I’m not sure if I’m making mountains out of molehills here, and if you think so, please tell me. Baby #4 is due for us any day now. I live close to my parents and they are a great help for me in watching our kids about one afternoon every two weeks (usually my mom). They are devoted Catholics and I love them dearly. However. My mother is a very organized housekeeper and I… I am not. I am much more laid-back in most matters than she is, and it is driving her BATTY that I do not have one shred of the nesting instinct within me. Since this is my fourth baby, and my kids are fairly close in age, much of the baby “stuff” is still out. I have gotten the newborn clothes out of storage, have the basinette ready, and have purchased some newborn diapers. Other than that, I haven’t done much. The “nursery” isn’t ready because I know the baby will be in our bedroom for the first year anyway. I haven’t scrubbed the house from top to bottom because - I don’t know. I haven’t had time, it’s clean enough, and it doesn’t matter that much to me. I haven’t packed a hospital bag because- again, I don’t know. I never do. I just throw a toothbrush, change of clothes, and hairbrush in a bag when I go into labor. The hospital is close enough that DH can drive home to fetch anything that I decide I need the next day anyway.
All of this, I can tell, drives her nuts. She will be staying at our house for 2 nights while DH and I are in the hospital, and I know (from past experience) that she will try to do all of those things that she thinks I should have been doing- tidying the house, organizing onesies, ironing shirts that our family doesn’t think need to be ironed, pruning the bushes (really). I shouldn’t be ungrateful, but I really don’t want her to do these things. When she “tidies”, it essentially means rearranging things such that DH and I can’t find them or they are put in places where we don’t want them, and have to move them again. The other issue is that she sometimes gets so focused on the act of cleaning that she puts it ahead of taking care of the children. I’m not worried about their physical endangerment or anything—it’s not like she’s letting them play in the street—but the fact that she will set them in front of the TV for an hour or two so she can iron shirts that I don’t usually iron because SHE thinks they need to be ironed instead of interacting with the kids.
I know that what she wants most in her heart is simply to be helpful to me, and this is how she thinks she is best being helpful. I have told her, calmly, that the most helpful thing she can do for me is to simply watch the kids, be attentive to them, play with them, read them stories, etc. I have asked her specifically not to iron/do yardwork/etc. and I feel her response is to treat me as her 12-year-old child again: she rolls her eyes, tells me I’m being “stubborn” and proceeds to do those things anyway. It’s like a power struggle: as if her “helpfulness” is a means of control, of telling me she knows how to run my household better than DH and I.
How can I speak to her charitably about this (it’s not just the two days I’ll be in the hospital, it’s the semi-monthly babysitting)? Or should I just let it go and offer it up? Or am I the crazy one here?!