Last week, a concerned mom-to-be took to Slate's parenting advice column, Care and Feeding, to ask for advice on how to deal with her mother-in-law, who smokes, around her new baby. While she wasn't concerned that her mother-in-law would smoke around her child, the self-proclaimed worried daughter-in-law wanted to know how she and her husband would go about asking her mother-in-law to change and shower before handling the baby, due to something called third-hand smoke.
Third-hand smoke is essentially the residue from tobacco smoke left behind after tobacco is burned. It can linger on clothing and furniture and can be considered dangerous for babies and children. While she felt awful "ostracizing" her family, she wanted to protect her baby and set boundaries.
At first, the columnist admitted that his first reaction was a little contemptuous.
"Are you [expletive] kidding me?" he wrote. "I used to light cigarettes for the elders in my family!"
But when he realized that third-hand smoke was a real concern, he came around. Not only did he come around, but he also commended the soon-to-be mother for taking her baby's health so seriously.
He acknowledged that while he understood she didn't want her mother-in-law to feel singled out, she was perfectly within her rights to request that her mother-in-law adhere to the rules within her home. He did, however, warn that when it comes time to visit her in her home, it's a little different. It just wouldn't be feasible for her to remove all the residual smoke off of everything they own.
"You may want to stay in a hotel for that reason," he suggested.
Finally, he said that when it comes time to approach this rather awkward conversation, it's important for her to remember to clearly communicate that her mother-in-law is loved and welcome in her home as part of her family. He warned that her feelings may be hurt and she may have a hard time hearing this, but that's okay. He added that this may just be the perfect opportunity for her to take a long, hard look at her smoking habits and maybe even help her decide to forgo smoking altogether so that she can have the absolute best relationship possible with her new grandchild.
Hopefully, it all worked out, for all parties involved - and everyone is, or will soon be, enjoying brand-new baby snuggles.