10 Tips For The First Time Grandmother

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There are good grandmothers, there are great grandmothers and then there are the grandmothers who, as well meaning as they may be, make life for the new mom and dad harder rather than easier. Want to be the kind of grandmother who goes down as the best one ever? It’s easy, really…

1. Babysit. A brand new mom isn’t going to want to hit the town for an evening out, but she is going to want a long, hot shower without having to stare at a screaming baby in an infant seat on the other side of the steamy glass.

2. Help around the house. Fold some laundry, load the dishwasher, take out the recycling. No, you’re not a maid. But it wouldn’t hurt to play one for a few weeks.

3. Walk the dog. Rub the dog’s belly. Buy the dog a new chew toy. Tell the dog what a good boy or girl he or she is. New parents are most likely guilt ridden about the new hierarchy in the house and will be appreciative of any love and affection their first baby gets. (For veteran grandmothers, same goes for other children. The baby won’t remember those first few weeks, but older children will.)

4. If you are the MIL, don’t dwell on the baby’s striking resemblance to your son. Your daughter in law just carried and delivered that creature and she’s pissed off enough that your DNA trumped hers in the gene pool, so you’d be wise to keep your mouth shut. Speaking of that…

5. Shut up, often. If you aren’t asked for an opinion, don’t offer one up. Ever. Don’t reference how you did things back then, don’t suggest she try this old wive’s tale or that thing your great aunt used to do, and never, ever tell her she’s doing something wrong. Just zip your mouth up and busy yourself putting some silverware away.

6. Call when you’re at the grocery store. Offer to pick up dinner or lunch, or better yet, just show up with mom’s favorites.

7. Don’t go on and on about how much the baby loves you. No mother ever wants to think her baby connects with someone more than her. Gloat about your magic touch to your friends, if you have to, but never, ever to mom.

8. Don’t post pictures without permission. Back when you were a new mother, you didn’t have to worry about pictures of you with a newborn still looking five months pregnant living on the internet for all eternity. Lucky you.

9. Ohhhh and ahhhh over the baby. There are only so many people a new mom can talk incessantly with about how perfect her new baby is and you are one of those people.  

10. Tell her she’s doing a great job. Because she is. And by telling her so, you are too.

The Mother In Law Prenup

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The moment you bring a baby boy into the world, you start to wonder when he’s going to leave you. That’s right. You know that one day he’ll leave you for another woman — even though he’ll propose to you all through toddlerhood and tell you that you are the only girl for him.

Liar. 

You’re already quite certain that the woman he marries will probably resent you for being so awesomely cool. And you’re betting she’ll do whatever she can to break the strong bond you have with your sweet prince. Women say it’s good to marry mama’s boys, but they don’t really want to deal with the mama part.

Wenches!

My husband has told me time and time again to cut the cord… no f*****g way! I’m waiting until that thing rots and falls off. I mean, for how much longer is he going to say “I love you” when he walks out the door, or hug me in front of his friends, or ask me to lie with him at night? Frankly, I don’t know, but I won’t be the one to stop it.

If he’s 40 and wants me to lie with him and scratch his arm, I’ll be all “Move over, Megan,” or whatever his unappreciative, son-stealing wife’s name is.

Let’s be honest: he may be 5 now, but before we know it, he’ll be shaving, and driving, and then he’ll leave us to go to college somewhere cold. Then he’ll get married and move to be near her mother, because that’s what girls make boys do: move near their mothers! Then he’ll be a father, and then one fine holiday he’ll have “wifey” call us to cancel our plans. Then he’ll try to make up for it by sending one of those Harry & David gift baskets filled with pears, because he’ll remember that we love pears, but they’ll be bruised — like our hearts.

No, we can’t go down that road. We have to take a stand against son stealing right now.

We’ll make those Jezebels pay… no, sign! Yes, a contract for us to make them sign, besides the pre-nup. That’s right, like using WiFi in Starbucks, they’ll have to agree to our terms.

This is a MIL-nup, and it goes like this…

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  • I will compliment my mother-in-law’s (MIL’s) cooking, her decorating, and, most importantly, the incredible way she raised her son, my husband.
  • I will marvel at my MIL’s beauty and miraculously never-aging skin every time I see her.
  • I will acknowledge that my MIL’s son is on loan to me so that we can make grandbabies, which will probably look like her and have her wonderful traits, which I will mention in conversation frequently and with great fervor.
  • I will remind my husband to call my MIL daily, saying, “Have you told your mother you love her today? You should, she rocks.” Plus, I will throw in phrases like this:.

         “That amazing woman raised you! You should call and thank her… again.”
             “You can truly never thank her enough.”
             “Let’s go over and thank her in person.”
             “We should bring her a gift when we go.”
             “She’s so deserving of gifts.”
             “Let’s take her on vacation with us.”
             “And get her another gift.”
             “Maybe a beautiful locket with pictures of you and our children.”
             “No, I don’t need to be in the pictures; she didn’t raise me… unfortunately.”

  • I will tell other women that their mothers-in-law are not as fabulous as mine, and I shall be willing to throw down in the event that said women disagree.
  • I will take my MIL to her weekly hair salon appointment and shopping at Loehmann’s, when it is deemed necessary by age.
  • I will spend all holidays with my husband’s family, because they are so awesome and gracious, and I realize how much mine sucks by comparison.

And lastly:

  • I will move to be near my MIL, whether she has retired to Century Village in Florida, decides to live in a nudist colony in Arizona, or goes bat-s**t crazy and moves to Alaska for the fresh sushi. She is so wise and wonderful that I’m sure her choice of habitat will suit me and my husband perfectly!

Oh, and:

  • My MIL can so live with me and my husband when she’s old and can’t remember who I am.

There. You can print this to be signed when the inevitable happens. I just saved you from losing your sweet, sweet boy.

You’re welcome.

There Can Only Be One First Lady

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As much as I try to be a patient, understanding and overall über-cool daughter-in-law, I must admit that there are limits to my abilities in this area. If my mother-in-law were, for example, to try and publicly contest the position for First Lady in my husband’s heart, I may morph into a vaguely psychotic and paranoid jealous female and vehemently stake my claim to such rights. But surely, you gasp, such an abomination would never occur. Alas, in the crazy world of mother/daughter-in-law relations, such madness seems to be an everyday occurrence.

So here’s how it went down: It was a quiet, unassuming day and we were taking a stroll back to our car when my husband asked, “Do you have the car keys, love?” Before I could even wrap my porridge brains around the question, SHE pipes up, “Are you talking to me?” An awkward silence ensued until I stated what I thought was blindingly obvious: “I think he’s talking to me, mom.”

Ha! Apparently not so obvious because the next statement stopped me dead in my tracks, “Well, love refers to me clearly.” Now I’m not often rendered speechless (considering how I’ve often been handed down the prognosis of having untreatable verbal diarrhea) but even I was stumped by this one.

If that isn’t enough to stop you cold in your tracks, this should give you pause for thought. My ever-charming, 100% politically-correct husband decides to melt the dense frostiness that suddenly seemed to permeate the air with the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard him say, “No fighting ladies – you’re BOTH the loves of my life.” Hmmm…

Now perhaps you’re thinking that isn’t so bad. Give the guy props for using a cheesy line to defuse a ticking time bomb. Except that I forgot to mention that I was 6 months pregnant at the time, essentially the emotional and physical equivalent of a raging female elephant under attack. At this point in the game, mental stability had long since escaped my tenuous grasp on it, and my only claim to human-like behaviour came in the aftermath of a chocolate binge (which I consumed as a mood-altering substance to try and play nice from time to time). Needless to say, I was NOT in the mood to have the instigator of my current whale-shaped physique start comparing our relationship to the one he has with his mommy!

But I have long since learnt that arguing with my mother-in-law is akin to trying beat Chuck Norris. In other words, you don’t. Basically, there is NO way to out-argue this woman. And in the unlikely event that my pregnancy-addled mind could come up with a witty repartee, she would simply swan right over it.

So I did what any intelligent woman would do under these circumstances. I had a righteously indignant go at the hapless victim of the man-territory wars, my husband himself. Poor guy! He honestly thought that he’d found an all-round winner in his clever comeback, but he forgot to account for the fact that his wife was essentially eating hormones for breakfast, lunch and supper. I’m happy to report that he’s learnt his lesson and won’t ever consider placing me on the same rung as ANY other human being EVER again.

So in conclusion, let’s extract the moral truths from this gem of a story:

1. Husbands, considering that you now live with your mate and not your mother, choose carefully when you find yourself in a checkmate situation. Your mother has limited access in terms of making your life miserable whilst your wife now has infinite powers. Remember: a happy wife = a happy home.

2. Mother-in-laws: yes, we understand that some uppity miss has usurped your place as numero uno in your baby boy’s life, but for goodness sake! We provide you with grandchildren to ease your strife. Surely that’s gotta count for something???

3. Daughter-in-laws and wives: Tough as it is to swallow, this is a package deal. You’ve got the man of your dreams so just suck it up and thank God that you’re not still with that loser whose idea of a hot date included a football match and cooler of beers. (Please note: if you are pregnant, none of the above applies to you. Feel free to make up the rules as and when they suit you).

The Secret to Surviving Your Mother-in-Law

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It is kind of an awkward personal moment when you discover that you don’t like the main character in the book you wrote…even though she is based on YOU.

Embarrassing to admit, but here’s how it happened:

During my first pregnancy and after the birth of my son, I was a typical first time mom. I put headphones on my belly to stream classical music to him in utero, and I cared about all the little things once the baby was born. The feeding schedule and swaddle became as important to me as world politics. Only, I ignored everything beyond the state of my little home, so I wouldn’t even have known if a war broke out.

My mother-in-law fulfilled the role of driving me insane during this period by asking me every five minutes how much weight I gained when I was pregnant, napping on the couch in my labor room, and giving me all the passive-aggressive parenting tips I could ever want. Instead of screaming in her face, I began writing a book about — you guessed it– a girl and her annoying MIL. It was cathartic, and I could do it at home without having to get a sitter so I could go to therapy.  After writing about 100 pages, I put the the book aside as my son’s needs were more demanding and nap/writing times diminished.

By the time my second son was born, I answered the door for the night nurse that came occasionally, usually as she was still getting out of her car, offering a quick set of instructions such as “I have already popped an Ambien, bottles are lined up in the nursery and see you in 8 hours,” before taking the stairs two at a time and jumping into bed. The nights she wasn’t there, I actually contemplated trading a shower and hot meal to a homeless person if they would do a night feeding. That sounds crazy, but my older son woke up at 5 am for TWO YEARS straight no matter what I did, and I was just that tired.

The good old feelings about my MIL started to resurface at times, and I opened the BOOK document on my computer, certain that I had lots of new material to add. However, as I read what I had previously written, my feelings shifted uncomfortably… and I realized that I had changed as a person and as a mom.

Even though I was still a loving, nurturing, and doting mother the second time around, I was just so much more… relaxed. I stopped caring so much that my MIL fed my kids fast food to annoy me, and would stop over unannounced and let herself in with our key, yet refused to use the key when I actually asked her to if I was upstairs feeding the baby. At least she was there. You see, I realized that I could nitpick every little thing she did, or just be glad that she was doing it. I needed help, and as long as my kids were safe and alive, I stopped caring that she wasn’t doing everything my way. I realized that if I was going to ask for help I had to be nice, and the crazy thing was that the nicer I was, the more willing she was to help. Amazing how that works!

It is really hard to look in the mirror and admit that you need to change. I learned that self-reflection and the willingness to modify your behavior are the biggest components of personal growth. So, take it from me: Let your MIL in a bit so you can get out. Now when my kids are at their grandparents I’m at the gym or getting a pedicure.

Talk about a win-win.