grandparents constantly undermining our parenting - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 18 Old 10-14-2008, 04:32 AM - Thread Starter
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I am a new mama, our daughter was born 7 months ago, and I am dealing with the grandparents constantly undermining our parenting, and being downright rude.

The latest issue is what has me in a real pickle. It was Canadian thanksgiving this W-E and my fil put our baby’s hand and dipped it in gravy and then put her fingers into her mouth and exclaimed ‘look who’s not a vegetarian baby anymore!!’ I had already said ‘please don’t’ as he was doing it and couldn’t physically stop him I have been a strict vegetarian for 12 years and have been having dinner with my partner’s family for 9 of those years. They are well aware of my diet, know that it is a personal and ethical choice for me and are very well aware that we are raising our daughter as a vegetarian until she is old enough to decide for herself. That he would deliberately dip my daughter’s fingers in turkey gravy is just so insulting and insensitive and shows clear disrespect. I am troubled that he would do something that he knows would upset us.

I know I need to pick my battles. The thing is, I feel like the more time goes on, the more freedom the grandparents take with endless negative retorts about our parenting choices. We generally tell them that we disagree and think that we’re doing a decent job in raising a very happy little girl. Our choices are educated and we tend to point the grandparents towards literature or websites when they are relentless about a topic. They mostly disagree with our parenting approach and make that very clear. I don’t like the way this relationship is going, with either sets of grandparents, and I would really like to prevent the inevitable pushing away this is causing on my part. (we co-sleep, don’t vaccinate, EC, extended breastfeeding…all things they openly disapprove of)

Anyways, all this to say that I just don’t feel like I can take any more of their not minding their own business without being rude in return. And before I do that, I would like your opinion on how you have handled these kinds of invasive remarks and attitudes in your family. I expect to need to be patient with the generation difference and that there will always be comments about how the baby really should be wearing a hat or whatever. I am just concerned that if we don’t draw a clear line, things will get much more of an issue as the time goes by. I also don’t want my daughter to think that we are doing a bad job raising her if this is all she ever hears from her grandparents. Or to teach her that it is ok to badmouth people, or openly critique them for their personal choices.

My mother was very emotionally abusive with me and I don’t have a great relationship with her. This week, my mother told me that ECing was going to cause my daughter to have a complex about cleanliness and that I know nothing about parenting. (we use cloth diapers in combination with part time EC). She lays on guilt very thickly in every conversation, and always makes sure to belittle me.

My mother keeps questioning me about when she can baby-sit. I will never let her be alone with my child. Do I continue to skirt the issue or should I be honest and tell her this? I think my honesty could be detrimental to the whole family especially since my brother and sil have my mother babysitting their daughter approximately 60 hours a week. She will eventually stop babysitting my niece so the argument that she’s too busy will only last so long.

In 6 months from now, my inlaws, will be caring for DD for an 8 week period during the workday at our house. I feel on the one hand that I am very grateful that they can help us in this way. On the other hand, I am concerned about the tension there will be in our house if the in-laws cannot respect our parenting choices.

How can we get the grandparents to stop disrespecting our parenting choices and to stop crossing the line while maintaining a good relationship?
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#2 of 18 Old 10-14-2008, 04:58 AM
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First I want to say I'm so sorry to hear about the meat thing - that must have been a really wrenching moment for you to see your daughter loose her chance to make a choice on her own rather than by someone else for her. I try to remind people who say raising a child vegetarian is the "same" as in "forcing" that we can always add but we can't take away what has been done.

On the issue of telling them - I think your going to have to. At the same time you may find that the eight weeks of childcare is going to disappear as "punishment" and you may want to have a back-up plan.

You do need to put your foot down for your own sanity - maybe not on every issue but on the few non-negotiables. For me - it's "will this HURT my child in a way I understand?" - ice cream (no, although we avoid it when away from ILs) but CIO (for example) may be "tradition" or parenting they've done and believe is okay but I'm never going to put my child in that situation because I understand it is not physically and/or emotionally safe.

Take some time - write a letter to each set - then post here and get feedback. Take at least a week to go over it, calm down, tweak it and make sure it feels right. Then you can say it or send it and be satisfied you communicated something very important to you with a clear calm mind.

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#3 of 18 Old 10-14-2008, 05:15 AM
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I am very much into not sweating the small stuff, giving the in-laws a break etc. BUT...

What your FIL did was way beyond just being annoying or bothersome. It was a total slap in the face. I hope your DH is angry on your behalf. That is no way for his father to treat his wife (and baby).

That would be the last Thanksgiving dinner I had at their house AND there's no way I'd take them up on the 8-week babysitting offer now.
Well actually that depends on how MIL is. If she's more respectful and it would mostly be her doing the babysitting and FIL wouldn't really be there, that's different.

Of course I wouldn't cut off all contact or anything, but I'd limit it and definitely not do the Thanksgiving dinner unless your FIL came to you with a heartfelt apology.
I'm so sorry that happened.

eta: Normally I am annoyed by posts about how the evil in-laws let dc watch some tv while they were babysitting or whatever. We also just had a family member die way too young (her youngest child is only 4) so it's not like I'm going to get riled up by something insignificant, but what your FIL did just blows me away. I just have a hard time understanding why anyone would do that.
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#4 of 18 Old 10-14-2008, 07:58 AM
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I don't think you will be able to convince them politely, if you haven't by now.

And really, how good is the relationship if they constantly badger, belittle and defy you?

Personally, I don't think that a generation gap automatically entitles anyone to different treatment than anyone else. I think that has been a mistake that has resulted in some older people being very entitlement-minded, based solely upon their advanced age. I am 41 years old and I will call out my own grandmother, who is 82, if she is being rude. Loving someone doesn't mean you should be a doormat.

I would put my foot down and tell them to stop, NOW. That they can disagree with your ways all they want, but if they want a happy family and to see their grandchildren, they will at least respect you.

Give them one chance to grow up and act decently and respectful. Then, if they persist on behaving like disrespectful boors, limit contact.

If they truly love their grandchildren, they will respect the parents.
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#5 of 18 Old 10-14-2008, 10:19 AM
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ohhhh BOY can i relate to that...

For the first year, at least, of dd's life, my mother lost her mind. She spent what seemed to be much of her waking energy, making me/us miserable, and undermining every. single. choice I made. It was heartbreaking and stressful, and darn near cost her her relationship with us. She was obsessed about my child getting enough to eat with exclusive breastfeeding, and was constantly convinced that the baby was hungry, even though she was just blooming and thriving and hitting milestones well above the curve. She was a tall AND solid baby, just not 'fat' which i guess was what mom wanted . The doctor always complimented me on her health and muscle tone, etc. I did offer solids at about 6 months, but bebe didn't really care for them until she could feed herself fairly well... which is, of course, shocking i know . And the feeding was the tip of the iceberg.

Long story short, I had to forbid her from coming over for about a month, until she could get her head back on straight and start treating us like viable adult parents with a happy, well growing child, which is what we were and are. It worked very well, but might not for everyone. The important, the MOST important thing, IMO, is that your husband/partner MUST back you up in everything.... you have to be a united front against neurotic grandparents or you will be fighting a losing battle.
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#6 of 18 Old 10-14-2008, 06:16 PM
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I would completely shut down the information train regarding parenting choices. If they see you doing something and comment on it, just murmur something vague like, "Oh thanks, I've got it taken care of" or "Thanks, we're fine -- crazy weather we're having, huh?" If they specifically try to start a conversation about parenting choices, be evasive using the above tactics, and if they push, say, "You know, we're very happy with our parenting choices, but they're not up for discussion." People like your parents/ILs see any explaining/justifying as a lack of confidence in your choices, and think that it opens everything you do up for debate. So just refuse to engage, and they won't be able to get anywhere with their arguments.

As for letting your ILs care for your DD for 8 weeks, is there any other option? What would you do during that period if your ILs didn't live nearby or weren't available? I suppose it will help some that it'll be in your house, so you can control the environment to some extent in terms of food, but your FIL's actions with the gravy were just so blatantly rude and disrespectful, especially since you specifically said, "Please don't." Since you have 6 months, can you brainstorm other options for childcare during that time, or sit down and have a serious discussion with your ILs about how important it is to respect your guidelines when it comes to parenting?

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#7 of 18 Old 10-14-2008, 06:52 PM
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I am sorry you are going through this. Bottom line, the grandparents in question need boundaries NOW, that will be backed up with enforcement. Like, "If you continue to disrespect us as parents, we will be forced to limit contact with you."

I also agree with the whole "just don't tell them anything" line of thinking.

And, yeah, I'd find some other option for the babysitting situation. You've got months to prepare and find something else. Think of it this way: if you hired someone to babysit, and that person exhibited this much disrespect, would you actually have them babysit?! Of course not!

Please come back and update your thread. You've got a lot of support here.

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#8 of 18 Old 10-15-2008, 02:20 AM - Thread Starter
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Wow, thank you to everyone who replied. It feels great to voice how I feel about this, but mostly I just really appreciate your feedback and input. I know how what I would like to say, but I can be a blunt person and I know that that doesn’t always yield the best results so it is really good to see other perspectives on this. Thank you to all and to anyone else who’d like to put their two cents in.

When the gravy dipping happened, it did feel really wrenching. It was completely a slap in the face. Thankfully, my partner immediately went over and took DD away from FIL and firmly told him that she does not eat meat. We went to change her diaper in another room to let off some steam before returning. Had it only been the immediate family I’m sure we would have said something more. But at the time, we were dining with 20 extended family members and it would have been inappropriate to start a big discussion. So when we got home, my partner wrote a big long email, which he called the ‘New Parenting Manifesto’, and it outlined all of our philosophies in short to the point sentences. It was very much a ‘this is what we’re doing, don’t &%$ with us, end of discussion’. I love him for it. But I did ask him to sleep on it before sending it to his parents. Which is when I turned to the MDC community for input. I think my resistance to sending it was partly that I thought he might regret slamming the door shut on his parents as far as discussions go. As in, I don’t want the grandparents to feel like they are walking on eggshells around us. And also that I don’t want to discuss it anymore.

I think we definitely do need to communicate our needs to them. I agree, with the comments that the information train needs to come to a grinding halt and from now on we will not discuss our parenting with them. I originally didn’t want to discuss with them the fact that we’re not vaccinating for example, but it was important to my partner to maintain an open line of communication with our families and also because he wanted to support the grandparents interest in our children. I think we must have thought that it would foster a stronger relationship between them or something, by not closing the door. I thought it was a slippery slope, and now I know it is and the door is closed!! I think this is the best way for us to maintain a close relationship with the grandparents while keeping their noses out of our business. Kindly, or firmly, tell them that their opinions are best kept to themselves.

So, should we send that manifesto?! Or tell them in person or phone that we expect them to mind their business from now on? I havnt decided.
As for the 8 week babysitting gig, it’s MIL who has been asked, and I trust her. I think she is very conscious to do what we say in regards to our baby so as not to distance herself from her. But, I think we will need to tell them that we don’t trust FIL at the moment to respect our needs and that he will need to earn that before we are ok with him babysitting ie being left alone with the babe. We do have an alternative for babysitting, an awesome friend of ours whom we’ve known for a long time and parents very similarly. But, Grandma is really looking forward to her time with the babe so we’d like to let them have that relationship, as long as everyone complies with the very basic few rules! (no meat, no CIO)

I can’t figure out how to use less words to express myself. Sorry for the epics!
Thank you everyone, so glad to share with you!:
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#9 of 18 Old 10-15-2008, 02:33 AM
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My heart goes out to you mama - I don't know if I would have left dinner right then or had a screaming fit in dining room, but I suspect I would have done both.

Part of me thinks that these are your dh's parents, and he is in charge of communicating with them - he should send his manifesto.

Part of me thinks that putting everything out there is just an invitation to more trouble. Open-ness is nice, but sometimes we have to put our decisions away and make them private lest our families interpret the sharing of information as an invitation to play a role in the decision-making process.

The important piece of communication is that your FIL crossed a boundary with your child. Your ILs don't have to agree with your parenting decisions, but they DO have to respect them with your child.

Whatever else happens, I wouldn't be eating at their house (or visiting it, if at all possible) for a while. If they want to see their grandbaby they can drive to meet you at a neutral location of your choosing at a time that is convenient for you, at least for the next little while. If not longer.
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#10 of 18 Old 10-15-2008, 02:41 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by stik View Post

Part of me thinks that putting everything out there is just an invitation to more trouble. Open-ness is nice, but sometimes we have to put our decisions away and make them private lest our families interpret the sharing of information as an invitation to play a role in the decision-making process.

I think this is what happened, that they see sharing of information as an invitation to play a role in the decision making process. I think that is a really good way of bringing it to their attention.

And I agree, I think that the plan is for my partner to talk to his parents about crossing the line, esp about the meat eating.
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#11 of 18 Old 01-13-2009, 12:25 PM
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What I have to say you are not going to want to hear.I have been a parent for 22 yrs now to 5 great kids.Let it go.You will drive yourself crazy if you don't.Family members will always do things you don't agree with as well as people in general who come into contact with your kids.As far as your mom being emotionally abusive to you that was what she did to you.I had the same type of mother yet when it came to my children she was a whole different person in the way she treated them and let them get away with.Parents have no guide book for parenting and don't assume she hasn't learned from the way she treated you or automatically think she will be doing the same things to your child.remember this is your child not her's.
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#12 of 18 Old 01-13-2009, 03:01 PM
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I would not send an email detailing all your parenting beliefs. It's just not their business. No need to discuss whether you vax or not. They will assume what they want.

Communicate with them about the cute little thing she did today. Tell them only the good stuff, like when the dr says she's thriving. Send them copies of photos so they can brag about her.

There's no need for it to be all or nothing, if you want to keep a line open.

You may need to tell them that you will no longer be consulting them on the minutiae of daily baby care. Just keep repeating "Please don't worry--we're taking care of it." I suspect you will all feel better for closing that book.

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#13 of 18 Old 01-13-2009, 03:18 PM
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Originally Posted by studentmidwifemama View Post
How can we get the grandparents to stop disrespecting our parenting choices and to stop crossing the line while maintaining a good relationship?
Frankly, it doesn't sound like you have a good relationship.

My parents and in-laws have scoffed at my ideas and been somewhat disrespectful from time to time. I let them know in no uncertain terms that they were free to hold whatever opinions they like, but if they want to spend time with me and their grandchildren, they'd better be nice. I don't spend time with toxic people, even if they're related to me.

They had their turn as parents. Now it's your turn. They don't have to respect your parenting choices, but they can keep their mouths shut about it.
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#14 of 18 Old 01-13-2009, 04:35 PM
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Oh man, I can relate.

I would NOT discuss your parenting decisions with them. If they start trying to talk to you about, for instance, EC, say, "That is not something up for discussion. Please pass the potatoes".

Personally, I just wouldn't engage on such matters. They shouldn't (although it would be nice) have to understand. They shouldn't need to read articles. They should accept that this is YOUR child and YOU make the decisions.

We limit our conversations about DS with my in-laws, because they always have something negative to say. We don't tell them about his doctors appointments (weight, problems, vaxes-or lack thereof). We don't discuss where he sleeps. We don't discuss what he eats. I know that every time I have tried to give them just little bits of "fun" info about DS (like that he is drooling a lot and might be teething), I get an earful or an email run-on about how I am wrong, and research as to why I am wrong. We've had enough. The information train has disbanded.

I agree with others who have said to address the ISSUE with them-the issue being the disrespect NOT your parenting choices. I would NOT discuss your parenting choices with them anymore. It is not UP for discussion or debate. Discussing your choices makes it seem like they have a chance to talk you out of it.

If the problem persists, limit contact. Just being your parents does not give them the unalienable right to see your child if they can not respect YOU and YOuR CHILD. I would not worry about losing a great relationship, because it does not sound as if you have one. People who love and respect one another do not treat each other this way. I also would find other arangements for the 8 weeks that you need childcare. That sounds like a recipe for disaster, AND a chance for them to believe that they deserve to make decisions because they are doing you such a big favor.

I know it is hard. Remember YOU are the momma!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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#15 of 18 Old 01-13-2009, 06:51 PM
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very soon your dd won't be a baby anymore.... she won't just be an extension of you and your wants. She will be her own little person. And then she will be able to say to GP, "NO, I don't like the taste of that gravey". Or she might want to sit down and chew on a huge turkey leg. And I hope you would let her....
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#16 of 18 Old 01-14-2009, 12:25 AM
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OK, here's what I see: You have two distinct, yet seperate issues going on here.

#1, your parenting choices, and their disapproval. First of all, I would shut down that conversation IMMEDIATELY. It's really not worth the hassle. I think you've gotten some great advice already on that.

#2, though, is the turkey gravey issue. IMHO, that had nothing to do with parenting, or with your LO. It had EVERYTHING to do with disrespect to YOU PERSONALLY. Using your LO just happened to get the best reaction out of you, and they knew it. Your DH needs to have a serious, SERIOUS talk about that to his parents. No WAY I would allow my family to disrespect my husband like that, and neither would he.


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#17 of 18 Old 01-14-2009, 07:32 AM
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I would not send the email it's inviting criticism which is not what you want - they've done the parenting thing, it's their turn to be grandparents they need to take that on, your fil was disrespecting YOU and his son, your partner needs to point this out, he might wash it off - I was just joking ha ha - but he'll get the message, my father once thought he was helping me by smacking ds's hand when he opened a cupboard he was asked not to, I surprised him (and myself) by turning around and saying very sternly we do not hit anyone - the same way I would talk to my child, he's never done it again.

Maybe say to your ILs and parents, we love you and would like you all to have a positive relationship with dd, let's work together to make this work, otherwise we'll have to limit visitation.

I would also reconsider placing your dd with them and look for someone else who will respect your parenting choices and if the ILs ask why you tell them.

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#18 of 18 Old 01-14-2009, 02:25 PM
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While, to an extent, I agree that that the email shouldn't be sent outlining everything because it's none of their business, I can see where doing so would be a good thing.

1) It lets the grandparents know exactly where the boundaries are. In this, I would include that if the boundaries continue to be crossed, then they will not get to see their grandchild.

2) If there is no other option, and you still have to let them babysit for 8 weeks, then they'll know exactly what they are allowed to do and what they aren't.

At the same time, by telling them everything, you are giving them more ammo to use against you and more boundaries to cross than they might have thought of on their own.

It's a tough place you are in. I know when I told my husband about this, he was LIVID for you. He doesn't like vegetarianism in general (because of some of the holier-than-thou attitudes he's received from some vegetarians since he's a huge meat eater), but he's even more for promoting the parents' right to raise their kids. Needless to say, we had a long discussion on exactly how much would be allowed to come from our family members after this.

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