Dealing with a Mother-in-law Who Knows Everything

Updated on April 06, 2011
S.H. asks from Harned, KY
28 answers

I recently returned to work after having my first child. Fortunately, my mother and mother-in-law are both retired and have agreed to each babysit a few days per week. My mother-in-law even insists on buying diapers, etc. to keep at her house, even though I have told her numerous times that she doesn't need to spend her own money and my husband and I will send whatever she needs to care for our son. I greatly appreciate everything our parents have done to help. However, it seems that my mother-in-law thinks she knows what is best for our son, and it is making me furious! She voices her opinion about how his clothes fit, how much she thinks he should be eating, how often she thinks he should recieve gas drops, etc. She even proceeded to tell me how my son likes to be held, iIgnoring the fact that that I am his mother and still spend more time with him than she does. I often feel like she is telling me how to care for my own child. Also, my son is breastfed and, on several occassions that we've been together, she has fussed about how hungry he seems, as if he is being tortured. Yet, she continues to hold him, rather than handing him to me so that he can be fed. So far, I have kept my mouth shut, but I don't know how much more I can take. I realize that she is my son's grandmother and wants the best for him, but I feel like my mother-in-law questions my ability to be a good mom. Should I say something or just keep my anger to myself?

What can I do next?

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answers from Appleton on

My ex (now deceased) MIL was like that and it drove me crazy. It extended to everything I did. Her house was always dirty but she always had to tell me the proper way to clean, load the dishwasher, do laundry ect ect. After 5.5. yrs I started to look for a divorce attorney and filed for a divorce. It wasn't the only issue we had, she also enabled my ex to not work and support his family. I didn't speak up and I should have. It got to the point that when we would go to visit I would let her play with the kids and talk to my ex and I would sit and read a book. When it was time to go home I would put in a bookmark and place to book back in her bookshelf and take my kids home.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Seriously... Do we have the same MIL's?

The first time my son spent the night at his dad's house was hard for me. I was missing him the whole night and by the time I went over to his dad's house to join them, all I wanted to do was hold him. My MIL and I arrived at the house at the same time. I picked up my son and got to cuddle him for maybe a minute before she walked over and wanted to hold him. I told her that I just got him and I would give him to her when I was ready. She ignored me and TOOK him out of my arms. Just picked him up, walked away, and sat down in her chair. I squeezed my boyfriend's hand harder than I did when I was in labor. Lol.

I keep my mouth shut because I know that talking to her will only piss her off and she isn't going to change. My SIL and BIL have 4 kids. She still thinks she knows more about their kids than they do.

I just try to ignore her, and do what I know is best.

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answers from Detroit on

Well, I am never a fan of bottling up your feelings, so I don't think you need to bite your tongue completely, but you can try to phrase things in such a way that you can get your point across without hurting her feelings. Also, you need to decide if something is really worth getting peeved about or not. If she wants to buy and keep diapers at her house, let her do it - it makes her feel happy and useful. Otherwise I would probably be saying things like.

"Thank you for sharing, I'll keep that in mind."

"Don't worry, I'm his mom, and I know what is best for him. You were a new mom once too and your kid turned out fine."

"Well, he IS being breast-fed so why don't you hand him over and let me nurse him if he seems hungry."

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answers from Johnson City on

I disagree with SLM for calling you arrogant. You're not being arrogant at all... you're concerned for the well-being of YOUR child, and your MIL is obviously out of line. I too have a very overbearing MIL, and have gone through many of the things you're describing. I would speak to your husband about all the things that are concerning you, and have him address your MIL. Oftentimes, when addressing differences in parenting styles/beliefs, etc. with your in-laws, I've found that it comes best from their child rather than their son's wife.

As far as the breastfeeding, I would definitely stand your ground. If your son is hungry, you simply take him from her arms, and you feed him. I breastfed my son for 14 months, and I believe in feeding on demand. If he's hungry, he wants you, not your MIL. Don't deny your son simply to save her feelings.

If she continues to be overbearing about how you are caring for him, back it up with research or advice from your pediatrician. Many things have changed from when our parents were raising their children (for example, my MIL insisted on feeding my breastfed only infant water out of a bottle because she did that with my husband, which is both unnecessary and not recommended).

My advice to you is this: this needs to be addressed now, rather than later. Otherwise, you're setting yourself up for a lifetime of conflict with your MIL. I'm sure she thinks she's doing best for her grandson, but what she needs to be reminded of, is that she is his grandmother, not his mother. She had the opportunity to raise her children, now it's your turn to raise your own. Being a grandparent is such a special time, it's a shame that some grandparents thrive on reliving their own parenting years, rather accepting their new roles.

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answers from Boston on

She could be intrusive and bossy, or she could feel a bit inadequate and nervous about caring for an infant after all these years. Or somewhere in between. Sometimes the bossiness is really her trying to convince herself that she knows what she's doing, that she remembers everything from when her kids were little, or that things haven't changed too much for her. If your baby is breast fed, then she may be worrying that SHE'S not doing a good enough job when you aren't there. She may be insecure or even jealous that you are working. She may think working is wrong because it wasn't done in her day. She may feel that you doing things differently from what she did (or what she remembers she did) is a challenge to how she raised your husband.

I guess I would suggest that you choose your battles. If she finds a way that he likes to be held, fine, tell her thanks and that you'll add that to his other favorites or that it will be her special hold for him. If she thinks he's hungry, then take him away from her and say, "If you really think so, then give him to me and I'll nurse him." If he isn't hungry, say, "Well, that wasn't it. It sure can be hard for us all to figure out what he wants, can't it?" I'd let her buy the diapers if it makes her feel useful, as long as she doesn't throw it in your face. As for how the clothes fit, ignore it. For medical things like gas drops and more, say, "You know, as soon as you raised that issue, I asked the pediatrician about it. She says XYZ so that's what I'm going with. But I'm glad you brought it up so I could check." If she goes overboard, leave off the "as soon as..." and "I'm glad you brought it up" and switch to "I'll add it to the list of things you've said and will ask the doctor at the next visit." Make a point of keeping a list handy and then you can keep her from repeating herself by saying, "Yes, that's already on your list." If it's a long list (!) then make a joke saying, "They're going to charge me an extra co-pay if I have more than these 15 questions, Mom!"

It's so hard when you're figuring your own way and then someone gets in there and challenges it. I think you can reassure her and say how great it is that he has her in his life. As he gets older, she'll be able to engage with him in more ways. If she oversteps her bounds, your husband can step in and say, "Gee Mom, you aren't saying that S. and I don't know what we're doing, are you?"

My MIL was kind of a pain in many ways - mostly a worry-wart - but she did drive me crazy. (When I was taken to the ER by ambulance, she called there and made the nurse put me on the phone, telling me I needed to call my husband because he was so worried about me!) She died when my son was 18 months old, and I do wish that he'd had more years to watch her nonsense and enjoy her company.

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answers from Norfolk on

To me it sounds like she's trying to do what's best for ALL of you. My theory on "meddling" Grandmothers is that they were once first time moms who obsessed over getting all of the information and tips they could for raising their children (hmm..kind of like all of us on this site, eh?) And now that their kids are grown up they have nowhere else to funnel all of this information they've gleaned over the years except to new moms. She's offering to keep supplies at her house so you don't have to worry about it: that sends a huge hint that she really is trying to help you out and she isn't trying to put your mothering skills down.

Almost every first time mom feels like this, it's very primal to feel that you are the only one who knows your baby and every thing should be your way. Just picture yourself in 30 years when your little boy has a baby that you love and adore just like your own: I have a feeling all of us will be giving our future daughters-in-law advice and it will break our hearts when we are told to butt out.

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answers from Redding on

This is my take on it and I'm sorry if I'm wrong.
I'm going to have my first grandbaby in May. My daughter is the one having the baby. I'm not overbearing or meddling, but I have to say that I am so excited about her having a baby. It really does take me back to when I was expecting her and all the wonderful joys that came after. I, no doubt, will offer suggestions and support. In no way will I intend it to mean that she isn't a capable mother.
I think what you have to do is realize that you are not in competition with your MIL. As soon as you take that thought out of the equation, the better things will be.
You can try humor, you can say things like, "I enjoy hearing stories about my husband when he was a baby. I'm getting things figured out for myself and I really appreciate you."
If she wants to buy diapers, let her. It's not that big a thing.
Let her talk about how she did things, encourage it. Then say, "Being a first time mom is such a special thing. I hope that if I do things differently than you did, you don't think I'm not a good mom."
That's not threatening. That should give her some insight to how you are feeling. It might earn a little empathy from her.
Her voicing her opinions is all it is. Everybody has opinions.
Don't take it to mean that she thinks you're incapable.
Don't take it to mean you have to do everything her way.
We all find our own ways as moms and that's the way it works.
She may give you some tips that are great. She may give you some that you don't think you agree with.
When there's a new baby in the family, MIL's, extended aunts, cousins, sisters, brothers,......they all offer their opinions.
I think for the most part, they mean well.
Opinions aren't the same as saying you are doing wrong.

Hang in there!
You'll be fine.

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answers from Eugene on

This is about your MIL, not about you. It comes from her own insecurity and need to feel valuable.

Don't take it personally. Listen to her and if she shares information that you find useful, tell her. Let her help you buy diapers and thank her. Her kids are grown and she's probably been waiting for this opportunity to enjoy grandchildren... I know I am! It sounds like she's awkward about how to interact with you if she tells you your son is hungry but just sits there and doesn't hand him over. Maybe she's waiting for you to speak up and say you are ready for him.

Tell her if her comments make you feel bad, "When you say..... , it makes me feel feel like I'm not being a good mom". Try to be honest with her before you feel resentful. But also ask her questions to clarify what she means by her advice. It might be something you need to know.

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answers from Dallas on

I'd like to offer another perspective:

Your MIL loves, loves, loves her grandbaby. Should she be more sensitive to you, knowing how hard it must be leaving your baby daily? YES! However, count your blessings they are willing to have all of your baby's needs at their no cost to you. Be GRACIOUS and say, Thank you - even if you'd rather supply yourself. Let HER have her time as a doting Grandma, just as you need time as a doting Mom.

Also know that having just given birth and while still BF you have tons of hormones making you a bit more sensitive to things than normal (I would imagine every Mom has been there).

We she tells you what's best for your baby, simply smile and say thanks...he does the same / different thing at home with me.

Remember that at the end of the day you only want your son to be with someone who loves and takes care of him the way you do.

Good luck!

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answers from St. Cloud on

Wow, SLM, you "wouldn't put up with that arrogance" from your daughter? Then mabey you are more controlling of your grown daughter than you let on.

New Mom, you can tell your MIL very kindly that you appreciate her advice, but you know what is best for your son and that her constant advice is making you feel belittled as a parent. There is nothing wrong with making her aware of how her comments are affecting you.

I am so sick of the people on here who defend grandparents behavior and expect that parents should just sit down and shut up because grandparents supposedly know best because their kids "turned out just fine".

If I were you, I would get a different babysitter and just allow MIL to be a grandma and not a care giver. Don't be afraid to say, "Thank you for your advice" and then do your own thing. And DEFINITELY get up and take your baby from MIL and feed him whenever you see fit. Don't wait for her to give him to you!

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answers from Houston on

When she makes comments about him eating.. just go over to her, kindly pick up the baby and go and nurse. Don't just sit there expecting her to hand him over. She's probably hoping you will but doesn't want to be rude and is wondering why you aren't doing anything about it.

Many older people pretty much always think they know better... often times they do because they have more experience... but a lot of times it's misinformation from old wives tales and things that have changed over the years, or simply because they don't know the child in the same way you do. How she holds the baby may be the best way for her and the child... while you have another best way, neither way is wrong so long as baby is happy and healthy, just different.. Just tell you thank you for her advice and you will take it into consideration, but for now you are going to stick with what you and the pediatrician have agreed upon when she talks about gas pills and such.

Try not to get too upset, it can only ruin what could be a great relationship down the road.

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answers from St. Louis on

Have your husband tell her to back off a little. Most of it is just going to have to be in one ear and out the other. It will get better in time, when the baby isnt so little and fragile, you and her will start letting a lot of things go. I dont think she thinks you dont know how to be a mother, but she probably hasnt been able to take care of a baby in a long time and wants to take full advantage of it. Let her by diapers! I think they really like it when they have baby stuff all over the place!! lol. My mom did the same thing, she basically has a whole nursery set up, and to tell you the truth, I think its awesome I can count on my mom to have stuff and dont have to worry about lugging a huge bag and forgetting something. I think it will get better, shes just really excited about your son!

Also, if it makes you feel any better, my MIL used to be all about my kids until her own daughter had a baby, now we never see her. Hope your husband has a sister!! LOL!

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answers from Washington DC on

I don't hear anything in your e-mail taht makes me think your MIL (or you) is a bad guy. If anything, she sounds very excited to have your son around and very invested in his well being. Clearly, her tone or her attidude may be what is eating at you, but what you are saying, it just sound slike she has a lot ot say.. But that is hard to deal with since she doesn't seem to be actually interfereing all that much. I sould suggest picking your battles. Like if you want to hold your son, tell her to give him to you? If you are a good mother, don't worry about her opinions. But I suspect you might be taking this all a bit too personally. Maybe do a lot of "thanks, that's interesting, but this is how we do it" sorts of comments and leave it at that.

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answers from Kansas City on

I can't speak to all of what you are saying. You have your opinions and I suppose nothing we say will stop you from being angry.

I just have to say that my daughter is an awesome mom. She lives with my husband and I so that she can continue on with school. We don't always agree on everything. But 95% of the time she's asking me my opinion on things because she has the good manners to actually recognize my experience and the fact that I did a good job with her.

I also provide free care to my grandson. I find it a privilege and an honor to be a part of his life. But I tell you what. There is no way I'd put up with the arrogance you are projecting from my 20 year old daughter. I'm glad she doesn't have the bad manners to assume she knows so much being a new mom and all.

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answers from Austin on

First of all, no you should never keep your anger to yourself. It will only build up over time until one day you explode and everyone wonders 'what happened'.
I would talk to your husband about what you're feeling and then have him talk to his mother. No guarantees that will work though. Believe me, I have a psycho of a MIL and I have no issues with her any longer because she is banned from my life. ;)
If you get along with her for the most part, I would just talk to her about these things.
But please don't keep it to yourself, it will only get worse.

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answers from Columbus on

I think, regarding the breastfeeding, you should tell (next time the scenario happens) that "yes, he's hungry and I'm his source of food, so please hand me the baby so I can take care of his nutrition." Say it nicely, with a smile.

Regarding some of the other things, I think you should do 2 things:
Sometimes, on some things, ask her opinion and then follow it (but only on the things you can live with). This will show her that you do value her opinion and do find her parenting advice to be useful (sometimes).
On other things (nutrition, medical stuff like the gas drops), tell her that you are following the pediatricians recommendations and that you're his parents. If she still continues to criticize, then tell her that while you understand she doesn't agree, it's not up for discussion. Then change the subject.

Depending on how your DH is, you might get him to say something to her. She will likely take it better from him. But some of it is just silly (why keep holding the hungry baby??? My thought is that she was a mom who gave her baby formula and she may resent your breastfeeding or something ["formula was good enough for my son" kind of attitude].)

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answers from Minneapolis on

Smile and nod about 98% of it and assume it is just her way of making conversation instead of an evil (passive-aggressive) plot to tell you your business.

As to the comments about hunger -- Every single time she mentions that poor little Billy is hungry, smile, cross the room, hold out your arms, and say cheerfully, "Time for Billy to eat. Please excuse us." Better yet, tell you husband to take the baby and pass him into your arms after which he should say loud enough for her to hear, "You are amazing honey. I know nursing is best for babies but I also know it is a lot of work for you. Thanks for doing this for him."

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answers from Omaha on

I know it is hard to not feel this way when you are in the middle of it, but it sounds like she wants what is best for your child and everyone is excited about the new baby in the family. Try to take what she says with a grain of salt. Use what is helpful to you and let the rest gently roll off. If something she says really does bother you, then tell her. Use "I" messages when doing so such as "I feel you don't think I am feeding my son enough or I feel incompetent as a mother when you say...." This will put it back on her and let her know how you feel without coming off to harshly thus creating a rift or further drama. Anyone that has had experience with something is usually all too excited or eager to share their expertise and it sounds like that is what she is doing. She has been a parent before and is imparting her knowledge to you. My guess is she doesn't realize how she is coming across. You also have your own unique talents and abilities as a parent too. So try to join forces here and make the best of the situation. Your child is obviously very blessed to have so many people in his life willing to love on him and care for him. In the grand scheme that is what is most important. I really hope this helps! Good luck!

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answers from Atlanta on

The next time she complains about him being hungry yet holding onto him ask her if she would like to whip out her titty to feed him since she knows everything-lol! Sorry that was very mean and I know all about your pain. My mother-in-law is/was the same way. She even swore up and down when she was pregnant with her two sons that they both farted inside and she heard it. She asked me when I was pregnant if that had happened to me yet....I told her it was impossible but she insisted it happened. Finally I told her I asked my doctor who confirmed it was impossible for a baby to fart in utero. They can poop if you aren't careful but fart? C'mon now how? Anyways all I can say is you are either gonna have to just accept the way she is or you are gonna have to stand up to her and tell her like it is. There is a way of doing so without coming across as being a bi--ch but you either have to do it or just accept the way she is-lol! Gotta love own mother even had a tendency to be that way with my twins but because she is my mother I could tell her straight up what I thought-lol! Then she would say yeah your right but my mom is also a nurse so there are alot of times I would be asking HER the questions because of her background. Your post made me laugh.

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answers from Charlotte on

If you think you can stomach doing it, how about trying a humorous approach with her? You could say "Mom, if he's so hungry, why are you still holding him?" and then laugh and shake your head. Or say "Oh yeah, Mom, I really torturing this guy - with all his 15 pounds and 80 percentile in weight. You are SOO funny!"

As for the rest, the best thing you can do is tell her that you are going by your ped's directions. Just defer to your ped and ignore everything she says. If she tries to cut down the ped, tell her that maybe she should call him/her up and give them a piece of her mind. And smile when you say it.

It might make her realize that you are actually making fun of her. It might make her realize what she's doing. If she doesn't care what she's doing, you haven't lost anything.

Good luck!

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answers from Charlotte on

A hungry baby should be given to the mother who is breastfeeding him instantly. She was out of line. You might have to physically get up and tell her "We know he is hungry so lets not make him wait?"
I would try the gentle method and get firmer as needed. "Why would you want a hungry baby to wait to be fed?" It would be ideal if your husband could intervene, but he is probally not there.

I literally got up, took the baby to another room, and closed and locked the door. She was stunned the first time, but the next several times she was on my heals.

I told her that I was going to breastfeed in a quiet, peaceful room and we would be back. Still, she was trying to barrel through. My husband had to come take her by the arm and lead her away. Seriously, no boundaries and it was stressing me out which is not good for a baby.

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answers from Columbus on

With my first, my MIL was kind of like this. We lived far away, so she wasn't in a position to babysit. But, I felt like she would blatantly ignore what I wanted or said and did her own thing. I have to say that things are very different, now. My 4th is turning two, and by this point, I realize these things aren't as much of a big deal. Sure, my MIL would interject her opinion quite a bit, and at the time, it wasn't what I wanted to do(or hear) with my son. 12 years later, I trust that even if she does things differently than I would do them, it's still not going to hurt my kids.
I put myself in her position - I've raised my own kids and they have turned out wonderfully (so far....LOL!!) If I was babysitting my grandchild and my son's wife wanted to do things differently than what I did with my own, it would be hard to just not do it my way.
IF she is telling you that you need to .....give him certain foods, or gas drops or that his pants are too could nod your head and say, "I will think about that or I'll consider it." Then, do what you want. If it's getting bad and you can't deal with her, you will probably have to talk about it. Tell her you appreciate her sooo much, but you have reasons for doing things the way you do and maybe she could just humor you and go along with it. That being said, you may want to pick your battles, too. If she wants to give your son a snack at a time when you wouldn't normally feed him- let her, and see if it spoils his dinner or if it turns out just fine. I know it's hard when you have certain ideas and expectations. It's kind of like letting your husband do things his own way, too. I remember getting nervous when my hubby ran the household differently in my absence. It was completely fine. Daddy just does things differently.

I wish you the best of luck!

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answers from New York on

I know it's hard, but please try to accept her input with good humor and grace - she managed to raise her own son, your hubby, just fine, didn't she? Maybe it's possible she actually does know what she's talking about? As you said, she wants the best for your son - so you have that in common! Try to focus on that. This is coming from someone who didn't have the benefit of having grandparents in their childrens' lives, something I feel they truly missed out on. So my advice is based on that point of view - try to look upon her as an ally, listen to her advice (not to say you have to follow it!), and be grateful for the fact that she is an active participant in your baby's life!

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answers from Enid on

How can all the MIL's be the same. I also used to face the same problem, my MIL like to give her opinion in almost everything under the sun, she keeps on telling me even about the simple household things too. And i feel too bad about it, it feels as if i don't know anything. But what to do, i just keep my mouth shut cos i don't want to hurt my husband's feeling.
But a few weeks back when she gave her opinion about bringing up my kid,i just try to put some humor into it and said--"ahh yes mom,u experimented it on your sons, and now let me experiment with my daughter, but the only problem is that i am not able to experiment anything new cos u n my mom seems to know everything n keep on telling me how to do, now how will i tell my daughter in law in future about my patented experiments...its too bad right...?? lemme experiment it in my own way...please..." she also felt the humor and the point hidden in that and so now she don't interfere much...



answers from Nashville on

yes, put your foot down. R.



answers from Seattle on

I just had to check and see if I was reading my own question. You just described my MIL. She does this to me all the time, and I hate it. Always telling me I shouldnt have him on his routine that I do, its not good for him. You shouldnt put him to bed at that hour, you should give him a hair cut his hair is too long. Same with the feeding stuff. I always feel like she doesnt think I am capable of raising and caring for my own child. You are not alone. But there isnt much you can do except for tell her that you appreciate her opinions but you are his Mom and know what you are doing. Just say ok, thanks and ignore her. Thats what I have been doing forever. I dont want to say anything and hurt my husbands feelings. So whenever she says something like that or acts like she knows best, I just say Yes, I know, thanks anyways. Just something your going to have to deal with if you want to keep the peace.



answers from Albuquerque on

I had the very same issues with my mil. You do need to say something, but when you do talk to her dont be angry about anything she has said or done. Just keep reminding yourself that shes doing what she thinks is best for everyone and may not realize she has upset you. Be sure to thank her for her help & advice and tell her that while you appericate everything, you are enjoying being a mommy and will ask her for advice often. As far as the supplies go... give up on that one, i dont know any grandma thats involved that doesnt have supplies... both of my kids grandmas have a housefull of stuff. I think Abby D. has a very valid point. good luck, hopefully she is understanding and doesnt feel like you dislike her.



answers from Lexington on

if you try to keep your anger to yourself, you know it will come out sideways (at your hubby, or others). I think you should examine if her behavior is REALLY different from that of YOUR mother? It may be that the source and your own feelings about her (and any odd son-mother vs dil issues) are coloring how you perceive her actions. If her behavior is really different, and that distressing to you, then I would suggest setting a time (maybe go out for tea or coffee) and sitting down and talking with her (with your son not there) and explaining that you are feeling uncomfortable. Go on to tell her that YOU have a routine for your son and that disruptions of this routine make life at home very difficult. If she is not willing to buy into your routine, then you will make other plans for care for your son the days he is scheduled to come to her. I would also strongly suggest that your other plans NOT be simply sending him to your mother. (this is guaranteed to create hard feelings on MIL's part that may be impossible to assuage)

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