DEAR AMY: My husband and I are new parents of a 5-month-old son. Over a month ago we left the baby with my in-laws for a few hours to have a date night. When we returned that night, my mother-in-law, who was supposed to be the baby’s primary caretaker for the evening, was drunk (well past the point of being tipsy). I have seen my MIL drunk countless times, but I thought she would refrain from drinking while taking care of a needy infant. I was horrified, as was my husband. Unfortunately, my husband does not want to make any “waves” with his mother, and will not discuss it with her. Now, they keep asking to watch the baby again. I’m running out of excuses for why we don’t want to leave him with them. My husband wants to give them another chance, and even suggested an overnight visit! The idea of something happening due to their actions is causing me a tremendous amount of anxiety. Any suggestions on how to address this tactfully? Am I being too sensitive in assuming she should not drink around a baby?
DEAR SOBER: In my opinion, your baby is too young for an overnight visit (except in an emergency) with anyone other than his parents.
Given your (valid) concerns, you should not leave this to your husband to handle. He is already telling you that he can’t/won’t confront his mother, or even ask her about this.
Your son cannot take care of or advocate for himself. You are his mother. It is time to step up and be his advocate in this — and every — way. If you feel the child’s grandfather is incapable of being completely sober and responsible (to compensate for your mother-in-law’s drinking), then yes — you should speak with your mother-in-law directly and respectfully about this.
You should say to her, “I need to be honest about my concerns with you babysitting. When we left him with you before and returned to pick him up, I noticed that you had been drinking. I understand that you might want to have a glass of wine with dinner, but this makes me very nervous when you have the baby. Are you willing not to have alcohol while the baby is with you?”
Don’t state this with judgment or condemnation. You are speaking to her as an adult, and simply asking if she would be willing to comply in order to minimize any risk. Given the circumstances, it is a perfectly reasonable thing to ask.
DEAR AMY: I am a woman in my mid-60s. I was sexually abused by an older brother from the ages of about 8 to 11, although it may have occurred when I was much younger, also. I’ve pushed it to the back of my mind all these years; never told anyone except my gynecologist and a therapist a while ago. Despite this, I was able to maintain a reasonable relationship with this brother. Now he is quite sick and my two younger brothers expect me to join them in taking care of him. Quite simply, I resent being guilted into doing this. He has three grown children who live fairly close by, but apparently, they all think I should step up to the plate alongside them. I am hesitant to tell anyone in the family because I don’t want to destroy their perceptions of our brother, but how can I handle this?
DEAR SISTER: Your siblings may lead you to the proverbial guilt buffet, but you are responsible for your own choice. Don’t partake.
Here’s how you respond: “I know that you want me to do this, but I’m just not able to.” Don’t say anything more, unless you want to.
It sounds as if you have managed your response to your brother’s abuse in a balanced way. If this current change in his status has shaken loose some worrying symptoms, you should definitely seek more professional help.
DEAR AMY: I was in the same situation as “Baffled Bride,” who had married a widower, and his adult children completely rejected her. This happened to me! Both my husband and I lost our spouses. My children accepted him, but his children rejected me. They seemed to hold a perception that we were fighting for control of their father. I guess I understand this, but I’ll never understand my husband allowing it.
DEAR SAD: This rejection seems fairly common. Acceptance definitely takes time, but it should not be presented as optional.