32 answers

Help with Visiting In-laws

Does anybody have in-laws who smoke or did smoke? My mother-in-law (who I have a shaky relationship with at best), has lived in her house for the last 30 years, and just decided to TRY to quit smoking. Even if she quits tomorrow, the house has that disgusting toxic smoke smell, and it drives me crazy to go there and expose my son to that awful smell. She never smokes in the house when we are there, but I know that isn't the case the rest of the time. We don't seem to notice it too badly when we arrive, but after a day or so we all wake up coughing and with headaches, and when I open the bag of laundry when we get home I practically throw up. My husband knows it is a huge issue for me, and visits are limited to 4-5 times a year, but each one is still horrible. I am 6 months pregnant with our 2nd child, and the idea of taking a newborn there turns my stomach. We have tried to have her come to our house instead, as I am much less anxious and don't get so cranky, but they are elderly and live 3 hours away and it is hard for them to travel. Plus, my husband's brother never goes anywhere, so all holidays (Christmas, Easter,birthdays) have to be spent up there because she won't leave him on a holiday. I really don't want to feel this way about her, but I resent her because I know I am putting my son at risk, which makes me miserable and angry during every visit. Any ideas?

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Touchy situation. You could go to a motel and when they come to visit, hire a car to transport them. There is no way to get all the smoke from the chairs, carpets the baby crawls on, etc. Ionizers are great but the tar is still there, I think.

Bring a can of Oust Air Sanitizer and spray everything then open a window for a few minutes. Also, take lots of outside walks to help with the headaches and see if you can sleep with a window cracked if it's not too cold. Unfortunately that's really all you can do.

More Answers


I can understand where you are coming from. Although I have never spent the nice at a house where someone smokes, my step-son (who lives with us) would come back from visits with his mother smelling like a chimney. It was awful. His mom and step-dad are court ordered not to smoke around him, but that doesn't change the fact that the house reeks. I don't care how much you try to purify the air, that smell is still in everything else, and it may be true that it is only the actual smoke that is dangerous, but I don't buy it.

If I were you I would save up and stay in a hotel. It will make you happier, which will drastically improve the quality of your visit, and save your lungs at the same time. However, my husband and I started doing our own traditions for the holidays, with the grandparents welcome to come. Children don't need to be carted around on holidays. You deserve to have your own traditions. I liked the idea that you would go get them.

Any way you deal with it, it is a tough situation. I personally wouldn't compromise when it comes to smoking because my children don't deserve to be subjected to that, family or not.


B., you are a better person than I am. I too have a mother in law who smokes like crazy. I was in her house once when i first met my husband (12 yrs ago) and stayed for a very short time, basically just to meet and have never been in her house again. We have 3 children (8 1/2 yr old B/G twins and a 3yrd old son), they have never seen her house either. I would never expose myself or my children to that smokey tobacco smelling environment. I had spoke to my husband about this immediately after going to her house fortunately for me my husband does not like it either. She lives in Brooklyn and doesn't drive so when we do see her we meet somewhere. Reading what you wrote makes perfect sense how you all wake up coughing - its not right that you are expected to go to their house and put you and your children at risk which is what it is, and your pregnant! 2nd hand smoke is worse than smoking!!! Its very sad because we do not see my mother in law on the holidays but in my mind, she made her choice she chose smoking over her grandchilren! Our visits are also very seldom and like i said we meet for lunch somewhere or at a zoo anywhere convenient. You have to stand up for what you believe, you and your children should not have to be subjected to that. Please do not think i am such a cruel person but this was at one point a big issue around here. My siblings would always comment to me that i was not nice, but they do not understand or have ever been in this situation. Also, remember that you and your husband have a family now and your family is precious and you should protect your family, your children. The last thing you want to do is fight with your husband about this. Talk to him, mae some suggestions. Maybe go to visit with them but dont stay in the house - take them out, for lunch, dinner, etc. Start making the holidays for you, you shouldnt have to travel so far to be miserable and in an environment you dont want you and your children in. Good Luck!

J. B.

Can you stay at a hotel? I know grandma might buck the idea but you have to do what is healthiest for you while pregnant and your children. Your inlaws also sound like my dad and stepmom. We have lived in NY for almost 5 years and they haven't been up here once because it is too far for them to drive (6 hours) and my dad is 67 while my stepmom is 71. Meanwhile my inlaws who are 71 and almost 76 have driven from FL to NH on several occasions and from their new home in NC to here in NY to help us when our third child was born last summer. Having said that, my inlaws are not in better health than my dad and stepmom but they do it because it's important to them.

If your MIL won't leave your BIL for a holiday then maybe it is time you had your own family holiday at your house and tell them you will see them when they come up for New Year or whatever the case may be. Either that or I would find a way to make the hotel idea work.

Good luck,


Hi B.
It seems there's nothing you can really do about this. My father was always a very heavy smoker and my sister, brother, and I lived in a house growing up which had so much smoke in it it was like a discoteque in the 70s....None of us had any health-related problems after YEARS and YEARS of daily contact. Likewise, my dad continues to smoke heavily and I bring my 2 month old over to visit more than once a week. He doesnt smoke in front of her (usually) but even when he does I dont get caught up in it. From what I know, there would need to be much more contact in order to have any repercussions. I know the population at large is on an anti-smoking bandwagon, but keep in mind that people have smoked all over the world with babies in the house for generations. And I know many people who were never exposed to smoke on a daily basis and wound up with numerous health problems. If your child already had a bad ear infection or asthma then of course I could see a real concern.
The most important thing is to make sure your child(ren) have as much contact with their grandparents as possible - my mother died in '01 and I think every day of how much I wish my daughter could have known her.
However, there is a possibility that you dont want to go visit them for other reasons (which I can understand - I am by no means the president of my mother-in-law's fan club) and that the smoke issue is exacerbated by something else (resentment about having to always go there for holidays, something else, who knows). Perhaps that might be the case.

My parents both used to smoke, but also respected our wishes when were there not to smoke around the kids. I agree that it's horrible to smell your laundry when you get home. I used to wash everything before we left only to have to wash it again when we got home.
It's really just an issue of the smell though. Your children are not at risk being in the same house as long as no one is actually smoking while they are there. The smell is disgusting and bothersome, but it is what it is. Maybe you could get an air purifier for the room you to sleep in while there. Or even open a window just a bit to air it out. It's not easy, but if you value the relationship with that part of your family then it is worth it to visit with them. You might also consider spending fewer holidays there. Nothing says you can't have Christmas at your own house. That way their new gifts won't end up smelling like old, stale cigarettes.

I wanted to add...3 hours is a day trip. You don't even have to stay over night. When we lived 3 hours from family we would drive down, stay for the entire afternoon, and part of the evening (sometimes pretty late). Then drive back to our house. It wasn't a big deal.

I guess I'll be the bad guy and say it's NOT okay for you to expose your children to smoke! Regardless of how many people have smoked for years and have "never" come down with any problems (which i seriously doubt, they just don't broadcast it), we know how toxic smoke is to every living thing. If I were you (and have been in certain situations) I would visit only during the day, never an overnight time. Or I would get a hotel if you want overnight and certainly tell your inlaws exactly why you're doing it. Because it is a serious health issue to you and your children you should make the right decision for you. I personally wouldn't go anywhere during my pregnancy that would make me sick, and I would never expose my young children to it. I agree that just the smell of smoke probably won't hurt you, but it is disgusting. But again, do what's right for you and I personally wouldn't get all that uptight about hurting their feelings, etc etc. They have to know that it's not just about them and they have to give a little too. If they're willing to meet you halfway then great. Maybe they'll come to that realization.

Stay at a hotel. Unless money is an issue, your health and your baby's health are more important.

Yes my MIL and my MOTHER smoke,

I can't stand it,

Basically what i would do, it purchase a AIR PURIFIER 2 large ones, and each time you visit, bring 2 new filters

this way the air is clear,


Honestly its an investment in the future of your family,

You can't abandon them, so the best bet is to create a solution for the long term,


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