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Carolyn Hax: Grandma’s boycott shows she wants to be in control

Wed., Feb. 26, 2014, midnight

Dear Carolyn: My wife and I welcomed our first child in January. Before our daughter was born, my wife told our family members that we didn’t want overnight visitors while I took time off work, which was two weeks. Her mom lost it and told her she “felt no joy anymore” about the birth.

Our daughter is 3 weeks old now and my wife’s mother has neither met her nor shown any interest in supporting my wife after a pretty difficult C-section. What should I do in an attempt to remedy this situation? – Confused & Angry

Very little, at least with your wife’s mother.

Certainly there’s room for disagreement on the wisdom of your no-overnights request – I for one applaud it as a way for you two to gain confidence as parents – but there are a couple of things that don’t leave much room for quibbling:

(1) New parents get to make calls like this. Your baby, your comfort zone, your home, your rules.

(2) Her refusing to see the baby means this has nothing to do with your mother-in-law’s “joy.” Instead, your mother-in-law has revealed with her boycott that it’s about her need for primacy, attention, control.

(3) Anyone who welcomes a new grandchild into the world by calling attention to herself and creating stress for the new parents has bigger problems than whatever the specific issue might be.

I suggest a simple plan: Don’t confront your wife’s mother or attempt to negotiate with her. Instead just leave voice mails (or emails) as if she had taken your decision like a grown-up: “If you’d like to stop by tomorrow noonish, let us know,” (click). “Good news from the pediatrician today, all’s well,” (click). Such insistent warmth will either offer her a face-saving return or force her to keep renewing her choice to fume.

Last thing: Sleep. Your wife needs it. You, too, but you’ve had only one emotional earthquake and she’s had two. Congrats on the first one, at least.


 

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