Captain and Crew,
I’ve been married to a wonderful man for almost 5 years now. He and I have worked hard to have a marriage based on openness and honesty.
We decided fairly early on we weren’t in a hurry to have kids, if ever. We wanted to have time to be just us. Then I had some medical issues which required a snip of the tubes, so it hasn’t even been an issue for many years.
The second question my MIL ever asked me was if I was going to give her grandchildren. To the point she stopped talking to us for a year after the marriage when we told her it wasn’t happening.
My husband has always, always handled her and stood up to her on our (and my) behalf. He’s never tried to make me do what she wants even superficially for “family harmony”.
Adding to the tension is the fact that for ten years her ex husband brutally abused my husband. When my husband finally talked to her about it and asked why she didn’t allow him to live elsewhere, her reply was “I didn’t want to admit I was wrong. I would rather you be abused and hurt than hear ‘I told you so’ from my mother”. She has also Whitewashed the abuse and makes it like they had a Rockwell childhood.
There has been therapy for all of this, don’t worry. And continues to be.
Husband and I are now talking about having kids in the next couple years, especially now that we have found out My body has reversed that surgery all on it’s own (super mutant Fallopian tubes for the win).
We will need to set boundaries, probably All over again. Going into it this is what We would want:
1. She would never be left alone with any of our kids. Ever. She has a history of poor decision making and drug use.
2. We would need to restrict how much time she is visiting for our own sanity, and to be honest, mainly mine.
3. That she will not argue every aspect of our parenting choices.
So when is the best time to establish these? What’s a good script that doesn’t involve my overprotective tendencies an easy out? Can I just hide being pregnant until the kid is like 13?
We are not telling anyone I am fertile again, but we are discussing all of this potential madness.
Thanks for your advice
Not yet a momma but already dreading grandmomma drama
Dear Not Yet A Momma,
All of your planned boundaries for your mother-in-law sound reasonable to me based on the history. She will fight them all, especially #3, to which the answer is a robot-like “Well, thanks for telling us but we’re going to do it our way since the baby is fine.”
The time to set boundaries like these is in the moment. She won’t understand the general principles of what you’re doing and why and she won’t understand them or agree to them ahead of time. She won’t accept the logical case for why things have to be the way they are, especially if it means acknowledging past bad behavior on her part. So you could buy yourself tons of conflict when there isn’t even an actual baby yet, or you could hang out, completely ignore her for a while, and then set boundaries on a case by case basis where you don’t have to convince her of anything, you just have to exercise your power as parents. For example:
Her: “Can I come visit you and the baby?”
Your husband: “It’s not a good time, Ma.”
Her: “Now that I’m coming to see you all, good news, I’m going to stay for three weeks!”
Your husband: “We were thinking more like three days/three hours.”
Her: “I’m going to come anyway! You can’t keep me away from my grandchild!”
Your husband: :shrug: “That’s not our intention, but three weeks is too long for us, so why not come for a short visit and enjoy yourself?” See also: Husband takes grandchild to visit Grandmomma for a day or two, you get house to yourself.
Her: “Why don’t I watch grandchild while you take some time for yourselves?”
Your husband: “No thanks!”
Her: “Jeez, it’s like you don’t want to leave me alone with grandchild or something. Don’t you trust me?”
Your husband: “Well, since you bring it up, no, we’re not comfortable leaving you alone with them.”/”Thanks for the offer, but we’ll get a sitter.”
Her: Why are you doing (parenting thing) like that? You should do it like this!”
Your husband: “Huh, thanks for telling us.” :keeps doing whatever he was doing before:
She may start planning and butting into things as soon as she knows you are expecting, with tons of advice and speculation about how things will be. I suggest that for your own sanity, you let your husband be the one who communicates with her, and that he develops a lot of scripts that go “Hey thanks for telling us” or “Huh, that’s one thought” or “Let’s wait and see!” She can have all the unsolicited advice and wishful thinking she wants. Y’all “win” by being noncommittal and brief so as to not get drawn into lengthy discussions with her. If she pushes to the point where a big discussion needs to happen, he has the option to say “Since you let Ex-husband abuse me, you’ll understand if my trust in you about parenting matters is very low. I’m not the one who needs to earn your regard here.”
It’s good for you to be vigilant about safety issues, like drug use and leaving children alone with someone who is so cavalier about abuse (I 100% understand your sense of YIKES where she is concerned). As you go forward, remember three things:
- If your child grows up knowing Grandmomma in some fashion, there are times they will be delighted by her, and times when they realize what a fucking pain in the ass she is (and possibly love her anyway). Their relationship most likely won’t mimic your husband’s relationship with her, either because she will genuinely try to do better or because she’s mellowed with time, and because your child won’t ever be in a situation where she has power over them. It’s one of those maddening and beautiful truths that tremendously difficult parents can sometimes be okay grandparents.
- That said, you don’t have to do anything you think is unsafe just to let her have her redemption narrative. “Nope!” is always a possible answer to anything she suggests.
- You and your husband are the bosses of what happens to your child. You will get tons of practice in saying no between now and Actual Baby (from what I hear, life as a pregnant person really lets you practice saying “Kind Sir or Madam, Kindly Fuck Off” to people who want to shove their opinions into your life). Your husband has already survived growing up with this lady. He can handle anything she throws at him, and so can you.
As you plan your family, please don’t let the specter of this lady ruin this time for you. She has no rights or power here except what you grant her.