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Carolyn Hax: In-laws keep bringing meat dishes to vegetarian new mom

(Nick Galifianakis for The Washington Post)

Adapted from an online discussion.

Hi Carolyn! After having my first baby, I am finding that when people say they “want to help,” what they actually mean is they want to do things that make THEM feel helpful.

Case in point: I am vegetarian, and have been since long before meeting my in-laws. When my baby was born, my mother- and sister-in-law both volunteered to bring meals to me and my husband on a rotating basis, for which we were very thankful.

The first two meals they brought both featured meat, even though they know I am vegetarian. I thanked them, then reminded them (through my husband) that I am vegetarian and hinted that we don’t need more food if they aren’t comfortable cooking without meat. They waved this off and continued to bring meat dishes as recently as yesterday, and my mother-in-law said “at least one of you will be fed.” I guess she expects me to cook for myself, and for the two of us to eat separate dishes for the next few nights.

What is the correct response here? This was supposed to be helpful as I recover from my C-section, and instead all it’s doing is causing my blood pressure to spike.

— Vegetarian

Vegetarian: Holy crap in a casserole.

If your husband won’t IMMEDIATELY tell them to cut it out, then I need to think of a whole new answer. Besides suggesting you ask them, “Could you be any more hostile?”

Re: Meals: Actually I think this isn’t so bad IF the following applies: it’s not a vegetarian household; the husband enjoys meat meals; and, most importantly, the husband is the one doing all the cooking, this makes cooking easier, and he doesn’t then resent having to make her food. If all that applies, then it’s a little help. Otherwise not.

— Anonymous

Anonymous: She was the one cut open to remove the child she spent the majority of the past year growing. It is exactly, precisely, exquisitely, So Bad.

And I make a living finding ways to be sympathetic.

Other readers’ thoughts:

· If your husband doesn’t put a stop to it, then you need to let all three of them — husband, mother-in-law and sister-in-law — know what effect the meat dishes are having on your health, your mental health and your marriage. Sheesh.

· There is nothing hard about making vegetable soup or mac and cheese. They are choosing not to do so. In a way, this is a helpful flag.

Yes, your husband needs to speak up about the meals. It’s incredibly hurtful.

But this is just the beginning. Don’t give her a key. Be proactive about your values as parents. How do you want to raise this little person?

You need to be a team. Then you need to communicate your choices. And there need to be consequences if those are railroaded or ignored. Moving too far away for anyone to drop off a hot dish may be a long-term consideration.

· Give the meal back! Ask them what’s in it, and if there’s meat, hand it back to them.

· I’d like to give a shout-out to my mother-in-law and all the others out there like her. I am a different religion. I was apparently the first vegetarian she encountered. I also don’t see eye to eye with her on politics. And I’ve never felt anything other than welcome. I hope I treat my children’s partners the same way.

· They’re lucky they didn’t get the meals back on their heads.