Please Don’t Feed My Baby Dog Treats (and more serious concerns)
Since the beginning of time (the past eight years) I’ve had a decent relationship with my MIL. We agree to disagree. I’m not setting her up to be the big bad wolf, but rather want to state a few facts: she takes her “crazy pills,” refuses to wear underwear and sits in the floor spread eagle, and has been known to have control over everyone. I could go on and on…(which a I will in a quick minute here. ?)
My husband and I welcomed our first child and my, how things have changed! From the pregnancy advice to her naming our baby of unknown sex in utero…oyyy help! I had a lengthy 40-hour labor and placenta previa. (TMI, sorry.) My parents and in-laws were waiting for hours in the waiting room and my MIL — who couldn’t wait anymore — snuck in to the delivery room. I almost lost it then, but I didn’t; probably because I physically couldn’t.
The following two days she showed up to the hospital unannounced to see “her baby.” She argued with me over leaving the room while I was learning to breastfeed since I was uncomfortable but she “doesn’t mind seeing boobies!” The same can be said for our first week home; the second night home I cooked my in-laws dinner while they gawked over my baby. Did they offer to do the dishes? No. My husband refuses to speak up because when he does, she makes his life a living hell. He literally cries and he is not one to cry.
Let’s fast forward….
My daughter is now 8 months old and thriving. I was able to at least convince my MIL to please text before stopping over. (After she got an ear full when she would walk in like she owned the place and purposely woke me and baby up from a much needed nap.) We went to a wedding and we asked my mother to watch her since MIL was away on vacation. We returned home to my mother informing me that MIL drove home early and showed up drunk and insisted on holding “her baby.”
I never heard the end about my mother babysitting but never asked her about why she felt it was okay to show up like that. So then I felt guilty and had her watch her and returned to find my baby sleeping belly down on the floor with blankets over her face and the dog “watching her” while she was pouring herself a glass of wine in the kitchen. Cue panic attack.
Since then she has dangled her over our back porch and I’ve had to remind her out loud about the grim consequences if she dropped her but “oh I would never drop her!” Accidents don’t happen, I guess. And asking her to please NOT feed her dog treats, or give her the cap from the baby food that says “keep out of reach of children” and PLEASE don’t kiss her on the lips when you are coughing (“But it’s only allergies!”). Basically, there’s a ridiculous comeback for all of my wishes (which I think are quite reasonable).
I’ve bit my tongue when she placed her on an adult bench swing and pushed it from behind, meanwhile I was melting inside picturing her rolling forward and falling to the ground. She is pushing the issue with babysitting and having her alone and is talking badly about me to my husband and he is “sick of being in the middle of it” so there’s little help there.
I admit I have anxiety that stems from when she was hospitalized from RSV and a scary ambulance ride when she was “unresponsive” at two months old, and I know that I can’t protect her from everything. But my gut feeling is it that it is unsafe and she is welcome to spend hours with her and visit when I’m home (I clean, mow the grass, etc) but I don’t feel comfortable leaving her alone. I’ve contacted a family psychologist because this issue is consuming my life! Am I in the wrong?! She says it’s her right to see her grandbaby and I can’t take it away from her which I am not trying to, I just want to keep my baby safe.
Losing My Mind!
I hope the family psychologist you contacted was primarily for your husband, frankly.
I’m sure growing up with this woman was deeply scarring in many, many ways, but he’s GOT to get emotionally out from under her cry-inducing reign of terror, find the inner strength to stand up for himself, and most of all: STAND UP FOR HIS DAUGHTER’S SAFETY AND WELL BEING.
Set up Strong Boundaries
You are not in the wrong, and in fact you’ve already given (and continue to give) this woman a mile when she’s proven she doesn’t even deserve an inch. I could probably be talked into letting all the pushiness around your pregnancy, birth and unhelpful pop-in postpartum visits fall into the “super annoying but run-of-the-mill MIL boundary issues” file, but the second half of your letter paints a much more alarming picture. She’s a reckless, neglectful, boundary-busting nightmare, AND she clearly has a substance abuse problem that she cannot/will not control around your child. Dealbreakers! So many, many dealbreakers.
And yet she’s still “welcome to spend hours with her and visit,” presumably mostly unsupervised, while you clean and mow the lawn.
What Rights do Grandparents have?
This sounds very harsh, but she’s wrong that it’s “her right” to see her grandbaby. Grandparents have very few actual legal rights, and none of them are even close to the rights you have as parents. This can be genuinely agonizing for grandparents being denied access to grandchildren when they suspect the PARENTS are being reckless, neglectful, or struggling with substance abuse. But that’s not the case here. In your case, she’s the one with a demonstrated pattern of dangerous behaviors and poor judgment around your daughter. You have all the rights and legal standing in the world to limit her access to your daughter, and to have that access be 100% on your terms.
Which, given what you’ve written (which I imagine is just a small sampling of what you’ve been able to tally up in EIGHT SHORT MONTHS), she absolutely must be supervised around your daughter at all times. No babysitting, no hours and hours of semi-babysitting while you’re nearby but not there. I know you’re afraid you’re being labeled as helicopter-y and overprotective but…dangling a baby over a porch rail? Choking hazards and unsafe sleep practices and FEEDING HER DOG TREATS? Does this woman have any common sense at all?
(And this is what she does in front of you. I can only imagine what’s happening when she knows you’re not around to “nag” and question her totally-perfect judgement.)
Your Husband Must Get on Board with the Plan
Of course, the reality is that you won’t be able to put this plan in action without the support and buy-in of your husband, which you do not currently have. This is also not acceptable.
He NEEDS to be “in the middle of it” because this isn’t his mother vs. you. This is his mother vs. his child’s physical safety. If firm boundaries around what is and what is not acceptable (the drinking, treating an 8-month-old like she has the physical capabilities of a much older child, trash-talking his wife, DOG TREATS) now, just imagine what she’ll try to get away with a few years from now.
(She seems like the sort who’ll delight in defying your wishes around anything she sees as “harmless,” like ear piercing or gifts you’ve already said no to or booking trips without your permission, and then expertly paint you as the mean old killjoy for having to say “no.” I know this sort because I had a grandmother just like her! It was not pleasant, especially because all those “gifts” came with extra strings of emotional blackmail for the grandkids!)
In other words, you can’t navigate this alone, because it’s going to be a long road with this woman. Your husband needs to step out of the dysfunctional parent/child dynamic and into a healthy united partner dynamic with you, where he is strong enough to stand up to his mother when she whines about babysitting or talks badly about you. She makes his life a living hell when he tries? Okay, maybe its time for him (and his therapist) to start thinking about what a life without her would look like. Or at least a life where she has a much diminished influence and access to his brainspace, and DEFINITELY no access to both your daughter and the dog treats at the same time.
1. Grandparents and Legal Rights by VeryWell Family