DEAR AMY: My mother-in-law has no tact and no respect. That being said, she is well-intentioned and kind in her own way. She loves her kids and her grandkids. Her attitude is that she raised three boys and she knows best. She doesn’t care that you’re supposed to put babies to sleep on their backs or that you’re not supposed to use blankets in newborn cribs, or whatever it is; she is going to do it her way. She has used this approach with our nephew and it infuriates my sister-in-law (and me). Now that we are expecting a baby, she announced to me today that “no grandchild of hers goes to day care,” so she will be baby-sitting. I don’t trust her with my baby. I’ve seen her with my year-old nephew. My husband agrees and is on the same page. We are just stumped. How do we tell her that she won’t be watching our baby or that our baby will be going to day care? I’ve tried to lay some groundwork, like talking about all of the social benefits of day care or how there are really nice ones close to my work, or how it will all work out, but it isn’t sticking. At the end of the day it is our decision and we haven’t even settled on anything yet! Who is she to dictate what we do with our child and how do we tell her “no” without wrecking our relationship?
Expecting and Uneasy
DEAR EXPECTING: How’s this for an opener? “Actually, one of your grandchildren — ours — will be going to day care.”
Don’t bother quoting studies and explaining your point of view. Just state your position and move along. If she fumes and argues, you and your husband should respond with a version of, “That’s OK. We understand that you disagree, but this is the choice we’re making.”
Obviously, you should not go out of your way to discuss any of this with your mother-in-law.
Some of this comes down to how afraid you are of this outspoken, bossy, but well-meaning person. I suggest you find ways to be much less afraid, much more understanding, and determinedly calm in your reactions. Your mother-in-law probably did a good job in raising her children (I wonder what outside forces she had to fend off when she was a young mother). She made her own choices as a parent, and you must stand up for your choices.
Assume that she will love your child fiercely and that she may judge you harshly. Embrace the first, and ignore the latter.
DEAR AMY: My sister and I decided to live at home while attending university. We see each other daily. She’s driving me crazy! We both have liberal views, and are both lesbians. The problem is she constantly talks about social justice issues every day — and most days they are the only things she will talk about. I mostly agree with her views, but it becomes repetitive and depressing. I do not want to debate and hear about every horrendous news article she reads. I don’t want to hear about the latest assault case, or the gay person beaten up by their family. Maybe it sounds bad of me, but it is exhausting and distressing to constantly have these conversations with her. I tell her to stop, but she gets angry or emotional and says I don’t care about the suffering in the world. Lately I have started to snap at her when she brings up social justice issues. How can I get her to stop constantly talking about these things with me?
DEAR ANNOYED: You two are spending too much time together. If you saw each other less frequently, you wouldn’t find your sister quite so annoying.
You can’t control another person’s utterances. You can control your own reaction, and the way you react may influence your sister, to some extent.
When she climbs on her soap box, you should start by telling her, “I think it’s great that you are so compassionate, but I don’t want to discuss this right now.” And then calmly and politely disengage.
Snapping at your sister only inspires her to snap right back.
DEAR AMY: “Moving Far Away From Mom” has a plan to move overseas to be with her boyfriend. I hope she spends a few weeks with him and his family before she makes the final commitment. She needs to proceed carefully.
DEAR EXPATRIATE: I agree. Excellent advice.