Grandma Pulls the Strings

25 Jun

Dear LetterBalm: I’m a new mom who married young. My husband is a few years older than I am and comes from a wealthy family. His mother rules the family as the matriarch well-known in our community for her charitable causes and prominent family name. She also likes to put herself into her children’s lives, sometimes welcomed, sometimes intrusively. She has settled on my abilities as a mother. She chose our nanny, the baby’s ob-gyn and pediatrician, the hospital where I gave birth – she would have chosen our child’s name had my husband and I not insisted on Emily, after my grandmother. (As it is, her family name is our daughter’s middle name.) I need to gently but firmly draw some lines here, and I won’t be able to count on my husband. Help!

–Baby Mamma

You know your stiffened spine is a bit after the fact, don’t you? You should have set boundaries before you were married. But let’s see what we might do. Your intention should be to welcome your mother-in-law into her granddaughter’s life, express appreciation for all she is doing, and keep her happy, disarmed and on your side. Yes, it is manipulative – you and your husband must out-maneuver his mother. Ms. L.B. says you should decide what decisions of hers you can live with (the nanny? the pre-school?) and what you cannot (the grammar school? the after-school activities? the friends?). If you give your mother-in-law some victories and seek her advice on harmless matters, she’ll be more inclined to relax her influence. You might set a certain day every week when she comes to your home to see Emily and have uninterrupted tea, just the three of you (plus the nanny). You also might give your mother-in-law a handwritten note:

Dear Mildred,

Our lives have been so joyously busy with Emily these weeks, that I have not been able to take the time to properly express our thanks for all you’ve done.

You’re a strong woman, and I can see that my daughter will have you as a good role model as she grows and makes her own decisions. I know you will want her to grow into a resilient person who is confident in her abilities. She may make mistakes – as will her parents – but this is a part of life. We all can understand that.

You will be a wonderful grandmother, and Emily will be fortunate to have you in her life.

Love,

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