General Question: Why Do Many Moms Get Tense About Inlaws and Babies?

Updated on April 16, 2018
A.P. asks from Chicago, IL
14 answers

Hi all - this is a general question and just something I've had on my mind recently. Many moms I know (myself included) have issues when it comes to their inlaws being around their babies. This is an issue for me, I think because of (1) the personal issues I have with my inlays and (2) the fact that my inlaws are absolutely obsessed about my baby to a degree that I think is unhealthy. However, I've found that moms whose inlaws are "not that bad" have similar feelings. I truly believe that moms I've talked to about this are really nice, good-hearted people. I see them genuinely struggling with managing when their inlaws are around. The things I usually hear are that the inlaws are totally obsessed about the grandchild/niece/nephew, they make comments about parenting or the child's relationship with the mom, or they interfere by being overly helpful.

Here's my question - is this a universal problem? Is there something else actually at the root of these dynamics? And most importantly - any tips on how to manage/cope?

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answers from Abilene on

I had two very different experiences. My x MIL was intrusive and hard to be around. She would walk in unannounced and uninvited. There were no boundaries with her and my x would never stand up to her. She was horrible to me and when I divorced and pondered my responsibilities in my failed marriage, one of the things I resolved was I would never be involved with a man who didn’t have a healthy relationship with his mom.

My next experience was completely opposite. She was a wonderful MIL. I’ve pondered the difference and I thought it was in total due to the difference in the way my husband interacted with his parents. While loving them deeply, he is his own man.

Now I think Margie is spot on. In my second experience my MIL genuinely cared about me. She could see how crazy I was about her son and she loved me deeply for it. She treated me as another daughter. My parents treat my husband that way as well. My dad has called him his son (without the in law) and genuinely values him. My mom says he’s the best dad she’s ever watched. They both genuinely care, love and support him.

I lived in Spain for 5 years. It was not uncommon to have at least 3 generations under one roof. They made it look very natural and all of the families we knew were very successful. To them, it was the older generation’s responsibility to teach the younger how to live. We always marveled at them. They thought the western way odd of young people marrying and leaving the family unit.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

My own personal experience has been this.

My mom cares for my children to help me (her child) out. They are an extension of me. So she is interested in them - but she's far more interested in making sure I am well rested, I'm doing ok, etc. Then she asks about them.

Whereas my in-laws never ask about me - it's just about the kids, so it seems like they are obsessed with the kids. It's just the way it comes across. My MIL is very emotionally needy which doesn't help.

On the flip side, when my brother's wife was on bed rest with a pregnancy, she called my mom and asked for her to come help with the other children. She calls and asks my mom for parenting advice. So not all MIL's are bad.

I just think they have to genuinely care about the mom - personally. There has to be respect - both ways. Then the mom is ok having them be around their children.

I think too you have to have boundaries in place. That has to start with your husband having boundaries with his parents. My husband did not have those with his.

For me - it boils down to this. If you wouldn't have this person in your life in any other circumstances - then it's hard to let them be that close to your baby.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Amarillo on

I think many new mothers are not secure in their spot/position as a new mom and the MIL comes along and you feel as if she is taking over. She is not. She wants the same things you want for the child but just in a different way/manner.

It would probably have done some of those things with my grandson but I live too far away and never got the chance to really "bond" with him the way I would have liked. So hence there is a sore spot in my heart because I really don't know him like I would have liked (another story for another day).

So try not to take it personally. She loves him as much as you do and would lay her life down for him/her. Come up with boundaries so you both remain civil and can live as happy adults.

the other S.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I see you're still married to your husband. Guess his leaving for Thanksgiving without you and your child was fine?

What I see MOST PROMINENT in your post? "MY BABY" not OUR baby. Is your husband NOT the father? Does your child NOT have your husband's DNA running through their body?

Do you realize that YOU fell in LOVE with YOUR HUSBAND and agreed to marry him, right? HIS PARENTS RAISED HIM - you felt that was good enough to marry into.

How are your in-laws obsessed with YOUR baby?
WHAT do they do that is "unhealthy" - be specific here.
HOW do they "interfere"?
What's wrong with them being OVERLY helpful? Are you saying your wonder W. and don't need a break and only YOU can raise and care for your child? Do you NOT see the problem here? The problem is YOU. YOU WANT. YOU SEE. MY BABY. Girl - loosen up. Your child DESERVES a relationship with their grandparents - BOTH SETS!! Not just who YOU CHOOSE to be involved. YOU MARRIED YOUR HUSBAND.

By the time I had kids? My parents already had 7 grandkids. So mine were a great addition but NOT obsessed over. My parents talked over the phone with my kids a LOT. When my mom died in 2013? They had JUST spent 6 weeks with them and had had a blast traveling. When my dad died last month? They were heart broken and cried. Even though my parents lived on the other side of the country? They have memories with my kids. GOOD, STRONG memories.

For my in-laws? They lived 8 hours away via car and 2 hours via plane. before my MIL died, my kids had seen them MAYBE 6 times TOTAL. She came after each was born and stayed 3 days. When she died, they were 6 and 4 and didn't really have any strong memories so they didn't know HOW to feel.

My FIL didn't really care to have a relationship with our children. So when he died? They again, had no strong connection with him. They have 2 memories that they remember about him. Otherwise, nothing.

My In-laws were always busy. They didn't like us coming up to visit unless it was a holiday. His family was "no news is good news" and time was NOT for "together".

BOTH sets of grandparents kept their mouths SHUT about parenting UNLESS WE ASKED. PERIOD. We set the ground rules and boundaries. BOTH SETS followed them. My in-laws did NOT like the way WE chose to raise our children. My husband was raised to be seen and NOT heard. They were to be fed, dressed and ready for bed when dad got home from work. WE chose FAMILY - WE CHOSE family dinners and family TIME. We did this BEFORE we had kids. We talked about discipline, child care, religion, etc. We knew what we expected of our in-laws and firmly set boundaries.

I would have loved it if my in-laws would have been 'obsessed' with our kids. What wonderful memories they would have and what stories they could have been told.

What's the problem with you and these other people? They most likely feel that ONLY **THEIR** family is good enough and will hone in and nick-pick ANY action "the other side" feels is wrong. That's the ROOT of the problem. Why not stop and think before you attack or get negative with your in-laws? Are they perfect? nope. Do they have insight? Yep.

Why is it okay for YOUR family to be obsessed and NOT his?
WHY is it okay for YOUR family to build relationships and memories with THEIR grandchildren but NOT okay for HIS family to?

My sister's in law? They are TOTALLY jealous of the relationship my kids have with my family. WHY? Because they do NOT understand it. They wish that was something THEY had growing up. Both TRY to have relationships with our children. They struggle because of how they were raised. It took my husband YEARS (not exaggeration) to hug our boys in public. My husband NEVER understood the closeness of my family UNTIL AFTER his mother died. We've been married 20 years. He didn't develop a relationship with his dad until 2006 - AFTER his mom died. Why? Because after she died, he made a point of calling EVERY SUNDAY at 6PM. The first 3 months? The calls lasted MAYBE 5 to 10 minutes. By the time he died in 2013? They were on the phone for over an HOUR talking. He FINALLY GOT IT....decades too late. So much he missed out on and so much his parents missed out on.

WHY do you want to miss out?
STOP the next time they fly in to see your family. LET THEM obsess over YOUR child. LET THEM relish in being grandparents.

IF they say you're doing something wrong? Say - I hear what you're saying - but this is how WE chose to raise OUR child. STOP making this about YOU.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

In November you were upset because your husband took off for Thanksgiving to be with his family. I told you he hadn't cut his apron strings yet.

MY in-laws? I couldn't ask for a greater couple! My FIL died very unexpectedly 4 years ago. We moved from California to Georgia to be closer to my in-laws. My parents are still alive and kicking in California.

Tyler and I moved A LOT because he was active duty military. Both of our parents loved any chance they got to see their grandchildren.

Maybe the problem is that these people don't have respect for their in-laws?
Maybe the problem is that these people don't want their in-laws involved?
The problem with managing and coping while ANYONE is around is because YOUR schedule, YOUR routine, YOUR balance gets messed up. THAT is the root of the problem. That's the dynamics. YOUR schedule is messed up. YOUR way is being questioned. SO WHAT if they question it! Did you stop to think they are trying to help? Maybe they see what you and these other people CANNOT or REFUSE to see?? YOUR WAY is NOT always the better/best way. Get over yourself.

How to cope? Take a step back and LISTEN to what these people are saying to you.
LET THEM spoil their grandchild.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

I personally feel that part of the problem is that they refuse to take a step back and realize that these may be their inlaws, but they are their husbands family, and he loves them and wants them involved the same as the wife does her own mother/parents. I often see inlaws demonized for behaviors that would be overlooked in her own parents, and husbands put in the middle because she refuses to see that his parents should be viewed and treated just like hers. This may not be the case in every situation of course, but it is one I have seen often on forums like this.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I think many new young moms are insecure (I know I was) and often they get pregnant before they've had a chance to really build a relationship with their mother in laws. Are you tense around your own mother's relationship with your children? That's your husband's mother in law after all, how does he feel about HER involvement, or maybe lack thereof?
Unless you're living with your parents or in laws or relying on them for child care or other support it's really up to you to decide how to manage the relationship. You can invite them in 100% or set whatever boundaries you need to.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

what? I don't understand. Maybe I am too slow this morning....
So your in-laws love your baby, want to spend time with your baby, and want to be helpful? And that's a BAD thing?! MOM wont even love on my kids that way. I WISH I had that!
My in-laws live in another country, I WISH they could spend time with my kids. While yes, they were a little much when I was visiting....they LOVE my kids. And I would rather have people love on my kids than ignore them.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Short answer - insecurity and territory/dominance issues.

Mature adults shouldn't feel threatened when showing attention to children/grandchildren.
It's not a contest between generations to 'make the kids love me most'.

You're the Mama - you are in charge of your kids.
If your in-laws don't respect your boundaries - you cut them off.

They raised their kids - they had their turn - and now it's your turn to raise your family as you see fit.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

My in-laws are amazing. My MIL is just the kindest person and you can tell it's her goal to never intrude. She's always so supportive and never tries to advise you or do things her way. My mom, however, is the opposite! She wants you to do things her way. She is right and knows best. She is truly annoying when she comes to visit! Anyway...I wanted to just state my situation because it is not like yours at all. I say, if you in-laws mean well and are not doing anything harmful to the baby to let them obsess and try to help. In fact, schedule yourself a massage or go out on a date with your spouse and let them have the baby all to themselves if you think they can do it. With my mom I have to gently set boundaries. And I have to let some things go and just roll my eyes. It helps that my husband and I can joke and laugh about her behavior when she is not there. Note - your husband is the one who should set the boundaries and state the rules with his parents. And you do so with your parents.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Miami on

I'll take a stab at your question. I think that you are looking for "company" to agree with you that most moms feel the way you feel. The more issues you have, the more you want people to agree with you. And your feelings of struggle in dealing with your inlaws make it even more likely that you want to believe that inlaw problems with babies are "universal".

It's your job to have boundaries. It's in your best interest to make those boundaries fair and reasonable. Whether your inlaws are really totally obsessed or not, you have a husband whose parents love their grandbaby and you owe your husband the favor of sitting down with him and working out what boundaries should be placed. These boundaries should not make your husband feel like you are being unfair to his parents. By coming to an agreement, you can make him happy and still feel some control over your situation.

It would really help you to remember that what is usual and customary is that a grandbaby is absolutely normal. If they didn't care about your baby, you'd be talking about that here.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Fort Myers on

Its not just the mother in law, I had issues with my parents too. My parents raised 4 kids, my in laws raised 3. Everyone wants to tell you how to do things because they experienced it and raised kids. They would make comments on everything such as us bathing our son, trimming his nails, etc. I was 28 when I had my son, I've been around babies my whole life, we weren't idiots. It got to the point where I had to put my foot down and tell them of I have questions, I will ask you guys. My husband and I needed to figure things out ourselves and do what was best for the 3 of us.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Reading on

I don't really understand. Maybe because we don't live near family. When in-laws would come to visit, I was more than happy to have them hold the baby and entertain toddlers, just so I could have a small break. But they would come for a week once or twice a year, so maybe this is something that plagues moms who live near in-laws. Too much advice and trying to take over is usually an issue, and was for me by phone, but other than that, I'm not really sure what you're referring to.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

As a new mom I was certainly sensitive around my MIL. She raised my husband after all, and seven other kids, so of course she had opinions! But still, I was doing things differently than her, as all generations tend to do.
I think the most important thing to do early on is set boundaries. For example my MIL had been in the delivery room for all of her grandkids' births. But I ONLY wanted my husband in there. Not her, not my own mom or BFF. And I made that clear. I also made sure my husband was there to back me up. My MIL was a little hurt by this but it didn't damage our relationship going forward. I really loved her (still do) and I made up for it by letting other things slide, like when she would give one of my babies a taste of cake or sip of soda (accckkk!)
As long as you're not dealing with a totally dysfunctional person, you can have a great relationship by setting boundaries when you need to, and at the same time letting some things slide. Life is too short to always be in control, it's exhausting and ultimately not very much fun.
Also it helps if they don't live right around the corner. My in laws were a little over an hour away and it was perfect ;-)
ETA: I think you should change the title of your post from in laws to grandparents, because they are only in laws to one of you, they are the other one's parents. Do you feel the same way about your own mother and father giving advice and possibly being "overly" helpful???

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