Coping with an Interfering Granny

It is a topic touched on with some regularity on Mumsnet, and I am sure on other parenting websites. Mothers, and in particular Mother-In-Laws. MILs.  Not a day goes by without a MIL bashing thread, some of them justified, many not.

A few years ago,  I visited a colleague who had just given birth to her first child – in Mumsnet speak a PFB – Precious First Born. She told the tale of the in-laws’ visit. How horrified she was when MIL suggested giving her grandson a drink of apple juice. How angry she was when MIL just “picked baby up and waltzed out into the garden with him”.

I gently reminded my colleague of the feelings that she had for her son. And told her than her MIL had, just over 30 years previously, felt the exact same way about HER son, now the colleague’s husband. And that her MIL now felt the same surge of love, the urge to protect, to nurture, to care for her grandson.

I always think that being a grandparent is love3


We often forget this, and that in our lifetime parenting advice has changed so much. When we were young, we were weaned as early as possible, put on potties as soon as we could sit, left to cry at night so as not to spoil us. ‘Never did you any harm’, we are told now by our parents as they try to use the same parenting methods on their grandchildren. No, most of the advice likely did not harm us, but some advice is now considered dangerous.

Not using a car seat – unthinkable. Putting a child to sleep on it’s tummy – a complete no no. Dipping the dummy in honey – absolutely not.

These are extreme examples. Often the mother ranting about her bloody MIL is complaining about little things. The 6 month old who was surreptitiously given a couple of Cadbury buttons. The MIL who suggested weaning at 3 months. The well-meant but out-dated advice that will not harm the child but annoys the mother.

Concentrate on the big issues. Don’t get mired down with discussions about when to wean, or how long you intend to breast feed. Or if you intend to breast feed at all. A breezy, “Oh yes, isn’t it funny how things have changed so much over the past couple of decades”, and move on. Don’t discuss, don’t justify and don’t get into an argument with your MIL (or your mother) about this. Make sure that you and your partner are in agreement, change the subject.

Do let your parents and in-laws hold, cuddle, change your baby’s nappy, and even feed if you are not breast feeding. I know it is hard, but the more the grandparents spend with your child, the more they will get accustomed to your ways. If they do something slightly different, keep calm and consider. Is this dangerous for my child? Will my child be permanently harmed or damaged if MIL gives him a bit of chocolate? Or kisses him while smelling of perfume.

If the answer is yes, then stick to your guns. If the answer is no, then take a deep breath and say to yourself, “She loves my child. She loves my child”.

The first time my parents came to visit after the birth of my daughter, they went out for a walk with my PFB. They were away no longer than 45 minutes (I was clock-watching) and I spent the whole time in floods of tears. When I first left my daughter with them for a couple of days, I had a word document printed out with details of her feeding schedule, sleeping schedule,  emergency numbers for paediatrician and A&E. It happens to us all. We all go a bit PFBish with our children. It is normal.

My parents have just left this week, after spending most of the summer with us. Three weeks in Scotland, and three weeks here in Geneva. We are reaping the rewards of the close relationship that we have allowed our children to develop with their grandparents. Despite the distance to our respective hometowns, our children have close ties to both sets of grandparents. Recently the children commented that they were very lucky to have all of their grandparents still alive (although my son slightly spoiled this sentiment by remarking that “Granny will be dead soon”)

Enjoy the time you have with your parents and in-laws without worrying about the little stuff. Your children will thank you for it.