Parenting Differences with the Grandparents

Parent Q&A

  • Grandparent childcare conflicts

    (11 replies)

    Hello BPN, I'm seeking some perspective on what I see as irreconcilable cultural and personality conflicts having to do with my parents taking care of our toddler son. My parents are 'old-school' Asian, by that I mean they are very accustomed to the front & central roles Asian grandparents have in child-rearing, while the parents are presumed to be 'busy working'. My parents have been extremely generous with their time and resources to help save us money on childcare, so they stay with us for weeks at a time (since they live in SoCal otherwise) and take care of our son while both my husband and I work full-time . The problem is that my parents insert themselves at every opportunity to be the caregivers, even when my husband and I are at home. I have tried to communicate to them to give both my husband and myself a chance to parent, to take a step back, etc. But they are unable to 'catch' the whole context of this and change their mindset. I think this is understandable as they are not well-assimilated in Western ways, but it also becomes exhausting that at every step of the way, I have to explain why they should/should not do something and what I'm trying to accomplish as a parent. They are like a tidal wave that we can't keep at bay.

    When my son had a bloody nose and I was trying to clean him up, my mom went up to him, started hugging him and said, "Grandma will comfort you, don't worry." I bristled at this because I was busy trying to clean him and had him in my arms. And when I try to write an email on my computer, my parents will tell my toddler, "Mommy doesn't have time for you now. She's too busy." I think I should be able to express to my son what I have time for and what I don't. What I'm trying to convey is that this is ongoing, all the time, every second. If my husband tries to help my son climb stairs, my mom will invariably stand there with my husband, coaching our toddler as well. Even if I have one or 100 conversations with my parents to try and get them to understand my parenting ideas about one-on-one bonding and not having to be present AT EVERY MOMENT for their grandson, they literally can't help themselves. Also, our conversations always end badly, as my parents take offense to what I say and feel hurt. They get very indignant that I am trying to 'prevent' them from caring for their grandson. I like to think that I am sensitive to their feelings so try to frame things in a non-critical, more explanatory way, but it still doesn't work.

    I understand that some might conclude that my parents shouldn't take care of our son if we have all these issues. This makes me sad because I do believe in the value of grandparent-grandchild relationships, and I do appreciate what my parents do. And I know my parents LOVE taking care of him. My son is extremely loved, and that is what matters. But managing the emotions of all the adults is exhausting. My husband and I feel we are constantly battling for a piece of our territory. I suspect on my parents side, they think we are being anal and selfish, as they perceive we are nitpicking on their caregiving ways and deliberately close our toddler off to them on weekends. Any thoughts/advice appreciated.

    Ugh.. navigating this stuff with parents is tough.  Here's my perspective from being a little farther along.. my kids are 8 and 12.  When I look back, I wish I'd been able to step back and let my parents be more involved when my kids were younger.  I was so caught up in "being the parent" and doing things my way that I pushed them away.  I wish I'd been more generous in sharing my kids with my parents and encouraging that relationship.  I can't tell you the peace of mind of being away and knowing that your child is with someone who loves him as much as you do.  Good luck!

    I think the only way you and your husband will get a chance to parent on the weekends without your parents' involvement (interference) is if you can figure out a way to get them physically out of the house.  Can you have them run errands for you? Or have them go to a movie, or send them out to lunch by themselves? or lock them in their room? (Kidding). 

    Alternatively, maybe you could frame it as "You're off duty between noon and five p.m." (or start with a smaller segment of time) as opposed to trying to get them to buy in to the general philosophy of letting you parent your child when you are home. 

    My third suggestion is trying to talk to your father separately from your mother.  The examples you gave all involved Grandma so I'm wondering if Grandpa might be more amenable to stepping back.  Or have your husband talk to your dad. 

    My last suggestion is that you and your husband should go away for the weekend and cede the field to them.  They sound super competitive (especially your mother) and maybe if they feel like they've "won" they will relax a little. 

    Good luck. Tough situation!!

    As someone with kids who have little to no grandparent involvement, I'd say thank you for their help, let them do what they want (as long as they aren't harming the kids) when they are there, and take your primary role when they are not there. 

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Unwanted advice from foreign mother in law

August 2002

need advice for how to deal with visits from my European mother-in-law who is coming for a two week visit soon to visit our 4-month old. She came for one month beginning when my baby was one month old. She was very helpful in terms of cooking and cleaning. The problem was her advice. While some of it was helpful (i.e. good ways to hold the baby to calm it) much of it I disagreed with, and it was phrased in a way that I found insulting, for example, ''If you pick the baby up all the time it will always want to be held.'' or ''She's crying for no reason so you should pick her up or you'll spoil her.'' My problem is I don't know what to say to my mother-in-law when she says these things that I disagree with. Part of the problem is that I only speak her language on a basic level. I can understand everything but don't have the language capapbility to explain why I do things a certain way. I don't know who to say in a nice way the reasons I disagree with his advice. My husband, of course, is at work and is not around for these advice giving sessions. He also prefers to avoid confronting his mother because she is very emotional and easily insulted. Should I just pretend I don't understand what she is saying when she gives her advice? Should I just be rude and memorize a phrase like ''I don't want your advice.'' Any suggestions would be helpful. anonymous, please

Wow, in-laws suck, don't they? Sorry, this is kinda long, but I had almost the exact same problem, except his mother is from California, so I could have told her in plain English that I did not want her advice. So what did I do? I actually just kept quiet. But don't get me wrong, I didn't just take her advice either. She would say the same stuff to me about my newborn son (she came to visit when he was just a week old). ''If you pick him up every time he cries, you'll spoil him.'' Ugh! He's a newborn, for pete's sake!!!! I would answer her, very politely, ''Love doesn't spoil, material things do,'' and then pick up my son. It drove her nuts, I think, but more so than me. Now that he's over a year old and I'm still nursing him, she will say to me ''How long are you going to keep nursing? Until he's in college?'' I just smile and keep nursing. Inside, I'm fuming because I can't stand her and am fighting to keep from just blowing up and telling her off, but at the same time, I know it wouldn't do any good. Being rude might just give her the proof she needs to conclude that you don't have it together. But I think if you stay calm, let her say whatever she's going to say, and then continue to do whatever it is that you are doing with your child on your terms, calmly and firmly, that would show her even more that you are in control of the situation, you are the mother, not her. On the other hand, you could also pretend that you don't understand her and just keep doing what you're doing. I probably would do that, too, for some things. And if that doesn't work, just know she'll be gone in a few weeks and you won't have to deal with her at all after that. P.S. as far as your husband is concerned, don't count on him to take your side on this. Mine didn't and when I stopped trying to get him to understand and took matters into my own hands, I felt more in control in dealing with his mother. Good luck with everything! kris

I understand your situation because I was in a similar one with my foreign mother-in-law giving unwanted and outdated advice. My solution was to smile and nod and keep doing what I was doing, pretending that I didn't fully understand what she was saying. Although I managed to avoid hurting her feelings (I think), I did hear from my sisters-in-law the gossip she would tell them behind my back about my child rearing practices--I didn't care! Best wishes! Anon.

My mother sounds just like your mother in-law. Part of that is because of her generation and part of that is because she is European. I being a European(this is just my experience and might be very different from others) myself, I see a clear difference in how children are raised. Baby's are not supposed to be picked up when they are crying, even at nighttime, out of fear of ''spoiling'' them. My mother used to tell me over and over that my son would never learn how to walk because I carried him all the time. My father, who does not say a lot even called me up one they to tell me that I should stop nursing because he did not think it was appropriate (my son was only a year at the time). My advise is to ignore the comments, you only have to put up with it a couple weeks out of the year. My mother will never get the message, and I doubt if your mother-in-law will either. Just keep doing what you are doing, your child is very lucky to receive so much love and attention from his parents. I have always continued to hold my son and respond to his needs (rather than what my mother thinks is the right thing to do) and I have a very lovable and affectionate child, who is not at all ''spoiled.'' How can you spoil a child with love anyway? Jannette

There ought to be some middle ground between accepting unwanted advice and telling your mother-in-law, whom you apparently don't dislike and some of whose assistance you appreciated, to butt out. From your description of her as someone emotional and easily insulted, it would probably be safer not to be rude (even when tempted). Perhaps you could memorize and then say, with a smile, something like ''I appreciate your advice, but I want to do this a different way.'' I don't think you have to explain all your reasons. Then, too, if she offers advice that you do like, you can say ''Thanks, that's a great suggestion,'' which may help prevent her from getting upset when you don't accept her other advice. You didn't mention whether she's likely to be pushy to compel you to agree with her; let's hope not. But if she does push, you're entitled to stick to your guns -- it's your baby. You're better off getting control of this sort of issue now, while your baby is still little, especially if your MIL is going to be visiting frequently. If you generally like her and are appreciative of the nice things she does for you (and if she's not wholly unreasonable), it should work out. Wendy

It depends on the mother-in-law, but what worked pretty well with mine was to say You know, nowadays the doctors say to do blah blah blah and I know! That's what all the moms did back when I was a baby but these days they do X Y Z. That way, it isn't your idea that you are promoting, it's somebody else's. It takes the heat off you. Plus, my mother-in-law was a real stickler for whatever the god-like doctors say, so that line always worked. She would say Oh my goodness! I can't believe they are picking up the crying babies now! We would never do that! and then go off and tsk tsk with her friends, who've all had the same story from their daughters-in-law. Kids these days. A crafty daughter-in-law

Don't be rude!! I can't say that I have ever been very good aout listening to advice, BUT when I became a mom four years ago I made a semi-conscious decision to listen to advice from all kinds of people - strangers, family, friends, peers, elders... even if I didn't agree with everything they said, I could usually find a nugget that was helpful and sometimes I didn't realize it was helpful 'til months later. You don't have to heed it all, just listen and say something appreciative - ''Hmm, I'll have to try that''.

I think it is important to respect your mother-in-law's input for several reasons: 1) you are teaching (by example)your child respect for his/her parents and elders, 2) they have been through more than we have and have learned a thing or two along the way, 3) styles of parenting are just that, styles, and change from decade to decade so there is no right or wrong about many things, 4)she is only here for short-term visits and you have acknowledged that she is VERY helpful (cooking and cleaning!!!!) and that some advice worked for you, 5) your own ideas may well mutate over time (I know mine did ''My kids will NEVER use a pacifier, became...well you can guess!). Keep open the channels of communication and you may have an opportunity to build a new relationship with her around your child. Try to let go of your hostility toward her for your child's sake and your own and focus on the positive. She is after all your husband's mother and she did all the wonderful things you are doing for your baby for HIM. Let it go - start fresh - the anger and hostility will eat you up and may taint these precious first months with your child. How great that she has made the effort to visit from so far away - acknowledge that. Work on building a family and making her part of it somehow!! Besides, a four- month old is very different from a one-month old, your child won't cry as much, etc. Why not just pack up the child in a Baby Bjorn and do some things your mother-in-law might enjoy doing as a tourist - museums, wine country, whatever. Distract her and spoil HER a little.

FYI, the things she says about spoiling are classics from a generation that included my mom - there may be some truth to what they say as the child gets older as you may find when you begin sleep training and your child cries for you to come and come and come, but I, like you, can't stand to hear a baby cry. BUT, maybe you could while she is there try to find other ways to make the baby stop crying (though as I said there is much less of that at four months than one month) like putting the baby in a jiggling/vibrating baby seat, rocking the baby in a stroller, a pacifier (!), thigs we now call self-soothing - the things you will do with your second and third baby - if only to show her that you are making an effort.

I know it is hard and I AM sympathetic, I just think that she probably means no harm and has a too direct way of communicating (I probably do too) and that you should TRY to let a good relationship around your baby grow. It is SO great for kids to feel they have a family who has a well-liked granny - kids sense tension and you will be rewarded for your early efforts as your child gets older. SO, listen to everything and thank her for the ideas that DO work and take pictures of her with the baby and send her off feeling like she is a great grandmother. You can wink at your husband as she boards the plane, but think how appreciative he will be!!

PS My sister-in-law (whom my mother and I adore) always held her first baby (''His feet didn't touch the floor his first two years'' - my mother) and he at seven years IS spoiled relative to his two younger brothers!!! :)) A slight tease, but, you never know... Laura

In my opinion, when she gives you advice that you do not agree with, carry on with what you were doing (holding the baby etc) and give her a short reply in your own language using a pleasant voice and facial expression. Even if she does not quite understand what you are saying she will probably receive your message ''I will do whatever I think it's best for my baby'' and won't be offended.

Also, please keep in mind that other generation moms might have outdated ideas about raising babies but they are also a precious resource of experience. Moms from other countries will bring a baggage of simple and natural solutions to some of the baby care questions and worries, that might not be part of the american culture. Simona

I, too, have a foreign MIL, so I know what you are talking about! I think the best way to handle her advice is to laugh or smile, and then say, ''oh, they don't believe that anymore'' (such as holding the baby will spoil her, and so on. by ''they'' here I mean the experts or the doctors). Or say, ''That's not how it is done these days.'' Do what you think is right. I try not to argue with my MIL, but I don't let her dictate how I raise my children, either. Yikes. Good luck! Kate

First, never say ''I don't want your advice.'' Not a good idea unless you want to ruin your relationship with her forever. I'm Japanese, married to an American, with a two-year old.

Although I have wonderful relationship with my American mother- in-law, these problems are so common among my friends in Japan where mother-in-laws control everything from babies to husbands. It's wise to agree with her first anyway, then do it the way you feel the best. I'd suggest that your husband talks to her (without you) about your feelings and ideas. Also I've learned that customs and ideas re: raising and taking care for little ones vary greatly from culture to culture, so your feelings are probably well justified. Still, she is coming all the way with good intention to help you out -- as I recall when my son was a little baby -- you are lucky to have helping hands. Good luck, Satomi

My advice is that same whether or not you speak the same language, or if it's your own mother, or anyone else: Smile and say, ''Thank you.'' Then do whatever you think is the way to do it. You will feel better if you don't waste your energy trying to change someone else's mind. You will never be able to do it. Nancy

First, I think it's great that it's only for 2 weeks. My European mother-in-law came and lived with us for 4 months, and was originally going to stay even longer. I speak her language, but at the level of a kindergarderer, so being subtle wasn't quite my strength.

Things always went smoother when I graciously took her advice, even though I didn't act on it all of the time. My husband also really appreciated the fact that I was nice to his mom and didn't get into it with her. I think that he often didn't agree with her advice, but didn't want to get in the middle of anything-- kind of like what you mentioned with your spouse. He and I did discuss (before she arrived) how we would handle situations as they arose, and that helped immensely! One thing you may want to talk thru is, if his mom does something that you just can't deal with, how can he support you, or will he? Can you rant about the situation to him when she's not around, just to have someone to listen to? Or, can he truly not hear anything the slightest bit negative about his mom, even if he agrees with it? You might want to have a friend ''on call'' for support... My husband also did things like taking his mom out in the evening for a walk so I could have some space, etc.-- can't say enough good things about the walk-time :)

No matter what, remember that it's only for a vey short time in the scheme of things, and most likely, she just wants to help you. You might even learn something new-- I did. If all else fails, keep her busy with projects or outings, and she won't have much time to give you advice. Good luck! --anonymous

I can relate to your unwanted advice. For me it is my own mother, she is Korean and doesn't speak english well, I have forgotten all my Korean so we speak in broken English to each other. My mom says the exact same things your mother-in-law says, I guess it is the prevailing wisdom from 30 or so years ago. Like you, we see each other only on visits. I have taken a variety of tacts, but truthfully, the most effective thing has been to ''nicely'' ignore the advice. When she sees over time that the baby is doing so well, she gets the idea that we're OK parents and relaxes a little with all the advice. Another thing to remember is that with babies, they outgrow their developmental stages so quickly that the advice soon becomes a non-issue. But sometimes you do have to say something back to save your sanity. For the ''don't pick up the baby all the time or you'll spoil it'', my best reply was ''what else can I do'' with a pitiful expression on my face. My soft-hearted mother laughed. You get the idea. But my advice is to try to avoid direct conflict. marguerite

Your mother in-law sounds like my mother, Yikes! I've found this useful tip(from a friend) to be helpful: just say, ''our pediatrician said to do xxx''. And don't say anything further, no explaining, no discussion, just that. It shuts my mother up FAST. Good luck! Maya

While I can't speak to the language barrier issue, I too have family like grandparents and aunts and uncles who say the same things - ''if you pick him up all the time he will expect to be held'' and ''you're going to spoil that baby.'' My favorite line from Grandpa John: ''I can't believe it; five months old and already this child is spoiled.'' They don't seem to understand that I am trying my darndest to spoil my baby! I also had my mother-in-law stay with us for a month, and while she was totally cool she was also another example of differences in child-rearing from generation to generation. I come from the school of thought that you cannot lavish too much affection and attention on a baby. When I get comments from my family, I proudly agree with them that yes, the child is spoiled, and yes, I did that. I take full responsibility for making my son feel like a little prince, and for setting up the expectation that when he cries someone is going to launch a full investigation into why he is crying and what can be done about it. The upside of this is that much of my comment-making family, with the notable exception of Grandpa John, has resigned themselves to the fact that, alas, the child is spoiled and they may as well get on board with it. Hold your own, spoil the heck out of your child. Let your mother-in-law do all the eye-rolling she wants. Good luck and enjoy your baby. julie

I gave birth to my first son in Rome.(My husband and I are Japanese.) Although I did not have foreign MIL, I encountered with very enthusiastic advices from everyone, from my landlords, waitresses, people in the bread store that I went to every other day, and,,,Japanese people living in Rome.

What I have noticed was that (for example in Rome) it is very common for them to give advices to people over and over in a rather strong tone. I later started to wonder that maybe this is cultural (it may not be,,,) and decided not to take it too personally. I just smiled, enjoyed attentions my son was receiving, and just moved on with my way. If advices were good ones, and I willingly took them as well.

I have also noticed that I received similar advices that your MIL has given to you a lot more from older people (both Europeans and non-Europeans). I think that was the way they were suggested to do (not picking up the baby too much, letting baby cry to sleep, do not nurse too long, and so on.) by their doctors and parents.

My friend had a similar situation from her own mother, and she actually gave her mother a book written by William Sears, who writes many books about attachment parenting. That helped her stop giving too much advices to my friend, since now she learnt a different way of parenting. Maybe you can buy one of his book in your MIL's language and give it to her,,,,.

Sometimes, if advices became too annoying to me, I used to say,, ''Oh,, my pediatrician actually ENCOURAGED to do this way,,,''. I used a doctor's authority to turn down unwanted advices, and most of the time it worked.

We are all vulnerable when we are the first time mom. People do give advices since they have been through it, and everyone thinks that they did a great job. But,,,guess what? They do not take any responsibilities about how your child turns out. You are the mother of your child, and you take all responsibility anyway. So,,, go with your way!!! Mika

One response hinted at this but I want to emphasize it - when your mother in law says ''don't pick him up every time he cries, you'll spoil him, '' tell her, ''Oh, the doctor says I should pick him up all the time until he's a year old'' or whatever. Definitely, definitely invoke THE DOCTOR. Then redirect the conversation to her adventures with your husband's doctor. She will have much more fun reminiscing about her motherhood experiences -that is really what she wants to do, anyway. One day you, too, will want to relive your experiences through a grandchild. With me, it was my mom - she thought breastfeeding was very distasteful in general and moreover, that I was letting my baby nurse way too much. So we talked about how you made a bottle in 1961 and what the bottles were like, and about the time my dad dropped a whole rack of newly sterilized ones and blah blah blah. She died when my child was a year old and I'm really glad we had good conversations instead of unhappy ones. It may be harder since your mother in law's English is not very good but try - you'll be glad you did. Fran

I second what the previous posters have said about dealing with unwanted advice (claiming that I'm just doing what the pediatrician said works particularly well for me). Your post didn't say, though, whether your mother-in-law was making these tactless comments in her native language or in English, and it made me wonder whether that might be part of the issue. I speak a second language with near-native fluency, but one area where I really feel ill-at-ease in my second language is when I'm trying to strike the right tone. I've been rude when I meant to be direct, overly friendly when I was trying to be polite, that sort of thing. I feel like my social skills go down a notch. I don't know anything about your MIL's personality, but maybe some of the tactlessness is just due to the language barrier.

Best of luck -- this can make for tense visits. Hopefully you'll be more sure of your parenting than you were during her first visit. For me, that added confidence meant that I got less advice to begin with, and I had an easier time shrugging off the rest. Jennifer

Rest assured that your dilemma is not restricted to foreign mother-in-laws. When my son was a baby, both my mother and my mother-in-law told us repeatedly that we were spoiling him by holding him all the time and that sometimes we should just let him cry - that it was good for him - And neither of them are foreign. But how to handle it gracefully is the question. I found trying to explain our philosophy was pointless. Instead I found the most effective strategy that kept the peace and usually ended the subject (for the moment anyway) was to say something benign like ''you may be right but I just love him so much I can't help holding him all the time'' or ''but this just feels right to me'' or ''well maybe I'll try that next time''...and then change the subject quickly. And when the advice offered was genuinely helpful I made a point of expressing my appreciation frequently which seemed to take the emphasis away from the advice I wasn't following. I hope some of this advice is helpful. Some may think it is wimpy, but my goal was to avoid an unpleasant confrontation, let the grandmothers feel that their advice was valuable, and mainly - continue caring for my child in the manner I truly felt was best for him. Janie

I just wanted to put a historical dimension on this mother-in- law advice thing, because it reminded me of a conversation I had with my own grandmother (born in the 1890s, who had her children in the 1920s). She had got hold of the new ''scientific'' baby care books of the twenties and felt she had to grimly sit there until the recommended feeding time, while HER mother kept pleading with her ''Aren't you going to pick that poor baby up''!! fiona

My In-laws make fun of my parenting decisions

August 2002

I've been reading everyone's advice about unwanted advice from mother in law and I want some further advice about my in-laws. Unwanted advice is just the tip of the iceburg with my in-laws. My in-laws ridicule me for following the current wisdom for child rearing and for taking the advice of the pediatrician. For example, my mother in-law put my one month old to sleep on his stomach in a pile of quilts and pillows. I thanked her for putting him to sleep and went on to explain that babies are put to sleep on their backs on a sheet these days because of what we've learned about the risks of SIDS. For the next hour the whole family made jokes about following the directions of doctors who are just going to change their minds in a few years and my father in-laws favorite and often repeated, ''I don't know how any of us managed to make it to adulthood.'' This happens every time we get together. They always laugh at me in addition to wanting to do things with my baby that I am not comfortable with and my mother in-law refers to me as ''paranoid''. While my mother in-law laughs at me every time I say I'm baby proofing the house, in the next breath she will tell a story about my husband getting his stomach pumped when he was little because he climbed on the counter and took her diet pills. I thought my mother in-law was going to be a good source of baby sitting for us but I really don't trust her. I find it difficult to tolerate being around my in-laws with the baby at all because of the way they disrespect me. I thought this baby might bring us closer together but it seems to be highlighting our differences. One friend told me that my in-laws might feel intimidated when I explain things to them, like I'm criticizing the way they raised their kids. Should I stop explaining things to them and give up on the idea that they will ever take care of my son the way I want them to? How do I deal with feeling humiliated when we visit them? I'd love some feed back about this situation. D

There are a few things you don't mention in your message that I wonder about. Are you more upset that your ILs are disrespectful to you, or that you may not be able to use them as babysitters? Do you find yourself actually lecturing your IL's on child-care? (I can't imagine anyone would like that--maybe they're deflecting with--poorly thought-out--humor?). What does your husband have to say about all this? Is he supportive of you when they are disrespectful?

I think you may have to let go of hopes that they will babysit, if you are truly feeling that they do unsafe things. It is really up to you how much flexibility you are willing to put up with in specific issues (and I agree, the whole quilts/pillows/face down sleeping seems a bit much). Have you tried phrasing your requests in terms of what works best for your baby? Like, ''He seems to sleep best on his back,'' instead of ''It's not safe to have him sleep on his stomach.''

But really, I'd want to know what your husband thinks/says--it's his family, after all. And you deserve to feel respected. So do they--maybe they don't feel that you respect them? Do you? Good Luck--I'm sure it's not easy. Donna

I have a couple of practical tips for you. I don't know all the details of course, but from reading your letter, I would say that you are a fairly serious person, and you take childrearing very seriously, and that your inlaws are more in the laissez-faire, casual camp. For instance they joked about making it to adulthood despite mistakes and inattention. I really don't think the problem is that they are incompetant - after all they raised your wonderful husband. One problem is a lot of time has passed since they raised him, and another problem could be they just have a different approach to life in general. That doesn't mean you can't all get along though. Doesn't mean your child(ren) can't have a close and happy relationship with gramma and grandpa.

I think I am more of a casual jokester type parent and worry a lot less than my friends about things like stomach vs. back and pillows and so on. I have made jokes similar to your inlaws. One thing I have learned is that after the first child, you relax a lot about following all the rules and advice from the doctors and start to parent more on instinct and what works for you. A lot of more seasoned parents think they are helping their less experienced fellow parents out by trying to get them to lighten up and relax and not worry so much about what they think are the trivial details. But actually as we know, it can be very annoying to be helped in this way. I've learned that my friends who are more serious than I am, do not like to hear my advice about just relaxing and not worrying so much. So I suggest replying with a little bit of humor mixed with a little bit of directness. This is the kind of thing that would get me to back off without creating dissention: Well you know everybody wants to do exactly the right thing with their first, so you just have to bear with me and let me do it this way. Or maybe Well, you know how neurotic/obsessive/anal I am -- I guess I will outgrow it eventually but I just have to do it like this right now! Maybe a little levity will help with your inlaws.

Regarding whether they should babysit or not. This is tough. In my case I decided that the benefits of my mom being around the kids a lot, and also having her help me by babysitting, outweighed the downside of her wacko opinions (such as giving the baby Coke for an upset stomach, coming to my house and scrubbing everything down with Clorox, etc.). I do have friends whose parents have never babysat because they were concerned about things I don't worry about at all. Some other friends waited till the baby was not quite so helpless so they didn't worry so much. Others found that their parents' initial enthusiasm to babysit evaporated once they had tried it a few times. So every family has a different set of plusses and minuses. But there is a lot to be said for having fond memories of your grandparents, even if you find out later that your own parents thought they were nuts! Casual Mom, daughter of Crazy Mom

I was struck by your message about your in-laws, and in particular by the fact that you didn't talk at all about your husband's role in any of this. How does he react when his parents attack you and your child-rearing ideas? Does he laugh along with them? Does he support you? My parents certainly don't understand how my wife and I are raising our daughter (attachment parenting, with a lot of empathy), but I view it as my job to act as a buffer between them and my wife. She shouldn't be in the position of having to defend *our* decisions to *my* parents. I'd suggest talking to your husband (if you haven't--you don't say one way or the other) and enlisting his support. Anon. please....

Your in-laws sound like a real nightmare! Do they live near you? How does your husband react to them? Whether or not he speaks up for you, I recommend you distance yourself and your child(ren) from them as much as possible. You aren't obliged to explain yourself to them, but you can choose to say something along the lines of, ''I guess I'm doing it differently''. It's pretty hard to argue with that. I'm sorry they are so unkind to you. I agree they are probably insecure. I hope your own family is easier to be with. Do look for other people to support you. A church is a good place to find substitute grandparents; also playgroups, neighbors and old friends can be wonderful friends to your children. Louise

I am very sympathetic to your plight; I have exactly the same situation, except with my parents, not my in-laws. I have tried all of the things that people have suggested: explaining why things are done a certain way, laughing at my over-cautious behavior, begging them to change, etc. They continued to do things that made me nervous for the safety of my baby. I think that people are right and that your in-laws probably feel that you are criticizing the way that they did things, but also, if my experience is anything to go by, they are still your husband's parents and probably think that they know best! (even though lots has changed since then.) I am afraid that the only thing that worked for me was to get very angry with my parents. I basically told them that it was my baby, and that if they wanted us to come visit, they were going to have to do things my way, and they were going to have to stop pushing us on issues (doing things that they knew we didn't like, in an attempt to show us that it was ok) or criticizing our way of doing things. I said that I would be happy to listen to their experiences and advice, and if they thought that I was doing something that would seriously harm our daughter, to please tell me (even if they thought that my being cautious was going to hurt her development) but that once they had mentioned something, they needed to ''butt out.'' It took several tearful conversations and several times of our threatening to walk out of their house, but they appeared (finally) to have listened. I think that they realised that it was driving a wedge between us, and it wasn't really worth it. My husband and I had a united front on this, but because they are my parents, I did most of the talking. He would back me up if asked, but importantly (as people have suggested to you) he stayed quiet for most of it. My daughter is now 15 months, and I do feel better: not only have my parents really tried to listen, but I also feel as if my daughter is more able to handle things. One last idea: many of the issues about which we disagreed were present only at their house: a nasty, biting dog that they refused to keep her away from, etc, so in the early months I asked them to come to our house if they were going to be alone with her. (I blamed her sleep schedule for this.) I too wanted her to have a good relationship with her grandparents, but figured that the first year does not make or break the relationship, or create memories, and that there would be plenty of opportunities for them to be alone together later, when she is a little older. Anon

Ugh, I feel for you! Sorry I'm late, but I wanted to chime in on...where's your husband in all of this'' He should be your buffer for his parents; you shouldn't be all alone in this! If he doesn't have the guts to defend your actions, or at least say, ''I agree with my wife'', than this truly is a hopeless situation. It's up to HIM to step up in support of things you say to the in-laws, not your job alone. I happen to be speaking from the other side too - MY parents have been the criticizing ''in laws''. My husband and I knew early on we'd be defending our childrearing ways with MOST of our extended family - the old school vs. the new is quite different! But we stuck (and stick) to our beliefs and the benefit is a happy, well-adjusted toddler who is a joy to be around and whom her grandparents enjoy immensely. Good luck! BTDT

The first thing that struck me is that you didn't mention what, if anything, your husband does to support you. Where is he in this conflict' The second thing I thought is that you may have to try a more confrontational approach, esp. if your in-laws' behavior makes you concerned for the actual well-being of your child -- you could say something along the lines of ''you don't have to agree with me, but this is my baby and I get to make the decisions about how to care for him. If you can't accept that, then I won't feel comfortable about leaving him in your care.'' And try to say it in a very matter-of-fact way. With respect to the ''mere'' teasing, I'd try to develop a thicker skin, and say, ''tease all you like, but do it my way.'' The diet pill episode is a great example for you to point to to demonstrate that maybe childproofing is a good idea. My own mom also makes the occasional joke about how it's a miracle I made it to adulthood, given all the stuff she did ''wrong.'' But she also remembers that week where my baby brother (now 38 and fine) had his stomach pumped TWICE (Top Job and baby aspirin), and doesn't want me to have to go through something like that. So she deals with the kids more or less as requested. Not that she doesn't slip them an extra video or Fritos from time to time. I also had to learn to relax on the small stuff. Good luck. Wendy