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Families, Pregnancy & WAY TOO MUCH ADVICE

Families, Pregnancy & WAY TOO MUCH ADVICE

By Amalah

Hi Amy!

Question for you: I am currently 24 weeks pregnant with our first child. My husband and I are super excited, as are our families (first grandchild on my side; first time hub’s last name will get passed down to a boy on his side). Problem is…well…I am so completely overwhelmed with unsolicited, overbearing advice, requests and arguments from our families. Let me explain.

I love my husband’s family but his elderly mother is VERY opinionated (specific diaper rash ointment, what I should be eating/not eating, making me do specific “pelvic floor” exercises in front of her, etc) and is extremely needy-emotionally and physically. His sisters are much easier to be around, however one in particular has started to act more and more like my MIL lately.

My own mother isn’t helping matters because she has literally argued about EVERY decision we have made…our decision to have a doula is “stupid” because 30 years ago she “didn’t need a doula” and doulas are “just hippies that take people’s money” yada yada yada…our decision to have three holidays with the three families because it takes away precious time from her and she “wont stand for that when the baby is here” yada yada yada….oh, and I thought she was going to kill me with a spoon when I said that only my hubby, doula and doctor were allowed during the birth (visitors afterwards in the hospital are ok) AND that we decided not to have any overnight visitors at home for a few weeks while we focus on the baby and bonding as a family….you get the idea.

Maybe I’m just being hormonal but having to defend my/our actions, decisions and beliefs from BOTH sides of our families just seems like cruel and unusual punishment. I feel like I can’t trust anyone these days because they are operating on their own agenda. I am worried that when our son arrives, their strong willed opinions are not only going to cause me to become a hermit crab, but will be destructive to their relationships with each other as well (since they differ on many topics).

I understand that my husband and I are new to this whole parent-thing, and receiving advice comes with the territory…but I’m to the point where I don’t want to talk to anyone about anything because it’s too stressful. How do I tell my well-meaning MIL to not be so overbearing? And how do I tell my own mother to STFU, without actually saying that? 🙂

Thanks for any help you can offer,
Stressed Out and Anxious Mama-to-be

Ugh ugh ugh nothing but sympathy over here. I admit the paragraph about your MIL made me laugh (seriously, she “makes” you demonstrate PELVIC FLOOR EXERCISES???) while the one about your mother just made ME anxious and cranky.

I think at some point, you just have to stop being so damn polite to people. Luckily, the more pregnant you are, the more of a pass you tend to get. (Although be prepared to have your words/behavior chalked up to “just” hormones, which can also be a tad rage-inducing.)

For the MIL, I would probably take a tune-out approach, the smile-and-nod, then excuse yourself to the bathroom for the millionth time (hey, pregnant ladies need to pee a lot!) for a few deep breaths and I don’t know, a couple levels of Candy Crush. She means well so there’s no need to get hostile, but for your sanity it’s essential that you find a way to just…bow out of the conversations once they start grating on your nerves. Remind yourself that she’s excited, her “advice” is coming from a good place, and EVERYBODY on earth has opinions about diaper rash ointment and someday, YOU WILL TOO.

(For the record, Triple Paste.)

And the next time she insists on something really ridiculous — like asking you to demonstrate pelvic floor exercises — or gets pushier beyond general “opinion stating” and started demanding you do something on command, a polite but from “MIL, I am not going to do that right now, no” is perfectly appropriate. And then change the subject to something non-baby and pregnancy related WHENEVER HUMANLY POSSIBLE.

(I’ve found that such redirection is most successful if you ask the person a question that lets them talk about themselves for a bit. Once they launch into their truly fascinating story about airport security or the grocery store, you make another escape to the bathroom.)

Your mother, on the other hand…

What’s she’s doing is far worse, because it’s rude and disrespectful and making things all about HER, and she seems to have little to no respect for you and your decisions. And I believe you are entirely correct that things are only going to get worse and I’m VERY glad to see you throwing up appropriate boundaries re: delivery room and postpartum visits. Hold firm on those. Hold VERY VERY firm.

And you know what? STOP TELLING HER ABOUT YOUR DECISIONS. Or your plans. She doesn’t have the “right” to know anything and everything. Stop volunteering information, and if she asks leading questions about your birth plan or any other potential hot topic, just shrug and say you haven’t finalized your decision yet. If she starts in with her opinions anyway, interrupt and say that you’ve just got enough on your plate right now and just aren’t ready to start thinking about whatever topic she’s on about.

And the next time she says something completely rude (and I’d count pretty much every example you gave as rude), I think you need to just straight-up call her on it. Tell her that when she talks like that, it makes you not want to talk to her about ANYTHING baby-related, and if she can’t back off and let you and your husband make even the most basic and personal choices, she’s going to find herself included even less. If at all. Your mom has no right to treat you like a doormat and criticize you non-stop. I’m sure she just thinks she’s being “real” and “honest” but if she can’t find a way to do that tactfully, she’s gonna get a hefty dose of STFU followed by phone calls delivered straight to voicemail.

Sometimes I get letters from pregnant and newly postpartum women with other long litanies of mother/MIL complaints and by the end I’m like…you know what? This person sounds super hormonal and way over sensitive, and there’s really nothing here worth the level of outrage she’s wasting her energy on. As you said, unsolicited advice and not-necessarily-helpful “help” really does come with the parenting territory. But there’s a difference between annoying but generally non-toxic (your MIL falls on that side, I believe), and the kind of constant, emotionally hurtful undermining and overstepping that your mother seems to be doing. (And hell yeah, plans to continue doing, mark my words.)

Is this a pattern in your life, perhaps, that you’re just now noticing more because you’re in a more sensitive/vulnerable place? Not to armchair psych you here but I feel like a mother so overbearing she calls your (super personal) decisions “stupid” and says things like she “won’t stand for that” didn’t just become that way the moment you peed on a stick. This might be the perfect time to start flexing that backbone and putting up some emotional/physical distance. (Not saying cut her out of your life or anything, just hold firm on the boundaries and stop offering up information/decisions that she can attack.) I wish I could say these sorts of people change or get better once the actual grandchild is here, but alas, the opposite tends to be true in most cases.

With both your MIL and mother, I think you’re being perfectly reasonable and non-hormonal that it’s all just gotten to be too much. It sounds super stressful, even if it’s coming from the most-welling place. Have your husband pull his mom aside and ask her to please please please chill on the pregnancy micro-managing and non-stop advice, you’re getting it really bad from your mom as well and could just really use a break from that sort of thing. And then with YOUR mom, well…I fully give you my endorsement to say whatever you need to say, however forceful and STFU-y you need to say it…and then shut up a bit yourself and refuse to hand her anymore ammo to judge/argue over.

Published January 8, 2016. 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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  • Lisa

    January 8, 2016 at 10:37 am

    Here’s the thing with the overnight guests – you might really want them once baby comes!!! It depends on your relationship with said people and how they act, but if you can count on them to be helpful, it can be a godsend. My mom (who lives in town) stayed with us for about 6 weeks after my daughter was born. She was amazing at 3 am when I just couldn’t handle the baby anymore, and hubby needed to sleep so he could go to work in the morning. Don’t worry, no one can replace you as the mom or stop you from bonding with your baby, especially if you’re nursing. And you will be so tired you will be happy to have an extra set of arms to hold the baby.

    • Flic

      January 8, 2016 at 11:52 am

      Maybe some new mothers do, but judging by the Op’s letter, I’m pretty sure the last person on earth she will want around when she is trying to figure all what on earth is going on, is the person who keeps telling her her decisions are stupid. You spend enough time second guessing yourself as a new mother, without having an ultra judgemental nag hovering 24/7.

    • Abbie

      January 8, 2016 at 1:32 pm

      I knew I didn’t want overnight guests for a couple of weeks and am so glad I stuck with that decision. If things are tough you can always invite people after the fact but you can’t as easily uninvited them if they are already on your doorstep.

  • Jodie

    January 8, 2016 at 10:44 am

    Yikes.  So sorry OP.  You should be basking in the excitement of your first baby not dealing with how to handle these waters.

    Just want to +1 on stating your boundaries in a no-nonsense way.  I’ve actually seen it totally change behaviors – albeit slowly.  I’ve often pulled something like….

    “Mom, when you say you won’t stand for our decisions on our baby, it makes me not want to share them with you at all.  I wanted you to know that’s the consequence of what you’re doing.”

    And then when she complains about not being included, “Mom, remember when I told you that being rudely opinionated and disrespectful of our decisions makes me exclude you?  That’s what’s happening here.  You totally have the ability to change the outcome.”

    Kinda condescending?  Sure, in the sense that it’s how you’d speak to a toddler to teach them about consequences and to predict how their behavior triggers them.  But, ya know…her behavior is kind of like a toddler to…so there’s that.

  • R

    January 8, 2016 at 10:46 am

    Stay Strong mama-to-be! This is supposed to be a happy time so stay positive and try not let things get to you. Ultimately it is YOUR decision.

    Switching topics, slightly, but why do people feel like they need to be in the delivery room? I genuinely thought I was doing everyone a favor by not contacting them until after the baby was born. Medical stuff kind of grosses me out though, so I personally would NEVER EVER want to be present for a birth. Nor would I want to be hanging out in the waiting room while someone was in labor. My labor was about 24 hours so I wouldn’t have wanted my family waiting around. I just don’t get why that is such a big deal. Fortunately, my family was good with it (or just didn’t tell me if they weren’t).

    • Flic

      January 8, 2016 at 11:55 am

      Amen. I really don’t get it either. My eldest sister waited until she had given birth to her first to let us know all the details. The only reason she phoned with her second was because my mum was the one who was to watch her firstborn while they went off to hospital.

      If you don’t tell people your plans, they don’t get an opportunity to moan and judge.

  • MR

    January 8, 2016 at 10:59 am

    I had to have a conversation with both my mother and my mother-in-law where I said, “You had the chance to make these decisions when you were pregnant. This is my turn now. I’m not always going to make the same choices as you, but it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with your choice – just like you didn’t make all the same choices that your parents made.” That usually gets them talking about some choice they made that was different than their parents, and then they start remembering what that was like and how frustrating it was to have parents be unsupportive. It is also perfectly reasonable to say, “Mom, a lot of things have changed since you gave birth to me. You raised me to be a critical thinker and make good decisions, so you need to understand that I am not asking for your opinion, I’m asking for your support.” And then remind her of that. And if she can’t offer you support, then it is absolutely ok to tell her you won’t be talking to her much. When I was pregnant with my first, my mom criticized my breakfast choices and implied I was harming my baby. She doesn’t live nearby, but had recently been out for a visit, and this was a conversation afterwards. Now, I had HG with that pregnancy, and basically, if I could get ANYTHING down and keep it down, it was a major success, so her criticizing my choice was ridiculous, especially since she had HG for every pregnancy and knew what it was like. So, anyway, we were on the phone and she said this awful thing, and I hung up on her. And didn’t talk to her for 4 days until I received this major apology via email (because I wasn’t answering the phone to her.) She had crossed a line, and she knew it. When I was pregnant with my second, my mother (who was in the medical field), made a negative comment about my choice to vbac, implying I was making a choice that would put my child at risk. I stopped her and said very clearly that I was hugely insulted that she thought I would EVER make a choice that would put my child at risk, and if that was what she truly thought of me as a mother, then we didn’t have anything further to discuss, and I would let her know when the baby was born. I was 17 weeks pregnant at the time. She and I normally talk just about every day, so this would have been a very big deal. But, I also meant it. I needed her support. She wasn’t my doctor, I had my doctor’s full support, and she needed to back off. Sometimes, you just have to be really blunt and tell them. My mom was incredibly supportive after that. There were times that she would pause, and I could almost hear her catching herself from saying what she initially wanted, and instead offering support, but she did it. So, anyway, that’s something a lot of us need to do. Good luck!

  • Lindsay

    January 8, 2016 at 11:57 am

    Great advice here. Stay strong, mama-to-be. This is definitely not just hormones talking. They are being unreasonable.

    I’d also vote though that both mothers have crossed the line and I disagree that MIL’s words/actions are so much better than your mother’s. She wants you to do PELVIC FLOOR exercises in front of her??? MIL has no business even having opinion about your pelvic floor, thankyouverymuch. Your husband needs to run interference, STAT. 🙂

  • Emma

    January 8, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    Ouch, this sucks! I would just add one thing – “No.” is a complete sentence. Your MIL could suggest diaper cream or exercises… No.

    Your mom demands to be in the delivery room? No.

    More words gives them something to latch on and argue around. Just say No or “I’d prefer not to discuss this.” and repeat ad infinitum. 

  • Jessie

    January 8, 2016 at 1:01 pm

    Oh goodness, OP. I can identify with all of this and it makes me so twitchy. As Amy mentioned, this will probably get worse before it gets better. Please start limiting the amount of information you provide and reducing how often you see and speak to your mom and MIL. By keeping the info train going you are fueling their sense of entitlement to weigh in on these most important and personal decisions that are solely yours and your husband’s. I’d also not tell anyone when you go into labor, or have a scheduled induction or c-section. You can tell them after the baby arrives — they’ll survive. This time is about you and your partner and your baby, not anybody else. I also refused to have anyone in the delivery room (quite a fine choice for us) but I had no idea that agreeing to allow someone to be a waiting room warrior could possibly create problems. Well it did. The delivery got very traumatic at the end and I couldn’t be with my baby for hours and my mom was trying to force her way into the room as I’m getting stitched up from my 4th degree tear…her lack of boundaries convinced her that she was allowed to meet the baby on her timeline, never mind what we might be going through in that moment. I’ll never forgive her for that. My point is that you can’t predict how things will go or how people will act but you can control how much info and access you give people. I’d say the no overnight guests is an awesome boundary in your case too. That was one of my rules and I am SO glad I stuck to it. My mom tried to get me to change my mind. Had I done so our relationship would be more damaged than it already is. (To be clear our relationship is messed up for many reasons, not just this stuff, lest you think I overreact to everything. Anyway, good luck. Have confidence in your decisions.

  • Cobwebs

    January 8, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    If either your mom or MIL baby-sit for you after the birth, be prepared to have them ignore your care requests in favor of what they think is “right.”

    Also make sure that you have alternate sitting arrangements lined up just in case you feel that their idea of “right” is too important to budge on. (In my case, my MIL ignored my request to make sure my infant son was put to sleep on his back to reduce the risk of SIDS [“My kids all slept on their stomachs and they turned out fine”], so she was informed that we wouldn’t be requiring her services as a sitter any more.)

    • Laura

      January 15, 2016 at 8:17 pm

      DH’s mom was watching the baby once a week to save on daycare costs. She is like you describe, always defying our wishes just because she thinks she knows better and also I think it makes her feel superior to us (well, really, to me). We had an incident this past holiday that was the last straw. She has been “fired” and we are now in daycare full time. Why didn’t I do it sooner??

  • Traci

    January 8, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    One thing I think is at the root of a lot of backlash is that when we choose to do things differently it makes our parents question what they did and often leads to feelings of guilt or inadequacy about how they raised their children in the past. I think it is helpful to remind our parents that they did the best they could with the information and resources available to them at the time and that you will do the best you can with the best information available to you now. A lot of this will be very different because there has been a ton of research done since then and our knowledge is always growing and changing and our access to that knowledge is astronomically increased.

  • Lottie

    January 8, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    My mum is mostly reasonable (she’s a wonderful grandmother who never oversteps my boundaries) but when she’s being unreasonable she really goes for gold. When I was planning my wedding, mum was having a (completely ridiculous) feud with my dad’s mother and tried to tell me if I invited her, she wouldn’t attend my wedding.
    I said, okay.
    I didn’t argue or get emotional or even discuss it any further than saying “okay that’s your choice.” I don’t think she ever brought it up again, she was at the wedding and everything was perfectly fine.
    It might not work if your mother is really good at escalating these kinds of situations, but I seriously have found that acknowledging that people can act any damn fool way they want to try and get you to do what they want you to do, but they can only affect your decision making if you let them!

  • K

    January 8, 2016 at 8:59 pm

    Stick to your guns. I’m with many others – not having overnight guests is fine, keeping extra folks out of the delivery room is fine, it’s really up to you and your husband. I do want to point out one thing though, dearest OP – no one, absolutely no one can make* you do anything. Ever. So. If you aren’t comfortable doing those exercises in front of your MIL, I suggest you start practicing the “my body, my choice” boundaries you’ll probably teach your child one day. You are an adult – you never, ever have to do anything you don’t want to for any reason. This is great practice for later, like many others, I bet this will only become more intense when the baby arrives. Do yourself a favor and shut it down as much as you can now.

  • S

    January 11, 2016 at 12:47 am

    I could have written this. I agree with previous commentators that you need to set boundaries now. My mother in law threw a fit screaming and crying in the hospital after my emergency c section because she couldn’t hold my ill baby when she wanted. She also was angry because she couldn’t care for him overnight as he was a very ill baby at one year that needed around the clock care. Use your Drs if you need to. My husband said right into the phone wife cannot attend this event because Drs put her on bed rest for second child, end of story. Drs needed me to continue the ill baby’s feeding the same with breastfeeding and my mom told everyone that he needed to be on formula. So we used a polite phrase thanks for the advice and concern we are following the Drs orders. We did not give family the play by play because it just added to the advice. We gave basics. husbands also change their tune with a new baby. By the second child my husband told them flat out that he had to coordinate care for number one child while I was having number two, he would call them when we were ready. He was not calling anyone at 3 am after a long night. He couldn’t wait to get sleep! From our experience, challenges change to how they fed their kids, discipline, crazy gifts. I have friends with similar mils and moms. We swap who had a crazier holiday story or strangest kid gifts like 8 pairs of pjs for a three year for a holiday.  Now everyone respects the boundaries. Good luck. You are not alone.

  • kimm

    January 12, 2016 at 9:33 am

    Be strong. It is hard when you have been taught to “be respectful”(my mom’s words) and are used to trying to please your Mom, but you have to put your child’s welfare above pleasing everybody,&that means taking care of yourself during this time too. It is ok to say no. And I found out with my Mom that if she didn’t want to talk to me for awhile, that was actually pretty wonderful and freeing.

  • Mama-to-Be

    January 12, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    Just saw this and all the comments. Wow! Thanks so much guys…your support is monumental right now! I agree with Amy and all her suggestions…we’ll see how it goes!

  • Laura

    January 15, 2016 at 8:02 pm

    All I will say is, nothing you are asking for is unreasonable. Learning to stand my ground has been major part of the last year since my baby was born. Stand your ground even if someone tries to tell you it is stupid or makes you feel like you should doubt yourself. Please don’t doubt yourself; you know you and your baby better than anyone. My MIL can be overbearing and eventually I brought it up with DH and told him we need space. It’s okay to see those people less often or call them less often if you need that space. We also did not allow overnight visitors the first 3 weeks and I am so glad. We had time to bond with each other and adjust to the demands of a new little human being on our own terms.