Dear Ms. Savvy,
My brother-in-law is literally driving me crazy. He was laid off six months ago from his job in Cambridge and couldn’t pay his rent. So, my husband had the great idea to let him crash at our house until he got back on his feet again. For the first few weeks he was living with us, he actually went out looking for jobs. But after a month, he started sleeping in, staying up all hours of the night to play video games, and leaving his trash everywhere. He’s taken over our guest bedroom and I’m starting to think he’s going to be here forever. My husband and I have been fighting over this constantly because I told him that his brother needs to go ASAP. He just defends him and says he’s going through a rough time and ‘family is family.’ When I complain, I end up being the nag who wants to kick a guy when he’s down. I didn't sign up for this. What do you suggest? From, Wary Wife
Dear Wary Wife,
Let me start off by saying that I can understand why you’re annoyed by this situation. Here you were, living your life with your hubby and then your brother-in-law came and rained on your parade. I have to agree with you that it sounds like he might be there for the long haul, unless your husband sets some boundaries with him. But, therein lies the problem. The boundaries have to come from your spouse, not you, or you’ll be seen as the bad guy. I’d suggest sitting down with your partner and explaining to him, very lovingly, that you understand why he wants to help his brother out. Give him lots of positive feedback for this and make sure he knows how much you love his generosity and loyalty to family. Then, tell him from your heart, rather than from an angry, judgmental place, that you miss it being just the two of you. Let him know your fears about his brother taking up permanent residence with the two of you. Ask him, rather than demand, if you and he can come up with a time-frame for when his brother needs to move out. Hopefully, he’ll be able to hear you and then talk to his brother honestly about this. If you can’t get through to him, you might want to consider talking to a couples therapist together. Just remember he loves you, but is in a tough spot, between wanting to be a good husband and a good brother. Have compassion for him, but still ask for what you need.
Dear Ms. Savvy,
After struggling to get pregnant for the past three years, my husband and I now have a four-month-old little boy and I couldn’t be happier. I love being a mom and I believe strongly in the benefits attachment parenting. My baby sleeps with my husband and I at night, I’m breastfeeding him exclusively and I carry him in a wrap for most of the day. He loves it and is a happy little guy. So, you’re probably wondering why I'm writing to you. It’s my mother-in-law. She doesn’t agree with my parenting style and makes comments about it all the time. I've tried to explain the theory behind attachment parenting, but she usually cuts me off before I'm done. The other day, she made a snide comment about how my son will never learn to crawl or walk because he's always being held. She has also told me that I coddle him and he will grow up to be spoiled. We’ve waited a long time for this baby and I want to spend every moment I can loving him up. I know my mother-in-law didn’t breastfeed (and has said before that she finds it “gross”) and that her kids slept in a crib right way. I try not to judge her, but I wish she would do the same for me and keep her opinions to herself. I know she means well and loves her grandson, but my teeth hurt from gritting them around her. With Thanksgiving coming, we will be spending a lot of time with my in-laws. How should I handle my mother-in-law’s comments? Signed, Miffed Mommy
Dear Miffed Mommy,
First of all, take a deep breath. Second, as long as you feel good about how you’re parenting, then your mother-in-law's opinion really doesn’t matter. And third of all, your son obviously feels loved, secure and attached to you, and what could be more important than that? Now, for the practical advice. Your mother-in-law might very well have good intentions, but she is clearly overstepping her role with her passive-aggressive put-downs and judgements. Be very clear with her and let her know that while you certainly appreciate her experience as a mother and respect her wisdom, you feel very confident in your parenting and that this is how you and her son have decided to raise your child. Try to keep the conversation light, smile as you’re saying this and end with a positive comment, such as, “Again, I appreciate your intentions and I’d really love to get your opinion on how to make the best pumpkin pie (find something she’s good at and ask for her advice on it.)” Try to keep in mind that her comments are really about her and having nothing to do with you at all. She might miss being a mom to a baby, she might regret that she didn’t do attachment parenting herself or she might not understand your approach. Whatever the case may be, give yourself a lot of credit for being a loving mom and try not to take her comments personally.