Besides you and your spouse, no one is happier than grandparents are at the announcement of your pregnancy. This is especially true if this baby will be their first grandchild. On the one hand, this probably means they will spoil your baby silly with gifts, attention, and love and request photos every day.
On the other hand, it also probably means you’ll constantly get an earful about everything you’re doing wrong as you grow your child inside you—and as you continue to nurture him or her outside your womb, too. When it’s your own parents giving you unwanted pregnancy advice, it can be easier to manage because you know them well and therefore know how best to handle them, but when it’s your in-laws, it can be a whole different ballpark.
You have to maneuver standing up for yourself without causing family drama, all while dealing with pregnancy hormones and discomfort. You don’t need the extra stress, especially at this important and beautiful time in your life, so here are seven ways to handle unwanted advice from your in-laws.
7 Just Ignore the Advice Completely
The most obvious thing to do is just ignore your in-laws. Don’t even acknowledge what they said. Pretend you didn’t hear and immediately change the subject. If that seems too rude to you or if you think it would make your in-laws prod more, then just smile and nod to give minimal acknowledgment before you steer the conversation in another direction.
Of course, this is easier said than done, but with some practice it will soon become second nature to you. Your constant deflection may be the subtle hint your in-laws need in order for them to recognize it’s time to stop telling you what you should be doing. If you have in-laws who like to stir up trouble, then this action puts you in control. Your ability to shrug it off gives you power over the situation. When they see they can’t get under your skin, they just may give up.
The advice they give is worth what you paid to hear it
Mastering this technique (and the rest too, for that matter) will continue to help you in dealing with others throughout your pregnancy, labor, and parenthood. You need to have confidence in yourself and your choices. It’s good to be open minded, of course, but ultimately, you need to follow your motherly intuition and intelligence in determining which advice is a good fit for your family and then have the conviction to stand behind your choice.
Your confidence and consistency will benefit you as you interact with your child as well. It will help you with discipline and will show your child an example of strength and self-trust.
6 Acknowledge It, But Move On
A similar suggestion that is more polite, is to respond courteously before you move on. For example, maybe you know your mother-in-law means well and she isn’t trying to be rude, so you don’t want to hurt her feelings by just ignoring her.
Instead, say something like, “Okay. I’ll keep that in mind,” or “Thank you. I appreciate your concern,” and then put her advice through your brain’s shredder. Your mother-in-law will feel validated because you listened, you’ll feel that you were respectful in your reply, and you can move on to talking about something else without any guilt or awkwardness.
Most people just like to know that you’re listening
If she brings up the subject again and asks you if you took her advice, be honest and say you thought about it but it wasn’t right for you. Again, thank her for thinking of you and remind her it isn’t personal. You’re just a different person, and although something she did may have been perfect for her, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be the same for you, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
5 Acknowledge It and Disagree
Most advice is just a matter of opinion, which means it’s very likely you’ll disagree with it. If you prefer to make your opinions known, then politely or appreciatively acknowledge what was said and voice your disagreement in a non-confrontational manner. An example of such a response is, “Thank you for the advice. I’m so happy it worked well for you. I find that X works better for me, though.”
If your in-laws start attacking your opinion, remind them that opinions are just that, not judgments. You can both be right about your preferences because they are based on personal tastes and experiences. Your differences aren’t a reflection on each of your characters, intelligence, or beliefs. They’re just expressions of your individuality.
Even medical providers don’t give the same advice to every pregnant woman because each woman, baby, and pregnancy is unique.
Sometimes in-laws just need to be reaffirmed that you understand they’re trying to be helpful or kind. Tell them that just because you choose to do differently than they did doesn’t mean you think less of them or believe they’re trying to be mean or controlling. Their concern for you and your baby shows that they care, and for that you are grateful.
4 Tell Them the Facts
Prenatal advice has changed considerably in the last decade, let alone since your mother-in-law was pregnant with your spouse. Maybe your in-laws aren’t aware of these changes and are giving you the advice they were given by their providers and which they still think is valid. Now would be the perfect opportunity to inform them of modern practices and updated recommendations.
Tell them with excitement instead of condescension to make them more receptive to your information. Let them know you’re delighted that they care about facts and professional guidance and you want to give them the best resources to refer to when they’re concerned about your pregnancy (and newborn and parenting, too). Share your favorite articles, websites, and books with them to read and browse at their own convenience.
Knowledge sharing might turn into support for your ideas instead of their own
If they’re open to what you share with them, it can help you out in the future. They will have a better understanding of why you do what you do and will be more likely to honor it even if they still disagree. They will also know where to look if they have a question about something while watching your baby and can’t reach you.
If they argue with what you tell them, try to remain collected and reasonable. Validate their concerns, but stick by the facts and your interpretations of them. With your patience and persistence, they may come around with time.
3 Confront Them When They Cross the Line
If nothing is working, or your in-laws are outright demeaning or insulting you, you need to confront them about their behavior. It would be best if your spouse takes the lead on this course of action so you don’t appear to be the villain. If your spouse is unwilling to make the move, then you need to step up and defend yourself.
Be calm, but very firm in telling your in-laws that their advice is unwanted and their behavior is unacceptable. This is your pregnancy and your baby, and only you know what is best for you, your family, and your circumstances. You have done all the research, you have consulted your provider, you have tested several things out, and you have decided on how you want to proceed.
If they can’t accept and respect that, then they no longer will be welcome to interact with you at this time.
This approach may sound harsh, but sometimes it takes extreme measures for stubborn people to get the message through their thick skulls. It’s important to remain composed, because it shows them you mean business and aren’t acting rashly out of pregnancy emotions. They will be more likely to take you seriously if they can’t blame your reaction on something else.
2 Limit Your Interaction With Them
Maybe there’s no way to get your in-laws to stop their mouths from running. If they still continue to be overbearing or hurtful, then follow through on the terms you set and limit your interactions with them. Don’t answer phone calls or reply to messages from them. Don’t invite them over or go to visit them.
If they accuse you of being rude, remember to keep your cool and remind them that is about them disregarding your judgment and feelings. You love them and want them to be a part of this wonderful journey, but you can’t allow them to be if they choose not to listen to you and trust your decisions. The stress, conflict, and negative emotions aren’t good for you and your baby.
Set healthy boundaries for you and your in-laws
If they agree to follow the rules you set, then forgive them and joyfully welcome them back. Give them warnings if they seem about to break the rules, and if they still do, limit your interactions again. They need to know you’re serious and can’t be walked on like a doormat.
1 When in Doubt, Try It Out
While most of these tips revolve around dealing with advice that is medically incorrect or not right for you, it’s possible that your in-laws have legitimately helpful and relevant advice. Remember, they have experience and wisdom you don’t have. When they share things with you, they’re probably not judging you, but simply and sincerely offering another perspective or solution because they love you and want you to have an amazing pregnancy.
It’s a sign they care and want to help.
If what they suggest doesn’t sound unsafe and you know it isn’t outdated, then perhaps you should give it a try. You may be surprised by the results! Maybe finally you’ll be able to sleep at night or get rid of that continual back pain or stop throwing up or have the labor you hoped for. Maybe you won’t, either, but at least you can say you tried it out. That simple act might be enough to assuage your in-laws and keep the peace.
No matter which route you choose to go, it’s important that you and your spouse are united. Your partner needs to be on your side and stand up to parents who overstep their boundaries and disrespect you. There will be more challenges ahead in the in-law department after your baby is born, so now is the best time to practice how the two of you will handle it so there are no questions or arguments about it later.
If your partner is unwilling to cooperate, then you should try counseling. Maybe your spouse needs training on how to be assertive, or maybe you both need to go to marital counseling so you can figure out how to be a team without hurting the bonds you have with your families of origin. And when the time comes that your baby grows up and has a baby, remember what it was like to be in his or her shoes and don’t give advice unless asked!