My mom’s smoking has always been an issue between me and my husband. He doesn’t like us to visit because of the smoke. I visit my mom far less often than I’d like because my husband refuses to go. Sometimes we only go once a year. We’ve come up with a little protocol when we go: We take our own pillows, do laundry immediately after we get home, and ask my mom not to smoke around us. It’s not perfect, but it makes a big difference and it means I get to see my mom. Now, my husband absolutely refuses to let the baby go. No visits to grandma’s house. No visits at the holidays.
Don’t get me wrong – I care very much about the baby’s health and fully understand the dangers of second-hand and third-hand smoke. However, becoming a new mom myself has me reflecting on how little time I get to spend with my mom. I’m heartbroken at the idea that my daughter and mother might not get the kind of relationship I’d like them to have. What do I do? Oh, and to head off one seemingly obvious solution: My mom has limited travel ability because she cares for her parents and has a dog. She can usually do quick afternoon trips to see us, but can’t stay a full day or overnight. — Up in Smoke
First, congrats on your upcoming baby. This is an exciting and anxious time that will change your life forever. One of the ways I hope it changes your life is by increasing the amount of time you spend with your mother. She lives two hours away and sometimes you only see her once a year?! That’s a travesty, and I’m sorry to add stress to what is, I know, an already high-pressure time, but unless you have a really good reason to stay away from your mom — like she’s emotionally manipulative or abused you or something like that — you should be ashamed that you’ve actually let a year pass without driving two hours to see her. That’s seriously beyond sad. And to think that you’ve made that kind of decision because your husband doesn’t like your mom’s smoking! Seriously?? WHY DON’T YOU GO WITHOUT HIM?? (I mean, not to make this about me, but if I can commute to another continent without my husband so my parents can spend a week with me and their grandson, I can’t wrap my head around how someone would refuse to visit her mother two hours away for a night without her husband).
Look, I can’t stand cigarette smoke either, so I sympathize that you have to deal with it in your mom’s presence, I do. But it’s not enough of a reason to sacrifice a relationship with her. And it certainly isn’t reason enough to sacrifice a relationship between her and her granddaughter. That you would even consider letting your husband who, quite frankly, sounds like a controlling dick-head, make a decision that has such heartbreaking ramifications is mind-boggling. I only hope he is not such a control freak in other aspects of your relationship and life together.
Now, the good news: you do not have to sacrifice a relationship with your mother no matter how adamant your husband is about keeping her away from your grandchild. You can simply tell him you’re going to visit your mother and take the same precautions you’ve taken with yourself and that’s that. A weekend in a smoker’s home isn’t going to kill your baby, especially if the smoker is refraining from smoking and you stay in a part of the home that she keeps smoke-free. You can also talk with your mother about how important it is to you that she enjoy a long relationship with your child and that to help ensure that, it would mean the world to you if she’d attempt to quit smoking to lengthen her life, improve her health, and make her home a safer and more comfortable place to bring your family. You could look into staying at a motel in her area when you visit. Even in New York, one of the most expensive cities in the world, you can find a decent motel for less than $150 a night. I don’t know where you mother lives, but surely there are motels for that price or less. And if you drove early in the morning and left late the next evening, you could pretty much get two full days with your mother for the price of a movie and a fancy dinner out for two (do you know how many people would KILL to get away with spending less than $200 to visit their family for the weekend?!). And here’s another thought: if you each drove on hour, you could meet at a halfway point and enjoy an afternoon together where no one would have to shell out for a motel OR carry extra pillows and do laundry immediately upon their return home.
Seriously, if you aren’t willing to put in a two-hour, round-trip drive every month or two to visit your mother — who sounds like she could use a little joy in her life — so she can have a relationship with her grandchild — and you! — then there’s more going on here than just the cigarette smoking. I don’t know if that something has more to do with your relationship with your mother or with your husband, but something is amiss, and I hope you’ll do some soul-searching and deal with the real issue — if there is, in fact, another issue — before your daughter loses out on what could be one of the most special relationships in her life.