Expecting and welcoming your new baby is a sweet and exciting time for you and your partner to bond…except, you’ve noticed, there seems to be a third wheel in the mix. Grandparents can cross a line from enthusiasm into pushiness or even straight-up meddling as “their” baby’s birth approaches. Here’s how to settle family drama as smoothly as you can.
Boundaries are a healthy part of any relationship. Grandparents can have a very close and special relationship with a new baby, but ultimately, you and your partner are the parents. That means you pick the baby’s name, your birth plan is between you and your doctor, and you have final say over the rules for the baby’s care. Your mother-in-law formula fed and it worked just fine? Good for her. You’ll nurse your baby, thanks. She washed cloth diapers by hand? Admirable. You’ve got a 3-month supply of disposables already sitting in the nursery.
Rely on a few tried-and-true strategies to gently but firmly establish yourself and your partner as the decision-makers:
- Keep mum. If they don’t know the name, they can’t complain about it. If you’re worried about an unwelcome intrusion in the delivery room, wait until baby is born to make announcements.
- Choose a polite, bland response for unwanted advice (like, “Thanks, we’ll keep it in mind”). Repeat every time. Either your MIL is well-meaning but overeager, and can take the hint, or if she’s trying to provoke an angry response, you’re refusing to play the game.
- Invite her in where she’s welcome. Meddling can be a sign of insecurity. Let her know where she can be involved (sharing in baby’s first bath, or taking pictures in the first days after birth are great bonding opportunities).
Enlist Your Partner
Your partner should be your primary source of support if you’re having conflict with a mother-in-law. Talk privately about which conversation topics are especially sensitive to you, and plan together so you’re on the same page for what support looks like. Do you need your partner to speak up to defend you in the moment? Enforce limits on visits? Have a separate conversation with your MIL about expectations or hurt feelings?
Listen to your partner’s side, too. It’s common for partners to feel torn in the middle. You and your MIL are both important in your partner’s life, so it’s best if you can find a solution that feels as kind and respectful as possible.
Let Some Things Go
This might be a little tough to hear, so take it from a fellow mom who understands what it’s like to be pregnant: Every once in awhile, all those pregnancy hormones can get the better of us, and it’s possible for us to be the ones overreacting or overstepping.
Let’s imagine your MIL has been buying things for the baby. Like, a lot of things. She’s actually set up an entire nursery in her house, with a complete newborn wardrobe! It’s easy for this to drive you nuts. Who does she think she is? Does she really expect that you’ll give birth and hand your baby over to her?
Here’s the thing. It’s her house, and her money. She can paint your baby’s name in giant letters on her living room wall if she wants (it would be really weird if she did, of course). You don’t have to agree to an overnight stay just because she bought a crib. Treat it as misplaced excitement, and don’t give it another thought.
See if you can let go of some arguments, especially ones that don’t break your parenting rules:
- She likes to change baby into an outfit she bought when she babysits
- Her house has plastic or electronic toys, instead of all wood
- She picks an unusual grandparent name for herself
Some conflicts, like concerns over safe sleeping or car seat practices, are worth a confrontation. But much of the time, you can defuse a lot of drama by keeping a clear head yourself. Not to mention it’s great practice for dealing with a toddler tantrum later!