Q. My mother and I have always been close, but now that I have a baby, she has not helped out as much as I thought she would. She is still interested in hanging out, but she acts more like a guest than someone giving me a hand with her grandson. Honestly, she doesn’t seem particularly interested in him. My husband and I would kill for a night out but she hasn’t offered to babysit, and I am afraid that if I ask she will say no and it will hurt me even more. —Disappointed Daughter
Putting off the conversation won’t make your hurt go away; it likely will enlarge it. Your mom might be intimidated, or torn about becoming a grandparent. Maybe she doesn’t love the infant stage or is just is just terrified of stepping on your toes. Or maybe she feels her diaper-duty days are over. You won’t know any of this — or whether she’s motivated or even capable of being more involved — until you talk to her. This has the potential to be hurtful to both of you, so proceed cautiously.
Put a positive spin on it, and don’t accuse. “Mom, you know you are welcome to jump in here and hold him/walk him/take him — I wouldn’t mind if you took over a bit. We’re actually pretty exhausted.” Her reaction will open the door to a larger conversation, but be prepared: The hardest part may be reconciling your expectations with her limits.
Fight, fight, fight, marry?
Q. I am with a great guy and we are likely getting married soon. But we always have the same fight: about how he lets his preteen daughter walk all over him. She and I have a good relationship but I know she has the potential to drive a wedge between us. Till now I have not stepped in, but I know once I am Stepmom I expect things to be different. I don’t know if he is willing to change, or accept that I will have a role in parenting. —Tired of the Same Fight
You want to marry this guy soon but you don’t know if he’ll “accept” that you’ll be a parental figure to his daughter? This is about more than a recurring fight. This is an issue of expectations, roles, boundaries, responsibilities, philosophies on discipline — everything except attitudes toward the Instant Pot (though that may play in too).
Don’t even consider marriage until you can iron out how you both will navigate raising this child. Yes, there are hierarchies of “step-parents” and “parents” and “custodial parents,” but you’re right there in the mix of child-rearing. And to not be on the same page about what that mix will look like is unfair to this kid (and will likely make her behavior worse).
Send your questions for Baggage Check to Dr. Andrea Bonior at email@example.com.
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