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How can I stop my mother-in-law from telling me how to parent?

October 18, 2016

By YOU Program Facilitator

How can I stop my mother-in-law from telling me how to parent? | A new dad sits in bed with his wife while his mother argues with them while holding the baby.

Question: I just had my first baby and my mother-in-law is driving me crazy! She’s telling me how to do everything, even breastfeed! She has an opinion about formula, diapers, swaddling, how to hold the baby—the list goes on and on. I’m about to lose my mind—how can I stop her from telling me how to be a parent?

Answer: We’ve all been there. As soon as the pregnancy or adoption announcement goes out, the unsolicited parenting advice rolls in. It seems unstoppable. You start by politely smiling and nodding, agreeing even when you don’t. But once the baby comes, there is neither time nor patience for being polite. And of course, the advice that hits the biggest nerve is from your mother-in-law.

This is one of the most common questions we receive from friends and YOU Program workshop attendees and the answer isn’t simple. It depends on your and your parenting partner’s relationship with your in-law. It depends on the advice they’re offering. It depends on a lot of factors.

There are two key starting points:

  1. Take a breath and remember that it comes from a good place.
    Your mother-in-law loves her grandchild and wants to pass along advice that helped her raise your partner. But she might not understand that parenting trends come and go, safety expectations change, and most people only want advice when they ask for it.
  2. Assess the advice.
    If it’s a clear safety violation to follow her advice, then stop her right away and explain the current safety rules or laws. For example, if Grandma says it’s okay for a two-year-old to ride in the front seat of the car, you need to stop her immediately and explain why that’s unsafe and where your two-year-old should be sitting instead (in a strapped in car seat in the back seat).

From there, here are some ways to deal with common issues.

Giving Birth
If your parenting partner and you would like privacy during the birth or right afterward, communicate that to close family and friends as soon as you have decided. Be proactive about announcing this decision so everyone knows your expectations. Let them know you’d like some privacy as a family before they come to visit the baby.

First Visits at Home
If parents or parents-in-law want to stay with you after the birth of your child and you’re comfortable with it, be proactive about asking for help.

Think of things you need help with that won’t interfere with what you need to do with your new baby: laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, cooking, etc. By giving them something to do, they can be helpful while you take care of the baby’s immediate needs.

If your in-law seems to take too much of a hands-on role with your baby, you or your parenting partner need to quickly explain that you are now in the parent role and your in-law is now in the grandparent role. Explain the differences, like the new parents needing to establish a routine for the baby with them, and the exception to the routine is with the grandparents. The grandparents need to respect your rules for your baby, not the other way around.

Parenting Advice
If your mother-in-law is persistently offering opinions that you disagree with, you and your parenting partner should discuss them privately to ensure you’re on the same page. Then, figure out who should talk to Grandma.

Some people are more comfortable with the child directly addressing the issue with their parent. For example, if Dad’s mother is critical of the way Mom is feeding the baby, Dad can gently tell his mother that her criticism is hurtful to both him and you and that you are following your doctor’s advice.

If Dad’s mother is with Mom alone a lot, it might be better for Mom to address the opinions directly. Again, be gentle but firm. “I really appreciate your advice and you did a great job with Dad, but this is something I want to figure out for myself. If I’m having trouble, I’ll be sure to ask you for help and advice.”

Remember those starting points and that your mother-in-law means well. At the same time, it’s a good opportunity for you to start setting boundaries for your new family. Hopefully, everyone in the family will soon settle into a routine with your baby and you can get the help you need but not the advice you don’t.

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5 Unique Father’s Day Gifts

June 14, 2016

By Jessica Vician

5 Unique Father’s Day Gifts | This Father’s Day let your kids get Dad a unique gift or take a family outing that speaks to how special he is. | A father hugs his daughter.

Forget the ties, money clips, and grilling tools. Father’s Day is about more than cliché gifts for Dad. It’s about saying ‘thank you’ for all that he does for you and the kids, and about creating an experience he’ll remember for years. This Father’s Day let your kids get Dad a unique gift or take a family outing that speaks to how special he is.

For the Bearded Papa
If Dad has or wants to grow a beard or mustache, elevate his look with a beard or mustache wax. It gives the facial hair more control and can soften the beard for better face-to-face cuddles with your child (and you!).

For the Hands-on Dad
DIY isn’t just for moms and kids. When Dad starts dreaming of carpentry and making his own chair or side table, encourage him to do it right with a woodworking class. If he already has basic skills, he can take a specialty class, like wood carving.

Bonus points for classes that are kid-friendly, so both Dad and his daughter and/or son can watch and help with the little things. If your child is a teenager, sign both of them up for a class so they can learn to build together.

For the Rockin’ Daddio
Help him learn a new instrument or a new musical style with a music class. Local colleges and music schools offer classes for children and parents, as well as solo classes just for adults.

Register the novice for introduction to guitar or the advanced guitarist for a Beach Boys ensemble and he’ll keep the tunes rocking at home. And if guitar isn’t his thing, schools may offer classes in piano, harmonica, drumming, songwriting, and more.

For the Social Pops
If Pops is a social guy who likes having his friends and family hang out together, organize a mocktail party with your kids and invite family friends.

The kids can make the invitations and help you choose a menu with alcohol-free Bloody Marys, piña coladas, punches, and fizzes. Let them pick out napkins, plates, plastic glasses, and swizzle sticks from the party store. Serve cheese and crackers and a few easy-to-make appetizers, turn on Dad’s favorite tunes, and celebrate!

For the Sports Dad
For a Father’s Day the sports lover will never forget, take the family to the Father’s Day baseball game in your nearest city. Many ballparks have Father’s Day games with special giveaways for kids. Get a picture near home plate and savor the memories for years to come.

Do you have a unique idea for Father’s Day? Share it with us in the comments below.

Tags :  fatherhoodactivities
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Father’s Day for the Modern Dad

June 18, 2015

By Jessica Vician

Father’s Day for the Modern Dad | This year, avoid the cliché gifts for Father's Day and give dad an experience he really wants based on the type of dad he is. | A dad works from home on his laptop while his daughter naps on the couch next to him.

We know the Father’s Day cliché gifts: the ties, the money clips, the cuff links. But today’s American father is very different from the father who might enjoy or need those gifts. Our idea of what a father is and should be has changed, and we can reflect that change with how we celebrate Father’s Day.

Back in the old days (which are as recent as the 90s), men were usually the primary breadwinners. They worked all day, so when a father’s children saw him, it was often at dinner and on the weekends. To his kids, those impersonal Father’s Day gifts seemed to be perfect for the man they didn’t really know. They knew he wore a tie to work or was responsible for the money, so those gifts made sense.

Now, defining fatherhood is just as complicated as defining motherhood, so buying a tie and saying “Happy Father’s Day” isn’t enough anymore (and thank goodness—who wants a generic gift anyway?).

Tradition suggests that dads should spend time with their children on Father’s Day. But isn’t it a day to celebrate and thank dads for all they do? This year, instead of a tie or a new shirt, think about the kind of father he is and help your child plan accordingly.

  • Is he a stay-at-home dad: hands-on, working hard every day to keep his son or daughter healthy, on time, and constantly learning? 
  • Is he the breadwinner: working long hours but trying to see his kids as much as he can and shape their lives in a positive way?
  • Is he a dad who works from home: balancing conference calls with playtime?

Whatever version of a father he is, he deserves a fitting Father’s Day celebration.

  • If he’s hands-on all the time, maybe the perfect gift is a day to himself. Let the kids make him breakfast in bed and thank him for everything he does, then let him be—whether that’s getting the kids out of the house so he can nap or sending him to a game with friends.
  • If he works long hours in a job where he’s on his feet, treat him to an affordable foot or body massage, let the kids make him lunch or dinner, and give him control of the remote for the day.
  • If he works from home during the week, get him out of the house. Head to a nature preserve or a park and organize an activity where he can watch the kids play while taking in the sunshine and smell of nature.

On Father’s Day, thank him for everything he does for the kids and show him he is appreciated. Gifts don’t have to cost money, but thinking about the type of dad and person he is and giving him an appropriate experience (with or without the kids) is a great way to say thanks to the modern dad.

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Couple Chat: Surviving the First Year of Parenthood

June 2, 2015

By Ana and Mario Vela

Couple Chat: Surviving the First Year of Parenthood | Mario and Ana Vela talk about the best and most difficult parts of the first year of parenthood. | Mario, Ana, and Mariana Vela take a photo outside in Lincoln Park, Chicago.

In the Couple Chat series, we pose a few topical questions to a couple and ask each person to answer privately. Each person then reads the other’s responses and the couple discusses their individual thoughts on the topic. They share their discussion with us in the reflection.

For today’s Couple Chat, we asked Ana and Mario Vela, whose daughter Mariana will turn one year old next week, about surviving the first year of parenthood. Here’s what they said.

What’s the best survival tip you’ve learned in this first year?

Ana: My best survival tip is to trust your instincts. I have been so surprised to discover how well I know my own child, and how my instincts have helped me find solutions to comfort her, make her happy, and keep her safe. I think this is the hardest concept to grasp, but when you are in it you will know exactly what it means.

Mario: The attachment and care your child needs will offer you a drive you might not be aware you had. The new moments and experiences you gain will allow you to offer the care necessary to your child. Also, if your family and friends offer support, accept it. We’ve been very fortunate that our mothers have decided to take turns in living with us.

What was the hardest thing about the first year of parenthood?

Ana: The hardest thing about the first year of parenthood is trying to juggle everything. You lose sleep, your priorities change, it´s difficult to find time to spend with your partner—much less friends—keeping up with work, and finding time just for yourself. I´m most surprised about the strain it has caused on our marriage because we prioritized everything else and took our relationship for granted. It has taken me many months to start getting to a place where I feel I can start “handling my personal load” again, and I have had to make some major life decisions in order to achieve a good sense of balance. And that´s okay. After all, this new child is absolutely worth it!

Mario: Adjusting my priorities. I’ve been driven by my career and educational goals, and I had to adjust that amount of time since I now want to be with my daughter and support my partner. I previously attended several networking events per week, and now I have reduced to a few events a month. I’m also now involved in non-profit boards that require less time in the community, but make a bigger impact. I’ve even had to reduce the time we spend with our friends, which they understand. Now that Mariana is closer to a year old, we’ve been able to spend time with our friends again by having her join us at some Chicago summer festivals.

What was the best thing about the first year?

Ana: The best thing about this first year has been having fun! I never knew how much fun spending time with my daughter would be. Every new thing she learns is fascinating. Making her laugh is the best! And taking her out to the world and seeing her enjoy new experiences is so fulfilling. I am always looking forward to doing ¨the next thing” with her because everything is new to her. I couldn´t have ever imagined this feeling.

Mario: Seeing Mariana mature, socialize, and develop her own personality. I see myself in her.

What did you learn about your partner that you never knew in this first year?

Ana: The most surprising thing I learned about my husband has been seeing his inner child come out. It´s interesting to see how he sees the world through her eyes, and how he wants to make everything fun and memorable for her. I always knew he would be a good father, but didn´t realize how fun and attentive he would be to her development.

Mario: The type of love and care she offers our daughter. Ana wanted to have children, but I was surprised by how naturally it came to her. I was also surprised to see her moments of doubt. I believe she now feels capable and confident, but with new stages forthcoming. She also makes me a better father.

Reflection
Ana: When reading our answers to each other, we got very emotional. The first year has been demanding, and yet so wonderful. It’s the oddest thing. But we survived, and we both agree that we are so proud of where Mariana is in her development. We both contributed different things to shape her in to the person she is right now.

It’s interesting how we don’t want to waste any time in life anymore. Every moment is about her – giving her everything she needs and spending time with her and making it memorable. We’re looking forward to her first birthday party—having our family fly in from Texas, surrounded by our friends, and celebrating that we will have completed our first year as parents!

We can help you through not only your first year of parenthood, but through high school graduation and beyond. Check out our holistic approach to parenting in the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books, now available on Amazon

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Dad’s Story: Planning the First Mother’s Day

May 7, 2015

By Mario Vela

Dad’s Story: Planning the First Mother’s Day | Once you have a family of your own, the meaning of Mother's Day changes a bit. Here's a first-time father's story of what he's planning for their first Mother's Day with a baby, and how it's not just Mom and Dad who he has to plan for. | The author, his wife, and his daughter pose for a selfie in the snow this past winter.

Photo of Mario, Ana, and Mariana (clockwise from top) courtesy of Mario and Ana Vela. 

My spouse and I decided to have our first child after being married for 10 years. This month, our daughter Mariana will turn 11 months old and we will celebrate our first Mother’s Day as a family.

This first Mother’s Day is especially important to celebrate because I want to thank and appreciate my wife for our new partnership and commitment now that we have a daughter. Being new parents requires a stronger focus on our relationship and how we collaborate in raising our daughter. Because of that, we’ve developed a new kind of friendship and I’ve learned that she has the ability to show a new kind of love that I wasn’t aware of that she offers to our daughter. I appreciate her commitment to our partnership and our daughter, and want to make sure I plan a special day. 
 
Typically I would take my wife to dinner to celebrate an achievement, anniversary, or birthday, but this is an event where Mariana’s needs and preferences will be important to our experience as well. For our first Mother’s Day, I’ll have to consider the opinions and preferences of both my wife and daughter.
 
Since we live in Chicago and it’s warming up, we definitely have to appreciate the ability to be outside. Gone are the days that I would choose the trendiest restaurant. Instead I will base my choice on having the option for Mariana to walk around. We make an effort to have her try different cuisines, new visuals and stimuli, and give her opportunities to interact with people, so the restaurant will need to accommodate those things.

We’ve also learned that Mariana loves—not surprisingly—ice cream, so I’ll need to find a dessert place within walking distance.

Ana, my wife, also prefers that all our plans are seamless and in order before we go out, so I will surprise her with the day’s activities as well—carefully planned so she has a stress-free day. One of the best things I can do for Ana is to listen for anything she’s been missing the last few months. Since we haven’t been able to go out as much due to the winter and having a newborn, I want to make sure we take advantage of Mariana being a little older to appreciate the food and the ability to be outside and enjoy the springtime weather.

A key lesson I’ve learned in this first year of parenthood is that there are times when you might be overextending yourself, but when that happens you can simply adjust your responsibilities. So instead of celebrating this milestone as I would have in the past, with a nice dinner for my wife and me, we can adjust our expectations and keep it family-focused.

The important thing is to show gratitude to my wife for what she’s accomplished this past year with our family. Our friendship and partnership has been strengthened and revitalized, and that’s something worth celebrating.

Do you want to learn about nurturing your child's core areas of development? Check out our YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books, now available on Amazon

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