Families, Pregnancy & WAY TOO MUCH ADVICE
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.