My advice to my future self as a mother in law, as well as all current or soon to be mother in laws…
Being a daughter in law with a brand new baby has given me insight into the in law wars. Before the baby, I’ve had no issues with my in laws-we live together, and they’re wonderful people and we each do our own thing. Even during my pregnancy, everything was pretty normal. But after my pregnancy, that’s when things started to change…and not for the better.
All of a sudden, I was being told what to do, how to do it, etc etc–and this included my own parents. Everyone claimed they were trying to help and just giving advice, to which I have to say: if you’re making a suggestion, they say, “How about…” or “Try…” or “Maybe…” But when you say things like “Stop…” or “Don’t” or constantly tell me my child is cold and I need to put more clothes on him, you have stopped trying to be helpful and are now overstepping your bounds.
My theory on why daughter in laws start to get annoyed with or dislike their in laws after a baby is because the in laws love the baby too much.
Let me explain: being a grandparent is not a right by any means, it is a privilege. And that cute little baby that you love so much–well, that baby is not yours. It’s your grandchild, but you have zero say in matters. It’s your son’s child, so be careful not to treat the baby as your own, because that’s where the drama starts.
When you get too involved in your grandchild, you are invading the mom’s space. The baby is an extension of her, if you’ve gone from doing your own things and rarely interacting with your daughter in law to now constantly fawning over baby, you are most likely invading her space. She’s not used to you paying so much attention to her or something of hers.
Honestly, you already had your chance raising your son, and as much as everyone loves a little baby, it’s time to step back and let the kids have a go. If they need or want help, you can be sure that they will ask. If you are overstepping your bounds, you may or may not be informed, and if you are not informed and continue your same actions, you are unknowingly putting yourself in a despise category.
So as a daughter in law and a future mother in law later in life, here is my advice to myself:
1. On D-day, do not try to rush into the delivery room the moment you hear the baby’s first cries. This is crucial bonding time for mom and baby during what’s known as the golden hour. Unless you were asked to come in, just stay exactly where you were.
2. Childbirth is not a spectator sport, unless you were asked to, or were previously given the okay to be there, you probably should leave the room. A woman in labor has too much going on to ask you to please leave.
3. Try your best not to say “Let me hold,” and instead, ask, “Can I hold….” Words make a world of a difference, and when it comes to holding a baby, you should always ask first. Especially during the first weeks when baby is asleep most of the time, and mom and dad are constantly feeding, changing diapers, and soothing–it is not right for you to come up every time the baby is awake to try and take him because he’s awake and you want to play. As exhausted as mom is, she wants the reward of being able to see her baby awake and gazing at her too.
4. If you ask to hold the baby and mom says no thank you, do not ask again until the situation changes, or at least an hour has passed.
5. If you are offering to hold the baby to “help out,” you should be sure that this is the help your daughter in law wants.
6. Wash your hands!! It is beyond my understanding why my in laws refuse to wash their hands, constantly claiming that they are clean. Well, you just bought something and paid cash, it’s not clean. You just ate greasy food with your hands, they are not clean. You just wiped your mouth with a napkin and then used that napkin to wipe your hands and then did not wash with water. It is not clean! I struggle with my in laws and my husband’s grandmother on a near daily basis in regards to this. I’m not one to disrespectfully say it to your face. When I ask you to and you refuse and snatch my baby, I cannot do anything in part due to showing cultural respect. But keep this up, and I can assure you that when, not if, but when they move out, you will not see as much of them as you would has you been more mindful of the mom’s wishes.
5. Mother in laws tend to have it a little harder because as women, we love babies more than men. This means we also must be more careful–do not hog the baby!! If you’ve been holding the baby a while or see the mom looking your way, please ask, “would you like the baby back?” Not all daughter in laws are going to demand their child back, so please be courteous.
6. It is natural if the baby and mom are closer to the maternal grandparents than the paternal grandparents. Baby goes where mom goes, and baby is usually closer to mom than dad.
7. Your son has less rights to the baby than his wife. If you are uncomfortable asking your daughter in law about something, you can ask your son. But if you demand, you are likely to cause stress between your son and his wife as well as jeopardize how much your daughter in law will want you around.
There are many little tidbits about my own experiences of frustrations and annoyances towards the baby’s grandparents on both sides, but I’ll leave those to rant posts.
I wanted to keep this as a general reminder for myself in the future so I can remember not to do the things to my future daughter in law that I currently dislike as a new mom and daughter in law today.
Hope this helps some of you. I know we all have good intentions, but we should constantly remind ourselves: this is not our baby, and respect whatever the mom wishes. It’s hard to know if the mom doesn’t discuss it with you because you may not have that type of relationship, or if there is a language barrier, but just be mindful not to “help yourself” to the baby and ask for permission every time.
As you may have heard, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Don’t accidentally put yourself on that path.
What advice do you wish your mother in law to have? Or how has becoming a mother changed your perspective to shape you when it’s your turn?