WT 119: How Do I Communicate With My Mom (or Mother-in-Law!) About My Kids?

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Question 1: I’m pregnant with my first and unsure of how to talk with my mother-in-law about how/when we would like her help after we have our baby - it feels easier to be honest with my mom but my relationship with my MIL isn’t as close. What was your role in your daughter’s life when she had a newborn?

Karen's Answer: This can be a tricky season for sure. I do feel that daughters are a little different than daughter in laws.  I think daughters want their own mom’s help first, not because they don’t trust their MIL, but because the new mom usually doesn’t know what to do with a newborn. When I first had Kelsey, my mom came to my house and stayed for several days helping me with Kelsey. Mom showed me how to give her a bath, told me the importance of getting Kelsey on a schedule, and mom would reassure me I was doing a good job.  On week 2 when Greg’s mom arrived, I was a little more confident in my abilities. Greg’s mom was always gracious in coming after my mom. That was a blessing. I would have an honest conversation with your MIL and tell her you want to get your feet underneath you before she comes, but by week 2 or 3 (whatever you decide) you will gladly welcome her. Talk to your husband and y’all decide what you want the plan to look like, then go and tell the parents.


Question 2: How do you handle it when your daughter asks you to watch her children? I just retired and obviously I would love to help out with the grandchildren as much as possible, but how did you go about setting Kelsey’s expectations of how much you can help? And what about when you have multiple children with multiple grandkids asking for babysitting?

Karen's Answer:  This can be tricky for sure, because you as the grandparent love your grandchildren, but children are no joke, and let’s face it we are not as young as we used to be.  ☺ When Kelsey lived in CA I would volunteer to watch her kids all the time because I knew my visit was short, and I hardly ever saw the grandkids. When she moved in with us back in March, I told Kelsey, I’d love the kids, but I work every day, so I can’t watch them all the time.  I tried to set the expectations up early with Kelsey. At first I think it’s hard for the child to hear that, because who doesn’t love free baby sitting? But Kelsey has gotten 3-4 reliable sitters now and we are on a good schedule. I still watch her kids, but she is respectful not to ask all the time.  When I can, I do, and when I can’t she seems to understand. Talk to your child and try and set expectations.  Maybe say, “I’d love to watch your children once a month and when you go on a vacation with your spouse."


Question 3:  My mother-in-law moved in with us after I had a baby so that we wouldn’t have to pay for childcare this first year of our daughter’s life (my MIL is from a different country). She is an incredible help to us and loves our daughter but having her with us obviously changes the dynamic of our marriage to have her down the hall. I know we need time with just one another but I hate to ask her to watch my daughter for date night when she’s been with her all day already! Any thoughts on balancing this dynamic?

Karen's Answer: Honestly, I don’t know if this is the right answer, but I think I would have a conversation with her, and just tell her you want to guard your relationship and not take advantage of her.  Tell her the situation you just described and say, “I think that would be too much to ask of you, do you?” Ask her if she would be offended if you hired a babysitter to give her a break.  Since she is from another country, she may view this situation totally differently than you. A conversation would start you in the right direction. You may first ask your husband how he thinks she would respond.  


Question 4: If you have an adult child who is making really bad choices in his home life and you have reached out to him and talked from your heart but only seems to be getting worse to the point the talks make the relationship worse do you keep on trying or give him space? It is really hard when you have grandchildren in the midst of it.....do you back off and pray for them or stay involved and "annoying"?

Karen's Answer:  Once again, I don’t know if this is the right answer, but I would back off and pray. When you are annoying him, he is not listening anyway. I would protect the relationship, pray like crazy and ask God to reach him where you cannot.  Sometimes prayer is our only answer. You know Jesus didn’t keep hounding people, he loved them where they were, but ultimately it was their choice.  Think of the rich young ruler. Jesus didn’t chase after him. There have been times in my children’s lives that I have given them advice that they didn’t want to take. After I have said my piece, I try very hard, to keep quiet and pray. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I do not. But, when I step over the boundary, I apologize and start again.

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