When Grandma’s A Little Overbearing

November 8th, 2010

By Guest Bloggers Brandi & Lisa

It takes a village to raise a child, no doubt. But sometimes the village can be, well, a little overbearing… shall we say.  We are both amazingly fortunate (read: most of the time) to have family geographically close by. They have been lifesavers in many ways, including babysitting, picking up a child, a home cooked meal, unlimited mommy advice (read: sometimes unsolicited) and providing endless company.  However, with our fortunes, come our misfortunes.  You know the overbearing, always present, ‘think they know what’s best for your child’ grandparent? The child that YOU spent hours of sweat, blood, and tears delivering? 

We are sure most of you moms have encountered this invasion of over-available opinions and suggestions from the peanut gallery at some point or another.  In our lives, the guiltiest of the parties is the matriarchal figures high up on the family tree. And with the exhaustion from overnight feedings and countless diaper changes, sometimes we have welcomed the intrusiveness- especially if it equates to us getting additional sleep. While other times it’s just down right… frustrating, aggravating, and yes, even sometimes funny!

Now we would like to stress, this is all in good fun.We love our families, but still, these things go on, and we know we can’t possibly be the only ones who have sat on the fence paralyzed on how to deal with it.

So, to further explain our point, let me give you a few scenarios. Now keep in mind, you don’t only have to be a mother of toddler-aged children to catch our drift… any age will do. Have you ever felt like you’ve packed the diaper bag differently depending on where you’re going or whose house you’re at? For instance, one grandma thinks every whine MUST mean he’s hungry, even if he just ate an hour ago. So you pack a whole extra container of formula just to be the “prepared” mother.

Or another grandma thinks he is crying because his “pants are wet” and insists on changing his diaper every half hour because “no one likes wet pants!” For this grandma you are going to need a bunch of extra diapers in that bag. While yet another grandma thinks it MUST be because his shirt is wet, and insists on changing him with every spit up or drool because “you certainly wouldn’t want to smell like wet milk now would you?” So you pack his whole wardrobe in that bag!! After all, you can’t question someone who has already raised children, because things couldn’t possibly have changed from 30 years ago! Then you get the grandma who keeps the house at 100 degrees because their little angel is always cold, they can just tell.

Does it ever end?  As little junior grows up, the expertise and polite interference of the grandparents and other relatives will probably continue, if it’s been omnipresent in your life.  You know that schedule you’ve finally put your kids on? Forget about it.  It is almost like clocks are non-existent in the homes of grandparents. For example, you finally trained your offspring that books, and not television past 7:00pm is the way to go. At grandma’s house, it is like the television remote has no “off” button.  In fact, grandma found it extremely necessary to purchase a television to place… yep you guessed it, in the bedroom at their home, devoted just for their grandchildren. All of the parents’ hard work teaching their child the value of a dollar goes right down the drain.  In your house, a reward is earned through good grades and completion of chores. Their house a cute little smile will do.

While this can be frustrating, you can’t help but laugh at how they want little junior to be happy. You also can’t help but wonder if our kids think they are little celebrities while visiting the Grandmas. Now this can’t be all bad, we agree. And while grandmas may do things differently than us moms, their intentions are noble (for the most part), so we can’t fully fault them. We have to let go of the reigns sometimes. Really, that’s what grandmas are for!

But, if things have gotten to be too frustrating and overbearing, what can you do about this awkward and sometimes helpless feeling? Do you merely sit comfortable smiling and let the entitled-feeling grandmother dictate our child being fed (when we know he’s not hungry) changed (when we know he’s not wet), and clothed with a new shirt (when it’s not needed) or do you jump off the fence and put an end to the overbearingness?

Survival Tips:

  1. If it’s your husband’s family, let him do the talking. Ask him to nicely explain to his parents that you are both very capable and you know how to care for your little one. If it’s your family, you should have a talk with your mom alone about the same thing. Just put your foot down.  Do it early and firmly, but nicely.
  2. Now we’re not into passive aggressive approaches, but this has been proven to work! Email this article to the interferer with a tagline of “Can you believe some grandmas do this?”  and keep your fingers crossed that they can take a hint. ;)
  3. Tell your child that Grandma’s house is kind of like Disney Land.  A magical fun place where it is all about them, all the time.  Some of the rules and schedules are modified slightly so enjoy it, because when you come home, it’s back to reality.

Choose the above strategy wisely, or try them all.  If 1 and 2 fails you always have the Disney Land route.  We also find the two statements below can put a temporary halt to the peanut gallery, if you have young children.

  1. Say “If he isn’t crying…he’s ok!” so his shirt may be wet and his hands might be dirty but if he’s smiling, we are too! (Big Smile). After 100 times repeating this statement, they will learn your child’s general well-being is ok.
  2. Blame the doctor. Try something like “Well the doctor said we shouldn’t feed him every time he cries.” After all, who wants to argue with a doctor?!

Best of Luck!

Brandi & Lisa,  Moms In Heels

Share your stories (funny and frustrating) with us about the overbearing peanut gallery in your life. Misery loves company! And what have been your tricks to gently get a mother-in-law to back off a little. We’d love to know.


Brandi and Lisa are sister-in-laws, and the creators of the funny blog MomsInHeels.net.

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  12. STOP CALLING AT NOONNo Gravatar says:

    I am at my wits end with grandparents-in-law, but for me it’s not my husband’s parents, it’s his grandparents!!! His parents are amazing; I love them. Helpful, great boundaries, awesome to be around. The great-grandparents, however… I do love them. However With. Out. Fail. The only times they call and want to come over, (or just come over without calling!!!) I’ve just spent a half hour getting my baby to sleep.

    And if they’re calling and I tell them that I just got him to sleep? “Well, we’ve got some stuff for him (they ALWAYS have some stuff for him), so we’ll just stop by anyway.” No. No you will NOT come over and wake up the baby because you feel like visiting right now. I won’t be able to get him back to sleep, won’t be able to get any of the things I need to do done, and will also have an angry, cranky one-year-old to deal with for the afternoon. NO.

    I have told them and told them (and told them) that I generally try to have him down for a nap between x time and x time, and that the best time to visit would be x (NOT NAP) time. Still it continues. I have been as polite as possible, though I want to throw things, shout, and cuss at them at this point. I don’t know what else I can do… Husband won’t say anything to them (they’ve always been a little ‘difficult’ in general) because “it won’t help,” so I am stuck looking like the evil witch who won’t let them visit the precious grandbaby. ARGH.

    Sorry, this post resonated with me and I felt the need to vent…

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  17. Tonnie says:

    my mil is annoying, overbearing, nosey with no life of her own. She lives with us and I have asked her as nicely as I could to stay in her room sometimes so we can spend time as a family WITHOUT her presence. I want nothing to do with her. I am struggling to have her around my kids but I know this is wrong.

  18. StaceyNo Gravatar says:

    This may sound amusing but try having a Greek woman as the ‘overbearing grandma’. They are worse than ever and it’s actually making my life a misery. It has got to the point where I have to be quite rude to get my point across but she still does not back off. From whipping him out of my arms at every opportunity (they live next door – so this happens every time we go out of the door) to screeching every 2 minutes that he’s ill (all it takes is one cough or sneeze and he is diagnosed with the flu). On a daily basis she reminds my little boy that he is ‘her soul, her heart, her life’ and if she doesn’t see him for just one day she declares that she didn’t know what to do with herself in his absence. ‘The world stopped turning in your absence my child’ weep, weep….. Not sure how much more I can take :-( I need more than this light-hearted advice!

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  37. RosNo Gravatar says:

    Enjoyed reading this article. A couple of things made me laugh – grandma’s house is like Disney Land & invasion of over-available opinions. So true. I’m my husband’s second wife, so you can imagine the “over-available opinions” that came my way. Thankfully, hubby always stood up for me, so this demonstrated to them that they can’t just walk over me. This helped tremendously & set the tone that I deserve respect and that I should be given a chance. Thanks for a great article.

    • Thanks Ros. All Grandma’s house is missing is a roller coaster, but don’t worry that will probably be coming. Gotta love how much they love our kids though. Yikes, the second wife thing has to add a whole new dimension to interference from the outside gallery. Having a great husband to stand up for you, for you to complain to, and to gently put others in their place is a must in the land of in-laws.

  38. My Mother-in-law stayed out of my child rearing, generally, so that was fine. Well, actually, she stays out of everything and just sits there and smiles or fetches things for my father-in-law like drinks and his slippers. My mother, however, used to make helpful comments such as, “When you were children I…” or “Hmmm they seem a bit spoiled…” I found smiling and nodding was the best strategy for sure. The only time my MIL interfered in my marriage was the time that my husband wanted to buy a Bulldog puppy. I absolutely was allergic to both the idea and the bulldog. She, however, was appalled that I would deny my husband something he wanted, and gave him a giant cheque to purchase said bulldog. Two years later, I sold the dog and kept the money. So there.

  39. I think it’s all in the approach. If something bothers you, it will bother you for MANY MORE YEARS DURING THE DURATION OF YOUR MARRIAGE. And I agree, tact goes a long way. Spill the beans, in an ever-so-classy-but-honest way. Think how much better things will be going forward. Thanks girls!! Great post!

  40. Anonymous for sake of MIL says:

    I can so relate!! When I visit my mother in law I pack a whole wardrobe in fear my baby craps in his pants and barfs on himself and god forbid I don’t have extra clothing. And its murphy’s law of course I’m never prepared when I visit. My son always poops or barfs when were there and I’m always missing something. Good post!

  41. someoneNo Gravatar says:

    I’m with Julie W. Tact is everything and ALWAYS remember this: You too may be a mother-in-law and your in-law will most likely be annoyed by something(s) you do. It haunts me and I have a great relationship with my in-laws so I will use them as my example. She takes my lead but most importantly, I try to let things roll of my back. She’s harmless. She tells me she appreciates me and basically never critiques me! No wonder I get along with her! There is a saying “Keep your mouth shut and your pocketbook open”. Words to live by!

  42. Joanne says:

    Great post! Super advice but my favorite was #2-forward the post to grandmas and hopefully they’ll get the hint. I laughed so hard. We all have mother in law stories. Don’t worry you’re not alone.

  43. CarlyNo Gravatar says:

    I am only pregnant now with my first baby but this sounds crazy!! My husband’s mom is so nice I don’t ever see her being like this. But if she would, I’d show her who’s boss. :)

    • Carly- Let’s so hope you are so this post pregnancy. Sometimes it’s not just the hubby’s husband you have to look out for. Sometimes your own side can get a little crazed with the advice giving. I would say if you mother still asks you where your jacket is in the cold weather (like ours does) be ready.

  44. Julie WNo Gravatar says:

    I love this topic! I have too many stories to tell. The important thing is to break it to your mother in law nicely without hurting her feelings. She generally has good intentions in spoiling your kids and completely driving your crazy about their wellbeing. A grain of salt is the way to take it I always say. You have to make the peace because this family will be around for a long time.

    • You are so right Julie- sometimes the smile and nod is the best strategy. Sometimes we nod so much though her heads feel like they are going to fall off. Haha. Grandparents can love just a little too much but it makes us happy to have so many people care about our kiddos.

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