Carolyn Hax: Define boundaries with mother-in-law

The Washington PostJune 28, 2014 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Carolyn: When I became engaged to my now-husband, I explicitly told friends and family I was not interested in any bridal showers. My husband and I had lived together for years and needed nothing for our home. I was never interested in being the center of attention.

My mother-in-law ignored all of my protests and planned a bridal shower, inviting only her family members (most of whom I'd never met). I had no choice but to go and be gracious, even though the experience was extremely uncomfortable.

I am pregnant and know my mother-in-law will immediately begin plans for a baby shower when she finds out. I have no interest in repeating the experience. "Mom" has lots of anger issues and will not take the news well. Is it petty of me to say a polite but firm "No, thanks," or must I suck it up yet again?

NO PARTIES

It's your life. "No, thanks" is never petty.

Normally I'd say that baby showers are different, and that involving people in celebrations can be an early step in creating a community for your child, but this is different. You're still at a point where your mother-in-law is in control, you make no mention of where your husband is in all this, and a baby is about to make any mother-in-law boundary problems exponentially worse.

So, my advice here is to take it up with your husband. Not just the shower, but the whole "anger issues when anyone says no to her" thing. He needs to be willing to serve as the protective wall between his family and her issues.

Re: Shower: What if you don't want advice or questions either? I'm having this weird urge to go hide in a cabin in the woods until I give birth. Is it weird that I'm just not interested in discussing my future child?

ANONYMOUS

Oh, gosh, no - I swear the population would double if new parents didn't have to run the gantlet of unsolicited advice.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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