Blogging is a great way to share insights and experiences. But, sometimes, as much as we'd like to start a discussion, it's not our story to share, or feelings could be hurt, or relationships damaged. So, for my guest posting series, I asked bloggers to share here, anonymously, posts they felt they couldn't put on their own blogs.
I hope you'll find them as compelling as I have.
When you are expecting a child, people warn you that your life will be different.
Wait and see, they say. Parenthood changes your marriage.
A child will turn your world upside down, they tell you.
You’ll never sleep again, they say.
As it turned out, though, those changes seemed easy. We had been hoping and praying for children for years, and becoming a mother felt natural and exhilarating. Watching my husband become a father was absolutely magical. And I had never needed much sleep anyway.
Becoming the mother of my in-laws’ newest grandchild, however, was the greatest challenge I had faced in my marriage. Even though our child wasn’t the first grandchild on either side, my in-laws expected to be actively involved in every facet of our child’s life.
“We’ll come see him every weekend,” my mother-in-law said. And she meant it. That is probably the dream of many new parents, who wish their own parents could have—or wanted to have—a
relationship with their children. It wasn’t mine.
Much as I love my in-laws—and I do love them dearly—we couldn’t make that happen without our marriage and our own family suffering. My husband and I were both working full-time. The idea of entertaining out-of-town guests every weekend, during the little time we had as a new family of three, was daunting.
When I balked at that idea, however, everything started changing.
From the day I had met my in-laws I had felt cherished and valued and loved. Suddenly I felt hostility and bitterness. They started dredging up past complaints that we had never heard. Why hadn’t the photographer taken more pictures of them at our wedding? Um, I didn’t know. He hadn’t taken many pictures that had come out, actually. Wasn’t that five years ago?
One day my mother-in-law asked me what we were doing for our child’s birthday. I said we were
keeping it low-key and not throwing a big party. A few days later I came home checked the mail and found a birthday invitation to a large family party for our child—planned by my mother-in-law and her daughters.
When we protested, the situation went downhill quickly. We started receiving angry phone calls from my husband’s parents and siblings. My in-laws threatened to take us to court to guarantee they could spend more time with their grandchild. As the heated emotions continued to escalate, we realized we needed to take some space.
Even though my husband and I were on the same page, it was a sad and troubling time. I knew my in-laws loved us, but the situation made me feel they were treating our child as some prize, almost a piece of property. I wanted us to make our peace and build—or rebuild—our positive relationship. But as a new parent, you aren’t really looking for extra issues to resolve.
Months later, when we were expecting our second child, we reached out with that news as our olive branch and we were reunited. And my husband and I are both so grateful that our relationship with his parents is as strong and warm as it is today.
I’m not sure how helpful my advice is since we really hit rock bottom and had to work our way up to where we are now. But if you were to ask me how to prepare for this transition with your in-laws, this is what I would offer:
Discuss expectations in advance, both yours and theirs. Do you expect them to help? Do they expect to be allowed to help? What does “helping” mean to them? Are they moving in for three days? Three weeks? Three years? You can avoid a great deal of hurt down the road if these questions are discussed before your precious bundle of joy is beaming at her grandparents.
Realize that a baby changes all the rules. You may have worked out a good method for balancing both of your families, missing an occasional gathering and never hearing about it. Now your absence will matter. Relatives and friends of your in-laws you’ve never met will need to meet the baby.
Make you and your spouse are communicating your concerns. Keep in mind that your spouse may respond differently since these are his parents.
Find ways to keep the grandparents involved. My in-laws crave not just pictures but stories about our children to share with their friends and other relatives. The simplest story about something that happened on the playground or a cute thing their grandchild said is pure gold.
Don’t be afraid to set boundaries—and ask for what you need. If you have an open-door policy for visits, fine. If not, say so. If they ask to come and it’s not a good time, tell them. If you aren’t ready to host them for a meal, communicate that. Don’t be afraid to ask them to pick up a few things at the grocery store.
Accept gifts graciously. But don’t be afraid to give the giant rocking horse a new home and discretely mention that you keep running out of socks or onesies or paper plates or coffee.
Be clear about your child’s needs and be sensitive to theirs. Tell them if there are better days or times of day for your child—or you. But also ask what times tend to be good for them.
Pray. Prayer brings comfort and clarity.
Focus on what unites you. A child also deepens your connection with your in-laws in many positive ways. It’s such a blessing that your in-laws are there for your spouse, your child, and you. What wonderful memories you can make together! And you will.
Today, I navigate the in-law relationship with great care. I consider it to be part of my role as wife and mother—a pleasant part, and an important one that did not come naturally to me.
When my in-laws visit, I am much more intentional about our time together, planning simple craft or baking activities that work well for our children to do with their grandparents. Now that our children are old enough to hug and kiss them and sit and talk to them, my main job is staying out of the way, smiling, taking a few pictures, and ordering pizza for dinner.
Weekly visits might be beyond me, but calling a pizza place? That’s something I can handle.
My life really has changed.
Three bloggers you just might want to check out . . .
Julie at These Walls
Erica at Saint Affairs
Rita at Open Window