How to deal with an overbearing mother-in-law when you have a newborn

Posted in Family.

It’s hard enough having a baby, what with recovering from the birth and adjusting to a new responsibility, but throw a mother-in-law (MIL) that’s a little *too helpful* into the mix, and things start to get really tricky.

First there’s the unannounced visits and the prolonged cuddles with your baby (while you’re expected to make the tea). And then there’s the unsolicited advice about how you should mother your baby, which to be honest you wholeheartedly disagree with.

We don’t always get on with our partner’s mum, and even if we do, it’s hard to feel completely comfortable like you would with your own mum. When you’re a tired, vulnerable, and dare we say it, sensitive new mum, dealing with an overbearing MIL can be really hard to bear. Just as you’re normal to feel this way and within your rights to want to set some boundaries, getting around this delicate issue can be fraught.

Just how do you deal with the overly ‘helpful’ MIL when you’re grateful for the help but would prefer a lot less of it? Here is how to establish some healthy boundaries and deal with the problem without hurting her feelings (too much):

It’s okay to feel like this

First up, tell yourself that it’s okay to feel protective over your new baby and to be harbouring these less than pleasant feelings about your MIL. We know you’re a lovely human being and that you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. But as a new mum, you’re entitled to feel sensitive and edgy when it comes to your new baby, so what you say goes, right? People need to accommodate your wishes so you can get on with your very important new job. Ditch any guilt you’re feeling about it all and let’s find a way to get your needs out there.

Be honest

This is the time for gentle yet direct honesty, with no beating around the bush. You don’t need this to  be an ongoing drama, so let’s be clear about how you feel and prepare to let someone know what’s going on for you, even if you start first with your partner. Open with a positive statement to avoid anyone becoming defensive, and then follow with an assertive message. For example: ‘I love your mum, but I’d prefer her to call me before she wants to visit’ or ‘I love the way you want to be part of our baby’s life, but Tuesday visits are no good for me.’

Get your partner on board

Your partner needs to know about how his mum is affecting you, so communicate this with him, letting him know what’s going on and what you’d like to happen. He can probably get the message through to his mum more effectively than you can, and without anyone’s feelings getting hurt. It’s important that your partner has your back in this, so do be clear about your feelings, and even more clear about what boundaries you want put out there.

Be proactive

If there’s something about your MIL’s help that you don’t like, try to get her on board in a way that works better for you. For example, if you could do with some help getting the weekly shopping done, ask her to come along with you then. If there’s a particular day of the week that you prefer her to visit, arrange it with her ahead of time. Being proactive means you can make things happen on your terms and really enjoy the help on offer – plus your MIL will feel important and valued as a grandparent.

Try to see it from her view

It’s also worth stepping into your MIL’s shoes to see things from her point of view. She may have been waiting a long time for a grandchild and now wants to enjoy this little person that her son helped make. Being a grandparent is a very special experience and it’s likely she wants to bond with the baby and be a big part of his life. Understanding where she’s coming from can help the two of you come to an agreement that makes everyone happy.

Enjoy the help

Having a baby is no easy thing, and if you’ve got someone hanging around wanting to be involved and help you out, grab the offer with both hands. Sure, you might not always see eye to eye with your MIL, but if her heart is in the right place, it might be worth putting your differences aside so you can share the load. Who knows? Babies have this way of bringing people together and you might just find a way to enjoy your MIL more as a result.


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