/31/2014 ( 2 moms have responded )




First- sorry for the long post- this has been brewing inside me for a long time and I MUST get it out! Thanks in advance for listening and for any comments/feedback.

I know relationships with in-laws are different from our own parents, but I just can't bring myself to understand it. My little girl is 9 months old, and ever since she was born there has been only 1 time that the in-laws have asked to stop by. Otherwise, my husband and I make ALL the effort to have them over or stop by their house. I have told them myself several times that they are welcome at anytime, but I'm sick of dictating and making the effort to make sure they see her. MIL has told my husband that she doesn't want to impose and her way to saying they want to see her is by offering to babysit. The problem is, I can't trust MIL or FIL to babysit (for the reasons below). I don't understand why they just can't come out and invite us over or ask to stop by.

I currently refuse to have the in-laws babysit. I'm probably being a crazy overprotective mother but they have done several things that have bothered me. I try to get over it but everytime I feel like I take a step forward something happens to make me take two steps back. I feel like there is this strange power struggle between us. Here are some examples of situations:

-When the baby would cry, MIL would try to comfort her (rocking her in a rough way either in her arms or stroller) and if she was still crying say "oh grandpa she wants you." She would try to hand her off to other people and never give her to me even though it's obviously what baby wanted. I've grown a pair and now I just take her if she cries.

-MIL put her fingers in babys mouth a couple of times checking for teeth- GROSS!

-Now baby is almost 9 mos, when we were out with them the other day the in-laws gave her a fry when I wasn't looking- I only caught baby trying to give fry back to my FIL (she knows it's not what's best for her!)

-In-laws have a small, very energetic small dog that jumps on people. When we visited, MIL had baby and knelt down to the dog (who has NEVER been around children and is very protective over MIL)- luckily no one was hurt.

-MIL offered to have the entire family over for Easter. We told them that we would not be coming (MIL smoked in the house) but MIL never told FIL the reason why. FIL asked my husband to please consider coming and was very angry when he found out the reason was the smoke in the house. *This doesn't have to do with baby but made me and my husband look like a$$holes.

I really try to make things fair between both sets of our parents. I didn't have my fathers side growing up so I feel very grateful that they are around, but I just don't get it. My parents are naturals since this is their 5th grandchild but it is in-laws 1st grandchild. Am I completely overacting? Any comments/feedback is greatly appreciated!


Chet - posted on 11/01/2014




You may be able to partly address this by specifically inviting your in laws to your place. Expecting people to just stop by, or to ask you if they can come over, isn't necessarily reasonable. Some people would feel uncomfortable and would worry they were imposing no matter how much you say that "any time" is fine.

I would try to extend very warm invitations associated with specific things - we're cooking a big meal and there will be lots of food please come, we're having a little celebration for some small event it would be great if you could come over, we're going to BBQ on Sunday could you come and maybe bring a salad, baby daughter got a toy she really likes and it's super cute to see her play with it you have to come over and see it, etc.

Next, I think you could try asking your in laws to sort of baby sit in your house and see how that goes. If you have a big chore to do, or a project you need to work on, you could ask them to come over and keep your daughter company while you address the Christmas cards or do yard work or clean the bathroom.

Big picture though, you need to consider the value of the relationship against the actual risks. If you want children to have a relationship with their relatives you need to start growing that relationship. If your in-laws are generally loving people it's probably better for your daughter to eat the occasional bit of unhealthy food, and be exposed to some more germs than you would like, but to have a strong bond with her grandparents.

Kids and teens who have a strong network of loving, supportive family (and friends of the family who are close like relatives) are more resilient against the stresses of growing up. It's also good for kids to be exposed to different ways of living, and different views of the world.

This is really an aside, but I'd try not to be grossed out by the fingers in the mouth. It's no different than a baby holding somebody's finger and then putting their own hand in their mouth, or taking a toy out of somebody's had and then putting the toy into their mouth. And there is growing evidence that kids are being way overprotected when it comes to dirt, bacteria, pets, etc. Babies exposed to dogs are a lot less likely to develop allergies.

In some families, parents give babies their fingers to suck on. We actually learned to do this from the doctors and nurses at the hospital. It used to drive me crazy that my MIL would let our babies cry as infants rather than just offer her pinky finger to suck on. Although, I understand that it was hard for her having grown up in a time when people were super, super paranoid about germs and babies.

I don't understand the smoking in the house. Did you not go to Easter dinner because your MIL had smoked in the house some time before and you were worried that the house would still smell smokey? Does she smoke in the house when you are there?

I'm not clear either on the issue with the dog. If the dog has never been around children it's reasonable to start introducing the dog to the baby in a controlled way. Did the dog jump, snap, growl or scratch at the baby? Do you think this is a dog that will just need to be separated from your daughter long term, or do your daughter and this dog need to be gradually introduced to each other?

Anyway, right now your daughter is very young. She's still a baby, and it's not terrible to be cautious, and to go with what you are comfortable with. It's natural to want to keep your baby close, and to protect them. A lot instincts kick in when you become a mother, and it's natural to be more comfortable having your baby in an environment that it similar to the one you grew up in.

Another strategy you can use dealing with your in laws is to just own up to your discomfort... but make it your problem not theirs. If you say, "I'm not ready to yet to have baby do x, y or z" it's about you and your comfort level, not about criticizing them. It can be less confrontational to just ask people to humour you for the time being with little stuff that isn't worth making an issue out of.


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Nikki - posted on 11/01/2014




Thank you so much for your reply and putting many of these things into perspective. It's easy to get caught up and not take a step back to look at the bigger picture. I guess that, in general, I don't feel like they use common sense with her, and that's what bothers me the most.

We've made the effort every weekend (with the exception of only a few) since she was born to have them over or visit them. I know people don't usually change- it would just be nice if they initiated it once in a while.

As far as the smoking- my MIL has been smoking in her house for 20+ years and we just didn't want to subject the baby to that. After FIL found out why we wouldn't go over there, she stopped smoking in the house, gave it a good cleaning, and we do go over there to visit now.

The dog jumps on me (holding the baby) when I walk in the door at their house so I didn't feel it was a good idea to initially bring the baby down to the dogs level for introduction, but take a more gradual approach. I definitely feel it's important for children to grow up with pets and we have a dog and cats ourselves.

All the situations aside, they love her and would never intentionally put her in harms way. I'll have to learn to calm down a bit and use the strategy you described in the last paragraph so they don't feel criticized. Thanks again for your valuable feedback!

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