Advice from Grandmas, please!

Advice from anyone is welcome, of course, but I would especially appreciate hearing from Grandmothers. I created a prayer request about this a few days ago, but I also need some actionable advice.

My relationship with my mother-in-law is pretty strained and that has mostly happened since the arrival of my baby girl. My daughter is 8 months old now and I would like to repair things and prevent it from getting worse. Even simple things, like hearing my mother-in-law refer to my daughter as “her baby,” lead me to want to cry. Obviously, holding a grudge against her is not going to help my soul and it is certainly not going to help my marriage. How do I work on myself? I admit that I have an irrational fear that my daughter will grow up loving my mother-in-law more than me. How do I keep from myself from feeling like I need to compete with my mother-in-law?

My mother-in-law wholeheartedly loves my daughter (and my husband, of course) so this is not a case where my daughter would be better off without her around.

If you are a grandma, do you have any wise words that can help me see things from my mother-in-law’s point of view? I would very much like to have a loving relationship (or at least a happy one) with her.

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I have six grandkids. All my kids are boys so I have daughter-in-laws. I call all my grandkids “my babies”. I even go as far as letting my kids know I need another baby as the youngest is 5 now.

None of this mean I want to take these kids from their parents, nor do I want them to love me more. The love a grandmother feels for a grandchild is different than the love they feel for their own children. I can’t explain it, it’s just different. My grandchildren love me because I am Grammy, not because I’m trying to be anything like a parent.

Your mother-in-law gets to love your daughter and your irrational feelings are your issue, not something she has done. Don’t you want as many people to love your daughter as possible? I raised my sons to be good men, it took work and perseverance, even tears and heartbreak at times. They have chosen good wives and are now raising their own families. I feel I have earned being able to love their children as much as I can. Do not take this away from your mother-in-law.

Do you feel this way with your mother?

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OP, maybe you could share with us how or why your relationship is strained with your MIL? It sounds like maybe this actually has nothing to do with the baby.

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Thank you for answering, Horton!

I do feel like this with my own mother. But it is somewhat different. It is a lot easier to say to my mom, “I’d really rather you call her ‘your grandbaby’.” It is much harder to be so straightforward with my mother-in-law.

My mother-in-law sees my daughter several times a week, probably about three times as often as my mom. I have not kept my daughter away from her and I do realize that this is my issue. That is why I wanted the perspective of grandmas, so that I might have an easier time shifting my view point from my own fears.

You have given me a lot to think about. And, I do appreciate your honesty.

I do want to be vague enough to stay anonymous, but I will try to explain.

Prior to my daughter being born, I think we did have a positive relationship. I enjoyed her company quite a bit. She was very good to me and she would have said that I was kind to her too.

I think our biggest source of conflict is that I have not really asked her advice on being a mom. She definitely offers her opinion (and continues to offer it over and over, her advice is not taken). As I am typing my reply to you, Irishmom2, I do think she wants to feel useful. She was definitely a fun mom (from what my husband has said) and I know that I will be much less fun and more of a stick in the mud. I think the main source of my fear and sadness comes from the fact that I prayed so long to be a mom and she already had her turn. She wants to do all the things like bake the first birthday cake and make the Halloween costumes. I know that this selfish and irrational, but I want to be the one having those moments with my daughter. I am trying to work on myself to be a better daughter-in-law, but I’m struggling.

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Perhaps ask her opinion on things that don’t really matter to you as much. Which color do you think I should paint her room/get for her dress/feed her for lunch today? Let her give her opinion, but then do as you choose. If she comments, just say that you decided to do xyz this time. If she wants to do all of the firsts, just tell her you appreciate her offer, but you can’t wait to get started on baking the cake, you have a new recipe etc. It sounds like you need to learn how to say thanks, but no thanks in a calm, nice manner. The last thing you want is for everything to seem like a competition.

Just remember, there will come a day when you may have another child, and you will welcome the extra help!

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Then you tell her no, she won’t be doing firsts. If she gives unsolicited advice, you change the subject.

If she truly means well, she won’t object if you tell her no. If she’s all about control, she’ll throw a fit - in which case you ask her to leave (or leave yourself, if you’re at her home) and tell her that until you receive an apology and her behaviour changes, she won’t be seeing your daughter as she clearly has issues.

Sadly, there are some grandmas who basically treat their grandchildren as do-over babies.

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There will come a time where you’ll appreciate some of the help that you don’t want now.

At the moment, I can see how a lot of what your MIL has to offer is superfluous, but down the road, you may find yourself needing TWO birthday cakes (one for a friend party, one for the family party) and in my opinion, you really can’t have too much dress-up stuff for a preschool-aged child.

But in the meantime, I totally get why you want your MIL to back off. There’s been a lot of water under the bridge, but when I was at your stage of motherhood, my MIL didn’t want to be called “grandma” because she thought it sounded old–she wanted to be called mom, too. NOPE! NOPE! NOPE! It’s not that my MIL was a bad person–it was just that (perhaps much like your MIL) she hadn’t quite figured out yet what the difference is between mom and grandma.

I think you’re both going to figure this out, but in the meantime, it might help to see a little bit less grandma.

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Grandmas can be VERY useful as birthday party helpers.

I think that you’re eventually going to need your MIL’s help more, but at the moment, your baby is an infant, so it’s totally understandable that you want to stick together and you don’t need or want “help.” But leave the door open to adjusting your approach in a year or two. And feel free to dangle that carrot. And the truth is–you may feel totally different about handing your baby over to MIL when she’s 2.

Here’s another phrase to remember for when you get “helpful” advice: “My pediatrician says…” Or alternately, “I’ll ask my pediatrician about that.”

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@His_helpmeet, @Xantippe, @Irishmom2

Thank you for making me feel less like a horrible person. I appreciate your kindness to me.

My daughter will probably be my only child, unfortunately. I had to stay in the hospital indefinitely for quite some time before she was born. We were trying unsuccessfully to get her to 34 weeks before delivery. I lived in the hospital for 44 days. My husband is afraid to loss me so we will be using NFP indefinitely.

Thank you again for being so helpful and kind in your responses to me.

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I’m not a grandma. But I have a bit of a strained relationship with my own MIL.

I also hate the “my baby” thing. But I realized that I don’t mind it so much when my own mother does it- this is because I have a good relationship with my mom and it bothers me when my MIL does it because of the other things she’s said and done.

So, I do my best to try to let the little things go. The unsolicited advice- I just thank her or say “oh that’s interesting” and move the conversation along. If you don’t want her to make Halloween costumes, just say “thanks, but I’ll be choosing the costume”.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll ever be close to mine. I would have liked that, but she’s made it impossible by some of the things she’s done. I try to foster a relationship between her and my kids though.

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I think its reasonable for you to get to decide who does the “firsts”. Just explain nicely. Invite her to participate on your terms. I had three grandmas who all believed they’d bought my first-born’s first Christmas dress. They were all disappointed when Christmas came and she was wearing the dress I’d picked out. I’m actually glad to hear my mom call my new baby “her baby” because we both know she never pays a lick of attention to my first two. I’m not sure why she’s so attached to this one, but okay.

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There is something incredible about seeing your child parent their own child. For me it was beyond anything I could ever imagine. When my oldest granddaughter was born my daughter-in-law graciously allowed me to be in the room. Her mother was there also. I stayed off to the side as my son and her mother were on either side of her. This allowed me to see one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. The look on my son’s face seeing his daughter for the first time. The love she feels for your baby isn’t the same as the love you feel for your baby, the love she feels for your husband has changed, the love she feels for you has changed. It is so hard to describe the emotions that go along with becoming a grandmother (and it happens with every new baby) but it is good. Your mother-in-law is just loving you and your baby.

As grandmothers we feel like we’ve done the child raising thing before and are in a position to offer advice, wanted or not. I know I give plenty of myself. Parenting hasn’t changed much in many generations no matter what consumer marketing wants to tell us. Your mother-in-law is giving advice because she loves you and your baby, but it doesn’t mean you have to take it.

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Why not bake the cake together? Family is about sharing things. Maybe she has an amazing recipe, while you are an expert decorator. Work together.

Family is not about “you had your turn, now give me mine”.

@Clementine14 Thank you for your answer! Your response made me me feel much more normal.

@Allegra I am glad your mother seems to pay attention to your newest baby. I am sorry she is not as interested in your other two children. I have seen many of your posts on the forum and you seem to be a very good mom!

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That was very kind of your daughter-in-law to allow you to see your grandchild be born. It sounds as if you have a very loving relationship with your daughter-in-law. It also sounds as if it was a special moment for you.

Edited to add: My mother-in-law does love to watch my husband be a dad. She is very clearly proud of her son being the man she raised him to be. I imagine that is similar to how you feel watching your children with their own children.

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Thank you for your suggestion, TheLittleLady. In this case, we will not be baking a cake together. My compromise is that we both bake our own little cakes. My daughter will have mine on her birthday and my mother-in-law’s cake a few days later.

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@TheLittleLady
I just realized that my previous reply may give the impression that I am opposed to doing things with my mother-in-law. That would not be true. I took her with me to pick out fabric for my daughter’s baby quilt and had her come over to help my daughter hold a crayon the first time. She does certainly participate, but I do think being in the kitchen together would test both our patience!

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It was a tremendous blessing to be there when my granddaughter was born. Nothing would have kept me from being at the hospital, my intent was to stay in the waiting room. After a few hours she and my son invited me in the room. My daughter in law and I do have a close relationship but we have had our problems. There have been times when she has been very angry with me and kept the children from me. In those time I just have to let her get over whatever she is upset about and not push it. Fortunately the great times far outweigh the bad. I love her dearly, mostly because she loves my son and she is the mother of his children. She is my chosen daughter.

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As a mom now, think about how fiercely you love your baby. Remember, your mil still loves her child that much and would likely walk trough fire for her grandbaby.

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