My husband's mother will be living with us this summer and I'm a nervous wreck about how to deal with her constant advice about how to raise our kids. For example, she thinks we should let our six-month-old cry himself to sleep and she can't understand why our two-year-old isn't potty-trained. My husband works long hours, so I'll be the one to have to cope. How?
You don't mention how your husband feels, but I hope he will be your ally in holding fast to your own childrearing beliefs. If he is willing, perhaps he could talk with his mother ahead of time to let her know you all realize that you have some different opinions about childrearing, but that you hope she will defer to your approach during the time she is a guest in your home. Beyond that, here are some strategies that may make the summer go more smoothly for you and the rest of the family.
First, despite the fact that you resent your mother-in-law's advice, go out of your way to identify the things you appreciate about her. For example, thank her for any help she gives you around the house and for the love she shows your children.
When she offers advice, calmly say something like, "I appreciate your concern for the children. I understand that's what worked for you when you were raising children, but this is the way we've chosen."
At times when you're not in conflict, try to discuss with her what your childrearing approach is. Perhaps share with her some of the reading material that has helped you make your parenting decisions.
Look for things you and your mother-in-law can enjoy together. If possible, get a sitter occasionally and go out together for lunch or a movie, finding common ground.
Finally, be sure to make some time for yourself. Perhaps your husband and his mother would take the children out sometimes while you have time alone at home to read or soak in a hot bath. Or go out with a friend for a long walk or cup of coffee. Even under the best of circumstances it can be stressful to have an extra member of the household for a whole summer, so be sure to give yourself some breaks.
A question-and-answer column with Dr. Martha Farrell Erickson of the University of Minnesota