Tips for dealing with overbearing in-laws
If you’re in-laws are quite a lot to take, here’s some ways to deal with it
You’re not being unreasonable, getting worked up over-bearing in laws can be pretty commonplace after the arrival of a little one. So, here’s how can you best manage their often well-intentioned ways.
We all know the mother-in-law jokes – “Take my mother-in-law…please!!” – but it’s far more serious when your partner’s parents can be felt as obstructive, domineering and divisive. When you were a couple you would have been able to be more detached and indifferent, and just be you two. Once a baby arrives on the scene they might feel they have the right to enter in to your family as they choose – that’s their grandchild, after all. How do you manage the relationship with as little conflict and as much pleasure as possible?
Recognise their feelings. They love your partner. They brought your partner up. So of course, they feel totally overjoyed at your baby’s arrival and want to help - and feel they have something to offer. Helping them make that contribution something that supports you rather then creates conflict is worth the trouble.
Recognise your feelings. You may react negatively to their suggestions for several reasons. One may be that you’ve never got on. Another, that you resent the implication you don’t know what you’re doing. A further barrier may be you feel your childcare principles are at odds – they may be in favour of setting feeding routines and dismissive of responsive feeding recommendations. And finally, you may feel they are rivals for your partner’s attention and affection or think that is how they feel.
Recognise their worth to you. While you should never take them for granted, parents in law can be a vital resource for advice and practical help – but set the standard early on that you would like to try things out for yourself and they don’t automatically know best. They don’t get a key to the door and the right to walk in when they want. In return, you won’t assume they will babysit but will ask nicely and take no for an answer – but oh the joy of the times you can go out for a night or even a weekend because they’ve got this!
Recognise their worth to your child. The joy, the love and the value of grandparents cannot, ever, be too overestimated in a child’s life. You have to be the ones who don’t only enjoy them but need to guide and discipline them. Grandparents are so often simply fun. But they can also provide models to back you up – to show manners, bedtimes and other routines need to be kept to. Especially if other aspects of their lives are being turned upside down, grandparents can be a stable point for children that comforts and reassures them.
So how do you manage all this? Once you can see it from their point of view you may understand and forgive their desire to be overly involved. Once you understand your feelings, you may be able to see how and why you clash. And once you recognise their worth you can begin to discuss and negotiate how you manage it, so everyone is happy. Sit down with them and agree some rules.
Special time together. One tactic to get people onside is to make the effort to spend some quality time with your parents in law, together or one on one. Meals out together, a shopping trip, a coffee date – all serve to make a link that will help you and them to keep close.
Above all try to remember to pick your battles, communicate tactfully – whether you are compromising, or standing your ground – and that your in-laws are your family. They raised that person you chose to have a child with and welcomed you into their family. Staying focused on the common ground between you avoids rifts and if issues do arise, approach your in-law about the issue together as a unified front.
Bounty “Sex & Relationship” articles are written by expert Suzie Hayman. Suzie is agony aunt for Woman magazine, a Relate trained counsellor, and an accredited TripleP (Positive Parenting Programme) parenting educator. She makes frequent appearances on TV and radio and as well as writing 31 books, Suzie writes features on parenting, relationships, sex and couples counselling, for a wide range of national magazines and newspapers