Additionally, I feel like she criticizes me every time she comes around and is full of very old-school parenting advice. She insists that, if I supplement with formula, the baby will be better off and, if I got him trained on a pacifier, he would sleep better. (She even suggested putting honey on the pacifier to get him to take it). She says my nipples are too small to satisfy him. (I have an 11.5 pound 5-week-old in the 75th percentile for weight and height. Baby boy IS satisfied by my unimpressive nipples.). Mind you, she has always said unkind things to me about my body, cooking, or how I manage my household, but I was able to let them slide more than the latest attacks on my decisions as a new mom. Every time I see her she repeats the same remarks and I feel like I am constantly defending myself.
This is all compounded by my feeling like her three sons, my husband included, don’t spend much time with her and my feeling responsible over the last couple of years to make her feel involved in our lives and cared for. I usually roll with the punches with her, but my patience is running thin on little sleep and I’m not sure how much longer I can tactfully respond to her repetitive comments. Am I being too sensitive? Or overprotective? Do I keep saying no to her watching him alone, or try to leave him for a short period of time with her? Will I feel better about this when he is a little older? Help!! — Not Feeling so Patient Anymore
I can’t say that you’ll feel better about this when you’re older, if what you mean by this is your MIL’s meddling and criticism about your parenting. In fact, that may actually get worse. But what will get better – I promise! — is your overall well-being, your comfort in your role as a parent, and your trust that your child is going to be ok, even if things aren’t done perfectly. You’re only five weeks into this parenting thing and it’s totally normal, especially given your fluctuating hormones and sleep deprivation, that you’re feeling very sensitive and “over protective,” as you say.
This is your baby! Your very first baby! Of course, you want him cared for exactly a certain way, and, of course, the thought of someone caring for him in any way that is different than how you’d care for him right now gives you anxiety. That will change eventually. Your feelings toward your MIL may not change, but I do think the idea of her watching him alone and maybe giving him a pacifier (or, say, a lollipop when he’s a toddler or whatever else you might not be 100% on-board with at home) won’t be such a big deal. As you relax as a parent in general, you will relax about your MIL’s role and relationship with your son as well as about what happens to him in the world when you aren’t with him.
And, as an aside, you will probably relax on some of your own behavior. Most new parents do. What seems like SUCH. A. BIG. DEAL. when a baby is five weeks old is not a thing a couple months down the road. Pacifiers, bottles, formula? You just might find that the positive effects of those things on your family’s quality of life outweigh whatever negative impact you’re afraid they might have. (I don’t want to start a debate on these practices, but I will say I gave my son all of these from day one and, at 3 1/2, he’s pretty much the most perfect kid who ever existed, so just that anecdotal evidence should convince anyone that pacifier, bottles, and formula are FINE. Kidding! But, honestly, no damage done at all by these, and I DO really think, for our family, the benefits — my husband sharing in the feeding, my son learning to take a bottle early on so there was never any problem leaving him with someone else, having an easy way to pacify and soothe him when he was upset — were well worth it).
Anyway. It’s obviously out of line for your MIL to be making the comments she has been making and to insist that you leave your 5-week-old baby alone with her. It’s ok for you to not be ready for that. And I think it’s time for your husband to step in and communicate with his mother and to draw some boundaries. He IS her son, after all. Even if he’s typically taken a more back-seat role in maintaining a relationship with her and you’ve taken on more responsibility in keeping her involved in your lives, when you’re regularly upset by her, he needs to step up and defend you, and in this case that means talking with his mother about her behavior and letting her know that criticism will not be tolerated and, if she wants to spend time with her grandson, she will cease giving unsolicited advice.
In addition, you yourself need to tell your MIL that in time you will be happy to let her babysit her grandson — that you are so excited and happy that he has such a loving grandmother in his life and you know theirs will be a special relationship. But for now, as you are still adjusting to new motherhood, you aren’t quite ready to leave him alone with anyone other than your husband. Let her know you can’t say for certain when you’ll be ready to leave him with her but that, as soon as you reach that comfort level as a new mom, you will let her know and she will have the honor of being his very first babysitter. As long as she can understand that your feelings aren’t personal against/toward her, and that this is more about you finding comfort and confidence as a new mom, you minimize any defensiveness on her part and help create some space for a better relationship with her.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].