Carolyn Hax: Expectant parent doesn’t love in-laws’ nagging


Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: My mother- and father-in-law are coming to help for a few weeks after my scheduled C-section. I know that we’ll physically need the help and should be grateful for it — I’ll be flat on my back, and someone needs to feed the dogs while my husband and I are in the hospital — but my in-laws drive me crazy via a mix of well-intentioned worry, exaggerated confusion over our urban lifestyle (they want us to drive to the grocery store half a block away) and badgering disguised as caretaking. (“For the 40th time, I am not interested in a bowl of — oh, I see you’ve brought it anyway.”)

Any tips on how to keep my cool at an emotional and difficult time?

Anonymous: A bunch of strategies might work: looking for the good; preparing some ways beforehand to escape and regroup (even just by closing your bedroom door or having reading material handy); role-playing situations with your husband beforehand; setting up deliveries to avoid shopping friction; sending them on long errands; and opting out of little battles, such as a bowl of … oh.

You can get days of mileage out of not hoping for anything from them besides being who they are.

But I would seriously, seriously rethink this arrangement. (The duration, if nothing else.) They can’t be the only dog care around. And this is your first few weeks with your child; a doula sounds much less intrusive.

· I also have “helpful,” smothery in-laws. They showed up to help after my C-section, then found more and more reasons to extend their stay. They would swoop in when I reached for my baby, argue with me about parenting choices, and on and on. My husband nodded along, overwhelmed. I didn’t get to bond with my newborn. It finally took me having a screaming, sobbing breakdown to dislodge them, and I seethed with resentment against them and my husband for a good while.

Do NOT let them horn in on such an important time. In-laws might be free, but you’ll pay in other ways.

· I’ve had three C-sections and was up walking a few hours after. Just to the bathroom, mind you, not a marathon. But if you’re worried you’ll be flat on your back, then maybe you’ll need less help than you think?

Dear Carolyn: My mild-mannered parents don’t swear. My boyfriend swears very frequently and works in an industry where that’s normal. I am fine with that. But at a family event, I heard him use the f-word multiple times in front of my mom, grandma and 7-year-old niece. I eventually said, “Hey, language!” gesturing toward my niece, and he looked offended. On the way home, he got very upset and accused me of asking him to “change who I am to please your family.” Am I being the jerk here?

Goody Two-Shoes: Someone who profanity-bombs a 7-year-old and who gets “very upset” at being asked not to is not a keeper.

That is, unless you like that in a guy.

And for the record, the upset is worse than the bombs.

On party corrections generally: I’m no fan of coaching people (unasked!) on how to behave, but a quick heads-up can be a kindness. “Language.” [Nodding at 7-year-old.] “Swearing bothers my parents.” “My new boyfriend was raised by a pack of wild stevedores.” Stuff like that. Good luck.

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