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Just Say “No” (To The In-Laws)

By Amalah


I have an issue that my husband and I just can’t come to an agreement on. My parents are taking my daughter for 2 weeks this summer (she’ll be 18 months), they live a good 24 hour drive away. I hadn’t planned on telling my in-laws about the trip, since I don’t want her up there without us, but they only live an hour from my parents and are bound to see stuff on Facebook about it so when they asked what we were doing this summer I told them. Of course then they “teasingly” asked if they could keep her for a while too, which I just kind of blew off since they weren’t straightforward with the question.

My problem is that after telling my husband this he was like, well if they want to I can’t tell them no (he will not confront/stand his ground with them about ANYTHING.)

Ok, so they are not terrible people, they love our daughter and make a good effort (for the most part) to keep a good relationship with me and my husband. The reason I don’t want them to watch her unsupervised is because:

1) Their house is like a construction zone from remodeling, they have an exposed beam that I have tripped on and got splinters from.

2) Their house is disgusting to say the least. It has an overwhelming mold smell, their towels get washed but are still dirty and mildewy when done, they don’t clean bathrooms, floors, kitchen etc. Also they constantly have fleas in the house, even in the winter.

3) They only eat carbs. Their idea of a well rounded meal is corn, potatoes, bread, meat, cheese and coke. My daughter has a pretty sensitive stomach and a diet like that will only give her diarrhea.

4) No AC or heat! And it gets hot and muggy in the summers there.

I’m not one of those moms who has to hover over their child every second of every day, they’re going to get hurt, sick, and get into gross things but this is pushing it for sure. I don’t like to stay there myself so I really don’t want to inflict this stay on her even though she wouldn’t really know, so maybe it’s for my own peace of mind. How do I get my husband to lay the law down with his parents, or how should I handle it if I have to?

I really don’t feel like it’s my place, to say anything to them and they will be much more forgiving of their son than they will me. I truly do want my daughter to know her  grandparents and be able to have summer visits with them, but I just can’t imagine sending my sweet little baby to such a horrible home.


So, okay. I feel like there are a few different threads to untangle here. First, let me (gently!) point out that you are stressing mightily about a visit that is not actually happening. Your daughter is going to stay with YOUR parents, not his, and there is no concrete plan for her to stay with them anytime soon. They haven’t actually, directly, straight-forwardly asked yet. So. Deep breath. For now.

What you’re REALLY stressing about, obviously, is the fact that they MIGHT ask for a similar visit of their very own, and your husband will refuse to take your side/put his foot down/stand up to them/say no and all of that. And I’m assuming there’s a history there. He says, “If they ask I can’t tell them no,” even though: Yeah, dude, you actually totally can. And sometimes — SOMETIMES! — you need to, and you should, when your child’s welfare is at stake.

You aren’t asking him to cut his parents out of his daughter’s life, you’re just asking him to please put the kibosh on the idea of her staying overnight — without you guys — in a home with a high likelihood of injury or illness. (Note that I do agree with the OP’s concerns here — this is a slightly more complicated scenario than say, grandparents needing to install some babygates and put some knick-knacks away. The house sounds kinda unsafe/unsanitary.) I don’t think it’s much to ask of him to at least put off the idea of a visit until, say, the remodeling is done. (Even if you both know the remodeling will never be done, or plan to come up with an alternate excuse once it is.)

So this sounds more like an ongoing issue between you and your husband. I can’t diagnose the exact issue, but I feel like it’s more important to figure it out and address THAT before throwing all your mental energy into this particular in-law scenario. Is the condition of their house similar to the conditions he grew up in, so he simply doesn’t think any of it is a big deal? Is he maybe hearing your concerns about their diet and cleanliness as underlying snobbery (i.e. your parents are better off financially, or something)? Or is he struggling with worries/denial about his parents’ overall health and ability to live independently and your complaints about mold and bad smells and poor diet are all stuff he’s trying like hell to ignore?

Do you guys just need to sit down and create pros and cons list of sending your daughter to his parents’ home until he sees your points/concerns, or is this really just another plotline in a long, storied history of him Not Taking Your Side Against His Parents’ At All Ever And Pretty Much Letting Them Have Their Way And Treat Him Like A Subservient Doormat? Or is he simply big into grandparent “fairness” and doesn’t think it’s fair for your parents to get a long visit with your daughter and his don’t? Are there things about your parents that he maybe sees as not exactly awesome and compromise-worthy, so he doesn’t understand why you won’t extend the same courtesy to his parents, since your concerns don’t bother him?

Oh my God, I’m sorry for that ouroboros of circular rhetorical questions there, but hopefully you get what I’m trying to say: You and your husband need to sit down and talk this OUT. And not just focus on the “what if they ask to babysit for a week?” hypothetical. Why can’t he say no to them? Why won’t he? Does he simply not agree with your worries *this time*, or is there simply no request too crazy that will make him put the interests/concerns of his wife and daughter ahead of his parents’ feelings?

It’s a messy issue, though absolutely not an unusual one, to have a spouse who won’t take your side against his/her parents, even over small things. And especially over big things, like say, sending a young toddler to stay in a moldy house with poor air quality and exposed construction hazards and stray power tools. Some stuff, yeah, you can compromise over — the issue with their diet can possibly be circumvented with a trip to a grocery store upon your arrival where you purchase acceptable-yet-convenient foods for her and do some meal planning with them. And maybe while he personally can’t deal with saying no, he would possibly agree to letting you be the heavy this time? (Not ideal, because yeah: HIS PARENTS.)

But if you feel strongly and he DOES agree a visit wouldn’t be ideal, but it’s simply a matter of willpower on this part, I would definitely smile and thank them for the offer, but two weeks away from your daughter is already more time than you can comfortably deal with for the next year or so. Talk to your parents and see if a visit with his parents can be arranged during those two weeks so they’ll get more than just Facebook pictures — can they meet up at a zoo, aquarium, all take her to the circus or something? Use the “I don’t think it’s a good idea while your house is being remodeled; she just gets into everything and can hurt herself in the most babyproofed place there is already!” excuse. Dodge the question.

But since there’s a chance they are fully aware of their ability to divide and conquer if they go directly, privately to their son-who-won’t-ever-say-no, I wouldn’t put off having a calm heart-to-heart with your husband about how his inability and/or refusal to say no to his parents (and to side with you and your daughter’s best interests) make you feel.

Has anyone out there had this particular conversation with a partner? Any tips for our OP?

Photo credit: Thinkstock


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About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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