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In-Laws: Adjusting to Family Expectations

In-Laws: Adjusting to Family Expectations

My husband and I come from two very different families. Mine is more hands off, less traditional and very independent. His is a strong Greek family where traditions are always celebrated, gatherings are large and loud, and you always follow what the mother says. Ever since we got married, I have been doing my best to please all sides. But now that we are expecting a baby, I am learning that in addition to all of my own expectations about what being pregnant and having a child will be like, I also have to face the expectations of my mother-in-law.

For the past few months, I’ve been given instructions on what to eat, what not to eat, not to lift anything, to go to church regularly, etc. Aside from the few instances where I have hid in the garage when my MIL called my husband, I’d say that I’ve handled things quite well. Now that we are less than nine weeks away from the birth of our first child and the very first grandchild (on both sides of the family), I’m beginning to worry about what is going to happen when the baby is born. Will my MIL barge in the delivery room? Will she move into our place for a month? Or will she just be a normal, excited, new grandmother who just wants to help? I’m well aware that the later is most likely going to be the case, but I can’t help playing out ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ scenarios in my head.

I find myself constantly trying to find balance between being true to my own beliefs, being a supportive wife, a proper daughter-in-law, and a new ‘Greek.’ I worry that this balance will only get harder once the baby is born. Will I feel the need to give into every Greek tradition or will I be strong enough to assert what traditions my husband and I choose to follow and which ones we don’t? I don’t want to hurt my MIL’s feelings, but there are certain things that I don’t feel like compromising on – such as the name of the baby if we were to have a boy, baptizing the baby in the Greek Orthodox Church, and not leaving the house for 30 days after giving birth. My husband has done a great job at supporting my feelings and wishes, but I know he feels a lot of guilt from his mother because we don’t see them as much as she would like or that I don’t return all of her phone calls.

Finding true balance between our wishes, my MIL’s wishes and even the wishes of my own family might be something I can’t always do perfectly, but I’m getting better at compromising and learning to pick my battles as we enter this next phase of our life. Has anyone had a similar experience? What have you done to ease the stress of family expectations when it comes to parenthood?

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4 comments

  1. K July 25, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    Like you, I was very worried about the family dynamics that were going to accompany a new baby. And I won’t lie, there were some bumps in the road right after my son was born. Grandparents come with their own expectations, advice, and desires, and mine did not always match my MIL’s at first. BUT the good news is that as my son has gotten older (1.5 years old now), my MIL has chilled out a bit and we have learned to navigate each other’s comfort zones with raising my son. She also had another grandbaby born earlier this year, and it has helped to have the attention spread out. The best part is that her interest in my son makes her the perfect babysitter, so that’s a huge bonus. Good luck!

  2. H July 25, 2013 at 8:41 pm

    Balancing MIL and your own family with a baby is a tough one. Somehow, everyone forgets that part of having a new baby is creating your OWN new family. I have found that setting boundaries early on has made a huge difference. We said from the start that we would not be going anywhere, no matter how close, on Christmas morning…and we don’t. It was hard a first, and we got some complaints from family, but now, it’s a non-issue. Choose your battles, and be ok with it. And remember, what’s most important isn’t your relationship with your MIL, it’s your child’s relationship with their grandparent. I find that remembering that helps me get through the sticky situations.

  3. Media Mom

    MediaMom July 25, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    My advice would be to establish and enforce boundaries as soon as the baby is born. People, including in-laws, are most likely to respect your wishes when you’re still recovering from childbirth. So start with what you will allow and not allow for hospital visitation (for instance, no one but hubby in the delivery room, or no visitors after 7:00 pm) and then just try to keep the same sort of rules going. Also, I make it clear to my husband that he is responsible for communication with his own family, including returning phone calls, making plans, etc. It’s not that I don’t love his family. I really do. But I have a big family of my own and I can’t be the person who is responsible for maintaining open lines with everyone on both sides. Plus, I can tell my own Mom when she’s annoying me, but there’s not a chance in heck I’d tell my MIL.

  4. Marie August 22, 2014 at 3:32 am

    Haha, it’s nice of you to assume that she won’t barge into the delivery room and move into your house. My MIL is Turkish, so different, but a very similar culture in terms of MIL running the show. She kicked my husband out of the hospital and SHE spent the first night with me and my baby. I had just come out of a c-section and wasn’t able to change anyone’s mind just yelling from my hospital bed. She gave my baby formula 6 hours after birth although I was yelling not to…from my hospital bed. She and my SIL moved into our house for 10 days, would have been longer but then my parents came to visit so there wasn’t enough room. My husband just did whatever she said although we had agreed beforehand that it would be just him and me…I would say state your own decisions, and LOUDLY. You may feel like a b+%+%tch now, but it will save you a LOT of trouble in the future if they get all of their childish pouting and tantrums out of the way before the baby comes. Of course, I don’t know your MIL and am assuming she’s like mine. That may not be the best thing for your family, but looking back, I wish I had spoken up for myself instead of trying to keep the peace with everyone on the day I gave birth. That was supposed to be a special time for my husband and me alone with our first baby, and we’ll never get it back.

    I see this post is really old now. What did you end up doing?

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