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ASK MERRILY/Mother in Law Problems

Merrily Preston
By Merrily Preston
Posted on Apr 21,2009
Filed Under Personal Development , Opinions,


My friend has mother-in-law (m-i-l) problems.  I told her I would bounce them off you.

Although m-i-l is a soft-spoken person, she has become deceptively intrusive regarding the first child who is 7 months old. The conflict centers on my friend’s nursing him and not feeding him as much solid food as m-i-l believes he needs.

During a weekend together, the m-i-l brought jars of baby food and insisted that it be feed to him.  My friend is eager to please and never wants to offend.  She held in her resentment and did as m-i-l ordered.  She tried to feed the food to the baby, which he didn't want and which didn’t agree with him. She is feeling inadequate as a mother.
Friend will work this summer and m-i-l will watch the baby.  Friend worries that m-i-l will just "take over".

 Any thoughts?

Dear Thoughts,

You friend has m-i-l problems or boundary setting problems?  

She is eager to please, never wants to offend, holds resentment, follows orders, and feels inadequate as a mother.  You left out ‘doesn’t set appropriate boundaries.’

She could try my daughter’s words,  “Even though I may do things differently from the way you would do them, it is my responsibility to take care of my child.  I make the decisions concerning his food.”  

Not looking out for her child’s best interest is a problem.  The plan put in place by parents and pediatrician for introducing new foods is non-negotiable.

Is it in the child’s best interest for the m-i-l to watch him this summer?  Rethink this decision.

Intrusive advice erodes self-confidence and undermines the innate wisdom that a new mother is just learning to trust.  It’s a fragile time for her to assert herself, as she is traveling a new landscape without a map.

Most new mothers feel inadequate.  New motherhood is one of the most difficult transitions a woman faces, a time when her own issues all seem to surface at once.  A new mother needs a person to listen, validate her feelings, and support her decisions.

Encourage your friend to find such a person and to learn to set appropriate boundaries for both herself and her child.  Keep listening to her.

Merrily Preston is an Intentional Life Facilitator, who lives in Woodbridge. Her column is exclusive to Local Kicks in Alexandria, VA. Email questions to, or use online form at

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