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By Amalah

Hi Amy,

I’d love to be writing you with an easy question about makeup or skincare, but you’ve already solved all my skincare woes (oh, how I love me some Philosophy!) and I am currently banned from Sephora (self-imposed) after a particularly ridiculous shopping spree there. Plus, I have something much more difficult to worry about.

My husband and I have been married for almost two years and are expecting our first child in a couple of months. Yay! The marriage is great, my husband is an absolute dream, and we’re both very excited to meet our daughter. The problem? My mother-in-law. At first, it was just general controlling craziness that could be dealt with. Whatever, no big deal. Everyone has a crazy relative, the mother-in-law was my husband’s contribution to the marriage. I resolved to deal with her as cordially as I could and if she stepped over any lines, my husband would take over. We even scheduled time for her to come out and see the baby once she arrives.

However, I recently learned some information that is making me want to rethink my tactic. One of my husband’s younger siblings told us that in the past year, the normal teenager/Mom fights became physical, and that his sister ended up with bruises on her arms after these fights. The police were called twice but were sent away by his stepfather. In the morning, his mother would see the bruises and ask his sister where they came from. I was absolutely appalled. I mean, I had my fair share of fights with my mother when I was a teenager, but I never ended up bruised afterward. The fact that she asked where the bruises came from the next day also scares me. Is she blacking out in her anger? Delusional? As we were talking about this, my husband told me that he remembers his mom beating on him when he was a little boy because he had left something at the mall and his mother was upset she would have to repurchase it and money was tight.

Amy, I knew this woman was a bit unhinged, but I had no idea that it went so far. I am absolutely terrified to leave my daughter in her care. I mean, babies can be frustrating and I don’t want her to lose it with my daughter and hurt her. I said as much to my husband and he assured me he does not remember her being this way with his siblings when they were babies (he is quite a bit older than they are and remembers them as babies very well). He says he completely understands why I’m worried, but does not believe that his mother would hurt our daughter. The last thing I want to do is to make it so my daughter does not have a relationship with her grandmother, but her safety has to come first, and my sanity! I can’t imagine not being completely on edge if she were to watch our child, not to mention what I would do if she were to even THINK about hurting my daughter.

What I really want to do is to make a rule that she has no contact with our daughter, or at the very least no unsupervised contact until she begins therapy and some sort of anger management. Am I allowed to do this? I know my husband would support me, but despite everything she has done, I don’t want to cause a rift between him and his family, or betray his sister’s trust by letting his mom know that she told us. His mother has started therapy a couple of times, but left after one session because she didn’t like what the doctor was saying, so I don’t think she is going to like being given an ultimatum. So, I guess what I’m asking is, am I being completely hormonal mama bear crazy or do we have an obligation, not just to our daughter but to my husband’s younger siblings, to step up and do something?


Well! Okay.

You do not let this woman have unsupervised contact with your daughter. End. Of. Story.

And I don’t mean just when your daughter is tiny and small. I mean, EVER. I know it’s nice to have grandparents as babysitters and all, but hellllllll no. It sounds like she may actually become more dangerous to children as they get older and more willful/frustrating, so seriously: shore up your reserves now, because this isn’t a situation that will resolve after those first postpartum weeks.

Look, I’m no domestic abuse expert here, BUT:
Yes. Someone needs to intervene on behalf of your husband’s younger sister. She was a baby once, too. She does indeed need a hormonal mama bear crazy advocate. Her story plus your husband’s memories…DUDE. DUUUUUDE. Abuse is a cycle. It doesn’t just stop or pick-and-choose which child “deserved” it vs. a child who was just teething and grumpy.

You aren’t overreacting. Help her. Find someone else who can help her. Call her school, her guidance counselor. Call the police, again, and tell them not to leave. I just…I cannot express this enough. Forget the worries about betraying anyone’s trust. That “trust” was a cry for help, even if she didn’t necessarily mean for it to be.

Teenager = child = bruises. NOT COOL. EVER.

People are protecting your MIL, making excuses…the stepfather turning away the police, your husband remembering awful stuff yet insisting that she wouldn’t hurt your daughter or probably never lashed out at anyone but him, the failed attempts at therapy…again, no abuse expert but this is a pretty classic scenario of someone with a Problem. Abusers generally don’t just hurt one child or one person. They learn to hide their behaviors; they learn to manipulate their victims. Don’t let anyone blame your sister-in-law. Don’t sit there and question over whether she’s telling the truth or not — that’s not a question for YOU to figure out, you know? Don’t worry about breaking up a home or causing a rift or people blaming you for causing “problems.” You are not the Problem.

So…look, I cannot solve that Problem for you. But if you were mostly looking for reassurance that you are not being unreasonable…well. YOU ARE NOT BEING UNREASONABLE. This woman does not come near your baby. This woman needs to be stopped before she hurts her own babies again.

1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). It’s anonymous. Please call.


Published October 19, 2009. Last updated March 27, 2018.
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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