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Keeping the Peace With Your In-Laws When Expecting

Katlyn Joy |28, April 2014


It is one of the happiest times among families when a loved one is expecting a baby. Nothing can bring people closer than the idea of a fresh, new human being in the family. Or least that's what you'd expect. But sometimes, nothing can be further from the truth.

Sometimes the baby becomes a focal point in a tug-of-war between both sides of the family. You may end up feeling like you are the Capulet's and Montague's by the time of the first sonogram.

According to Terri Apter, PhD. And author of the book, "Difficult Mothers," in-laws rate as one of the top three causes of marital strife.

"... according to my study of in-law relationships, mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationships are often described as "uncomfortable", "tense", "uneasy", and each is likely to describe the other as "difficult", "unwelcoming" or "hostile"," said Apter.

She points out in a Psychology Today article, "Someone who is close to you, with influence over your genetic offspring but not themselves genetically linked to you, will be carefully, suspiciously observed."

This is one factor in tensions between daughters and mothers in law. The impact is that typically, maternal grandmothers have a closer relationship with their grandchildren than paternal ones. That is a loss for both sides of the family.

"For paternal grandparents, key to continuing closeness to a grandchild is a good relationship with a daughter-in-law," Apter added.

No one grows up with exactly the same traditions, ideals and communication styles. So how can you bridge the gap, build a lasting peace and de-escalate tensions between the relatives?

1. Respect the relationships of everyone involved. Simply because you find your parents to be reasonable and easy to have around the kids doesn't mean you should give deference to them over your husband's family.

2. Listen to what people have to say, whether you think they are bonkers or not. If your mother in law insists that you should abstain from exercise because you'll rob the baby of nutrients, or some equally nonsensical notion, just smile and nod. Then say, "Thanks Barbara, for sharing that with me. I'll definitely check on this with my doctor." It doesn't hurt to look someone in the eye and give them a chance to share their feelings and thoughts. And realize sometimes they may have some valuable advice, too.

3. When your parents and his parents are in conflict, you need to step in and set ground rules. When my first two children were born, there was some jostling between moms over who would get stuck at home watching the older adoptive children and who would get to be at the hospital to meet the new one first. While I thought it silly, after all it would only be a matter of hours difference, I had to step down the tensions and humor deflected the building anger nicely.

4. When it comes to who comes to help you out, or who is in the labor suite during the birth, you set the guidelines. You can be respectful, thoughtful and giving but that doesn't mean you have to let your father in law be there to observe your episiotomy. If your mom in law makes you a nervous wreck, she is not the person to be in your home assisting you in the very first and stressful days at home with a new baby. Instead arrange for her to come later, after you've gotten more acclimated to the mothering role.

5. Be a unified team. As husband and wife, you need to talk about expectations and boundaries and then communicate and enforce them together. This is no time for good cop/bad cop. Don't make one person play the bad guy; it's not fair and it sets up a future of conflict. Discuss how you will handle decisions, include the grandparents and settle arguments.

6. Find ways to build solidarity amongst camps. Don't force the in-laws on each other for extended periods of time, but short spurts of positive get togethers can be helpful. Point out things that they have a shared history or opinion of. Don't vent about one to the other. Stay positive and make it hard for others to become negative.

7. Remember your baby in all. You can never have too many people in your life who love you, so be as inclusive as possible.

Related Articles

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