The Baby Effect and Relationships in Your Life - Part 3

Your Bossy Big Sister

Your older sibling, Samantha, has been your nemesis since the first time she peered into your bassinet. Beyond the basic rivalry, Sam’s a bit of a know-it-all - and now her superior posturing has shifted into overdrive. According to Super Sis, your baby’s not getting enough tummy time and the crib mattress you bought isn’t as green as it should be. You’re planning to breastfeed for six months? She did it for two years. Okay, your sister has always been annoying; now that you’re both moms, she acts like she’s the world’s foremost authority on everything parenting-related. “It may simply be that she’s more interested in defending her choices than criticizing yours,” says Flett.

So no need to engage her in a prolonged debate in which you have to back up your every decision with double-blind research. How exhausting would that be? “Often the defensive parents with the most fanatical views are actually the least secure about their choices,” adds Dr. Bennett. If you know that your philosophies differ wildly, avoid purposely seeking her input on parenting issues. When she offers unsolicited commentary, “Good to know” is a neutral comeback that doesn’t invite further discussion. Remember, too, that as your child grows, there will be sports and academics and all manner of new issues to squabble over. Setting the precedent now with an easygoing “agree to disagree” could prevent a lot of emotional distress going forward.

Your Undermining Mother-in-Law

You considered yourself a winner in the MIL lottery until now. Suddenly, Ethel (“Just call me ‘Mom’ ”) has appointed herself Queen of Quitealot - and is treating you as if you don’t have the sense of a tree stump. “She’ll overheat with a sweater and a blanket.” “I know you said to let her cry for a few minutes, but she wanted to be picked up.” “A little whiskey never hurt a baby.” The ideal scenario would be for your husband to deal with his meddlesome mom. If he’s not up for it, though, you’ll have to step in. Before you do, Lancer says to be sure you’re not placing your own insecurities onto your mother-inlaw. If you can honestly say that you’re not being overly sensitive, try diffusing her tactics by pointing out what a great job she did with her own children. This may give her the kudos she never got when she was a new mom.

Another option: When mom-in-law offers unwanted advice, you could simply smile and say, “Thanks.” “People often experience a walk down memory lane when they see a new baby, and their burst of advice is just a way to make a connection,” says Brenda Nixon, author of The Birth to Five Book. If you feel that she is truly undermining you, a frank discussion is in order. “When anyone treats you disrespectfully or criticizes your parenting in a way that oversteps respectful boundaries, you need to firmly establish that you won’t allow that,” insists Lancer. This will make future get-togethers infinitely more bearable. My favorite line - and the one that worked with my own mother-in-law - is this: “You got to do it your way when you had a baby. Now it’s my turn.” Her role is to be a doting grandmother, so step aside and let her do just that.