Thursday, August 20, 2015

Becoming a Mother Changes Your Relationship with Your In-Laws: Mystery Blogger Series

I'm terrible at taking blog breaks, or relaxing in general. But just in case I do happen to feel like relaxing with this new baby when the time comes, I've asked some of my favorite bloggers to guest post for me. But not in the usual way.

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.

-Kendra 


 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

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12 comments:

  1. Oh my goodness, this hit home. My husband did not have a healthy relationship with his mom, but managed to maneuver around that fact, which is what we continued to do as a couple. But when we had a child? Letting things pass, slipping around others, etc does not work anymore! It really brings things into a sharp focus and forces you to find (hopefully healthy) ways to actually deal with them.

    I am so glad the writer was able to sort things out.

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  2. Yes, to this. It wasn't my in-laws that were disappointed because they understood. It was the extended family members. So I let my husband deal with explaining that traveling was too stressful for us but we were disappointed too. There's also my own family which readily admit that their homes are not really set up for small children. So we waited until they were older before visiting them (they could always visit us). In the end, everyone has gotten the visits they desired but it took patience and understanding. And continues to be like that (planes are expensive after all).

    Glad that things improved. Sometimes the problem is that the grandparents are used to having grandchildren close by so they see them more often without realizing that they can't have the same expectations for other grandkids who live further away.

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  3. Great post! I was shocked to hear that they were ready to litigate...goodness me. Your suggestions are very good. Thank you for sharing and showing your positive, humble attitude towards loving them without destroying your own boundaries.

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  4. YES! We have the extreme opposite of this where my FIL pretends my kids don't exist and only thinks of the other grandkids but I can super duper sympathize with not having the relationship you thought you'd have.

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  5. You sound more patient than me -- the litigation part would have thrown me over the edge. My in-laws are pretty darn good, thank God.

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    1. I agree, after that kind of threat I wouldn't be able to re-build the relationship

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  6. I like your idea of planning an activity with the kids for when the in-laws come. That might set a better tone overall.

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  7. My in-laws are polar opposites. They don't really care or have time for grandchildren. They have two in total, my husband's nephew and our son. We are expecting baby number two, there will be nearly a five year gap and they don't care or don't see the precious gift that is a baby! My mil lives a 5 min drive away and my fil lives a 40 min drive away so they really have no excuse. I try to keep the lines of communication open but their selfishness is really trying! My parents on the other hand are very like the posters in laws, they do overstep the mark a lot of times and sometimes don't give us enough space as a family. This has been hard on our marriage. I think, I'm just trying to say, that I understand where the poster is coming from but also that there are two sides to every coin. I'm also glad, the poster improved her relationship with her in-laws and I like the suggestion to pray about it.

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  8. Oh gosh, this is so us. My relationship with the in-laws has become so strained with the birth of my daughter...and the first grandchild. I think they expected to come over multiple times a week, babysit all the time, etc. But we are so private and definitely don't want guests every day of the week. We need our alone time! They come once a week and it still seems like so much. Now that we're ttc baby 2, I'm already dreading the clingyness (umm, is that a word?) that's to come with the next new babe.

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  9. Our #1 is on the way and we are already so upset about how the MIL is wanting to plan a baby shower (at a very inopportune time, I might add) BECAUSE PEOPLE OWE HER (YES, SHE SAID THAT!!). It makes us SO angry that she's looking at our child as a commodity and wants to parade us around for her benefit. Not to mention, it is RUDE for (grand)parents to host showers! Not no but HE-- no! I can see this is going to be a rough road ahead.

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  11. Absolutely, a relationship changes your relationship in-laws. It keeps more pressure on you for the well-being of the kid.

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