Child Caring

Indonesian mom and dad need less stress, not more

[This letter has been condensed -- BFM.]
Dear Barbara,

I came to read your blog upon looking 'mother-in-law, parenting issue.' It is not directly my problem but my brother's and his wife.

They had a baby just two months ago. They decided that the mother and baby would be living with her Mom for the first 40 days so that my sister-in-law could get a hang on parenting newborn. But her house is too cramped, meaning one family consists of three stayed in one room, including the baby. Even my brother couldn't sleep in the room so they were 'separated' for that 40 days.

Then, they moved to my mother's house where they have their own room. And the baby has his own crib. They'll visit her mom every weekend. The initial plan was to leave the baby under my mother's care while both parents are working.

However, my sister-in-law had a change of heart. She was concerned that my mom's physical condition is not strong enough to be left alone to handle a ... baby.

My mother is 63 years old, she is diabetic [but healthy]....My sister-in-law insisted that they should bring the baby to her mom's house every morning then returned with him to my mom's at night. My brother tried to talk her out of it because that was not the plan and he felt that it would bring rage to our mom. She didn't like her grandson being brought to her in-law's house because it was too small and worried the baby would be suffocating in the room for over-crowded people.

She insisted and it has caused a bit strain in their marriage. My brother told me that he was a bit frustrated as he know the decision would not be accepted gladly by our mom and he was against the fact that the baby was treated like a ping-pong.

I suggested that he could talked to his mother-in-law to persuade her daughter to abandon the idea.... There was also another option that she would leave her job and be a stay-at-home mom...

What I would like to ask is do you think I should to talk to my sister-in-law too? I mean, my brother is still trying to talk to her again. Do you think I'd be meddling too much on their situation? If I should talk, what is the best thing to say to her? When is the best time?

Thanks in advance for your response. Really appreciate it!

From: Fidel, Jakarta, Indonesia

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Dear Fidel,

It sounds like the only people happy with this new arrangement are the new mom and her family. It sounds like she may have felt pressured to move to her husband's home to make him happy, knowing all along that she would prefer her own mother to be the care-giver. And, frankly, the "ping-ponging" you describe doesn't bother me so much;
that's pretty much accepted practice in this country when a baby gets dropped off in the morning at day care and picked up at the end of the day.

My point is that there is already a lot of marital stress on these new parents. One way or another, that -- more than the arrangements themselves -- get conveyed to a baby.

Your brother and his wife need time -- time to settle into routines, time to get to know their baby, and time to get to know each other again in their new roles. I understand and respect your sensitivity to your mother's hurt feelings. I also recognize that there may be cultural differences that come to play. Nonetheless, my advice is for everyone to back off and let this settle out, and for neither you nor your mom to take this personally. Your intervention, even though well-intentioned, will only add more stress. New mothers can be bundles of emotions. They need support, not stress, love, not criticism. It's possible that as time passes, your sister-in-law will come to see that her mother-in-law is a wonderful caregiver. The only way that will happen, though, is for your mother to be involved and generous of spirit and time while the family is in her home. If she harbors resentment and anger, if she closes herself off, that will only strengthen the daughter-in-law's resolve and reinforce the current arrangement.