WT 016: How Do I Handle My In-Laws?

On today's episode of Wire Talk, Karen shares her wisdom on how to manage boundaries, quality time and even unsolicited advice from extended family and in-laws.

When you're done listening to the episode, make sure to check out Karen's new event, Birds Eye View, coming this August! Learn more now!

Question 1: “I’m very close with my parents, but not very close with my in-laws. They are great people; we just have never bonded. Because of this, I tend to favor my parents in terms of who we visit more often and who I loop into daily conversation and updates about the kids. I know this isn’t right, but it’s where I am right now. Any tips?”

Karen’s Answer: Girl, let’s be honest, most of us favor our own family. But, even with our own family it is hard these days to carve out time for anyone, right?

It is good that you like your in-laws, now you just need to make them more of a priority in your life. Maybe you want to try calendaring time in for them. So for instance, every Sunday afternoon make it a point to call them and fill them in on what the kids are doing, what is going on in your life and theirs. I think it’s great that you are aware of the situation, and seeking how to improve it. Most people walk around oblivious. I’m sure by you going the extra mile, you will be strengthening and building the relationship with your in-laws.

 I’ve had to do that with my own mom. Life was getting so crazy, I was never seeing her for weeks, so I decided Thursdays would be the day I would go to lunch with my mom. I’ve been doing that for about a year now and it really helps.

Question 2: “How do I handle unsolicited parenting advice from my parents and in-laws? I know they think they’re being helpful or funny, but they question everything I do, from the kind of milk my kids drink to what time they go to bed, how do I tell them that it’s not okay? Or is it just a part of life that I have to learn to live with?”

Karen’s Answer: My advice is let blood deal with blood. You talk to your family and let your husband deal with his. As far as your parents go, I would have the conversation when you are not frustrated and are calm, and just say, “Mom/Dad, I know you are trying to be helpful, but I would appreciate it you didn’t offer advice, unless I ask for it. I know your heart is good and your intentions are well, but I am trying to figure it all out, and when you question me it makes me more unsure about what I’m doing. I would love your support, and you can do that by just cheering me on, and not give any advice, unless I ask.”

I did experience it as a mom, and had that conversation many times over the years with parents. Now that I’m on the other side, I’m experiencing it as a grandparent. I stepped over the line just last month with Kelsey and Evie. I gave some unwanted, un-asked for advice and Kelsey had the exact reaction as this mom did. I instantly knew I messed up. I apologized, and later told her I stepped out of line, I should not have given my advice until I was asked for it. Kelsey of course forgave me, but it was a reminder to me to practice what I preach!

Try to keep in mind, parents “see” because we made so many mistakes we do just want to “help”. But, it’s like Kelsey told me, “I will make mistakes, but I have to learn from my mistakes.” Be patient with the grandparents. We all just need to give grace to each other. You are learning as a parent and actually us grandparents are learning too

Question 3: “Ever since we’ve had our first child (who is 9 months old) my in-laws visit from out of town constantly. I don’t want to deny them time to bond with their grandchild, but they (and my husband) don’t understand how much time and energy it takes to host houseguests for 4 days.” 

Karen’s Answer: I think the best way for your husband to get it is to get him to do all the work from start to finish on one of their trips.

I used to kill myself in cleaning the house from top to bottom when my in-laws visited. They didn’t visit too often, but I busted my tail and was exhausted before they ever arrived. I soon realized that no one truly cared about how clean my house was, they were just there to see the kids. So, I decided to stop stressing out over every detail and just make sure the house was decent and we had OJ and coffee/creamer for them each morning. Everyone was happy.

I’m a big fan of letting someone “walk in your shoes” to get them to understand what you are dealing with. Years ago, Greg would walk in our kitchen with his black flight boots on and scuff up our white linoleum floor. No matter how many times I asked him to take off his shoes he forgot. When I was pregnant and getting into my third trimester I told Greg I could no longer mop the kitchen floor. When he started having to get up the scuff marks, he finally started taking off his boots.

Question 4: “We live far away from our kid’s grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. How do we make sure our kids still feel a connection to their family, even when they don’t see them often?”

Karen’s Answer: FaceTime or Skype!

I experience it now with Kelsey and the children. They are in California and I am in Georgia, but we make the distance work great. We talk on the phone and facetime almost every day. Actually we face time so much, sometimes Evie is like “oh hey Mimi.”

 When you do go to visit, make your visits a little longer to really get to know each other. I as the grandparent will send cards/stickers to Evie in the mail to let her know I’m thinking of her. Tangible things are good for little ones.

Resources Mentioned: 

Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend

MomCore DVD

Special Event! 

Birds Eye View is an intimate event with Karen Stubbs and the Birds on a Wire team including 2 main talks from Karen, a Q&A session, and a small group discussion time.

Price of event includes snacks, coffee, and a notebook. There will be no childcare provided.

THE NEST Date: August 11, 2016 Time: 10:00am - 12:00pm Location: The Nest (1940 Hughes Drive, Cumming, GA 30040)

JACKSON HEALTHCARE Date: August 16, 2016 Time: 7:00pm - 9:00pm Location: Jackson Healthcare (2655 Northwinds Pkwy, Alpharetta, GA 30009)

Reserve your seat now! We look forward to seeing you there!

If you have a question about motherhood I want to hear it, so make sure you visit birdsonawiremoms.com/askkaren and tune in each week to see if we cover your question.

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Thank you moms, have a great day!