We all have heard the story of the very visible third hand. I am talking about the interference from our parents and in-laws.
Those constant, unsolicited recommendations about what to feed her, how to dress (or over-dress) her, what to do with her hair, when to take her to school, when and how she should be sleeping, etc.
How often has your mother fed your child something you explicitly told her not to? You went to the store for half an hour and came back to a child smelling like Borsdruppels because she said the baby was restless and needed something to calm her down.
Imagine going to your mom to collect your child and she has undone your daughter’s dreadlocks and relaxed her hair? I wish this story was make-believe, but one of my friends went through this horrid experience. In her words, she “withheld parenting from her mom”, as a way to draw the line.
I was not planning on braiding my daughter’s hair until she was a little older but one day her grandmother came home with a hairpiece and coloured beads. I had an internal conflict for hours. Part of me felt she was making an executive decision, MY executive decision. Another could sense her excitement of braiding her first granddaughter’s hair.
I’m sure a lot of new moms feel their parents or in-laws are disrespecting their capabilities. Whatever we think the reason might be, it inevitably makes you feel undermined.
I have had to defend myself numerous times, with my in-laws saying I am raising a spoilt brat because she cried inconsolably when they took her away from me or her dad. Not considering that my baby felt overwhelmed surrounded by unfamiliar faces.
Our parents and in-laws are from a different generation and there is the big difference between us and them. We have more access to information on baby care and health.
For instance, we don’t give new-born baby water because we think she might be thirsty. Now we know that our breast milk is mostly composed of water, so she’s covered. Then you get the classic, “You grew up on the stuff” – which means absolutely nothing.
Where do you draw the line, and how? Is it even necessary? I repeatedly drew the line, but it kept getting blurred until it was non-existent.
I recently learned that Tshimo (my daughter) was given orange juice when she was two months old because my aunt was concerned that she was not pooping enough. She was only with her for a couple of hours!
See the line? I don’t. In hindsight, not knowing saved me from a lot of arguing.
There are two ways of dealing with this. Instead of wasting energy by trying to have the “This is my child” conversation, you can smile, wave, and walk away. Or you can attempt to tell them politely that you’re open to suggestions, but you will make the final decision.
Our mothers do have interesting and sometimes very effective remedies and parenting advice. But sometimes we have to trust our paediatricians more than we do them.