How to handle well-meaning parents and in-laws
our years ago when my daughter was a newborn, I never let her cry,Â remembers New York writer Katherine Stewart. ÂMy mother-in-law viewed my hypervigilance as ridiculous and would say, ÂLet her cryÂitÂs good for her lungs.Â Then sheÂd shrug her shoulders, as if to add, Not that my opinion counts.Â When a new baby enters the picture, generational struggles are all too common. You know that the sometimes-intrusive opinions of your parents and in-laws are well-intentioned, but how can you tune them outÂrespectfully? First, understand that how you respond to their opinions is very important. ÂThe last thing you want to do is be reactive,Â says Gayle Peterson, Ph.D., M.S.S.W., L.C.S.W., a family therapist in Oakland, Calif., author and a Fit Pregnancy advisory board member. ÂIf you act like a child, parents may treat you like one.Â HereÂs some expert advice on how to handle five common gaps in parenting styles. ((Problem)) My in-laws are not the most, um, modern people, and theyÂre flabbergasted that I breastfeed my baby in public. The one time I did it when we were at a restaurant together, they were extremely uncomfortable. solution Since you are probably not about to stop your breastfeeding style because of their squeamishness, you need to find a way to deal with it tactfully. It is simply a difference of opinion about modesty, says Kira Stein, M.D., a psychiatrist in private practice in Sherman Oaks, Calif., and mother of a 3-year-old girl and a 14-month-old boy. ÂDo what makes you comfortable when your in-laws are not around,Â she says, Âbut for the sake of a positive relationship with themÂwhich is important for you, your spouse and your childrenÂdefer to your in-laws when youÂre with them and breastfeed privately.Â ((Problem)) When my husband and I ask my mother not to sit our 1-year-old in front of the television when sheÂs with him, she retorts, ÂIt didnÂt hurt you and your siblings.Â (As far as I can tell, sheÂs right: IÂm hardly what youÂd call a TV junkie.) solution As a mother, you need to make certain your children are cared for in a way you are comfortable with. As a daughter, you need to show your mother the respect she deserves for having done the best she could in raising you. ÂSit down with your mom and let her know that now that you are a mother yourself, you appreciateÂmore than everÂhow hard she worked to make you happy,Â Stein suggests. ÂExplain that it is now your turn to parent in the way that you feel is best, and that it would mean so much to you if she could work with you, even if she thinks youÂre being excessively cautious at times.Â Also, let your mom know that you want your baby to learn how to interact with people; that itÂs important for the baby to get to know her grandmother and that the relationship will grow to be much more meaningful if the television is not a distraction. And if your request is not taken seriously? ÂHire a babysitter, and invite your mom for visits with you and the baby while the TV is off,Â Stein says. ((Problem)) My husband and I would like our baby in bed with us for at least six months, but my mother-in-law insists that our daughter wonÂt ever be able to sleep on her own. solution ÂBe firm and let her know youÂre not going to back down,Â Peterson says. Explain the theory of attachment parenting: The more securely your child is bonded with you now, the more independent she will be later. ÂSay that while it may be different from her philosophy, itÂs well thought out,Â Peterson says. ((Problem)) My vociferous father-in-law is not a guy who keeps his opinions to himself. He thinks itÂs wrong that IÂm returning to my job three months after giving birth, but we really do need two incomes right now.