I truly hope it's okay that I'm posting on here. I understand this is a platform for grandparents and thought maybe it would be a good way to receive unbiased advice from experienced grandparents. If you have the time, I would very much appreciate your input.
A little background: I am going to be a first time mom this winter. Yay! My husband and both of our families are thrilled. My son will be the fourth grandchild on my husband's side, and the first on my side. My husband and I planned for this and are lucky enough that I will be able to be a stay at home mom. My career was in childcare and education...I've been training for this! We both have good families who we love and respect. My husband has a large family and most of them live in the same town as us while my family lives about an hour away. Our families even get along with each other...could we be any more blessed?!
Our issue: My husband and I are concerned with how to go about setting boundaries with his mom without hurting her feelings and insulting her sensibilities. I know, I know...another daughter in law using the word "boundaries." I promise I mean reasonable boundaries and not a strict list of ridiculous rules (ex. "You can only hold my baby with permission," or "You can't change my baby's diaper," *eye roll). Bumps and scrapes happen and a cookie gets eaten before dinner at Grandma's house...I can live with that. I believe based on my experience that the grandparent-grandchild relationship is very special and beneficial to all. I believe that a grandmother's love is the closest thing that can come to a mother's love, and I know my mother in law will love our child beyond limits. Our boundaries remain focused around safety and basic needs of the baby however our views on safety and basic needs differ from hers as a grandmother (she was not like this as a mother). Some incidents that have happened with her and her other grandchild (2 grandchildren live out of state) over the past couple of years have freaked both my husband and I out.
For the past four years, we have watched her disregard my sister in law's rules with her son as well as criticize all of her children's ways of parenting:
1. Bedtime is at 8pm but she puts him to bed around 11pm or midnight (she says she wants to play longer with him and bedtimes are "ridiculous.") When he was a toddler and would start to drift off into a nap she would start clapping in his face chanting, "Don't go to sleep! Don't go to sleep!" to keep him awake.
2. She stops by their house every now and then at 9pm to take Grandson with her. Without calling or checking in. When she was told, "No, he's already asleep," she went into his room to wake him up to ask him if he wanted to go home with her.
3. Since he was a toddler, he would spend days and nights with her and she would forget to give him water throughout the day. After we watched him chug a sippy cup of water I gave him she told me, "He never asks for water so I just forget!" She will also take him to McDonalds after her daughter told her she didn't want him eating McDonalds. She said she doesn't have time to cook, they have "too much to do together."
4. She and my father in law recently took our nephew hiking up an old volcano with a couple of other children and didn't pack everyone water or put sunscreen on them. My nephew had to be carried as he is too young to handle a hike like this, one of the older children suffered an actual heat stroke (I'm not exaggerating), and all of them were sunburned to the point where their faces peeled and they had "bubbles" on their ears. She didn't take ownership or apologize to the mothers of the children. Instead she laughed it off and said the one who suffered a heat stroke won't forget water and a hat again. She would have freaked out over this when she was a mother.
5. She spanks the oldest grandson. She brought this up to my husband and I and we told her that spanking will not be allowed between her and our child. We explained to her that we don't feel grandparents should spank their children and to leave the disciplining to us. She argued. I finally got her to stop arguing when I explained to her that as a teacher I had to work with children and manage their behavior without laying a finger on them - it can be done and the rule is non-negotiable.
She loves me a lot and we have fun conversations together. But, here are some recent issues I've had to tackle with her:
1. She lives 15 minutes away and I've had to tell her multiple times I do not need her to stay with us once the baby is born. She insists I'm going to need her help day and night. I told her, "I'm so grateful to know that if I ever feel like I'm in over my head, that I have a loving grandmother I can call. For now, the answer on day and night visitation is no." Yikes.
2. Whenever she brings up her aversion to vaccinations, certain foods, etc. I just tell her, "Your son and I are gonna wing it and deal with those things as they come up with our pediatrician." She doesn't trust doctors and laughs and says, "I'll have my friend who knows all about natural medicine talk to you." Double yikes.
3. She brought me a used, 8-year old car seat that she planned for my infant to use. I had to tell her it was expired and therefore deemed unsafe by the company's safety standards. I was met with a shocked face and, "Well all of my children used the same carseat over a 15 year span and it turned out fine." I understand and respect she raised 5 amazing humans, but I'm a rule follower when it comes to this kind of stuff and won't be doing things her way because "it turned out fine." I told her, "People who are smarter than me came up with this rule so I'll splurge on a new one but thank you so much for thinking of us. If you can snag any used children's books or clothes please do!"
4. She asked me, "You aren't going to be one of those mom's who doesn't let her children stay with their grandparents are you?" I told her that her son and I weren't making set decisions on when it's appropriate for our unborn son to stay at someone else's house yet and we'll just parent as we go. I shared that growing up I stayed with my grandparents every now and then but most of the visits weren't overnight and they weren't secondary caretakers but we did form an irreplaceable bond. She accepted that answer.
While she was a responsible parent, she's proven to be an irresponsible grandparent on a number of occasions with our nephews and other children. My husband and I aren't doormats and know how to say no but I'm worried about how often we will have to tell her no without her feeling like she has an overprotective daughter in law and a controlled son. This is not me controlling him...this is 100% him.
Simply put, my husband and I want her to be involved in our lives (I expect to see her at least once a week) but she shouldn't be babysitting our baby unsupervised or come over unannounced. She's absolutely going to put up a fit the more we say no and will want to know why. My husband says he is going to be the one to lay down ground rules and have these conversations. I'd like some advice or input to keep in mind when we do have to cross the bridge and have these conversations. Are we being unfair by not giving her the chance to follow our basic rules (offer breastmilk/water, put him down during naptimes/bedtime, no rubbing essential oils all over baby) before banning the idea of her babysitting through toddlerhood? What are some ways I can include her in my son's life without insulting her sensibilities while respecting mine and my husband's boundaries? Do I need to just accept that this won't be pretty at first and she'll have to get over it? How can I keep the daughter in law/mother in law relationship loving and respectful?
Thank you for reading this and any sensible input you have to offer me.
Divorce at 66 - I'm scared to be alone
The most shocking proposition you've ever received? - odd requests
Procrastination - what are you putting off?