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That's great advice, Moxie. I've been doing a combination of #1 and #2 for a while now...coupled with just lying about certain things. For example, Madam's sleep patterns are still awful, but I got so tired of all of the advice/criticism I was getting from my mom that I just...stopped mentioning it. She asks me about Madam's sleep, I say "fine", we move on to other subjects.

Unfortunately, at least for me, I've had to confront my mom about how her hurtful comments more than once since Madam was born, and it still happened fairly often. I guess change, like sleep, takes time.


Oh, Monica. When you call your daughter Madam, all I can think of is this.


Cat, Galloping

Excellent advice.

Have you noticed how obsessed our parents' generation is with burping? All my friends have noticed it. My mom always tells me to burp him before i *know* he needs it. Last time she was here I burped him and she said, Sometimes they need to burp more than once! Like I don't do this successfully every day. Sheesh.


Monica, My mom did a lot of the same stuff, especially the cutting comments about reading in books. And like your mom, I think it's all about insecurity and defensiveness and hurt feelings regarding her own parenting choices. I can't say anything particularly helpful (we finally had a blow-up scream up fight...every six months until September 2004 -- but that's our dynamic) except that you'll maybe, maybe care less as you get more practice at the parenting. By which I mean, I still get pretty angry and hurt about Mom's need to undermine my choices (and I'm especially thrilled to anticipate my sister's new motherhood, since Mom outright says that she'll have a different/better dynamic with my sister and her baby) but I also believe I'm a decent enough Mom now in a way that I just didn't when the babies were young.

Meanwhile, courage. And have fun with your baby. Because before you know it, she'll be five and you'll be all maudlin.

Wait, now I'm talking about me again.


I find this fascinating. I don't have kids, but both sets of grandparents were very different from my parents in many ways. I grew up spending time with both sets of grandparents, with my parents when I was young and alone when I was older. I understood that there were different rules in each house from a young age. My mother's parents were very strict and didn't allow any crying, whining, or questioning of grandparental directives (no asking "Why?"). They also stuffed us with as much chocolate and ice cream as they could, whereas at home we only had dessert once or twice a week. The rules being different there didn't change the rules at home. It all works out in the end, and even though I was terrified of my mother's parents when I was a kid, I'm glad that I had and have a strong relationship with them now. As my grandfather got older, and right before he died, I really gained an appreciation for him and for the life that he led, and for why he was the way he was. I think he did regret a lot of how things were when he was raising kids in the 50s (traditional gender roles, authoritarian father figure), and his constant criquing of my parents' "hippie" parenting ways (letting kids cry, letting kids ask questions, having fruit for dessert) was a reflection of that.

My father's parents were mostly different in their religious outlook, and we did things with them that were verboten at home, like eating not-quite-kosher food.

Anyway, food for thought, and as a non-parent, I think that Moxie's advice is great, as always.


Well... the thing about #3 is... one of my cousins did this with my grandmother. And, she followed through. And my grandmother is holding a grudge and its just very unpleasant. AND-- now that my cousin's children are getting older, they want to come to family events where my grandmother will be... and people are having to choose between cousin Jennifer and her kids and my grandmother.... and YIKES! Jennifer regrets taking that path. But that is not necessarily the way things will go for you-- but it is possible.

Choice #1 works reasonably well, really. I am very different in tastes and parenting styles from my sister in law/ mother in law. I spent a LOT of time angsting over this and getting upset about comments and advice I took issue with, and... by adopting that path and just letting things flow, the relationships have improved a LOT. And, the older that your child gets, the less this matters-- truly. Because they understand that the things that Aunt Jennie allows/ doesn't allow and the things that Mimi does/ doesn't do are just at their house-- and that won't have a lasting effect.
I would rather have my child have memories of running wild at Aunt Jennie's hous and having fun than pressing the point about not letting my daughter eat junk food while watching TV (for instance of one thing that she does and I DO NOT.)
My daughter is 3-- and yes, she does ask for things that she wouldn't otherwise know about, but really, its not hard to day "We don't do that at our house."

Finally-- and I have taken 3 years to learn this: do not ask advice in these areas--
1) sleep
2) eating
3) home remedies for illness
4) spanking/ time out
5) potty training
Because they are HOT BUTTONS. Ask your girlfriends, ask Moxie, ask your pediatrician and then tune it OUT from the dissenting family members. Because these stages will pass and you will forget being annoyed by unsolicited advice, but big fights aren't as easily forgotten.

DO ask advice about--
what color looks good on them
should you cut their hair?
is Bambi/Dumbo/Sleeping Beauty too scary


Also-- your daughter will be one this summer. Burping and such won't be such a big issue. And you can easily dismiss anything you know they don't approve of (say, co-sleeping) with a simple "Sigh, she's off her routine with the travel." My extended family has learned to stay in hotels when we visit my (bossy, but god love her- she raised 8 kids) grandmother since its too much to have her input and the assorted aunties. Yes-- its too expensive to stay for three weeks in a hotel. But I would advise you book a chunk of time (maybe smack in the middle of the visit) at a hotel as a "vacation" within the visit. Good for your sanity.

Finally-- your mom misses you. It might be really that simple (with the additional feeling you are being critical.) I know when I lived in WY (my family is in AL and VA) my mom criticized my hair (which she only saw in pictures), my *horse* (she doesn't even ride-- not even ONCE! and had opinions about my horse), and my boyfriend (who she never met, just heard about from cousins.) Now that I live in VA again and my daughter stays with her for an hour every day, well, I only hear ridiculous criticism about once or twice per year, and helpful "input" weekly-- but that is not hurtful, its truly helpful. I think she isn't missing me-- so she can be a better mom to me.

weird, yes, but we people are so complicated.



Hee at the Madam link! How will I get that out of my head NOW?

And excuse the mangled syntax of my first post. I wish I could blame it on the sleep deprivation, but I'd already *had* my morning coffee. Have I finally hit a stage not even coffee can fix? Perish the thought.


Oh this is such great advice. I get a more passive-agressive kind of criticism - I'll try 1 and 2 on MIL, and she will make all the right noises about "getting it," but the minute my back is turned she will go straight back to her own paradigm. We've found that the only thing that works is a little devious theatre: D will "storm" into the living room with the baby and say to me, very sternly, "Did YOU do this?" (this can vary from leaving the baby with a bottle in the crib, to overdressing her, to giving her things she's not ready for. "Don't you listen to the doctor? Didn't she tell you it was inappropriate/dangerous, etc.?!" all the while looking at me furiously. Then his mom will own up that she did it and she usually never repeats whatever it was again.
Devious, yes, but it works and keeps the peace.

Num Num

When my son was little, I called him His Babyship. (I don't call him that, but I think of him that way. As a friend once said about her mom, her mom's voice lights up when she gets on the phone with her, even if it's every day.)BTW, this is what friends are for: to not criticize.

beaver girl

I guess my MIL problem is the same thing turned on it's ear. I get asked repeatedly if I'm reading books and what did the doctor say about that (even little things) as if there is no way I should just be figuring stuff out on my own.

I'm afraid to try #1 for fear of opening the floodgates of advice on how to do everything. "Well, dear, as long as you're asking..."


Wow. You all have strengthened my resolve to NOT be one of those mother-in-laws someday. My mom and my in-laws are so accepting and understanding of our parenting choices, even if we don't agree. Sometimes my husband and I argue about who has the better MIL. I hope I remember that times change and research changes and my kids will do their best, just like I am.


My mom is weird and critical for all of the defensive reasons. She even continues to argue that it is okay to smoke 12 cigarettes per day while pregnant because her doc told her that when I was born 39 years ago.

I'm going to try #1, and I've already begun the lying or rather sins of omission. How's he sleeping? "Just like we want him to". Etc.

When he was 2 weeks old she came to stay for a while to "help". About two days into her trip she turned to me and said very seriously, "When he poops you'll want to clean his testicles". Like I hadn't noticed them hanging there or something. It was truly the oddest moment. Now pretty much at every diaper change my partner and I say, "You'll want to clean his testicles" and laugh and laugh.

Mostly I grit my teeth and say, "Jack and his grandmas deserve to bond...even if it kills me."


Thanks everyone for your thoughts, and especially you, Moxie.

Early on I did try #1, but I suppose I must have been too obvious, since she called me on it. I'll try it again and hopefully be a little more subtle. Anyway, I have begun a list in my head of topics I can bring up this way and some of them are actually things I am wondering about - like when it is ok to put clips and elastics in a baby's hair (when is that ok?). I have slowly learned not to mention some things at all -like breast feeding- because I know I will just get all irritated at the response.

#2 is slightly more complicated with my mom, but there is so much family history that it is hard to go into without writing a novel here. I try very hard to only do #2 when I just can't take it anymore (like last summer when she insisted on calling me The Food Source at all times, as in "Don't look at The Food Source, Zoë, you'll just want to eat" or "No, that's just The Food Source, you don't need her right now"). It did work then and at other times when I really needed it to, but usually #2 means a big drama where my mom goes up to her room and cries all afternoon and I pay for it for days and days. So that one is good, but only as a last resort.

#3 ... I'll admit to thinking about this one, but quite honestly I doubt I would ever do it. I know it must not sound like it, but I do love my parents very much. I think they have a hard time with the fact that I have chosen to live so far away and that has gotten even more difficult for them since the baby was born. I feel horrible about it, but I love everything else about this life I have chosen, so I guess I don't feel bad enough to go home. It's a difficult situation, but my daughter having a relationship with her grandparents is so very important to me.

Thanks again, guys!


My parents literally just left today (they and the ILs are 2500 miles away), and right before we drove to the airport my mom had managed to convince V to try CIO with T. I am shaking my head in disbelief.

She also said she knew a woman who had a "family bed" when I was young and went on about how weird she was. I don't get why my mom's so obsessed with T being 5 and in our bed (he just turned one)- I've told her I am fine with whatever, and he'll sleep on his own when he's ready.

And she thinks extended breastfeeding is weird too, especially with boys (some kind of Oedipal thing).

On the phone I either just say "uh huh" or stay quiet until she realizes what she's doing and apologizes and says I'm a good mother. Otherwise I just shrug and say I'm happy, the baby's happy, and let her be smug about me being "wrong".

The hardest part is when V chimes in and starts agreeing with her. I've had to tell him I get to do it my way with this one, he can do his thing with the second if he doesn't like how this one turns out. But that doesn't keep his mouth shut.

That is a long way of saying, make sure you and your DH are on the same page and even if not, it is in his best interest to at least convincingly pretend you are.

My ILs, OTOH, fuss if they're worried but not at me. I let them do whatever they like since they are the world's most overprotective worrywarts, and I just stay out of the way.


On the family bed issue--I did not sleep with my parents when I was an infant. However, when I was old enough to wake up in the middle of the night and want to crawl in with Mom and Dad I was never refused--consequently, I continued to attempt to crawl in with them until I was 7 (when I was about 4, they put the old crib mattress on the floor of their room, so I wasn't actually in the bed). At that point, they put their collective foot down and I had to tough it out in my own room.

So, not having the baby in your bed doesn't mean the toddler won't try it!

I'm sort of lucky that I've gotten a preview of what my parents will be like when I start having kids. I have three half siblings, the youngest of which is 16 years my senior, and they all have children. My parents aren't particularly critical, except of my brother, but he genuinely doesn't discipline his son (the boy was kicked out of a playgroup at age three because the other parents thought he was too rough/violent with the other children--Grandma and Grandpa aren't the only ones who've noticed). So, I think I'll be in the clear. We'll just have to find out about future-MIL...

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  • My expertise is in helping people be who they want to be, with a specialty in how being a parent fits into everything else. I like people. I like parents. I think you're doing a fantastic job. The nitty-gritty of what you do with your kids is up to you, although I'm happy to post questions here to get data points of how you could try approaching different stages, because, let's face it, this shit is hard. As for me, I have two kids who sleep through the night and can tie their own shoes. I've been a married SAHM, a married freelance WAHM, a divorcing WOHM, a divorced WOHM, and now a WAHM again. I'm not buying the Mommy Wars and I'll come sit next to you no matter how you're feeding your kid. When in doubt, follow the money trail. And don't believe the hype.
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