Mother-In-Law Makes Five

Welcome to the Tuesday guest blog. Every Tuesday "On Balance" features the views of a guest writer. It could be your neighbor, your boss, your most loved or hated poster from the blog, or you! Send me your original, unpublished entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life.

By Mary Ellen Halloran

Many years before we met, my husband had promised his dying father that he would always take care of his mother. When we had been married less than a year, she retired from her job as a school secretary. Our first child was due in a few months. Buying a house with her seemed to be a very efficient solution to keeping his promise. The deal was, we would buy a house together, she would live with us and take care of our children. I had very idealistic notions of how adult children should take care of their parents, so I thought, "How bad can it be?"

That was 17 years ago. She is still with us, and my two children are now in high school and middle school. Having my mother-in-law as a caregiver has been wonderful for the kids (for the most part) because they have been cared for by someone who loves them and would never park them in front of the TV all day. When they were babies she constantly played with them, read to them, let them fall asleep in her lap, and just provided wonderful care. We never had to worry about picking kids up from day care. Once they were in school, she supervised homework until we got home. In summertime, we didn't worry about putting them in day camp just to have child care. The kids stayed home, read, played in the yard and went to the pool. My husband and I could work late (once in a while only -- she's quick to let us know when she feels taken advantage of). To this day, she feeds my kids dinner before I get home so I don't have to rush home worrying about starving children.

That's the plus side.

The downside: It's impossible to fire your mother-in-law, particularly when she lives with you and is part owner of your house. While the situation was great for the kids, at times it's been terrible for me. I've had very little control over what she's done with the kids while I've been at work. She's free with her opinions when I am home. She's always been very forthright about what she will and will not do.

One example is play dates. We live in an exurban development of four-bedroom homes on two-acre lots and kids don't just run out and play with each other -- you have to arrange play dates. My mother-in-law wouldn't do them because she considered them too much work. I was frantic that my kids were missing out and becoming isolated. She and I would also get into horrific arguments over what the kids would wear, what time they would go to bed, what they would eat -- things that you would think would be the province of a parent (aka, me). She seemed to forget that she was not the parent, and that she could and even should back off once we got home. We still have power struggles to this day, although they are fewer and less emotional. And my husband has had many second thoughts about the arrangement.

Who else has a parent or relative care for their children? How is it working? Does it make a difference if it is your relative or your husband's? What conflicts do you experience in your family over child care? Is letting go of your kids' daily care the unavoidable pricetag of working motherhood?

Mary Ellen Halloran is a lawyer working in Trenton, N.J., and who lives with her extended family in Hopewell, N.J.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  November 14, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Guest Blogs
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Comments

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Thankfully - a great discussion. Another facet on the dependent care issue - and a very important one.

We just lost my Father in law. I had always told my husband I would not mind if we had to merge households with his mother - but I have changed my mind. This has caused a small controversy - even though she is not ready to make any big moves. Before my FIL died they bought her a very comprehensive Long-term care policy - so the NEED for her to move in with us is really not the issue. She is very healthy and lives in a great over 55 community about 40 minutes away. Moving nearby to an assisted living when the move becomes necessary sounds good to me.

I have to say too - I am not sure I could have my parents in my house either. If there was an imminent situation with any of the 3 of them - a sudden terminal illness, etc I think it would be different. Merging households with no exit strategy is scary to me. All 3 parents are financially stable - so money is not an issue.

I feel bad about this but I see the strain it can cause on a family and know that I would not be able to handle it. We do a lot for our parents. They are all great people. We love them and involve them in our lives - our kids have a wonderful relationship with them - I just can't live with them.

Posted by: cmac | November 14, 2006 8:00 AM


I am not unsurprised by the tensions which have developed over the years, but admire how you've survived this arrangement, as I do believe your mother-in-law has your children's best interests at heart. My mother-in-law had recently remarried when my first child was born and lived 5 hours away, and my own parents made it clear that they'd already raised three kids, and didn't want a major caregiver role.
I have observed countless grandparents at playgrounds over the years, some of whom have told me that they were recruited or volunteered for the job. Without exception, they are finding it a bit overwhelming, exhausting, etc., and it clearly doesn't allow them much of a life outside grandparenting. I guess if your parents or in-laws are willing to give up their own friends, theatre, concerts, reading, etc., to a large extent, it works. I know my own energy level was higher for getting to the playground at 9 a.m. when my first child was 2 (I was only 27 years old), whereas it had diminshed by the time my last child was that age (I was slightly over 40). So I can well imagine that I might not have enough energy to deal with a toddler 40+ hours/week when I'm his or her grandparent. I think my own parents were realistic that they couldn't have handled it. They enjoy watching their grandchildren in swim meets, taking them out to dinner, having them over for meals when my husband and I need to go out, etc., but they have a busier social life than my husband and I do, by far, because they view this as their just desserts for having worked and raised children for several decades.

Posted by: suzanne goode | November 14, 2006 8:07 AM

I was wondering while reading this, where was your husband when his mother (your MiL) was dictating to you how your children should be raised? He's their father; he should have stood up to his mother on what your (presumably both of you actually) wishes on this subject were.

Posted by: John | November 14, 2006 8:08 AM

My brother & I were taken care of by my materal grandmother. There were problems here and there, but we became better adults because of it.

Whenever you let another person be a "partial parent," I think there's bound to be issues in parenting. It does seem like both Mary and her MIL realize and do indeed compromise. I think that's the key.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2006 8:08 AM

I just wanted to compliment today's guest blogger on her honesty and her realistic outlook. I know several families who have integrated a grandparent (usually a grandmother) into their households, and I've often wondered about the dynamics of the situation. I thought Ms. Halloran did a commendable job of fairly reflecting the benefits and the drawbacks of her family situation. She was candid, but I didn't get the impression she was betraying any confidences--that's a tough line to walk.

Posted by: TC | November 14, 2006 8:15 AM

"my mother-in-law as a caregiver has been wonderful for the kids (for the most part) because they have been cared for by someone who loves them and would never park them in front of the TV all day"

Of course because this is what happens if you don't let your MIL live with you. I'd rather have my house, kids and husband to myself and hire a babysitter.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2006 8:16 AM

For years, my MIL lived with us about 4-5 months a year. They were younger then (toddler up to elementary school). It worked because it wasn't full time, I knew she would go back home when it warmed up at her home town, and it seemed important for my youngest two to know their grandparents. We also still used our normal arrangements for daycare, etc. Her presence did not change our arrangements. Now the youngest two are in secondary and I can't stand for her to visit more than a week. Over the years, we had our share of disagreements. Those disagreements just built up too far. We're still friendly thank goodness.

My parents never lived with us. They would have a hard time differentiating between their rules and my rules....we agree to disagree to begin with and everything is fine.

Posted by: dotted | November 14, 2006 8:18 AM

Both my mother's father and my father's mother lived with us at one time. Neither was responsible for any child care - but the youngest (me) was already a teenager by the time they moved in. The arrangement with my grandmother worked well as my father sold our house and hers and built a house with a "mother-in-law" suite - she had her own kitchen, etc. The arrangement with my grandfather was much worse, as he lived within our household and felt entitled to critize and begrudge everything we did.

As the child, looking back, I value the time I had with both grandparents but caution that the household rules need to be set in advance and the elders held to them.

Posted by: JT | November 14, 2006 8:28 AM

My MIL watched our kids for the first 9 years or so and still helps out on those crummy early Mondays that Fairfax County schools love. I am and will always be grateful for her help. People pay good money for crummy care, and here I had a loving relative who was willing to do it for free. I don't share the author's attitude, although she is correct that this situation demands that the mother give up some control. My MIL didn't do play dates either and dressed my kids goofy too. I never complained once -- She also doted on them, drove to school to pick them up/drop them off, and gave them excellent care. She was and is a godsend. Something to think about for the author -- one day your MIL, as mine did, will probably develop health problems that preclude her giving you the same service she does now. When that happens I hope you will be there for her as she has been there for you. That's what family is all about.

Posted by: Fairfax | November 14, 2006 8:32 AM

This was a great guest blog. I am fortunate not to have to be the caregiver to any of the four grand parents. My mother lives right next door to my brother and my SIL. Now, it is definitely everyone loves Raymond over there. And at times you can really feel the tension. But my mother is also a constant help. She is not responsible for full time day care but she is always the fill in. She drives the kids back and forth to school, activities, friends houses etc... She is always the emergency care contact and does over nights. I don't know if my brother and my SIL really get how much help they get. They have never actually had to "parent" on their own. On the flip side, I am sure she drives them batty at times. She can be overly opinionated etc... But I think if people want these type of coparenting relationships, clear boundaries do need to be set. I always think it is best if people can have semi separate living quarters. Maybe a basement apartment or over the garage apartment. I personally, would not want to live with my inlaws or my own parents. But I might like the idea better if I had differnet parents and inlaws. LOL. Hats off to all that are doing it. It must be a huge relief to know that you always have someone in an emergency. I don't know where these grand parents get the energy to do this 40+ hours a week.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 14, 2006 8:36 AM

Not to be rude, but I'd rather than have my MIL live with me. Paying for daycare is just fine. Like the author says, it's not like you can put her out on the street.

Posted by: Kevin in AK | November 14, 2006 8:37 AM

Huh, the software took out the words between "rather" and "than." Should have read, "fill in the blank with painful activity" in brackets between. Silly.

Posted by: Kevin in AK | November 14, 2006 8:39 AM

"People pay good money for crummy care"

Just because a family member isn't watching our children doesn't mean the care is crummy.

Posted by: reason for the mommy wars | November 14, 2006 8:40 AM

Like Mary Ellen, my family had my grandmother living with us since I (the granddaughter) was born almost 30 years ago. I don't know what went on between my parents and my grandma, but it always seemed a peaceful situation to us children. When asked, my mother always said that my grandma (her mother-in-law) was a special person. She was right.

The opportunity to have my grandmother live with us was the greatest gift my parents gave us. Grandma was the stay-at-home mom always available, while my own mother worked hard at her career. We played cards and Scrabble, and always had an audience (and reminder) for our homework, and entertainment for our friends. Yes, there were sacrifices by both my grandma (moving around with us, having less time for friends outside the family) and my parents (namely privacy), and at the moment I can't imagine having my mother-in-law live with me. But I know I'll feel differently when I have children.

I think if there is any way you can work it out, the grandchildren will certainly benefit from the arrangement. My grandma was literally a second mother to me and my siblings, and after her passing this summer we're even more aware of how lucky we were to be so close to her.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2006 8:47 AM

OT: I just wanted to know if anyone knows the reason Fairfax has early dissmissal on Mondays? It seems sort of silly. The educators are always complaining that there is not enough time to teach, so why do they let them out early? What do the teachers do during the afternoon? They just had two full teacher work days. I guess I don't understand what else they are doing that they need an early day each week.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 14, 2006 8:48 AM

Hmmmmm.... she may be your mother-in-law, but she is Mom to your kids. You are just the after dinner show? or maybe their lawyer? Glad you don't have to rush home to have dinner with your kids. At least your mother-in-law is there to feed them... and love them. You made your choices. I hope being a lawyer yields those fond memories in your old age.

Sorry. The truth hurts.

Posted by: duh | November 14, 2006 8:51 AM

duh...what you wrote is nasty and inappropriate. I don't see even being close to some 'truth.' It also doesn't make sense...so whomever feeds them is their real mom? I guess the cafeteria lady is everyone's real mom then.

Posted by: dotted | November 14, 2006 8:54 AM

My parents and in-laws rarely even come to visit much less co-parent, so I dont have that issue. We have a nanny who is so much more than just a nanny. She helps me run errands, take care of the kids, coordinate play dates, coordinate home repairs etc. My husband and I consider her a co-parent (although obviously we have final say -- as the true parents -- so I am not sure how realistic the term co-parent is in our circumstance). But she is the one that picks the kids up from school, so she gets a lot of the "fun" questions, and we have to trust her responses. We talk about things ad nauseum so she knows our feelings on things etc. It is important to us that our nanny provide us with her opinions for many reasons including: she loves our kids and has their best interests in mind, she has a whole other set of life experiences to gain insight from; she has worked with kids for a number of years before working with us etc. So I see conflicts rise in our situation. We talk them out and there have been times that I have changed my mind and gone with her initial suggestion. Its called compromise and everyone who cares for your child having that child's best interest at heart. Kudos for those who have that person be a grandparent.

Posted by: Marie | November 14, 2006 8:57 AM

Where there are disagreements about issues such as meals, bedtime, playdates, the parents are the decision makers. Not satisfied with aspects of grandma's care? Get more involved yourself. Arrange for the child to be in a playgroup yourself, and if you can't take the time to do it, part-time nursery school would be a great way for the kids to get needed social interaction, and your mother-in-law a needed break. Don't like what mother-in-law is feeding? Prepare meals ahead of time for her to give the kids while you are gone. Your mother-in-law probably felt that she was entitled to make those types of decisions because she was expected to do all of the work herself.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2006 8:57 AM

Mary Ellen, if you are dependent on your Mother in Law to help you rear your kids, you're not in a position of determining how she is going to do it. You can request some details, some of which she should honor, but if your husband and you aren't there, by default, she does the decision making.

I grew up in a house where I lived with my grandparents on my Mother's side since I was 13 until I left the house right out of high school. Not good. Pressure cooker. Did lots of drugs and got dragged off to family counseling with my brother and sister. (both of whom turned out to be otherwise decent members of society) There was a constant power struggle between the 4 adults with the kids, usually me, caught in between the battles. To make a long story short, my parents got divorced soonn after I left the house. What a mess.

Knowing the situation in which I grew up in, however did not stop me from moving my family back into the very same house with my Mother. It worked out pretty good considering that my wife got her nursing degree, 2 more kids, and saved up for a house of our own to boot. It was a tough few years though. I always got stuck in the middle of the spats between my wife and mother, but there is one huge difference between the way you are doing it, Mary Ellen, and me. We rarely left my mother with the kids unless one of us was with her. Nope, wouldn't have it. I mean, look what happened to me.

I could dominate the blog today with examples of conflict, but I will just leave you with just this one for now, and as a hallmark of my postings, it is designed to irritate the prudish and sexually disturbed.

After giving my kids a bath, I would let them run around the house naked. This drove my mother nuts, she has this hangup about modesty, but with me being blind and all, dismissed her arguments as tripe. Anyway, I think it is healthy for toddlers, or young children at some point, to actually see the different physical makeup between boys and girls.

Posted by: Father of 4 | November 14, 2006 8:58 AM

I think a lot of the conflict is cultural. In different cultures, it is the custom to live with your parents. They learn to work it out. I think in the US, we are too bound to the idea of the nuclear family. People get really offended when immigrant families live in extended family situations. Everyone cries, they are bringing down the neighborhood. I think there must be pros and cons to living with your parents or in laws. I am sure it is really difficult. As far as co parenting, I look at there can be a number of people who you decide to be part of the parenting team. I consider the day care staff part of my parenting team. Ultimately my husband and myself are the key leaders on our parenting team. But I have gotten wonderful advice and help from my day care providers. I am always amazed how many first time parents who think they are soo qualified to parent. There is a lot to be learned from people who have already been there. You need one or two chiefs but you can have several tribe members, if your open to new ideas and some compromise.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 14, 2006 9:06 AM

So, "duh" the truth hurts? Yeah, it must be hurting you. Ms. Halloran sounded nothing but honest and forthright about the issues with her MIL. She wasn't blaming or judging.
You're blaming and judging and punishing her honesty. I'm not sure why. Though I am sure that it's not about Ms. Halloran.

Posted by: Confused | November 14, 2006 9:06 AM

[I just wanted to know if anyone knows the reason Fairfax has early dissmissal on Mondays?]

Teachers need planning time without having to supervise kids. It's a union thing.

Posted by: Father of 4 | November 14, 2006 9:07 AM

I adore my parents and in-laws, have begged the latter to come and live with me (which is easier to do since I know it won't happen;), have the distant former to visit as often as possible. Being able to live as an adult with people who once controlled your life can be difficult for people who are unwilling to confront problems or at least know how to deal with them. My kids are big enough that we don't need a third pair of hands, and while there were times when they were small I would have loved it, I am happy that it was my hands, daily supervision and teaching that my children had, even though their grandparents have taught them many things and given them many intangible gifts. All of my good intentions aside, it would be very hard to give up so much privacy. I wonder how earlier generations did it.

Posted by: parttimer | November 14, 2006 9:14 AM

Timely topic - I fear this will be a "nuclear" topic in our house sometime soon. I don't ever want my MIL living near or with us, simply because my husband doesn't put his foot down ever to draw boundaries. If she were around, it would be like caring for 2 children, instead of the one we had. If my husband were stronger and set boundaries with his own mother, it would be ok, but until then, NO. WAY.

Posted by: The original just a thought | November 14, 2006 9:18 AM

I already feel like most times I'm married to three people--my husband, and his parents. And we don't even live together!

It's great that it seems to work for her. I just couldn't deal with the co-habitation. Same goes for my own mother, too! One of the reasons why I want to move several states away!

Posted by: NeedSomeDistance | November 14, 2006 9:21 AM

I'm a little envious of those who have family nearby, although not necessarily in the home with you. We have no family here and sometimes that makes it hard. I'm not sure that having grandparents here would actually make it easier though. More power to those of you who make it work - especially with a grandmother in residence. We have one grandma who lives out of the country but is very fun when she comes to visit - usually for a week or two. The other set has been to see their grandchildren twice in 5 years - they are not involved and still misspell grnadchild's name (and mine too for that matter). Definitely not folks we could live with or would want to have a hand in raising our children. It's taken DH a bit of therapy to come to terms with the lack of parenting he had as a child - older brother left in charge way too young and was rather abusive. Families - they can be great, or terrible. We struggle with how to handle the terrible.

Posted by: Stacey | November 14, 2006 9:22 AM

I sometimes get a little envious of my brother for getting the help from my mom. But then again, he has to deal with her a lot too. So it is a good and a bad situation. It kind of sucks not having any family around. I would never want them as a full time child care provider. But it would be nice as an emergency contact person. Or a once a week, sort of thing. But you take the good with the bad. I can relate to the terrible parent part too. My MIL is a complete flake. I don't think she could take care of a dog.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 14, 2006 9:30 AM

I think Mary Ellen has done something really wonderful for her kids by having her MIL live with them. I'm not sure I could have another family member live with us full-time, so I have a lot of respect for her attitude and approach.

Disagree with those who think the fact that Mom works means she's not the "true" parent and not entitled to make decisions. This is illogical and mean-spirited. I have a friend who is a single mom and whose kids live in another country (she is working to raise the money to get them here). She is still their mom and there is no replacement for her. Kids know and respect that bond. There are lots of ways to be a good mother, and an important part of motherhood is providing for your children. Most women need to work to do that. It doesn't help anyone to judge them so harshly.

Posted by: Leslie | November 14, 2006 9:32 AM

when we finished out our basement, we did it with the idea that one of our elderly parents might live with us one day. I think/hope it could work, since it's downstairs, with it's own bathroom, living room and small kitchenette. But I have serious doubts if it could with either just my mother or MIL. MIL lives nearby and is already a looming presence overly involved in our lives. If either set of granparents moved in as a set, I think it would work. The "no exit" part is scary, although I suppose the likely mode of exit is scarier.

Posted by: VAtoddlermom | November 14, 2006 9:33 AM

Wonderful to take in the MIL! Much better than shipping off poor mom to the assisted-living center. Most people in the world automatically bear the responsibility of caring for the elderly in their own homes. It's usually the developed nations that farm out this responsibility to others.

Having family is the ideal care-giving situation. True, it's never "free", but conflicts are inevitable. Families are never free of conflicts, but what's important is that they get resolved in an amicable way.

Posted by: Mr.Honda | November 14, 2006 9:34 AM

Hope MIL doesn't frequent this blog!

Posted by: D2B | November 14, 2006 9:41 AM

Please! We are not discussing people who are forced into having someone else raise their children due to economic issues. They are high earning professionals living in the "ex-urbs."

They made a conscious choice to trade rearing their own children for the chance to own more shiny baubles.

And now at least one of them is decrying that she is less important in the parental decision making process. News Flash- she is less important as a parent over all!

You cannot outsource your parenting responsibilities and assume that you will remain a parent! The Mother in law is raising those children. She is the parenting force. These are the facts.

There are always tradeoffs. And one of the things Mary Ellen has traded away for her career and house in the 'burbs is being the mother to her children. You can fool yourself into believing otherwise. But then you are just a fool. You cannot "have it all."

Posted by: Duh | November 14, 2006 9:42 AM

VAtoddlermom: // The "no exit" part is scary, although I suppose the likely mode of exit is scarier. //


:) :)
Just make sure she "exits" before 2010 because the dems are going to reinstate the death tax.

Posted by: WoolyBugger | November 14, 2006 9:43 AM

This is a comment from a grandmother.

I live four blocks from my daughter and son-in-law. Shortly after their first baby was born, my daughter found a good day-care center but needed me to fill in when my granddaughter got sick. I would always drop everything to be there.

My daughter gets very upset if I do things without her approval or her way because she has a routine that fits into her and her husband's schedules. I feel my granddaughter needs individual, relaxed attention that she is not getting elsewhere. My granddaughter delights in spending time with me going over meaningless, silly things that make us enjoy each other's company. At two years old she is the brightest and happiest youngster I have ever seen.

When my daughter and son-in-law scream at me, I bite my tongue. I know that being a parent means constant worry -- you worry about every little thing until the children go off to college, and then some.

However, my advice to young parents is, don't worry about children knowing who is the mother. THEY KNOW! My granddaughter looks upon me as someone who is there only for her, but at the end of the day she misses her parents, the only ones who can truly love her like no one else can -- and she knows it.

Be patient with your child's grandmother and explain kindly why things are being done a certain way. I know I need time to adjust to a growing family. And now my daughter and son-in-law are expecting their second child. We all have to work at it, not just the parents. Things are a lot easier if we treat each other simply as human beings.

Being a parent or grandparent means being selfless, and I try to think of ways that I can continue the selfless giving. After all, I have been doing it for almost forty years! I do let my daughter know that it is very important for my granddaughter to spend time with me on a constant basis. It gives her emotional roots. So now I spend every other Sunday with my granddaughter and I always look forward to it.

Best regards,
Linda Sun

Posted by: Linda Sun | November 14, 2006 9:48 AM

Does Duh think that fathers fully abdicate their parenting responsibility when their wives stay at home? We should make sure to tell the husbands of stay at home wives (or vice versa) that they "cannot outsource [their] parenting responsibilities and assume that [they]will remain a parent!" Thank you, Duh. How enlightened.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2006 9:49 AM

Good point from "Duh".
The live-in MIL is not your nanny or paid help. She's going to parent the way she thinks is right because you're out working most of the day.

BTW, when your kids were toddlers, who did they run to - MIL or mom? When they woke up crying at night, did they cry for MIL or mom?

It's wonderful that you shouldered this huge responsiblity of caring for your MIL. It's great that she's done so much raising of your kids so 2 parents can work full-time w/o a lot of the "balance" stress that so many here face. However, MIL is not hired help and may not heed all your instructions.

Posted by: WoolyBugger | November 14, 2006 9:50 AM

To Duh: I don't get it. Do you think if you have someone else do some of the parenting tasks, they automatically pull out the trump card. Is the public school teacher become the parent because my DD goes their 6 hours a week and eats lunch and breakfast at school? Is my day care provider the mother because my DD goes there 22 hours a week? Or is my husband the mother because he gets them off to school? Am I the mother because I pick up DD and do dinner and bathes with her? Just because she doesn't parent 24/7 doesn't mean she isn't the parent. A parent is the person or persons who have the ultimate responsibility both legally, morally, and physically for the child. If she and her husband suddenly dropped dead, the MIL is not forced to take care of these children. If they go and wreck someone elses property, the MIL is not legally responsible for property damage. Parents, nannies, day care providers, etc... can all be ultimately involved in a child's life. Just because they don't do the day to day tasks, does not make them less of a parent. Because as a parent, she was the one to arrange care for her child. Whether it is a paid employee or a relative, the mother and father took on the responsibility to find care. If the MIL wants out, she can walk out any day. A parent can not dissolve their parental responsibilities that easily.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 14, 2006 9:50 AM

I just don't understand the comments from Duh and other people who argue that parents who are not the sole caretakers of their children are not "real parents." Historically, parenting was a community project. Children have always been raised in part by their extended family, by older siblings, by nannies or governesses, by neighbors, or by church members. There is a long tradition of cooperation in raising children. None of this erodes the bond that a parent has with his or her child. In fact, today's model of intensive mothering is a historical aberration.

It just takes a village to raise a child, and it sounds like today's guest poster is a terrific example of how that works in practice. And I really appreciate her honesty in talking about how it works and how it doesn't work. What a great mom!

Posted by: Historical Perspective | November 14, 2006 9:51 AM

It's wonderful that you shouldered this huge responsiblity of caring for your MIL. It's great that she's done so much raising of your kids so 2 parents can work full-time w/o a lot of the "balance" stress that so many here face. However, MIL is not hired help and may not heed all your instructions.

Hate to break it to you but if you want to avoid the estate tax, simply sign away your property during your lifetime. You can give a deed of a gift, for as little as $10 and filing fees. People just hate to part with their things in their lifetime. Besides 95% of Americans are unaffected by the estate tax. Most Americans have estates less then a million dollars.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2006 9:53 AM

Wow -- I dont usually respond to the snarkly remarks made by the working-mom-haters, but I have to say to duh, your name really says it all -- you really have no clue. Everyone is clearly entitled to their opinions, true, but I hope that if you have a daughter, you will not be so judgmental if she chooses to (or has to) work. It would be very difficult to maintain a relationship with you. But, to each his/her own -- Have a great day.

Posted by: Marie | November 14, 2006 9:53 AM

I agree -- good topic today.

My mother cared for my son for about six months until I was able to enroll him at the daycare at my previous job. His father or I dropped him off every morning and picked him up, about 45-50 minute drive each way. The peace of mind was worth the commute. At the time, I didn't know about getting on a daycare waiting list while pregnant, and we couldn't find anything when I was ready to return to work. The places we looked into were unacceptable. We had a cousin of my then-husband's BIL watch him one day, and I didn't like what I saw.

My mother took very good care of my son, and I'll always be grateful for that care. She still watches the kids from time to time as needed, but she's over 70 and her health is not the best. There's been some tension, to be sure. To my mom, my son was the perfect, pretty baby and adorable little boy. So when he started developing his issues (he was diagnosed as ADHD but may actually have Asperger's), she did and still does find it hard to take. We argue over the decisions I make about his education and care (I'm now a single mom). So us living together probably won't work very well. I have to be able to run my household, and my mom likes having the control. Plus, we tried the co-living arrangement before when my husband and I were together. Talk about disaster!

Even my dad has helped out with child care. One time, when I went to the store, he had to change my daughter's poopy diaper. Other than putting her clean diaper on inside out, he didn't do too bad!
I'm grateful for his help also. And he highly values his independence, despite having cancer and living in another state alone.

Now, my MIL -- I won't even get into that. Hooo-boy.


Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | November 14, 2006 9:54 AM

Wow -- I dont usually respond to the snarkly remarks made by the working-mom-haters, but I have to say to duh, your name really says it all -- you really have no clue. Everyone is clearly entitled to their opinions, true, but I hope that if you have a daughter, you will not be so judgmental if she chooses to (or has to) work. It would be very difficult to maintain a relationship with you. But, to each his/her own -- Have a great day.

Posted by: Marie | November 14, 2006 9:54 AM

So in addition to proposing govt funded quality childcare, why doesn't the govt encourage more family childcare?

Posted by: WoolyBugger | November 14, 2006 9:56 AM

My husband and I both forsee a future where our parents come to live with us. I for one am dreading it - I'm a stay at home mom and really value my quiet time. He on the other hand is at work and thus spends less time in the house, and less with them when they come to visit, so it's easier for him.

Lucky for me - they are all pretty young, and I don't think anyone will come to live with us for at least 10 years, by then my kids will be 12 & 15.

I can sympathize with today's blogger - once I had to leave my oldest with my parents & m-i-l for 2 weeks while hubby was deployed and I had to travel for work. She asked me how often he got a bath, I told her every night, she said, "well, not while he's with me!". She had him for 4 days and when I got home he had a raging diaper rash that made him cry when she changed his diaper. Thank god that they live in Fl and I only have to see them 1 - 2 times a year.

Posted by: GS | November 14, 2006 10:00 AM

Everybody who has child care has issues with the person who cares for their child. So it isn't like you wouldn't have had disagreements etc... with someone else who cared for your child.

But it's nice to have a family member you pretty much trust.

I would have been interested to know if you established any 'ground rules' regarding her care. Did she vacation with you? Everybody needs time to themselves.

My MIL worked and had an active social calendar. We got invited over a lot when friends or family visited, but it was always by appointment.

I think your children will have a better sense of their Grandmother for having spent plenty of casual time with her.

Posted by: RoseG | November 14, 2006 10:06 AM

Wow- You have legal responsibility for your kids so that makes you a parent! That is sooo touching. Being a parent is more than a legal concept or contributing half their chromosomes.

Everyone needs help. Maybe it does take a village. The extended family is important in the child rearing process. I agree with these concepts and have taken advantage of them.

But when you abdicate your role... by having someone else rear your children on a daily basis- Feeding them dinner every night. Getting them off to school etc. You cannot complain that your importance has diminished in your child's life. You cannot complain that your daily decision making authority has decreased.

Each responsibility that we outsource has an offsetting downside. It is a balance that we seek. This is not a participating, nurturing MiL, in this case MiL has become Mom.

Again, you are fooling yourself if you think you can have it all. You cannot. The econimic reality for some is that there is no choice. But for others, who have traded being a parent for the mindless pursuit of McMansions and consumer goods, I simply say that you reap what you sow.

Your children will only be young once. Are you really willing to trade that experience to make partner? Mary Ellen, wake up while you still have a chance to make a difference in their lives.

Posted by: duh | November 14, 2006 10:08 AM

Thank you so much for the supportive comments. This is cheaper than therapy and more effective! A note - after my daughter was born, I worked only 4 days a week until she was eight. This was good for both Grandma (I call MIL Grandma.) and me as it gave her an extra off and me an extra day on. Budget cutbacks and layoffs brought me back to a full week.
On the dinner issue, I do make meals on the weekends and freeze them for GM to give to the kids. She prefers to make dinner for the kids, rather than waiting for me to get home, because it is difficult for me to get home before 6. GM spent most of her adult life eating dinner at 5:30, so she feeds them so that the kids eat earlier rather than later.
On my husband's role, in the early years he would not back me up in disputes with GM and it caused a lot of conflict between us. Now, and I think because GM has proved very difficult for both of us to live with, he takes my side much more often. Actually, he and his mother argue a lot more than she and I do.

Posted by: MHalloran | November 14, 2006 10:10 AM

I am part of the so-called Sandwich generation. I had WWII-generation, aging parents (in their mid-to-late seventies) a few years back, while at the same time having two small children. After my dad died, my mom did not want to be alone, so moved in with us. I work part-time (16 hours a week), and my mother was never a full-time caregiver for our kids, but she did help out a fair amount, including staying with the kids during unexpected school closings or just to give my husband and me a night out on the town. We did receive some unsolicited childrearing advice but took it in stride, as we could use some advice from time to time, and she was part of the household. Our view was, if you're part of the household, you have a say. Now that my mom is gone (died a couple of years after moving in with us), I would give anything to have her back -- unsolicited advice and all! My kids learned a lot about intergenerational care and support and unconditional love from that experience. Sure, she got annoying sometimes, but that's part of the package with extended family. I work part-time to this day, because I feel that I do want to have a significant impact and say in my children's upbringing. My husband doesn't work unnecessarily long hours. We've had a variety of caregiving situations of just about every type -- grandma care, paid babysitter/nanny, au pairs, preschool, daycare, etc. None was perfect, but they were all excellent in their own way, because we didn't overdo it with depending on any one of them, and we struck a healthy balance between work and family. No, we haven't reached the pinnacles of ultimate success in our careers, but we enjoy our work and have had adequate success to feel fulfilled professionally while not sacrificing the priceless gift of time with our family. I believe Ms. Halloran lost sight of this balance a bit, which resulted in too much authority getting ceded to Grandma (in the opinion of the author), but at least she is loving and doing right by the children, and her authority would naturally reign supreme being that she was spending the lion's share of time with the children. I would answer that yes, letting go of so many hours/days/weeks of your children's care is the pricetag of full-time working motherhood. It wasn't a bad choice, Ms. Halloran, but it is the one you made and you were lucky to be able to make it. With no relatives left in the area, my husband and I have not choice but to conduct a finely-tuned balancing act.

Posted by: Sandwich mom | November 14, 2006 10:12 AM

So in addition to proposing govt funded quality childcare, why doesn't the govt encourage more family childcare?

You can use the same dependent care tax fund for family care providers given the family care provider pays income tax on that money. There are also different types of employer taxes that need to be paid if your family member is your employee (ie. nanny). The reason most parents do not use those tax breaks for family members is because the family member is either unpaid or paid under the table. I don't know what other kind of subsidy that a child care provider gets if they are unpaid. Most people use family members because they are free, reduced priced, or just a trust issue. Personally, I don't think the government cares if it is a relative or a non relative who cares for your children. They just care about collecting the taxes owed on the income earned.


Posted by: foamgnome | November 14, 2006 10:12 AM

My mother lives two miles away from us, so we get the benefits of her assistance without having her in our house full time. It really works out wonderfully. Mom is not responsible for full time care of our son, but she does fill in a lot, especially after school if my husband and I cannot be home at 3:00. My husband is in school, so he usually does the after school care, but lately, he has been very busy with some projects, and mom has been his back-up. She is amazingly helpful. She picks my son up at school, gives him his snack, supervises homework, feeds him dinner, and packs a healthy home cooked dinner for my husband and me to take home with us when we pick our son up at 6:00. And she won't take a dime for her efforts. Of course, we make sure to treat her and give her gifts in return, since she will accept gifts, but not payment. Yes, I have noticed that on some issues, she likes to do things her way, but it has not been a big deal to me. My son loves having his grandmother nearby. My mother's childless cousin also lives with her, so this is an additional person in the household who seems to dote on my son. Between his grandmother and his tia (I know the cousin is not acually an aunt but that is what he calls her), I sometimes feel outnumbered when it comes to decisions about my son's care. But I find it easier to go along with them than to fight them, after all, none of what they decide is actually wrong or harmful. In the end, I am just thankful that my son is so loved and that I have such an incredible network of support.

Posted by: Emily | November 14, 2006 10:14 AM

Wow- You have legal responsibility for your kids so that makes you a parent! That is sooo touching. Being a parent is more than a legal concept or contributing half their chromosomes.

I think your missing the point. I said a parent has the legal, moral and physical responsibility of raising the child. Moral is always a difficult to thing to pin down because people have different moral standards. While physical and legal standards are pretty clear. You obviously think parents need to parent 24/7. So is a father who works out of the home 50+ hours a week less of the parent then the mother who is a SAHM?

Posted by: foamgnome | November 14, 2006 10:19 AM

Having my parents nearby has been helpful. The first week both my husband and I were working (he stayed home for two weeks after my short maternity leave ended) my parents came to our house and watched DD. Though for a short time it did ease the transition into day care (I could call them multiple times a day and they didn't get annoyed). Also they have been helpful with backup For example when she was recovering from an illness - healthy enough that I felt OK leaving her, but not sure the fever wouldn't come back. Even now that DD is a teenager they help with transportation to activities after school when both I and the ex are still at work.

My mother would agree it would be difficult for us to live together, so I admire those who can make it work.

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | November 14, 2006 10:22 AM

What a nicely done guest blog. Thanks for sharing your story so honestly.

I think your last question, "Is letting go of your kids' daily care the unavoidable pricetag of working motherhood?" really captures the issue, and I think in a lot of ways the answer is yes. When I went back to work full time when my son was about 14 or 15 months old, I definitely had to let go of a lot things. At first, my husband was home with him full time, and now he's in daycare in the mornings and home with dad in the afternoons. He gets excellent care from both, and his time with his dad is priceless. But there are a lot of things that I would do differently - food is a big one -- I wish that my husband and the daycare served him more vegetables and more variety, and my husband easily slides into a rut of offering just a few foods everyday. But that's just not something I can control, it's not like what he's offering is bad, it's just not what I would offer. So every now and then I might make a suggestion ("We should get some greenbeans at the store today, he loves them and hasn't had them in a while") but I just don't think it's fair for me to try to control how my husband does things, nor do I have a lot of control over what the daycare serves. There are other examples, that's just the one that comes to mind. In the end, if I'm working I have to trust the person who is caring for my child and let them do things the way they are comfortable with.

On MILs - we just got back from visiting my in-laws and good lord, I could never live with them. The entire visit my MIL was second-guessing and commenting on my decisions. We arrived at their house around 9pm. My son started exploring the living room and quickly found the little dish of chocolates. I took it away and said not right now. MIL immediately says in a false baby voice, "Oh mama, it's just a little peice, a little candy isn't gonna hurt me!" And so it went for four days.

Posted by: Megan | November 14, 2006 10:26 AM

OOh, Megan, the baby voice by MIL in the first person talking for your child.

Dems is fighting words, and she knows it! I assume you won that one.

Posted by: Father of 4 | November 14, 2006 10:35 AM

I agree with the posters who complimented the guest blogger on her honesty and candid assessment of her family situation. Yes, she is being straightforward about the benefits and drawbacks of the MIL live-in situation.

However, I also think that Father of 4 is right when he says: "Mary Ellen, if you are dependent on your Mother in Law to help you rear your kids, you're not in a position of determining how she is going to do it. You can request some details, some of which she should honor, but if your husband and you aren't there, by default, she does the decision making."

When you cede your authority to someone else for large chunks of the day -- including family-intensive times like dinner -- then you have to accept that there will be some diminution of your importance in the overall scheme of things.

The guest blogger says: "She and I would also get into horrific arguments over what the kids would wear, what time they would go to bed, what they would eat -- things that you would think would be the province of a parent (aka, me). She seemed to forget that she was not the parent, and that she could and even should back off once we got home."

But this is completely unrealistic. The MIL isn't a caregiver who leaves at the end of the day. She's been tasked with making a happy, warm, secure home for these kids; she can't just turn it off when mom gets home and wants to take over.

I'm not saying that the situation couldn't have been remedied, but that would have required that the parents and the MIL sit down and renegotiate the parameters of their arrangement. Very likely, no one really wanted to upset a smoothly functioning operation.

This had to have been a difficult scenario at times. Kudos to everyone in this family for working it through.

Posted by: pittypat | November 14, 2006 10:35 AM

to Megan: Oh mama, it's just a little peice, a little candy isn't gonna hurt me!" And so it went for four days.

Could it be that she just wanted to spoil him a little? My FIL will give the kids just about any junk while the grand kids are there. I usually don't say anything because a little junk won't really kill them. But I am pretty lax about chocolate. DD eats it most every day. I figure moderation is the best lesson. But grand parents are entitled to spoil their grand kids a little bit. I think that is the reward for having to raise their own children.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 14, 2006 10:35 AM

I wish my family lived near us, not with us, but near us. I had nephews who lived with me, over the hill from me, and across the street. There was never a child care emergency because someone was always there. The downside is that someone is always there and always wants to put their two cents in, including me when I was younger and had a lot of child care responsibilities.

That being said, my parents wouldn't want to live with me and I wouldn't want them too.

Megan,

I just give up when we go home to visit. I figure she is only there four or five times a year and if it makes my parents happy to buy her ice cream then they can have at it. However, I do stop the in-laws from letting her have pop, which my brother in law seems to think equals water. Anyway, it is annoying, but what can you do.

Posted by: Scarry | November 14, 2006 10:36 AM

Megan,
Yes, I had the candy issue with my mother also. Part of the reason is that when I was growing up, she let me and my brothers consume all sorts of junk. She just never controlled that. She cooked good meals, but we were still allowed to eat candy and drink soda. Amazing that we are not all obese. With my son, I restrict the candy and soda to special occasions. She thinks I am too restrictive. So we have compromised on this a little. She hides the coke and gives the kid pink lemonade and I don't complain. A chocolate chip cookie is okay after school, but no candy after dinner. Compromising has brought us a measure of peace.

Posted by: Emily | November 14, 2006 10:39 AM

Our nanny makes dinner so that when I get home, I can have dinner with the kids. I resolve the dinner making issue by having a calendar on the wall, and one thing on the calendar is the dinner menu. The kids sometimes choose what to have (but seriously how often can you have tacos). That way, I determine what is for dinner every night, and its my choice. I guess that is an advantage of a nanny over grandma -- I could not imagine telling grandma what to fix for dinner. Thems would be fighting words.

Posted by: Marie | November 14, 2006 10:40 AM

I don't know about you guys but my mother and in laws have plenty of unwanted child rearing advice from a far. It is amazing how annoying people can be over the telephone. All the cons and none of the benefits. LOL.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 14, 2006 10:40 AM

foamgnome you make a good point about moderation. I grew up in a house that had chips, ice cream, candy, etc. Because it was there and I could have it in moderation, I don't tend to over eat it now. However, pop is a different story. I have a horrible habit and I wish I never started drinking it.

Posted by: Scarry | November 14, 2006 10:42 AM

Father of 4, exactly!

Foamgnome, I totally understand wanting to spoil the grandkids, and I'm fine with her feeding him cookies and cake and whatever during the day. But chocolate at 9 at night for my two year old means a sugar/caffeine high right at an already late bedtime after a very long day of travel. I don't think it's unreasonable for me to want my kid to go to bed sometime before midnight.

But what really bugs me, as Fo4 noted, is the way she goes about it. If she just said directly to me, "ah, can't he have just a little" it wouldn't have irritated me and I would have just discussed it with her. But with every little thing she does the baby voice first person which I find to be a very irritating and passive-aggresive way of doing things. I mean, how are you supposed to respond? In a return baby voice first person? As if I'm addressing him? It's just annoying.

Posted by: Megan | November 14, 2006 10:46 AM

Wow, what a flurry!

Emily, Scarry and foamgnome, I agree on the moderation and compromise. My general rule at home is that if we are eating it, he can eat it - this works well for us because it forces me to moderate my own consumption as well, but means that the "treat foods" are not some forbidden thing that he obsesses about. He's actually very good about it if I say, "OK, this is the last bite," even when he can see that there's more around. Scarry, one thing we do on the pop front is buy flavored seltzer water, which doesn't have the sugar that pop does - that satisfies his desire to have "fizzy pop" as he calls it once in a while.

Posted by: Megan | November 14, 2006 10:53 AM

Wow! I read this article and starting feeling like I really was not alone, my MIL lives with us also for approximately 6-8 months of each year. She also takes our daughter to her home for the summer months. She's a wonderful help around the house and an excellent grandmother.

My husband is an only child and has had to claim his mother as a military dependent because of her disabilities. When she's in our home she sometimes makes me feel as if I'm a visitor and she's in total control. I rush home from work to cook for my family and she intentionally cooks, even when I tell her I'll take care of it when I return from work. I'm normally an extremely direct person but find myself backing off her because she is his mother, I don't want to disrespect her and because we need her help with our child.

When he's deployed...I need help...when I'm on temporary duty away from home...he needs her help. Yep! Right now I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place. But I've decided to take back my power...I've started looking for a less demanding job 

Posted by: Lani | November 14, 2006 10:53 AM

My mom talked about being the primary caregiver when my son was born, but she was a WOHM. Now that she's retired she still gets together alot with friends, does volunteer work, etc., so I didn't think she would really enjoy being home all day everyday with a baby. Also, we have a wonderful relationship and I would hate to see that devolve over care issues.

I do love having my parents close by though. We can always ask them to babysit on the occasional Saturday night out, and my mom is always the backup if our nanny gets sick or goes on vacation.

What was great though is that when my son was first born, my mom came over everyday for two weeks and made dinner for us (my Dad came by on his way home from work). She cleaned up the kitchen and whatever else needed to be done. My husband was home from work for three weeks, but it was nice for us to just be able to concentrate on our new baby.

This situation works for us, and it worked for my mother (my grandmother set the precedent.) Spring break days were always at her house, which was fun. It's great having family in the area. One of the reasons I would never consider moving.

Posted by: anotherarlmom | November 14, 2006 10:54 AM

Mary Ellen Halloran
Firm: State of New Jersey Asst. Atty. Gen.

Address: Cn 112
Trenton, NJ 08625
Phone: (609) 777-4427

Bar Admissions:
New Jersey, 1983
Pennsylvania, 1983
U.S. Court of Appeals 3rd Circuit, 1986
U.S. District Court District of New Jersey, 1983
U.S. Supreme Court, 1986

Education:
Temple University School of Law, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1982
J.D., Doctor of Jurisprudence
Honors: Law Review, 1980-81

Rutgers The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1973
B.A., Bachelor of Arts

Birth Information:
1951, Jersey City, New Jersey, United States of America

Posted by: googled | November 14, 2006 10:54 AM

Do you do anything for your kids, or does your nanny do it all?

Posted by: to Marie | November 14, 2006 10:55 AM

Thank you for sharing your story today. It is truly about balance - in this case, emotional balance, as well as everything else!
Both sets of grandparents are in the area and I tend to look at it as Big Picture - wonderful, and Small Picture - often annoying. Knowing that the Big Picture outweighs the day to day annoying things keeps me afloat. I love that our baby daughter is getting to know her grandparents, and I know that they can provide her with things we can't. I'm not sure what those things are yet, but I can just tell through their interactions. I'm not sure where "Duh" is coming from... I think that it does take a village and there's nothign wrong with more people to love and care about your child. A Mommy is a Mommy - that's not going away. But a Grandma is a Grandma and they play a special role, unique and different from a parent's role.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2006 10:56 AM

I think it would be great to have Grandparents around who are willing and able to provide childcare. My dad and step-mom have come through for me a couple of times when I had to travel (I'm a single parent), but they live on the other side of the country so it was an emergency measure. But, to have a grandparent living with me full time would take more deplomacy than either I or either of my parents have. Man, my mother is such a control freak. She pouts or insults me if I don't do everything her way. We'd kill each other.

Posted by: Melt | November 14, 2006 10:57 AM

to googled: Awesome resume...I was impressed with her before I read the CV though

Posted by: dotted | November 14, 2006 10:58 AM

This was a great post. I like that it doesn't seem aimed to stir up controversy like some of the posts are. It's funny how it used to be far more common for multiple generations to share a household, but our country has moved away from it enough that it seems weird to many. I don't have to contemplate sharing a household yet, but in the back of my mind I do know that at some point I'll have these issues, and thinking about who will be doing the care among myself and siblings, for parents, in-laws, and childless aunt/uncles. It can be overwhelming to think about.

Posted by: K | November 14, 2006 10:59 AM

I have been reading this column for a while as an outsider. My only child is 37 with two children and another on the way. I was, however, a working mother and despite the fact that I didn't start out that way, a single parent for a while. Many of the situations in the column are so very familiar. Today's column has compelled me to send a response from another perspective.

My maternal grandmother provided day care for my sister and me. Ten years after my sister's birth she provided day care for our brother. She was 50+ when I was born and I am the oldest. I've said many, many times recently that I cannot fathom how she did the things that she did with so much kindness and enthusiasm. Love can be the only explanation. Initially we lived in a family house that provided plenty of room for everyone. When our parents came home in the evenings Sweetheart (what we called our grandmother) was technically off duty. The reality was that she didn't ever end her day insofar as we were concerned. She and my mother had numerous disagreements about the way to do things. There was plenty of resentment on both sides, especially since WE were living in her house! When we ultimately moved into our own home the only change was that we were brought to Sweetheart in the mornings and left in the evenings. I clearly remember calling her almost as soon as I arrived home asking if I could come back and spend the night. I did this not because home was unpleasant, it was not but because no one could hug and kiss quite like our Sweetheart. She and Granddaddy made us the center of their world. I never, ever remember her saying no we couldn't come back. Thankfully she was only a few blocks away. My sister and I made that walk quite frequently on Friday nights and summer evenings. We were greeted as though they hadn't seen us in weeks, instead of only hours. They were treasures!

I am a working grandmother myself. I have had the occasional sleepover with my oldest granddaughter (10 going on 21) and cannot imagine spending more than the occasional day or two with her or her almost two-year old sister. My sister and I have discussed our grandmother and how wonderful she was. She lived to see most of her great grandchildren and was heartbroken that she wasn't able to be THEIR day-care provider.

My present husband and I had no children together, but he has been much more than a stepparent to my son. In June his 93-year old mother moved into our home. We are still learning how to cope, another reason I've been reading these columns. She is the baby we never had and neither of us has the patience or the energy required to begin parenting, yet we have no choice. Other than moving more slowly and a few other minor age-related deficiencies she is well. I can truly empathize with today's post. I do not hurry home anymore and cannot look forward to a time when I will no longer have to change diapers and/or help someone to dress. Yet I do have constant help from my husband. In spite of the many differences that I have with his mother there is one constant -- he would not be the wonderful man he is if it were not for her.

Posted by: RPStew | November 14, 2006 11:02 AM

Jokester --

Please go back to the puns. They were funny. These golf jokes are flat.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2006 11:04 AM

Duh is a sad excuse for a human being. I can respect other's opposing views, but "Duh" states his/hers as "fact" when they are nothing but.

And this writer, Mary Ellen, seems a little lazy to me. Surely she could afford a nanny or au pair. The moment the MIL began to dictate how the the children were to be raised and the MIL told her that she wouldn't do playdates (or whatever else), Mary Ellen should have grown a pair, acted like a responsible parent and hire a nanny or au pair. The person you hire has to do the playdates and anything else related to childcare that you ask.

If the situation is not good for the parents then you can try to delude yourself into thinking it's good for the kids. Didn't seem to be so good for the kids.

Posted by: opposing view | November 14, 2006 11:05 AM

Compliments on the blog today! You have a lot more patience than I do. Even a short visit with my MIL is a struggle. She tries to feed the 13-month old inappropriate foods behind my back (things that are way too hard to chew when you only have 7 teeth, things that are choking hazards, and sticky candy), she once left him in the bathtub ALONE while she went to go look for another toy for him, didn't believe in putting him to sleep on his back when he was an infant. But she raised her kids the same way, and "they turned out fine," so what do I know, right? I think some grandparents have more trouble than others at recognizing that the parents' rules deserve respect.

And to "duh": if being a real parent means you have to be there 24/7, should both parents quit work and stay at home collecting public assistance in order to be real parents? If Dad goes to work, is the child fatherless? If he goes to school for part of the day, is he a 40% orphan? Home schooling must be the only proper course. How long may I be separated from my son before I cease to be a parent? For example, is a one-hour dentist appointment OK, or should I stay home and let my teeth rot so I don't have to leave his side.

See how ridiculous you sound?

Posted by: a working mom | November 14, 2006 11:06 AM

I am jealous reading this. I love my 2 little grandchildren. But they have 8 grandparents and my husband and I live 2 hours away, the furthest away of all the grandparents. The parents don't need us because they have 6 others ready and willing to babysit. I find it's very difficult to be involved with grandchildren when their parents don't feel you are needed in their lives. I am hoping that the situation is better for us when my husband's other 2 children have kids.

Posted by: Coleenh | November 14, 2006 11:10 AM

no flame, no fun.
light it up!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2006 11:11 AM

"However, I do stop the in-laws from letting her have pop ... "

Thank you, Scarry! I haven't heard someone use the word "pop" since I was growing up in Michigan -- a million years ago!

When we moved to the mid-Atlantic region, everyone called soft drinks "soda." Took me awhile to realize that when someone said "Want a soda?" they weren't offering me something with ice cream in it.

Let's hear it for POP!

Posted by: pittypat | November 14, 2006 11:12 AM

to pittypat:
I have to admit to having a mental hiccup when I read the word 'pop'... it's been a while since I lived in the mid-west! I guess it is like faucet/spigot (one set of in-laws says faucet and other set says spigot).
and I only stock diet in the house...solves the problem for me.

Posted by: dotted | November 14, 2006 11:15 AM

I pay some $30,000.00 + for inhouse day care, I have had to fire two sitters because of verbal and abusive contact with my two daughters. I constantly have problems with the sitters, food prep. pre school attendance etc.,etc. I and anyone else would love to have what you have, go home and hug and thank your mothern law and do it every day.

Posted by: mcewen | November 14, 2006 11:16 AM

I pay some $30,000.00 + for inhouse day care, I have had to fire two sitters because of verbal and abusive contact with my two daughters. I constantly have problems with the sitters, food prep. pre school attendance etc.,etc. I and anyone else would love to have what you have, go home and hug and thank your mothern law and do it every day.

Posted by: mcewen | November 14, 2006 11:18 AM

Mary Ellen has it so good she doesn't even realize it. Instead of being thankful to her MIL who cares for her kids like Mary Poppins, cooks meals, enables her to achieve her high-powered law career as Asst. DA, she complains when her kids don't get play dates. HELLO! Your MIL is not hired help, she isn't your domestic robot that caters to your whims. You must respect her because she is your MIL. Bite your tongue, you can suggest but must accede to her wishes because of all she has done for you.

You must not be aware of the struggles many working moms have, dealing with daycare, kids being sick, running off to their activities and meetings and doctors, etc. You just put everything in Mary Poppins hands and dive into work. You did not have to choose between work and family. Your MIL covered the family. And then you complain because she's caring for your kids a slightly different way? Pleeez!

Posted by: WoolyBugger | November 14, 2006 11:18 AM

Yeah, pittypat! We're "pop" people too!

Check out this map of pop vs. soda in the US:

http://www.popvssoda.com/countystats/total-county.html

Posted by: Megan | November 14, 2006 11:18 AM

I pay some $30,000.00 + for inhouse day care, I have had to fire two sitters because of verbal and abusive contact with my two daughters. I constantly have problems with the sitters, food prep. pre school attendance etc.,etc. I and anyone else would love to have what you have, go home and hug and thank your mothern law and do it every day.

Posted by: mcewen | November 14, 2006 11:18 AM

Actually, I call it a "soft drink."

Posted by: pop vs. soda | November 14, 2006 11:19 AM

I want to point out, as some other bloggers have that this is very much a cultural issue. When I was growing up (in another country), my paternal grandparents lived a few miles away and my maternal grandmother lived with us for a few years at a time. This arrangement was not considered unusual or strange, in fact, it was (and still is) the norm. This allowed my mother to pursue her career. Sure, while there might have been some struggles with parenting, I did not notice it. I felt so fortunate to have my grandparents close to me. To this day, I am very close to my grandmothers. However, at all times, I always knew who my parents were and that they had the final say in my upbringing. The most important factor is that children are in a loving and safe environment.

I also want to share another perspective about having a working mom all throughout my childhood. I have always been proud of my mother for pursuing her career in spite of all the challenges she faced. Sure, I have missed her at times, and wished that she stayed home like the mothers of my friends, but as I have grown older, I can see how much she has accomplished and can appreciate the battles she has had to fight in order to do so. And all of that only makes me love her more.

Posted by: AN | November 14, 2006 11:21 AM

My husband, our toddler and I moved in with my Mil the second yr of our marriage, while I returned to school. While I certainly benefitted as we did not pay anything while we lived there, we certainly had absolutely no help with "childcare." We sent our child to a daycare center while I attended school. Things weren't too bad during that time. It was after I graduated, was pregnant and jobless. The arrangement was to have her move out and sell us the house when I was finished with school. She renigged on the deal. During the hell that ensued for the next 4 years, what is left are permanently damaged relationships between myself and "them." My husband and I grew apart as a result and even after 7 years, we have not recaptured the bond we had prior to living with her. We are both from dysfunctional families, I fear that we are raising our family that way, too.

Posted by: wouldneverdoagain | November 14, 2006 11:21 AM

I want to point out, as some other bloggers have that this is very much a cultural issue. When I was growing up (in another country), my paternal grandparents lived a few miles away and my maternal grandmother lived with us for a few years at a time. This arrangement was not considered unusual or strange, in fact, it was (and still is) the norm. This allowed my mother to pursue her career. Sure, while there might have been some struggles with parenting, I did not notice it. I felt so fortunate to have my grandparents close to me. To this day, I am very close to my grandmothers. However, at all times, I always knew who my parents were and that they had the final say in my upbringing. The most important factor is that children are in a loving and safe environment.

I also want to share another perspective about having a working mom all throughout my childhood. I have always been proud of my mother for pursuing her career in spite of all the challenges she faced. Sure, I have missed her at times, and wished that she stayed home like the mothers of my friends, but as I have grown older, I can see how much she has accomplished and can appreciate the battles she has had to fight in order to do so. And all of that only makes me love her more.

Posted by: AN | November 14, 2006 11:22 AM

to Megan:
Loved the map. Of course, what struck me was the red county calling soft drinks 'Coke' is the birthplace of Pepsi!! (New Bern, NC in Craven County)

Posted by: dotted | November 14, 2006 11:22 AM

Let's see now, we have degenerated to the ad hominem attack, the absurdum line of defense and lest we forget, the much venerated straw man! But most of you are not willing to avert your gaze from the latest lusted for shiny trinket to analyze what I am saying.

Villify me if you wish, dehumanize me if you must. But can you actually say out loud that NONE of my points are valid?

Please, by all means go to the dentist. Take care of yourself, but take care of your family too. You chose to be a parent. It is a verb as well as a noun.

My simple point is this- You want to be a parent. You chose to be a parent. If you have the financial means to provide for your family, is it fair to your children to absent yourself from their lives any more than necessary just so you can have another 50 inch plasma TV? And, if the answer is yes, do you have a right to complain that you are no longer as important in your child's life and that your parental decision making authority has been impinged?

Most of you are defensive because the reflection of yourself in the mirror I am holding up casts you in a harsh light. I am sorry for that. It is not my purpose to offend you. I am merely saying- perhaps it is not too late to re-evaluate your priorities.

Posted by: Duh | November 14, 2006 11:22 AM

okay, I have to say it

the golf jokes by jokester are below par.

Posted by: dotted | November 14, 2006 11:24 AM

My parents currently live with my father's mother, taking care of her, and near my mother's older sister, who also needs a lot of care. (My mother is honestly not happy unless she is taking care of people, she was miserable as an empty-nester) As soon as my grandmother and aunt pass away, my parents plan on moving close to my husband and I, who will presumably have children by then. Since it's my mother, I'm less worried about her doing things her way vs my way (my way being no meat, no tv and NO candy), but I also don't plan on having her watch my kids all of the time like my grandmothers did. She cannot wait to have her future grandchildren for long summer holidays (although this may change once they actually come).

Posted by: Newlywed | November 14, 2006 11:25 AM

No silly -- I had my kids for my own self-gratification, and then pawned them off onto hired help. Then, just to make myself feel better about my "choices" I parade my children around to make everyone understand how good of a mother I am. :) Oh and by the way, I have a mcMansion, a huge SUV the size of a city block, and tons of expensive baubles :) How silly of a question -- yes, I do a lot for my children, including love them unconditionally, volunteer at their expensive private schools, eat dinner with them, read to them, bathe them, play Candyland until I want to scream :), and most importantly, teach them not to judge others before being in their shoes.

Posted by: Marie | November 14, 2006 11:27 AM

Ease up, WoolyBugger!
A mother worries about her kids no matter what -- or who -- is minding them. I can understand the worry about playdates -- every mother worries that her kids might be missing good interaction time w/ other children, or whatever the activity might be. Come on -- we've all done it -- should my kid do karate? should he have piano lessons? should he play soccer? what do I need to do to help my kid be as socialized as possible? Playdates are the earliest version of this same worry.

Grandmas can be great, and Mary Ellen's MIL is doing her agreed-upon part as a member of the household. But everyone has different ideas, and compromises must be made. I should think that in this situation, that means compromises on both sides -- they all still have to live together.

Posted by: ashpash | November 14, 2006 11:27 AM

Duh, I believe Ms. Ass.DA wanted her career more than her family and found it convenient to use her MIL to achieve that means. The "horrific arguments" just prove that she is ungrateful and wanted to control her MIL like a little robot nanny.

Posted by: WoolyBugger | November 14, 2006 11:27 AM

In the South, they're all "coke". No pop, no soda (my term) - just generic "coke." A real coca cola is "co-cola."

Posted by: Stacey | November 14, 2006 11:27 AM

to duh:
I'll say it (out loud if I could). None of your points are valid.

By the way, we don't have a plasma TV. and I don't think anyone works just to get another plasma TV.

Posted by: dotted | November 14, 2006 11:27 AM

RPStew - That was a great post. I hope you continue to contribute.

My mother's grandmother - "Bubba" (grandma in Ukranian) cared for her and her brothers in the same manner you were cared for by your sweetheart. They lived in the same house or next door to each other the whole time my mother was growing up. I love hearing about Bubba - seemed like a fantasy grandma to me. Apparently Bubba was sweet, kind, loving - all the things you want. I know my mother cherishes those memories.

Posted by: cmac | November 14, 2006 11:30 AM

"Villify me if you wish, dehumanize me if you must. But can you actually say out loud that NONE of my points are valid? "

Yes, I can say out loud that most of your points are not valid. Your points are extreme and presented as fact and they are not. These issues are nuanced and you'd rather condemn working mothers rather than see the issues as they are--not black and white.

So we are justified in "villifing" you because you are just plain wrong. I think you have a persecution complex and I'd guess you are not a very happy person (nor very intelligent)....

Posted by: Observer | November 14, 2006 11:31 AM

I am also a working grandmother who has seen a lot of changes. I grew up in an ethnic neighborhood of doubles. Usually the owners lived downstairs and their married daughter and SIL lived upstairs and [and paid less then market value rent while they saved for a downpayment for a home). My situation had a slight twist in that my parents owned the house and my mother's parents (and her younger brother) were renters who lived upstairs.

My grandmother HATED my father and called him a "dumb Pollack" constantly. Eventually, I hated my grandmother for dissing my beloved father; my grandmother kinda forgot that her grandchildren were Pollacks, too.

Long story short, if people don't respect each other, the financial and other benefits of shared living aren't worth much.

Posted by: DZ | November 14, 2006 11:31 AM

My Mother would never, ever give anything with sugar in it to my kids. on her defense though, she did raise 2 diabetic kids.

But when she told the kids they were eating "poison" when my wife fed them the Honey Nut Cheerios for breakfast...

Dems are fighting words too!

Posted by: Father of 4 | November 14, 2006 11:32 AM

Duh,

Before you start the pity party for yourself and attribute our collective reactions to some sort version of denial of what you characterize laughably as "the Truth", realize that your venom isn't targetted at all working parents, only employed moms.

Let's break it down for you: At least one person in each family has to work so we're not a burden to society. Depending on the job security, health, etc. of the one spouse, it's possible that both parents must work. Are all working parents trading in their titles, in your view, or only the women? Why? What if dad's disabled and mom's wages are supporting the family. What if dad can only get contract-work so while sometimes they both work, more often it's mom's work that provides the financial consistency to pay the light bill?

You are free to have your opinion, but not to make blanket judgments about the values of a wide-range of parents on the board whose personal situations you do not know and do not appreciate. I hope your choices have worked out well for you.

now, back to MILs . . . .

Posted by: to Duh | November 14, 2006 11:33 AM

I had VERY YOUNG parents - mom was 16, dad was 17 when I was born. My paternal grandparents were my 'other parents' - they provided financially what my parents couldn't, we spent evenings with them occasionally and frequent weekends (always Sunday dinner). When I came home from college a new graduate looking for a place to live, I lived with them, not my parents. When I had to move out of my apartment in less than a week due to the apartment being suddenly unliveable due to mold, I moved in with them. I became the practical support for my parents after college, in fact - balancing their checkbook, shopping for them, etc. because it was sometimes more than they could handle, practically (mom is stay-at-home, dad is a full-time musician).

My parents were always the 'emotional support' for my sister and I - my grandparents were the practical support. Mom taught me how to make cakes, Grandmother taught me to balance a checkbook. Dad taught me how to check the oil in the car, grandfather taught me how to appraise jewlery. They balanced each other.

I had an unusual childhood. When DD gained my parents and grandparents (her only great-grandparents) at 11 she got people who spoil her from afar. I kind of regret that she won't get the close relationship I had with them, but a 16 hour drive is a much greater barrier than a 15 minute one.

My only fear is that when I have a baby, my parents will move here. They're still not practical most of the time, and I can only imagine the headaches.

Posted by: Rebecca in AR | November 14, 2006 11:34 AM

I think you're reading your own biases into what Mary Ellen wrote. It is not wrong to want to raise your own child the way you want to. This is all she is saying. Sure, she has it "good" by having a family member as a child care provider and so may want to compromise a bit, but there is nothing wrong with wanting your children to be raised your way. And it shouldn't matter that someone else is taking care of them while your work.

I really feel sorry for those who choose to condemn working women. Holy cow, how nasty. I can only imagine how unhappy these people are.

Posted by: To Woolyburger | November 14, 2006 11:35 AM

Leslie, put the real mom on the blog next time - the MIL, not the imposter Mary Ellen.

Posted by: WoolyBugger | November 14, 2006 11:35 AM

My parents are 65 and still work full-time and are over 2 hours away, but my mom comes down most weekends a month - not to provide daycare but to see spend time with all of us.

The best development has been in the summer now that all 3 kids are older they are taking turns spending time with her: going to day camp in D.C. (more options than there are here) and going on short trips. Best of all, each of them gets individual attention from her, something that is hard for my husband and I to give on a daily basis. Being a grandmother is different than being a mom, but it in that difference lies its benefits.

Posted by: jessker | November 14, 2006 11:36 AM

I can see how living with a parent can cause some disagreements, but for those of you who say that they make comments over the phone or during short visits, you can take control of that.

Don't go into detail about your child rearing on the phone. "Oh, Joey's doing great! Today we went to the park and he popped another tooth. That's about it. How are you doing?" Then what can the MIL say?

I never give a lot of details because it opens up the door for people to comment. I know so many couples who tell their parents all their business and then get mad when the parents give advice or their opinions, whether it's financial, relationship issues, or childrearing, etc. If they didn't want their opinions and they know that the parents tend to be buttinskis, why did they even bring up the subject? We don't have to tell our parents everything.

My husband and I never tell our parents or anyone else our personal business and the funny thing is that our parents are not even bttinski's. Well, maybe they're not because we don't give them the opportunity.

We have asked our parents advice about a few things and they're glad to help, but they don't expect us to do exactly as they say just because we asked. You're free to make your own decisions.

Posted by: Just my opinion | November 14, 2006 11:39 AM

My husband and I don't have children, and my MIL is constantly harassing us about when I will pop a few out. I am about to graduate from professional school and obviously have other priorities right now. However, I have no doubt that if we ever have a child, she will be right there telling us how to raise it.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2006 11:40 AM

Woolybugger, haven't seen you around these parts before. Are you merely a new nom de plume for one of our regulars, or have you always been this bitter?

so just to confirm, the "real mom" of any child is the person who is with them between the hourse of 8 and 6 Monday through Friday. Who bears the title of "real dad" in the version of life that you play? If the child goes in the hospital for an extended stay, do the Rules state that the nurse in charge temporarily claims the title, "Real Mom" or does that title remain with MIL?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2006 11:40 AM

Mary Ellen is the birth mother. She popped them out and went to work. MIL is the real mother. She did the hard work of raising them.

Posted by: WoolyBugger | November 14, 2006 11:44 AM

No, duh, you're being harshly criticized because the notion that long hours at work automatically make you less of a presence in your child's life just isn't true. I loved my babysitter (who, granted, my parents chose in large part based on how well her caretaking style meshed with their philosophies) and my grandparents when I went to visit them, but Mom was always Mom, whether she was physically there or not. And I've seen enough of how stir-crazy she goes when she doesn't have a small project to work on during a long stretch of days off to know that plasma TVs are way down on the list of reasons for why she puts so much time and energy into her job. I may not want to follow her model precisely when I have kids, but I hope I can find a balance that works as well for me and my family as hers did for us.

Posted by: lawyer's daughter | November 14, 2006 11:45 AM

you haven't answered the question. Who is the "real dad" of this child?

Posted by: to woolybugger | November 14, 2006 11:46 AM

Read it for yourself - these are the things a mom does, and that mom is the MIL.

"someone who loves them and would never park them in front of the TV all day. When they were babies she constantly played with them, read to them, let them fall asleep in her lap, and just provided wonderful care. We never had to worry about picking kids up from day care. Once they were in school, she supervised homework until we got home. In summertime, we didn't worry about putting them in day camp just to have child care. The kids stayed home, read, played in the yard and went to the pool. My husband and I could work late (once in a while only -- she's quick to let us know when she feels taken advantage of). To this day, she feeds my kids dinner before I get home so I don't have to rush home worrying about starving children."

Second point, Mary Ellen said they bought the house with her (MIL). So the MIL is co-owner of the house. Therefore, she has a big say in what goes on.

Yet, Mary Ellen complains. UNGRATEFUL!
"I've had very little control over what she's done with the kids while I've been at work. She's free with her opinions when I am home. She's always been very forthright about what she will and will not do. "

Posted by: WoolyBugger | November 14, 2006 11:49 AM

I have made it clear- in some families, both parents must work. Even more difficult, in single parent families there rarely is an option to work. They are doing the best they can.

Let me be more clear on one issue though, I am not targeting mom's. I just think that if a family can scale back its consumption so that one parent is home more- that is a good thing.

The knee jerk reactions on this board are funny, and sad. Not a lot of introspection going on here. Just regurgitated platitudes.

We are a consumer driven economy. We all fall victim to this. However, once the family is provided for financially, if both parents continue to work full-time at outside jobs they have chosen career over family. They, by choice, are not full-time parents. And, as such give up certain decision making rights. This appaers to be what happened to Mary Ellen's family.

Are you all so tied up in toiling for trinkets that you can't see that maybe the "expensive" private school isn't as important to a child as time with your parents?

Can those who say my argument has NO validity whatsoever really believe that the work-aholic multi-millionaire parent can be as good a parent as the parent who, together with spouse, provides for the family but forgoes some career advancement and money to spend more time with his/her child?

Posted by: Duh | November 14, 2006 11:50 AM

Marie, nice one!

Father of 4: "But when she told the kids they were eating "poison" when my wife fed them the Honey Nut Cheerios for breakfast...Dems are fighting words too!"

I can only imagine the fireworks after that one! Shooo doggy!

Posted by: Megan | November 14, 2006 11:51 AM

sorry I am going to ask a snarky question - but I am really curious on this one...

I agree that my working dad was as much my parent as my SAHM... BUT he never felt the need to micromanage my mother's decision on his way in and out the door. Does some of the tension with WOHM/MIL come from the fact that they view themselves as having "Mom" duties that are greater than the "Parent" duties accepted by the Dads. There is a question of the ends - child makes it though the day happy and healthy - versus the means - the decisions made throughout the day were the same as I would have made.


Posted by: sorry | November 14, 2006 11:51 AM

Thank you. Very well said.

Posted by: To Lawyer's Daughter | November 14, 2006 11:51 AM

Megan --

Oh. My. God.

That map is incredible!

I never had any idea that the pop/soda thing was so big nationally.

Thanks!

Posted by: pittypat | November 14, 2006 11:57 AM

To Duh: What makes you think they are wealthy? Lawyers don't necessarily make a lot of money. Time with children doesn't have to be defined in terms of 9 to 5. Most parents are doing the best they can. Not everyone who works has this super high powered career. I work part time with Fridays off and work a flex schedule. I leave home before 6 am to get DD by 5:20 PM. DH takes DD to day care and comes home later. It is always a balancing act. I don't think I will have a full time trajectory till daughters are done with HS. My ideal is to work 7-2:30 M-F when they are in public school. Right now, one full day a week seems better for the toddler years. But being home with them after school is priceless. Why do you assume she is a work a holic. Coming home after 6PM is not a work a holic. Maybe she goes to work late, like DH. Seems like you are still bitter that you had to give up some of the financial luxuries to SAH. If you were totally happy with that situation, you would not care so much what other people are doing. BTW, we don't have a McMansion, SUV, nanny, house cleaner, or plasma TV. I work part time to pay the bills, retirement, college educations, and yes some small luxuries. I would like to be able to give my daughters some extra curricular activities, a couple of nice vacations in their lifetime, but more then anything stability. We don't want our girls worrying that a car repair will put us back two months savings and send us all in a tizzy.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 14, 2006 11:58 AM

"Does some of the tension with WOHM/MIL come from the fact that they view themselves as having "Mom" duties that are greater than the "Parent" duties accepted by the Dads. There is a question of the ends - child makes it though the day happy and healthy - versus the means"

Sorry, I think that's good question and that you are seeing something real. I do think that Moms, in general, feel much more pressure about the specifics of raising kids, and I think it's because our society still has a default assumption that Mom is the primary parent (sort of like WoolyBugger, who seems to see no role for the dad in this situation). Look at all of the parenting magazines that are aimed almost entirely at women. Look at the government study that examined the correlation between MOTHERS' work hours and childhood obesity but not FATHERS' hours. Look at how many womens' magazines have articles on parenting compared to how many mens' magazines do. I think this bias is unfair to both moms and dads, and it definitely plays into the types of tensions the guest blog describes.

Posted by: Megan | November 14, 2006 11:59 AM

To Duh and Woolyburger:

Obviously, you two have an ax to grind and cannot read. The whole point of the article is that she and her husband PROMISED her husbands DYING FATHER to take care of the MIL. They didn't promise to impress their MIL into servitute to pursue their careers.

And just because you promise to take care of your MIL doesn't mean that you give up your parental rights to her as a care giver. I'd be a little miffed too if my MIL suddenly crowned herself MOM, just because I promised her dying husband that I would take care of her in her twilight years. And who is to say that the MIL didn't offer to provide childcare so that she could feel useful and a contributing member of the household? I'd have a hard time living with someone and not finding someway within my means to earn my keep. I am sure that if the MIL didn't come to live with them, they would have been more than happy to pay for childcare, just that this arrangement seemed to work out the best for them. I am sure that if the situation became truely untenable, they'd have found their way to a phone to hire a nanny.

This blog is called "On Balance" which I presume is about balancing family and work life. I have NO IDEA why people who are not pro-balance bother to read this blog or for the life of me post to it. The comments are snarky, meanspirited, and just plain hooey. If you can't bear to be supportive of balancing work and family, get off the blog!!

Posted by: tlawrenceva | November 14, 2006 11:59 AM

I think the bottom line (IMHO) is that we all have opinions about what makes a "good" parent. We all make these decisions for our families. We all make choices. I like this blog because it gives me other peoples' perspectives, and although I may disagree with some of these perspectives, it helps me realize where others are coming from. I work outside of the home, not out of financial need, but because it is what makes me happy. And I firmly believe that if I am happy, the family is happier. It raises the issue of whether the family revolves around the child, or the child revolves around the family. I think that is the baseline of where people on this blog differ in opinion. My thoughts.

Posted by: Marie | November 14, 2006 12:00 PM

Mary Ellen,

Thank you so much for bringing up this discussion - like one of the other posters mentioned, I feel like I am not alone. I also want to congratulate you for making this arrangement work - even with all the help, the lack of privacy is really hard. For me, I discovered that I need some place of my own, where I don't have to check with someone on every decision.

My MIL, mom and in-laws have lived with us for several months at a time ever since we got married. Initially, coming from a culture where this is normal, and missing family, I really looked forward to it. However it was very hard to have a fun relationship with very opinionated people in your own house. I have definitely learnt what works for me now - and while they still visit regularly, I have set my boundaries a little more effectively.

My MIL is wonderful with my daughter - she adores her and would do anything in her power to take good care of her. However I did find that while my MIL will take care of food, clothing etc incredibly well, she runs out of ideas on the activities and realistically needs her own time. So there were some disagreements when my daughter just sat around while she checked email, web etc for 2 hours, cooked for another 2 - nothing out of ordinary but I felt that preschool +grandma would be the perfect combination.

Both my MIL and dad are very similar, opinionated people who like being the rule-maker wherever they go. I think it's just hard for them to stop looking out for their kids and tell them what they should do - obviously from my perspective, that is very frustrating. I used to think it made a difference between my family and my husband's - but my MIL and dad are so similar that they can both drive me up the wall equally effectively.

One conflict I remember was my MIL cutting my daughter's hair. I had wanted to grow it out and had no plans/talks about cutting it. My MIL, one fine day, cut her hair (quite well in retrospect) and 'surprised' me. Needless to say, I didn't take to the surprise well.

As to the last question, I feel it is the price of working motherhood. I have a toddler and constantly struggle over this - I am going to switch to part-time, so I have some balance between my time/work and spending some time with my toddler. But it is not an easy question and a lot of people don't have the option of part-time either.

Thanks again for writing about this. And I truly admire you for letting your children spend such wonderful time with their grandmother.

Posted by: workingmom2 | November 14, 2006 12:04 PM

"Villify me if you wish, dehumanize me if you must. But can you actually say out loud that NONE of my points are valid?"

Duh --

You consistently undercut your points with the references to baubles and trinkets. You make huge assumptions about why some women are working, saying that they are doing it because they want more shiny stuff.

How do you expect to be taken seriously when you make such idiotic and capricious generalizations?

Nobody is going to have any regard for your ideas as long as you predicate them on such a silly premise.

Posted by: pittypat | November 14, 2006 12:05 PM

What's wrong with a plasma tv?

Posted by: Confused | November 14, 2006 12:06 PM

I was lucky enough to be raised by both my mother and paternal grandmother. I personally saw how my grandmother, who was a very loving woman, tried to take over because she helped so much. My mother is not very confrontational and often held her tongue to keep the peace. My stepmother also tried to row the boat at times. I remember an uncle telling me onces, at a family dinner, when people were good naturedly bickering about me, that my problem was that I had too many mothers. My response shut everyone up. I told them that I did not see it that way, and that in my view at least, I had one mother, one grandmother, and one stepmother. I never confused my mother with my grandmother or stepmother. This does not mean that I did not love my grandmother, but I always knew who my mother was, and nothing anyone else said or did could change how important my mother was to me.

Posted by: Emily | November 14, 2006 12:06 PM

Instead of taking care of the MIL, the MIL ended up taking care of their kids!

and also helped them buy a house!

Posted by: WoolyBugger | November 14, 2006 12:06 PM

Great topic! I would LOVE to have my family help out more with childcare - obviously they did a lot when he was an infant and toddler and I was finishing high school, but since leaving home we don't get to see them nearly as often as I would like. I am actually contemplating a move solely for the reason that I would like my son to be closer to the "male authority figures" in my family - my father and brothers. My mom is great, and I can appreciate what another poster said about how in some cases (mine included), your mother's way is often your way too - I don't have a mother-in-law, but can imagine how different that situation would be!

The pop map is excellent - thanks!

Posted by: TakomaMom | November 14, 2006 12:09 PM

ToWB: What goes around comes around. Most likely when Grandma is too old to care for herself, the parents will be taking care of her. I actually find American culture sort of strange. They all think it is horrible to put parents in old age homes but a lot of senior grand parents do nothing to take care of their children. Do they think they deserve elder care from their children for simply raising them? In other societies, aged parents are cared for by their own families. In return, they help with the child care while they are able. It is about honor and respect as well as symbiotic relationship. People don't care for their aged parents with out some help in return.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 14, 2006 12:10 PM

"I believe Ms. Ass.DA wanted her career more than her family and found it convenient to use her MIL to achieve that means."

WoolyBugger --

How is anyone going to take you seriously when you can't even copy the facts correctly into your post.

As the resume above indicates, the guest blogger is an Asst. Attorney General, not an ADA. I'm not even a lawyer, but I know that there's a big difference.

Get your facts stright, dum*a**!

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2006 12:11 PM

CMAC --

I had a Ukrainian grandma, too. Lost her when I was 7, but I've got such great recollections!

Posted by: pittypat | November 14, 2006 12:13 PM

Applause to Just My Opinion. I'm still learning that lesson! Because I get LOTS of unsolicited advice from my mom. However, much of it is good. I take the good advice and leave the other stuff alone. The leaving alone part is where we get into it.

But the good outweighs the bad, and I remind myself that control issues aside, my mother loves her grandchildren and has their best interests at heart.

If she were to tell me that the cereal I was feeding my kids is poison, I think I'd be tempted to secretly instruct the kids to gag and pretend they were dying the next time she said it. Depending upon what type of mother you have, she'll either scream, laugh or start waving a white flag.

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | November 14, 2006 12:14 PM

My mother in law lives with us, and helps take care of our son. We get on each other's nerves some times, but so do my son and I, my wife and I, my son and wife, and my wife and her mom. Although we pay her, and it does not work out to be cheaper, her motivation for taking care of my son is purely love, which is not something we can ever find from daycare or a babysitter. So my little annoyances are truly irrelevant in the grand scheme.

Now, I heard a lot of disagreements about style of child raising. Well, I also disagree sometimes about how my kids teachers do things. But I keep my mouth shut, because you can't go around like a bully and undermine everyone. A person needs to learn that there a multiple, valid perspectives, not just mommy and daddy's. I can't imagine any grandparent being that radically at odds with his or child and child-in law.

Posted by: bkp | November 14, 2006 12:15 PM

[I can only imagine the fireworks after that one!]

Yeah, Megan, that's when I found out I had a voice strong enough to rattle the filaments in the lightbulbs... using as much constraint as possible. Good thing it only takes me about 10 seconds to make things perfectly clear.

I've learned these words to be most effective when dealing with conflicts between my mother and wife: "I can understand your point, Mom, but I always side with my wife and I've given her the authority to make those decisians."

Worked every time.

But you have to understand my mother though. I make sure the kids hide the Harry Potter videos and books when she visits. It's not like I'm trying to hide my family life from her. It's just that I don't like to hear her walk around in circles and talk to herself.

Posted by: Father of 4 | November 14, 2006 12:19 PM

You guys are a bunch of loosers with nothing else to do in life.
Why don you get a life?

Posted by: Mary Ellen | November 14, 2006 12:20 PM

Instead of having a parent move in with us, we moved in with my parents! My husband got a job in California so all 5 of us moved into my childhood home. We thought it would be a short stay, but we have been here for over a year. There are moments of annoyance, but it has been really great. My parents have made a huge effort to give us space -- they retire to their room after dinner. They are always willing to help with the kids, but definitely defer to us as the parents. My kids just love their grandparents and it has been so great to see the relationships between them deepen.

I know that I have been spoiled with the extra hands! It is so nice to be able to run errands while the kids are napping or get out for a run. We try not to take advantage of the in-house babysitting. We discussed the division of household duties before we moved in (I do all the cooking and grocery shopping and my mom does the cleaning) and it has worked out really well. We hope to move into our own house in the next few months, but I will always look back fondly on this time.

Posted by: 1+2mom | November 14, 2006 12:22 PM

I could *never* have either my MIL or my mother live with us. My mother is a wonderful woman, but she was a strict disciplinarian who believed in corporal punishment when my brother and I were raised. And I have no doubt that if she were to watch my daughter and daughter misbehaved, she would hit her - because she's encouraged me to do so behind my husband's back. (Which of course I haven't.)

My MIL is the polar opposite. My ILs come to visit for several weeks out of the year. As soon as they get off the plane (literally), MIL is spoiling my two-year-old daughter with candy, toys, etc. Anything my daughter wants, she gets it - no matter how inappropriate. Daughter wants MIL's cellphone to play with? Sure. Nevermind that daughter is not allowed to play with Mommy's cell phone. Daughter wants chocolate before dinner? Sure. No problem. MIL will insist that DH and I go out for an evening, we'll come home and DH will have stayed up waaay past her bedtime. MIL will give daughter Tylenol when she doesn't have a fever, will overdress her when I ask her not to. MIL insists that daughter stay home from daycare while they visit, which disrupts her routine.

It's all I can do to not completely lose it when they come to visit (my husband does not stand up to his mother). So her moving in would be my absolute worst nightmare.

Posted by: PLS | November 14, 2006 12:22 PM

In my relationship with my parents, the fine line is "not taking advantage of them". My parents don't live very close to us, but close enough so that when one of us is travelling for work, they can offer some additional support to the spouse. And they do so gladly....IF they feel like they are not being taken advantage of.

My parents are retired, in their mid-60s, active, relatively good health, and they have a pretty significant social network. We never make plans on the assumption that the grandparents will take car of our kids, we always ask, ask nicely, and thank profusely. Even so, my parents will always try to pull the trump card of "look at all we've done for you" whenever we try to disagree with the care that they do give.

Personally, I think my parents sacrificed a lot to raise 4 kids, I shouldn't be asking them to raise my own.

Yet I am a firm believer, as somebody else said, that grandparents are entitled to spoil their grand-kids. So I try hard to let them have pretty much free reign with our kids when they are under their supervision.

Posted by: Diane | November 14, 2006 12:24 PM

Jokester, nothing like a blind joke to brighten my mood!

Posted by: Father of 4 | November 14, 2006 12:26 PM

My adult sister lives with us (in our finished basement). If you have the space and a decent relationship, I highly recommend it! I'm a SAHM-- she has a job, so she isn't a "childcare provider", but she does help with bedtime in the evening, and babysit fairly frequently on the weekends. She pays rent too, which helps our bottomline.

From her side, she gets to come home to a cooked meal every night, gets a fair amount of space for an awfully low rent, and gets a better balance of privacy/loneliness than she ever got with roommates or living alone.

There are occasional tensions, but all in all its a great situation for all of us, especially the kids. Since she doesn't have kids, she doesn't expect to make parenting decisions, but I do make an effort not to micromanage her time with the kids.

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM... | November 14, 2006 12:27 PM

'MIL insists that daughter stay home from daycare while they visit, which disrupts her routine.'

This is your daughter's grandmother. In the big scheme of things, your daughter being able to actually be with her grandmother for a few weeks out of a year is much more important than a few weeks of disrupted routine.


Posted by: to PLS | November 14, 2006 12:34 PM

To everyone who has said I should be grateful- you're absolutely right! But human relationships are difficult, and gratitude doesn't make difficult people less difficult, or a difficult situation less difficult. For every person I know who has told me how lucky I am to have MIL, there is someone who has told me how they could never have their adult parents or in-laws living with them.
I find it interesting that people assume that if you are working, it is to buy luxuries, private school, a McMansion, rather than just to be able to pay the mortgage on an ordinary house. Our mortgage needs both of our salaries, including my measly (sp?) government salary. As a line deputy, I'm not exactly high-powered. I am the typical mommy-track professional who works a less demanding govt. job so that someone can go home and be with the kids at the end of the day.
Thanks for the comments and the support.

Posted by: MHalloran | November 14, 2006 12:37 PM

Ok people, "trinkets, baubles and Plasma TVs" - I think many of you assume I am speaking of jewelry- you sexists! (kidding) that's why I threw in Plasma TVs.

"Trinkets, baubles and Plasmas" are metaphors for consumerism. Get it?!

I am speaking of balance here - that is what this column is about.

Some of you (who all argue against me!) clearly are worried about this balance every day. Of course you want to pay for college, of course you want dependable transportation that (amongst other reasons) are why we work. Little luxuries make life nicer. Nothing wrong there. You are making daily adjustments to keep the balance between providing materially for your children and providing spiritually for your children. I applaud this. The fact that you are agonizing over it leads me to believe that you are probably making very difficult decisions- and I do not doubt for a second that those decisions are predicated upon what you believe is best for your children.

My point is that we all, in a consumer oriented society, are buying too much. And that as parents... a truly sacred occupation... wanting too many UNIMPORTANT consumer things distracts us from parenting by forcing us to work too much.

To those who have hurled invective at me (idiot, pathetic etc) and to those who say I am wrong on each and every item, it is my instinct that you are angry not at me- some anonymous knuckleheaded web poster- but because you are out of balance on this issue.

To those of you that I have made very angry, I apologize for the result (it was not my intention), but not the statements.

I think you need to look long and hard at your life to understand why, although you cannot intellectually refute my statements, you also cannot admit that one single point is worthy of discussion, analysis and, heaven forbid, introspection.

I disagree with the people who say "career makes me happy and this yields happier children." This has not been my experience. But while I disagree, I understand it. You are not toiling for trinkets over family but rather pursuing career and family objectives using a different ideology. Maybe you are right and I am wrong. It is a reasonable position.

It has been my experience that people that fret every night about whether they have struck an appropriate balance and are good parents- usually are good parents.

I am not advocating that we not leave the farm and just tend to the children. What I am saying is- Your kids need you more than they need things. And, in the end, being a super succesful lawyer will not bring you the joy that being a super succesful parent will. And, finally to the point of Mary Ellen... yielding too much of day-to-day parenting responsibility will leave you with diminished choices.

It is sad for all of us, but I truly believe you cannot have it all, but having a strong, happy family is a one heck of a great consolation prize.


Posted by: Duh | November 14, 2006 12:41 PM

While I have no family that lives nearby, I am thinking of moving back "home" so my kids can be closer to family and have more of a support network (not just for me, but for the other family members, too.)

While growing up, I'd go spend summers at my grammas on the family farm. I have many good memories of carousing with the cousins and getting into all sorts of ... trouble.

While my mom and I have different views on child rearing (there are 24 years between me and my brother, now 6, and hoo boy, he gets away with ALOT I would've never dreamed of doing and I cringe at the way he talks to her), I still think my kiddos would benefit from seeing her more than once a year.

I put in a request to telecommute and was turned down (too far, would set a precedent, etc) I'm trying to work with the company to sell them on it - any suggestions?

Posted by: LGB | November 14, 2006 12:42 PM

I want to address a point Mr. Honda made earlier, that it is developed nations that "farm out" their care of the elderly.

True, but I have relatives in India, and I've seen some things there that simply do not exist here:

1. India has a very cheap labor market. People who can afford it hire an in-house servant or nurse (educated if they can afford it) to care for their elderly if they need around the clock care.

2. If families cannot afford that, then it is the woman who takes care of the elderly person. If they are alert and mobile, this is not a burden, but if they are infirm, etc., it is a major burden FOR THE WOMAN.

I think that gaining this perspective has helped me understand that while neither situation is great, each situation (developed vs third-world methods) has something to recommend it. But to simply say that it's all good in other non-developed countries because they take care of their elderly "in-house" is not enough of a nuanced view.

Posted by: Rebecca | November 14, 2006 12:44 PM

We never had anyone live with us, but I remember feeling that my mother would do things "her way" even if I wanted things done differently because "she raised three children and they are ok".

Now, my children are almost grown. No grandchildren for me yet, but I can't imagine that I will be able to completely stop myself from giving unsolicited advice or resort to doing things "my way". I have been advising and teaching and guiding my children their entire lives. That's not so easy to turn off :).

Most grandparents mean well and have lived through many "current wisdoms". Babies should sleep on their backs, no sides, no tummies. Eggs are good for you, no bad, no good in moderation only.

So when grandparents say a little candy is ok or it won't hurt to stay up a little later, they really believe that to be true. It is not that they are trying to undermine your authority.

Parents, bite your tongues and let the grandparents spoil your children a little. My children no longer have grandparents. They enjoy the memories of being spoiled. And no matter what the grandparents did or did not let them do, the kids always knew that they couldn't get away with it with Mom and Dad.

Posted by: xyz | November 14, 2006 12:48 PM

To Duh -- great last post!! We may disagree on some ideology, but I dont think either of us is wrong -- I think we have different points of view, which make this world go around. Just think about how boring elections would be if the Democrats and Republicans agreed on . . . say . . . anything.

Posted by: Marie | November 14, 2006 12:50 PM

Diane - I could have written your post. My situation with my parents is exactly the same. We don't take them for granted and they don't dedicate their lives to us - however when they have our kids - they make the call. As my husband says - they raised you and I married you - I can trust them with my kids!

Posted by: CMAC | November 14, 2006 12:51 PM

Duh has pretty much steroeotyped working moms, I guess.

I work partly because I've supported my parents so they didn't have to live in poverty. Is that a good reason? After my father passed away, my mother lived with us for one year and I allowed her to watch my preschooler and my elementary school-age child - her request in return. But, this did cause tension because I thought she watched too much TV (my kids told me), and I thought she was too lenient.

The next year, I told my mother that I'd be putting my daughter in preschool full day and she could decide what to do. I still owned the house she lived in, so she lived there half time and stays with me half time. (We built a house with a room and bath for her knowing my father wouldn't be around for long.)

It's easy to sterotype working moms if you think they make decisions based on materialism, but some working moms make decisions based on those they love and care for! Not all working moms have husbands that earn enough to support not only their immediate family but others who need those moms. The stay-at-home moms who have the luxury of being free of such choices should count their blessing instead of worrying about the choices others have made. :)

We own no plasma TVs and all our furniture was purchased used by the way. :) After all, we have priorities.

Posted by: Mom of 2 | November 14, 2006 12:56 PM

Pitty: My parents were "pop" people until they moved from PA to Wash DC in 1959. All my cousins/aunts/uncles are "pop" people - they are in Ohio, WV and PA. My PA cousins also call rubber bands gum bands. They don't use grocery store - they call it the market. We used to tease each other all the time about our so called "differences" in lingo.

Posted by: cmac | November 14, 2006 1:02 PM

To duh - Stop generalizing that two income families just want more shiny baubles! Even with two incomes, they may not have tons of money. More importantly, maybe they work because they love the work and want to contribute to society. Maybe they work for a non profit charity or are teachers or firemen or nurses or in some way are helping humanity. Maybe they donate a good portion of their money to help others. You don't know, so stop making assumptions that all two-incomers are materialistic narcissists. Geez.

Posted by: robyn | November 14, 2006 1:03 PM

I think Duh clarified his/her point in their last post. He/She is not villifying all working parents. She is just stating that people should consider giving up some material luxuries in place of spending time with the kids. As far as the guest blogger, she does not appear to me to be loaded down with VLIs. I think a lot of people confuse the wealthy and the middle class. There is a far cry from a government or middle management person and a partner at a top law firm or a CEO.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 14, 2006 1:25 PM

"My husband and I don't have children, and my MIL is constantly harassing us about when I will pop a few out. I am about to graduate from professional school and obviously have other priorities right now. However, I have no doubt that if we ever have a child, she will be right there telling us how to raise it."

To this anonymous poster:

I completely understand you and can relate! During my husband's entire dating life his lovely mother would often tell him to never bring home a b**tard child. He never did. And when she found out about his impending vasectomy, she said "I hope you get pregnant anyway!" This--before we were even married, just moved in together, and virtually broke!" Ah, but she wanted her grandbabies!

I have no qualms in admitting that she is one (of many) reasons why I won't be having kids. Aside from her attitude and general approach to things, my husband is adamant that her genetic issues stop with him.

No problem there!

Posted by: RaiseYourOwnKids | November 14, 2006 1:27 PM

So should CEO's and partners in top law firms (men or women) not be parents because they would be placing their want for material items over being parents? And yes, I am intentionally spinning foamgnome's message a bit to ask this question.

Posted by: Marie | November 14, 2006 1:33 PM

Wow, today's guest is older than me with childcare stuff going on; I'm younger than her and a working grandmother........

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2006 1:35 PM

See, the thing is, my daughter really enjoys going to school. She has had the same friends since she was 3 months old, the same teacher for over a year now. She loves her "Miss CiCi", as well as the other teachers in the room. She talks about them (and the other children) on the weekends and looks FORWARD to going to "school" every day. So for her to be stuck inside the house all day long with my MIL for days on end and not running around on the playground with her friends, simply so grandma can have more "unsupervised" time with her...well, that just doesn't sit right with me.

Posted by: PLS | November 14, 2006 1:35 PM

When my sister and I were little, neither of us ever had a "babysitter," we were always taken care of by grandparents who lived nearby. While this worked for both of my working parents (who later would change their work schedules so one worked during the day/the other at night), I feel I missed out on a lot from both ends. With very few children in our neighborhood, my sister and I rarely had contact with other children of the same age until elementary school, and even then, my parents or grandparents would not do the playdate thing (maybe this concept is more recent but still). Therefore, I think regardless of the caregiver, they need to stimulate the child/children in question with a variety of activities. I know my parents both benefited from saving money by having my grandparents watch us, and they always tried to go by my parent's rules. However, things changed if we were at their house - (aka waffles with chocolate ice cream for breakfast!). I love my parents deeply, but I still would have liked my parents to play with me more instead of telling me to go keep myself occupied (often infront of the TV), but they always complained (and still do) of being too tired. I hope I can devote enough time to my kids when I have them.

Posted by: college kid | November 14, 2006 1:35 PM

Yea, the jokester's puns were rather punny!

Posted by: John | November 14, 2006 1:36 PM

Marie: I don't think so but Duh seems to think so. I was just pointing out to Duh that there is a big difference between a middle of the row professional worker and the CEO of Johnson and Johnson.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 14, 2006 1:36 PM

Foamgnome -- I absolutely see your point. I am just curious as to whether someone would say that these people should not have children and these people should. Does it change anyone's opinion if that CEO is the CEO of a tobacco company or is CEO of a drug company or a partner in a law firm that does a significant amount of pro bono work? Just curious.

Posted by: Marie | November 14, 2006 1:40 PM

Oh, and I would love to be the CEO of J&J -- cause then, I could take my kids to school in a decked out Benz (I secretly covet Benz's -- they are so sweet) :)

Posted by: Marie | November 14, 2006 1:42 PM

Whoa Mary Ellen Halloran! I know just how you feel. In my case, it's my mother who lives with us. She was a terrific care giver for my two children when they were infants, toddlers, and young kids. However, she seems to have not only forgotten but complete ignored the fact that she is the "Grandmother" not the mother or father. Both my husband and I work outside of our home; my mother who has lived with us for the 23 years of our marriage was a wonderful caregiver for my children when they were young and alleviated a lot of worry and headache over who was caring for them during the day and after school. The problems arose when she interferes in my exercising my authority as the parent; i.e. she jumps right in the middle of everything when I am or have been correcting my children for wrongdoings or just trying to show them alternatives to what could end up being poor judgment on their parts. I always try remaining respectful but sometimes it just gets out of hand and then she plays the long-suffering grandmother. It has been so bad in the past that when my children call "mom", my mother responds as if they don't know who the mother is.

In all of this, I must say that my husband has been super patient and has helped me to look at the situation through different eyes. I guess I have to believe at this point that my husband is right when he says "nothing you can do about it".

Posted by: Lefty | November 14, 2006 1:43 PM

to duh: re: "To those who have hurled invective at me (idiot, pathetic etc) and to those who say I am wrong on each and every item, it is my instinct that you are angry not at me- some anonymous knuckleheaded web poster- but because you are out of balance on this issue. "

Wrong again. I, for one, am not mad at you about anything. Once again you exaggerate and then lose the plot. I've never been mad at anyone I don't know. I disagree with you because I simply believe you are wrong. Your rationales are unsupportable. Your language use is reactionary. Finally, you present your opinions as facts.

And as for balance, you are way off base here because you don't know my personal life at all.

My husband surprised with a Nordstrom's lunch date today. I admit to loving their fries.

Posted by: dotted | November 14, 2006 1:45 PM

I never wanted a luxury car but I would like a larger single family house. But the housing prices are so high here. I doubt we could afford the house we live in now if we had to purchase it today. We got into the housing market in 2000. I really feel sorry for young people today, who are trying to buy their first home.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 14, 2006 1:46 PM

Mom or Dad, If your career demands prevent you from being there for your children during their formative years, you should look hard at why you want children. If you still want to have them, get comfortable with the idea that others will be rearing them for you (MiL) and their natural affection will flow in that direction. Your ability to participate in the parents' decision making process will be limited.

I would never tell someone you can't or shouldn't have children. What I do feel strongly about is that you cannot change the world and be a great parent at the same time. Go into the process with your eyes wide open

People that say you can do both equally well are selling you a bill of goods. It is a trade-off. It is unfair and it is lopsided (the burden seems to fall more upon Moms)but is the reality as I have witnessed it.

Now, just to muddy the waters, there is a temporal shift that occurs when raising our children. Most CEO's and Managing partners attain that rank later in life when their children need them less.

As to wealth- My question is, what is wealth? A USA middle class lifestyle is amazingly rich to most of the undeveloped world. I do not question wealth accumulation, just priorities. Saving for college education is a good thing. Spending 10% of you gross salary on a vacation? Buying a new car every 2 years? If that is what you are working for, you are squandering more than your children's youth.

Posted by: duh | November 14, 2006 1:50 PM

I wish I had a mother-in-law I could respect. Mine is upset that I had a girl. Boys are perfect and she has three. She also does not like the fact that she has brown hair. She does, I do and so does her son.

My mother-in-law said I upset her because one of her neighbors (who saw my daughter while trick or treating) said she was cute.
I wanted to say you say thank you but I held my tongue.

I used to but longer let my mother-in-law
even babysit. Sometimes my husband and child visit her but normally I do not attend.

I promise, promise, promise, that if I ever get to be a mother-in-law I will be kind and respectful.

Posted by: shdd | November 14, 2006 1:53 PM

I wish I had a mother-in-law I could respect. Mine is upset that I had a girl. Boys are perfect and she has three. She also does not like the fact that she has brown hair. She does, I do and so does her son.

My mother-in-law said I upset her because one of her neighbors (who saw my daughter while trick or treating) said she was cute.
I wanted to say you say thank you but I held my tongue.

I used to but longer let my mother-in-law
even babysit. Sometimes my husband and child visit her but normally I do not attend.

I promise, promise, promise, that if I ever get to be a mother-in-law I will be kind and respectful.

Posted by: shdd | November 14, 2006 1:54 PM

I wish I had a mother-in-law I could respect. Mine is upset that I had a girl. Boys are perfect and she has three. She also does not like the fact that she has brown hair. She does, I do and so does her son.

My mother-in-law said I upset her because one of her neighbors (who saw my daughter while trick or treating) said she was cute.
I wanted to say you say thank you but I held my tongue.

I used to but longer let my mother-in-law
even babysit. Sometimes my husband and child visit her but normally I do not attend.

I promise, promise, promise, that if I ever get to be a mother-in-law I will be kind and respectful.

Posted by: shdd | November 14, 2006 1:54 PM

Foamgnome -- I know what you mean -- we bought in 1999, and our house has easily doubled in price since then!!!! I don't think I could have stomached paying that much for the house we have now. Our nanny and her husband want to buy a house, but they cannot even get a condo for less than what we paid for our single family home. It is just crazy. I do want a luxury car, but it will have to wait for schooling to be done, retirement to be saved, and then if I am still young enough to drive it . . . we will see. But until then, I am the mom in the minivan (feelin' old) :)

Posted by: Marie | November 14, 2006 1:54 PM

Dotted, I am glad to know how you "feel" and what you "believe" But I note you present not a single argument.

"I disagree with you because I simply believe you are wrong. Your rationales are unsupportable."

Add something to the conversation beyond your bald opinion.

Posted by: Duh | November 14, 2006 1:56 PM

Dotted, I am glad to know how you "feel" and what you "believe" But I note you present not a single argument.

"I disagree with you because I simply believe you are wrong. Your rationales are unsupportable."

Add something to the conversation beyond your bald opinion.

Posted by: Duh | November 14, 2006 1:57 PM

Duh wrote -"Mom or Dad, If your career demands prevent you from being there for your children during their formative years, you should look hard at why you want children. If you still want to have them, get comfortable with the idea that others will be rearing them for you (MiL) and their natural affection will flow in that direction Your ability to participate in the parents' decision making process will be limited."

So the parent who is working will not have the "natural affection" flowing in their direction. The working parent's decision making process will be limited.
So all of us who grew up with SAHM's natural affections didn't flow to our fathers and their role in raising us was limited. Please Duh don't you love both your parents don't you think they both reared you? And don't you think the parent who works outside the home has full rights as well or have they given that up to earn a living.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2006 1:59 PM

>>What I do feel strongly about is that you cannot change the world and be a great parent at the same time.>>

Can you have a regular 9-5 job and be a great parent? My mother worked the whole time we were growing up (3 kids). Made dinner every night, baked cookies for bake sales, sewed our Halloween costumes, attended our little league games...not to mention raising three productive, well-adjusted adults. She would have HATED staying home with us, but she was a great mom. I just don't see how the two are mutually exclusive. For every example you throw out of someone who shouldn't have kids, I'm sure someone can point to another person who worked and is a great parent. It's more about the person than about whether they work outside the home or not. Some people don't have the energy, patience, or skills to be involved, thoughtful parents. Some do.

Posted by: to Duh | November 14, 2006 1:59 PM

to duh (once more with vigor)
who wrote: "If you still want to have them, get comfortable with the idea that others will be rearing them for you (MiL) and their natural affection will flow in that direction."

This is where we disagree. My experience says you are incorrect. All it takes is one contra-example to negate your absolutism. I am, and will always be, their mother. Their father, no matter what, will always be their father. The presence of my father's mother 5 months a year for plenty of years was good for them. They know their grandparents. Her presence only expanded their natural affection. It did not make me less of a mother. I am confident of this. By the way, I have two in their twenties, a teenager and a preteen. I have tons of experience here. I would say we are all happy in our lives. That is one goal of parenting: to produce generally happy adults.

Posted by: dotted | November 14, 2006 1:59 PM

"So when grandparents say a little candy is ok or it won't hurt to stay up a little later, they really believe that to be true."

Fair enough, but then it is somewhat surprising to me that they don't connect crabby behavior the next day with lack of sleep. After the second night of being up past 10 at MIL's urging my son was pretty irritable and fussy - MIL then started commenting every so often at how fussy he is and what "mama's boy" he turned into. But that night she still wanted him to stay up to watch ALL of the Wizard of Oz on TV - when I started asking him if he wanted to go to sleep at 9:30, it was "Oh mama, then I won't know how the story ends, it's only another half hour mama!" OK, I'm clearly being a little harsh and venting here, but it was really frustating and exhausting by the end. I DO think it's really important for them to spend time together. I think this visit was just a little too long given the cramped quarters there.

Posted by: Megan | November 14, 2006 2:00 PM

Your husband should have laid down the law to his mother on your behalf about the rules of raising the kids.

You may have traded a bit too much power by allowing your mother in law to move in with you and your family.

It's been hard on me to stay home with my kids, but I made it VERY CLEAR to both my husband and his mother that in my home, I am the Queen Bee. My logic is too many chefs in the kitchen spoil the soup. Kids need only two people on their supreme court, mom and dad.

My mother in law also asked me many times when were we going to start a family and I always answered her the same way, "When I am ready to raise a child, that's when I'll look into having one. In the meantime, relax, you had your three, now back off and let me enjoy my twenties, please."

Now, I have two wonderful kids and they arrived not because of pressure, but because me and my hubby made the decision. And mother in law, (once she learned the rules) has been a wonderful grandmother, (and a less annoying MIL).

I have both sets of Grandparents trained to say, "Wait a moment, why don't we ask your parents?" before they charge into anything. I think ultimately it takes some of the pressure off them too. Is it really fair to ask our parents to parent our children too? They've done their job, now should be playtime.

Posted by: Kris | November 14, 2006 2:02 PM

Megan -- I know what you mean. My in-laws give my kids tons of candy and sugar and let then stay up late. The one time I had enough. Grandma said, here little one, more sugar and lets stay up later. I said, you know what -- you have seen the consequences of doing this (sugar and stay up late) -- if you allow them to do this -- that is totally fine with me, but tomorrow, I am going to a girlfriend's house all day -- I will be home in the afternoon. I did it. Since then, not as much sugar and bedtime is strictly enforced by Grandma and Grandpa. They were frazzled by the time I got home. :)

Posted by: Marie | November 14, 2006 2:06 PM

You are all good and wonderful people who are phenomenal parents, CEO's and lead singers of internationally acclaimed Rock Bands!

Your parents were Saints no less! There is no need for introspection on YOUR part! You are doing the best you can right? I mean right? I am, really, don't you agree? I DID THE BEST I COULD!!!!!!

If you are so sure of yourselves why do you care what I think? Why are you here? Your maternal instincts betray your ambition. You KNOW you are wrong. You are a joke. Unfortunately your children will pay the price. Your paranoia about whether you have done right by kids/career is nagging at you for good reason. But, go to Nordstrom for lunch... buy the new trinkets for the kids and baubles for yourself and then wonder... Why is my life so empty?

you are in denial (and a tad boring)... goodbye.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2006 2:07 PM

"And that as parents... a truly sacred occupation"

Oh, for God's sake, give it up.

Parenting is an admirable occupation, so congratulations. But if you really think it's sacred, then you need some serious help.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2006 2:08 PM

Despite the hostile and intolerant way others have said it, I would be interested in an "other perspective" post from Mary Ellen's mother-in-law.

I'm not sure how I feel since I don't have kids yet, and don't think I would mind having either my mom or mother-in-law living with me. I can see how my mom and I could get into conflicts about how to raise the kids. However, I think, in the end, the benefits of having your child grow up in a close relationship with his or her grandparents far outweigh some of the inconveniences associated with "dual parenting" or whatever one would call it. I would have loved to have grown up closer to my grandma, who died when I was young but whom I remember as a very special woman.

Posted by: interested | November 14, 2006 2:11 PM

By the way, to all the moms who don't know how to handle conflict with MIL or mom, this always works for me...

Just smile, state your position, and keep going.

The very fact that you feel you need to discuss your parenting is ridiculous. Don't bother.

Just smile nicely and say, "Oh no, I find little Suzie sleeps much better if she doesn't eat candy before bed. Isn't grandma a doll to bring some over. Let's put it in the fridge and have it with lunch tomorrow!"

Let grandma pout, and let Suzie cry - they will both get over it. It also helps to ask your MIL's opinion on certain things outside of kid time. As long as people feel they are being heard and there's input, I think they know to butt out of most things.

We all know it's hard to "turn off" the mother switch, so let's give our moms (and hubby's moms) some slack.

Posted by: Kris | November 14, 2006 2:15 PM

"some anonymous knuckleheaded web poster- but because you are out of balance on this issue."

Nope--I'm not out of balance. I love my career, my kids are happy and I make enough money to be comfortable. You are just an intolerant a** and are reacting to being called out.


"To those of you that I have made very angry,"

No again. I'm not angry. To be angry I would have to care what you think. No emotion here.

"I think you need to look long and hard at your life to understand why, although you cannot intellectually refute my statements, you also cannot admit that one single point is worthy of discussion,"

I think several of us have intelligently refuted your points. You're not listening and YOU refuse to be intellectual. Sure we can discuss your sexist reactionary views, but it would be better to discuss them with someone more tolerant.

"I disagree with the people who say "career makes me happy and this yields happier children." This has not been my experience."

Actually, career makes a lot of people happy including myself AND my children. My kids love bragging to their friends what I do. I am involved with their life and I feel balanced. You seem like an unhappy person and you may want to get counseling to figure out how you can get rid of the anger and judgemental attitude.

Posted by: Observer | November 14, 2006 2:18 PM

was the last anon at 2:07 from duh?

It sounds like it is so......I think someone is showing a spot of pique right now that anyone could simply disagree...and for a valid reason: experience. By the way, noone here knows if I'm sah, woth, or when which, or ever! Someone is showing his/herself to be rather judgemental today...

Posted by: dotted | November 14, 2006 2:19 PM

"Aside from her attitude and general approach to things, my husband is adamant that her genetic issues stop with him."

This is an important consideration that I haven't seen discussed before on the blog.

Some childfree couples choose not to have kids because there are genetic components in their families that they don't want to perpetuate. Yes, they could decide to adopt, and many do. But I think this is a very real part of the decision-making process for some couples.

Posted by: pittypat | November 14, 2006 2:23 PM

WoolyBugger revealed:
The wooly bugger is a must-have lure in every fly-fisherman's tackle box. It can't be fished wrong. Some fish will take buggers when it is being stripped ultra fast and others prefer it drifted without drag. Most buggers are tied in somber greens. When all else fails, cast the wooly bugger for a strike!

7 hits today.
Every day is a good day for fishing.

Posted by: FlyFisherman | November 14, 2006 2:24 PM

"If you are so sure of yourselves why do you care what I think? Why are you here? Your maternal instincts betray your ambition. You KNOW you are wrong. You are a joke. Unfortunately your children will pay the price. Your paranoia about whether you have done right by kids/career is nagging at you for good reason. But, go to Nordstrom for lunch... buy the new trinkets for the kids and baubles for yourself and then wonder... Why is my life so empty?"

I'm still trying to figure out why all this invective is directed at women and mom and none at men who work outside the home, or parents, generally, but there's no point in exhausting ourselves arguing with the mentally imbalanced, angry, and judgmental.

Back to today's guest blog, while I am envious of those who have family close by, a permanent living arrangement with my MIL would be truly difficult. My hats off to Mary Ellen for the graciousness she's shown in a situation where she can't make a change. If her kids were in a school and the school didn't support Mary Ellen's parenting decisions, she could move to another school district. If her kids had a paid childcare provider of whatever sort, and that provider didn't generally follow her directions, she could switch providers. Here, she's largely powerless unless her husband gets involved. Negotiating how we raise our kids is tough enough when there are two parents involved, but when it expands to four, e.g., divorce/stepparents, and/or as here when there is an active, undermining grandparent, it must be highly stressful.

Posted by: NC lawyer | November 14, 2006 2:27 PM

NC lawyer, way to score those brownie points. Trying to get a job in NJ???

I'm sure Mary Ellen is so stressed when she her kids are cared for by
"someone who loves them and would never park them in front of the TV all day. ... constantly played with them, read to them, let them fall asleep in her lap, and just provided wonderful care. We never had to worry about picking kids up from day care. Once they were in school, she supervised homework until we got home. In summertime, we didn't worry about putting them in day camp just to have child care. The kids stayed home, read, played in the yard and went to the pool. My husband and I could work late (once in a while only -- she's quick to let us know when she feels taken advantage of). To this day, she feeds my kids dinner before I get home so I don't have to rush home worrying about starving children."

oh, don't forget that MIL helped them buy the house for them to live in.

Posted by: brownnose | November 14, 2006 2:33 PM

Well Observer, if you really didn't care what he thought, you wouldn't have taken the time from your wonderful job to post a response (with profanity no less).

Posted by: headhoncho | November 14, 2006 2:34 PM

Okay, I usually don't respond to trolls like Duh and WB, but today I'm sick of the repeated attacks on my own parents here. Usually I just laugh at the self-satisified SAHPs here, because it's so obvious they're pretty unhappy themselves.

I'm in my mid-30s now, with a family of my own. I'm the child of two career minded working parents. BOTH my parents worked full-time for my entire childhood. They didn't get home until about 6:00 pm or so every night. They had successful careers, not just jobs. They made good money, not just survival money. We always had a nice house that was warm and full of love. It wasn't generally perfectly clean (who had time for housework?) but you know, I can tell you as an adult I sure as heck don't quibble with the fact both my parents hated vacuuming.

Guess what? Am I resentful? Am I unhappy with my childhood? Not in the slightest. I think my parents are the best. They know they have a standing invitation to come live with us when the time comes and I will be honored to take them (as would my siblings). Frankly, I'm a lot closer to my parents than a lot of my high school friends with SAHMs who were unhappy and nasty and miserable. In high school I remember some of those friends complaining about how much they hated their parents, etc. It was shocking to me; none of us kids EVER would have dreamed of telling our parents we hated them. SAH sure didn't matter with those kids. In my experience SAH or working had little to do with how the kids were in high school. There were good kids and screwed-up kids from either group.

I had a nice life as a child thanks to my parents working. I went to a great, intellectually challenging private school. I had my college education paid for, which meant I didn't have to get saddled with crippling debts, which means, now, as an adult, I have been able to afford a house in a great school district for my own kids (and I work full-time, btw, exactly like my own parents did, and I feel it's working out well so far).

My parents didn't waste time attacking other parents for their own choices. You judgmental people here think your kids aren't learning those lessons, but they are. They'll learn you're nasty. They'll learn you're judgmental. And as you said, you reap what you sow.

My working parents taught me the value of hard work, they taught me how to treat family respectfully and lovingly, they taught me discipline, they taught me love. They reaped what they sowed, but the the best part is that I did too. And I really, really thank them for it.

Posted by: happy daughter | November 14, 2006 2:36 PM

thanks, happy daughter, for such a great post!

Marie, that sounds like an excellent strategy - perhaps I'll give that go next time we're there ;). But for now I'll stop complaining - she really is a sweet woman who loves us all very much.

Posted by: Megan | November 14, 2006 2:43 PM

THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN!

Posted by: MIL | November 14, 2006 2:45 PM

Guess this must be a cultural thing, but where I was brought up (Asia), children are duty-bound to house and care for their elderly parents. When the parent is too old to live independently, they choose which child to live with. The child accepts it willingly and cheerfully. That goes without question. There's also no implied "you must help with childcare and cooking" or "you must carry your own weight". No doubt there will be conflict and adjustments, but that's part of life.

Posted by: Mr.Honda | November 14, 2006 3:00 PM

Mr. Honda,
It does seem that Asian cultures do keep their elderly at home, but I also think that depending on the family and the particular country they come from, the grandparents do help out a lot. My best friend is from Vietnam and her mother lives with her in exchange for childcare and cooking. From what I have observed, the situation is less than ideal because mother and daughter do not get along, but none of the other siblings are willing to take her because she is apparently a very difficult person.

Posted by: Emily | November 14, 2006 3:06 PM

to brownnose:

in the same way that all car mechanics don't know each other -- surprise -- all lawyers don't know each other either. I've no need for another job, btw. I've got one: Mom.

sadly, it appears that only you are permitted to have a thought or comment today. the rest of the responders should just go away and leave you the floor.

oh for Father of 4 or cmac to drop back in and provide a comment or two that's neither self-serving or insulting to everyone else.

Posted by: NC lawyer | November 14, 2006 3:07 PM

What a great post!

My children are very happy and well adjusted with parents with careers. One of my children has told me that I am his "hero". Both of my children want to do what I am doing which is the biggest compliment a parent can get! I can't imagine that either of them wants me around 24/7 and involved with every aspect of their lives. They are mature, smart and happy. I think this is because their parents are happy and caring.

So it's so nice that a child of working parents only confirms what we working parents already know. Thanks!

Posted by: To happy daughter | November 14, 2006 3:14 PM

NC lawyer:
sniff sniff....I'm trying but I'm not as witty as Fo4 and cmac...sniff sniff...

weather report: clouds just came in to obscure an otherwise brilliant Carolina blue day.

Posted by: dotted | November 14, 2006 3:14 PM

Emily: I am Vietnamese. I can tell you that yes, the Vietnamese do take care of the elderly. It will be deeply shameful to send them to a retirement home. On the other hand, the aged parents do help with cooking, cleaning and child care. It is not viewed as "pulling their weight" or paying for their keep. It is just the cultural expectation. Also the Vietnamese are bound to what is called filal piety (sp?). It is the duty and debt that a child OWES their parents for having raised them. You literally owe your parents $$ and a home for having had the privilege for being raised. In the most extreme cases, it is a burden. It takes young couples 5-7 years to gather enough money to support themselves and a new family. On the flip side, young couples live with their parents a lot longer then American people. There is no out the door at 18 or go find a way to pay for college. It is much more of a symbiotic relationship. Personally, I am raising my daughters to be more American. I hope to have enough $$ to comfortably retire with out their help. If and when the time comes, I need physical assistance, I surely hope my daughters will help. Either by looking after my care giver or doing it themselves. I will also be free to help out my daughters with their young families. As soon as I retire, I would like to spend time helping them with their child care needs. I feel it is my obligation and frankly a joy to spend time with the grand children.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 14, 2006 3:16 PM

ah, dotted, I apologize. Your posts also are a breath of fresh Carolina blue (but not UNC Carolina blue) air . . .

makes me long for discussions of dogs and children. okay -- maybe not.

Posted by: NC lawyer | November 14, 2006 3:17 PM

NC lawyer: u b dukie?

oh no...not the dreaded 'dogs and children...' ahhhhh...run away now, while you can.

Posted by: dotted | November 14, 2006 3:22 PM

LOL NC Lawyer -- me thinks you bleed royal blue...

I have to second Happy Daughter. As you can tell from my post name my mom worked and we both like to think I turned out ok. She was involved in PTA (I think she got through those years before the room mother nazis arrived), attended my sporting events, made Halloween costumes, etc. It never occurred to me to resent her for working. She and I have a fantastic relationship as adults.

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | November 14, 2006 3:26 PM

dotted,

I'm a suffering UVA Cavs fan (and a suffering Redskins fan, but that's a different kind of suffering). If the Cavs aren't playing, it's ABC - anyone but Carolina to the non-ACC affiliated.

the funny thing is, when I read the guest blog today, i thought it would be a really positive, constructive, helpful conversation about how to make it work with aging parents. there didn't seem to be any landmines in sight and I couldn't see a tax/policy angle either. sigh.

Posted by: NC lawyer | November 14, 2006 3:26 PM

The fact of the matter is that in the society we live in now, in order to have even a reasonably comfortable life, both parents have to work. Both of my parents worked, my father went to school to get his masters at night. Do I feel neglected, resentful, angry, etc?? Absolutely not! I'm PROUD of my parents and what they've done for my brothers and I! I have wonderful examples of parenthood. My parents never missed our games, plays, scout meetings, special events, whatever. My parents found a balance that worked for them. My daughter's father and I have found a balance that works for us. My daughter knows she's loved and cared for and wants for nothing, emotionally or otherwise. I'm in a different situation in that I live with my parents. But my parents understand that at the end of the day I'm the mother and the one who has to live with the consequences. They truly do not overstep their boundaries too much, and I respect that my daughter is their only grandchild and they've earned the right to spoil her. My daughter knows who her parents are. Having my parents around just means she has an extended circle of people who love her.

Posted by: VTFlyygirl | November 14, 2006 3:29 PM

Pttypat:

It is one of the more serious issues that led to this decision. My husband's parents are both diabetics. Now he is too. His mother had breast cancer; her father died of prostate cancer (spread to the stomach.) We won't even go into the mental issues that plague his mother's side.

I know nothing of my mother's side, since she was adopted. What little I do know of my father's isn't pretty. I have some health concerns of my own, and sometimes you just have to step back and consider what you might burden a potential child with before it's too late.

In the end, I realize it's all a gamble, but sometimes it's just not worth it to subject those things to a child. And that's with just the stuff that I do know--the unkown is really the scary part.

Posted by: RaiseYourOwnKids | November 14, 2006 3:31 PM

"See, the thing is, my daughter really enjoys going to school. She has had the same friends since she was 3 months old, the same teacher for over a year now. She loves her "Miss CiCi", as well as the other teachers in the room. She talks about them (and the other children) on the weekends and looks FORWARD to going to "school" every day. So for her to be stuck inside the house all day long with my MIL for days on end and not running around on the playground with her friends, simply so grandma can have more "unsupervised" time with her...well, that just doesn't sit right with me."

This is one of the saddest things I've ever heard. I can't BELIEVE someone thinks that a few days a year of additional time "running around with her friends", when she's already spending every weekday of her little life doing so, is more important than time with a grandparent. I hope you look back on these years later with a great deal of regret that you didn't give your daughter this gift.

Oh, and just for the record, daycare is not school. It is DAYCARE.

Posted by: you're clueless | November 14, 2006 3:32 PM

My MIL and I have become closer over the yrs, but I don't think I could live w her and FIL.
Funny thing when I was pregnant she kept telling me about how kids w sahmoms are so much better off than kids where mom works. And then I ended up staying at home til oldest was 3 1/2 and youngest was 6 mos. And her daughter went back to work after her youngest was barely 10 wks. Cause she just doesn't want to be home w the kids.

Posted by: atlmom | November 14, 2006 3:34 PM

To the person that just posted under "you're clueless," I think you misunderstood what she said about not pulling her daughter out of daycare when grandma visits. Grandma visits for 2 or 3 weeks at a time, not just a few days. I wouldn't want to pull my child from their daycare situation for 3 weeks at a time either. He would miss that schedule (which is important at such a young age.)

Also, not that I'm surprised but your post was extremely judgmental and frankly, mean.

Posted by: anotherarlmom | November 14, 2006 3:37 PM

Hmm, last time I checked, my daughter had learned her alphabet, counting, had brought home artwork every day...so it's not a school? We call it school because she learns there. She learns at home, too.

SHE GETS TIME WITH HER GRANDMOTHER. She gets time when we visit my ILs several times a year in Florida, when my ILs come to visit (up to a month out of the year!). It's not about her not spending time with her grandmother, I dare she she spends more time with her grandparents than most children. It's about her being happy, and she (at 2) is NOT happy being stuck inside all day with very little stimulation. Which is what happens when my MIL wants to "keep" her during the weekdays when the ILs are visiting instead of having her go to school. Or daycare, whatever you want to call it for your own convenience.

Posted by: PLS | November 14, 2006 3:42 PM

do you home school your kids?

Posted by: to clueless | November 14, 2006 3:46 PM

This is one of the saddest things I've ever heard. I can't BELIEVE someone thinks that a few days a year of additional time "running around with her friends", when she's already spending every weekday of her little life doing so, is more important than time with a grandparent. I hope you look back on these years later with a great deal of regret that you didn't give your daughter this gift.

Oh, and just for the record, daycare is not school. It is DAYCARE.


Posted by: you're clueless | November 14, 2006 03:32 PM

And you're stupid and mean. Three weeks is not the same as a couple of days. And not all grandparents are fun - spending three weeks sitting around with a grandparent who doesn't know how to keep her entertained could be a real drag for the child and make for a very, very long three weeks. And what's the friggin difference if she calls it daycare or school? The kid likes it, the kid gets time with her granparents too, who cares. I hope PLS's only regret is having to listen to losers like YOU!

Posted by: can it, loser | November 14, 2006 3:47 PM

clueless is the same type of person who thinks that a SHAM is still a SAHM when the kids are in school.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2006 3:50 PM

I think you guys are really missing the big picture here. When the child is 20 years old and out of the home, and grandma has passed away, you just might be sorry you insisted on the absolutely unvarying routine for a 2 year old rather than giving her as much time as possible with her grandmother while she had it. There are many things more important in life than a 2 year old going to school every day of her young life.

Posted by: you're clueless | November 14, 2006 3:52 PM

*sigh*

Posted by: PLS | November 14, 2006 3:53 PM

I think you can have it all. I feel like I do. I'm grateful for how hard I've worked to make decisions that work for me and my family now. We all have conflicts along the way -- what matters is how we resolve them. And "it all" depends on the person!

Posted by: Leslie | November 14, 2006 3:53 PM

We recently had a child, and we decided (yes we) that my in-laws would move in with us and help take care of our son. Money wasn't an issue, we make plenty but having someone (in this case 2 people) who unconditionally care for our son is probably the best situation for our son. I am proud that they live with us. Now, we will probably have to move to a bigger place when we have a 2nd kid, but I think the reason why it has worked for me is because I grew up with my grandmother living with us. Anyways, good luck to the author and everyone else out there.

Posted by: Both in-laws live with us | November 14, 2006 3:54 PM

yup, there sure are many things more important in life than a 2 year old going to school every day of her young life: like consistency, friendship, love of art and creativity, learning to respect a variety of adults, teamwork, compassion, sharing. AND she gets to hang with her grandmother in the evening when she's gotten her wiggles out, gotten to finger-paint and build new worlds with blocks, sing songs, run around outside in the fresh air. that sounds like a winning combo to me -- sorry you don't appreciate that being 2 is about learning about yourself, the world, other people, exploring and not being stuck in the house all day for the amusement of a grown woman.

Posted by: to you're clueless | November 14, 2006 3:55 PM

There are many things more important in life than a 2 year old going to school every day of her young life.


Posted by: you're clueless | November 14, 2006 03:52 PM

What, like sitting around while granny watches TV? You're making tons of assumptions about who the players are here that may have no basis. I hated time with my grandparents - they wanted to have me right there with them, but all they did was sit and watch TV. My grandma smelled like cigarettes and fed me food that was disgusting. It was boring and uncomfortable and I still feel resentful that my parents left me with them for long stretches. If PLS is paying attention and sees that all the grandparents are going to do is keep the kid cooped up all day and not keep her stimulated and happy, then NO, I don't think it's more important to spend time with the grandparents than to go to SCHOOL. It sounds like you had a good grandparent that you miss, and that's great, but don't assume everyone else does.

Posted by: can it, loser | November 14, 2006 3:56 PM

hey people, she's only 2yrs. old. chill.
i think she will be fine whether she is cared for by grandma for a couple of weeks or running around in school. kids grow up just fine in spite of our best efforts, you know. :)

Posted by: ok | November 14, 2006 3:56 PM

Most high quality day cares are run similar, if not better, then a lot of preschools. They do circle time, learn about the alphabet, colors, numbers etc... If you choose a good day care program, it is more then just changing diapers, feeding them, and seeing they don't get killed.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 14, 2006 3:56 PM

NC Lawyer: I'm also a suffering Redskins fan, as well as a suffering Steelers fan (NFC and AFC). Oh those Sundays when both lose are sad-duke-blue Sundays....I'm not a Duke fan...though I respect Coach K.

Turning to the discussion: I believe there were some good suggestions today on how to make generations in the same house work. I recall hearing from both generations. My synopsis is to come to agreement on many issues (ranging from discipline, food, behavior, to other adult issues) beforehand. For some, the agreement was innately cultural. For some, it had to be explicitly discussed between all concerned. I do agree it can be a tough slog. It is almost like another marriage.

Posted by: dotted | November 14, 2006 3:57 PM

I am wondering what it would be like if Mary Ellen's MIL wrote a Guest Blog too.

Posted by: Leslie | November 14, 2006 3:58 PM

PLS,
I understand your point completely. My daughter loves her school too much to leave it for 3 weeks. BTW, at her daycare, the 4- and 5-year-olds are enrolled in a pre-school program, so we are correct when we refer to it as school. However, my daughter used to call it school even before she was 4 and we had no problem with that.

When her grandparents have visited for only a few days, we kept her home. But even then, she really missed her friends and all of the activities at school. She is a very social child and thrives on routine. If my MIL spent 3 weeks with us (God forbid), she would not only drive everyone nuts but I also know my daughter would be bored as grandma doesn't really play with her. It would be a mess all around.

Posted by: KW | November 14, 2006 4:01 PM

Really,
No one is going to remember whether she went to daycare or spent time with grandma or anything else when she was 2. I am all for spending time with grandma, but pulling a child out of daycare for weeks at a time is disruptive to the schedule. Much better to skip a day here and there during the visit, or maybe even let the grandparents pick the child up a little early every day to get some time alone with them.

Posted by: Emily | November 14, 2006 4:03 PM

I'd like some advice on a topic a few of you touched on: what to do with a MIL (or mother) that causes conflicts in your home and in your relationship (or tries to). My MIL does undermine me (and her son) with the kids when she visits (just this once, don't be so strict, etc.) but she also puts down my husband to me (which I ignore.) I may gripe about my husband plenty (in my head and sometimes to him) but I wont let anyone else. She also does some other passive-aggressive things, and it seems that his family seems to feud and fight a lot with each other. Now she doesn't live with me (heaven forbid) but I try to keep a good relationship with her for the children (and so does my husband, and he had a truly awful and abusive childhood with her.) fwiw, my family have their own dysfunctions, just different ones.

Posted by: jesskr | November 14, 2006 4:04 PM

http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2006-11-12-women-study_x.htm

Haven't had a chance to read much of this today, but it appears that the above article is relevant. It was from USA today yesterday, about middle-aged women (defined as between 34 and 54) being unhappy compared to others. Because women are having children later than before, they're more likely to be caring for children and parents at the same time. Not that we didn't already know that, but I thought it was interesting this study was done so close to today's discussion.

Seems to be a lot of negativity here today. And that what could be a valid message is lost as a result. I don't agree with duh's ultimate conclusion regarding whether working parents raise or care for their kids, but I think there are some good points made. Whatever the basis for our decisions to work (economic need, economic desire, wish to have a career, one spouse not wanting to have the full financial resopnsibility on him or her, etc.), I think he or she is right that there are trade-offs and that, although we may not admit it, a lot of us question whether we've made the right decisions. Let's face it - any time you spend working is less time you could be with your family. Even if they're at school, time at the office means more time doing errands and chores on the weekend. It's a trade-off.

I think it's insecurity about whether we've made the right decisions, or anger that we don't feel like we even have a choice because of economic necessity, that lead us to defend what we do to the point of sometimes becoming nasty. What's unfortunate is duh's all-or-nothing approach, which is just as bad if not worse than what I've seen on the other side of the issue.

I hesitate to say I couldn't live with my MIL because I'm superstitious. I'm afraid that if I say it, something will happen that will necessitate it! I was floored awhile ago when my husband volunteered to me that my parents could move in with us if it came down to that, and felt extremely guilty that I can't yet bring myself to say the same . . . .

Posted by: Sam | November 14, 2006 4:05 PM

Hey guys,

For all you bloggers out there who live with the in-laws I have a question? What about privacy? I mean don't you ever just want some alone time with your spouse? I think that would be the hardest thing for me.

Posted by: Scarry | November 14, 2006 4:06 PM

Leslie: //I am wondering what it would be like if Mary Ellen's MIL wrote a Guest Blog too.//

You gotta be kidding! Any guest blogger will get killed. Besides, how forthright can she be after Mary Ellen's already posted? And MIL surely can't bite the hand that feeds her.

Posted by: RUSerious? | November 14, 2006 4:07 PM

Happy Daughter - great post, thanks.

I can support your story with my own, opposite, experience. I am the daughter of a SAHM who was bitter, lonely, and frustrated. Some women want to SAH, but my mom clearly didn't. For a variety of reasons, though -- for one thing, she was surrounded by a lot of people who think like the poster "duh" here -- she felt compelled not to pursue a career while us kids were still at home.

It was awful. Yes, she was always "there" for me, but who wants to be around a miserable, depressed person all day? We kids couldn't wait to escape to a friend's house to hang out and signed up for every after-school club in part to avoid spending more time with our listless, gloomy mom. We always felt responsible because she talked constantly of how important it was to be a "full time" mom, and yet this role clearly made her miserable. Our conclusion: we must not be good enough kids.

Now that we are all grown, she is working in interior design and is a new person. She talks all the time about her job, she's taking care of her appearance, actually cracks jokes from time to time, and she's even making friends for the first time in years. If only she hadn't felt chained to the SAHM role all that time, I might have grown up in a much less anxious and depressed atmosphere. I would have much rather had my mom the way she is now, happy, even if it meant she missed a few hours of my day because of work.

Before I get attacked, I am not saying that all SAHMs secretly want to work. I'm just saying that it's not the right answer for every mom.

Posted by: Happy Now | November 14, 2006 4:09 PM

Leslie: //I am wondering what it would be like if Mary Ellen's MIL wrote a Guest Blog too.//


Go ahead. We are waiting.....

Posted by: Terminator | November 14, 2006 4:09 PM

It sounds to me as if having resident grandparents is very much YMMV. My (maternal) grandma was not resident, but she lived nearby, came over every day and generally helped to raise me. I feel as if we all benefited, and now that she's dead I'm glad I got to know her so well.

The thing is, in my family a) everyone - mom, dad, grandma - got along and were on the same page wrt domestic and child-rearing issues; b) grandma was healthy and sane and didn't have Huge Issues; finally c) she *wanted* to look after me. Ideally, these three factors are all in place when Grandma and/or Grandpa are child caretakers.

I have to add that it's important that Grandma *wants* to do the childcare. Some grandparents don't! They've raised their own kids, thankyouverymuch, and want to travel and enjoy themselves. And many grandmothers - especially those who have entered their careers later in life - are still working 9 to 5. Not all grandparents want to be babysitters and grown kids have to respect that.

Posted by: Flyonthewall | November 14, 2006 4:09 PM

"I'm grateful for how hard I've worked to make decisions that work for me and my family now."

Who are you grateful to Leslie? Yourself? Is that as self-serving as it sounds?

Your post had NOTHING to do with either the topic or the other posts that have been generated. It seems like you're trying to check in more but, please, be thoughtful about it. It seems extremely patronizing otherwise - much like the mother going, "Umm-hmm, umm-hmm, umm-hmm" without really listening.

Posted by: to Leslie | November 14, 2006 4:10 PM

Leslie: Not sure what Mary Ellen's MIL is trying to balance and I'm not on this blog merely to be a voyeur about the "other side of the story". You might consider, however, asking Mary Ellen's husband to write a guest blog. What are his views on whether this arrangement "works" and what does he do, if anything, to make it work better for everyone. Has it been hard on their marriage? Do the kids like it?

Posted by: NC lawyer | November 14, 2006 4:11 PM

I also understand not wanting to take a child out of daycare/school for a long stretch, especially if the grandparents aren't that stimulating. Our son definitely gets bored hanging out at granny and pappa's house for a week - they love him and dote on him, but aren't the type to really play with him or provide a lot of activity - we spend most of the visit just sitting around in the family room chatting, which isn't that interesting for at 2 year old. Fortunately, they are completely fine with us taking him to the playground or children's museum or whatever for a few hours each day to break it up, even though they don't usually want to come along. When my dad comes to stay with us, which is fairly often since he lives close by, we decide based on how long the visit is - if he's only here for a few days, our son won't go to daycare, if it's a longer visit, he will.

Posted by: Megan | November 14, 2006 4:11 PM

jesskr

You sound like you have the same MIL as me except mine is dead. Well, that sounded awkward, but I just tried to ignore her because no matter what, she is your husband's mother and when mine died she becaome a saint. However, I have rules that my child must follow and I don't care who doesn't like it. The biggest one is being nice to animals because my husband's family isn't.

So, if you think you can ignore her do it, if you can't and it is something important nicely tell her so.

Posted by: regular who won't sign | November 14, 2006 4:11 PM

Scarry:

During the months of the year my MIL lived with us, privacy was indeed scarse. The difference in awake times tended to be the solution. She went to bed so early we had a few hours of 'relatively' alone time. Now we also had teenagers in the house at the time (and we have teenagers in the house again now). Teenagers mean you are never alone...they tend to stay up way later than us old-fogies...

Posted by: dotted | November 14, 2006 4:12 PM

Leslie says,"I am wondering what it would be like if Mary Ellen's MIL wrote a Guest Blog too".

Yeah, it'd be interesting to hear her perspective. But she might be too busy with the childcare, cooking, cleaning ... :) :)

Posted by: Mr.Honda | November 14, 2006 4:15 PM

I remember visiting grandma's & Grandpa's house when I was a little kid. What I remember most are the smells of each room. the garage smelled like oil, sawdust, and the sweet aroma of gasoline, the screen porch: holly and honeysuckle; the bathroom: dial soap; grandpa's top dresser drawer: leather; the closets smelled like moth balls and the best was grandma's pantry; It smelled like cinimin cookies. Yummie!

Then there was this old hook and ladder truck at the park that my Grandpa took me to play on... Ah, the good ole' days I'll never forget!

Posted by: Father of 4 | November 14, 2006 4:15 PM

To Duh--

You keep mentioning "the latest shiny trinket" and "yet another 50-inch plasma TV." Would your opinion on stay-at-home parenting change if the ultimate financial goal were "putting my children through college," instead?

Posted by: BonnySwan | November 14, 2006 4:15 PM

Dotted that is a good point. Father of 4 that is a lovely description. Also, your house sounds like my house as far as naked kids are concerned. I can't keep clothes on mine and am starting to think she is a nudist. Thank good for the alarm system or I think she would try to sneak outside naked to see the neighbors.

Posted by: Scarry | November 14, 2006 4:19 PM

My grandpa was a mean old ungrateful *astard who didn't care one lick about us kids. One day he snuck up on my mom when she was using the bathroom so he could get his peeps. When he got too senile to live on his own, my dad sent him off to the nursing home to await his timely death.

Posted by: NoGramps | November 14, 2006 4:20 PM

Mary Ellen probably got some kind of property tax break by having her MIL as a co-owner of their home.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2006 4:20 PM

yeah, the over-65 homestead benefits. probably cap on appraised value and all that.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2006 4:23 PM

Is is just me or does this blog just degenerate into personal attacks and boring posts after 2:30?

WHO CARES if she got a property tax break or not?! I don't get it.

Posted by: anotherarlmom | November 14, 2006 4:23 PM

I might add that we are Asian, but filial piety be damned.

Posted by: NoGramps | November 14, 2006 4:24 PM

"Is is just me or does this blog just degenerate into personal attacks and boring posts after 2:30?"

that's when the fun begins. happy hour!

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2006 4:25 PM

" When the child is 20 years old and out of the home, and grandma has passed away, you just might be sorry you insisted on the absolutely unvarying routine for a 2 year old rather than giving her as much time as possible with her grandmother while she had it."

The kid's probably not going to remember spending time at 2. I loved every second I spent with mine, but I don't remember stuff from when I was 2. Going to school a couple of days won't kill anyone.

Posted by: Oh please... | November 14, 2006 4:25 PM

Don't feed the trolls please. And duh, please stop being jealous of those with great careers. Just because you chose not to have one, don't hate.

Posted by: dc | November 14, 2006 4:29 PM

To regular who wont sign:

I do ignore her, in fact, I have learned the value of selective listening from my kids:). What is funny is she doesnt criticize me, she praises me, but puts down my husband.

She also tried to criticize him to my mom - but my mom wasnt in politics for 20 years for nothing. She has selective listening and tactful subject changing down to an art form. My husband and mom get along great - a few spats, but mainly because they are alike in a lot of ways. After my mil left last year (first big visit) I said to my husband " I really appreciate my mom now." And my husband said "There isnt a day that goes by that I dont appreciate your mom, and now you know why."

Posted by: jessker | November 14, 2006 4:29 PM

'The kid's probably not going to remember spending time at 2. I loved every second I spent with mine, but I don't remember stuff from when I was 2. Going to school a couple of days won't kill anyone.'

And when the kid grows up and has her own 2-year-old, don't be upset if you are the visiting granny and the 2-year-old gets sent to school.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2006 4:31 PM

F04: Loved your olfactory recollections! Smell is the most evocative of our five senses. I remember my grandma put lavender sachets in her sheets and used this rose-scented lotion on her hands. Even now smelling lavender and roses makes me think of her. And yes, I use rose lotion! Different brand, though.

Smelling chocolate chip cookies baking makes me think of grandma too, as she always made those Toll House cookies. Mmmm!

Posted by: Flyonthewall | November 14, 2006 4:33 PM

Just wondering - does this mean that you would never take a 3-week vacation because it disrupts the child's school schedule?

Posted by: to PLS | November 14, 2006 4:33 PM

Presumably, a mom who values school would be a grandmom who does the same. The idea that people would completely upend their values just because a grandkid entered the picture frightens me.

Posted by: huh? | November 14, 2006 4:36 PM

Duh--

Finally reached the post where you said it was about consumerism in general, not specifically baubles. I see your general point and agree with it, although I'll have to agree to disagree in the specific.

Posted by: BonnySwan | November 14, 2006 4:38 PM

Presumably, a mom who values school would be a grandmom who does the same. The idea that people would completely upend their values just because a grandkid entered the picture frightens me.


We're talking about a 2-year-old here.

Posted by: to huh | November 14, 2006 4:38 PM

what in the world is the problem already with the 2 year-old spending her days as she always spends them??? If visiting granny is visiting for 2 - 3 weeks, isn't there plenty of quality, sitting around eating and chatting time after 4:30? geez. at the risk of beating a dead horse that many on the board already are clearly on to, not all grandparents are the same and the needs of all kids aren't the same. why is so difficult to see that parents know their kids and the grandparents at issue best?

Posted by: to anon at 4:31 | November 14, 2006 4:38 PM

Took the old coot bout 5yrs to kick the bucket. During that time the nursing home folks kept tellin us to take him back cause he was offering the women staff $5 to "clean his pipes" if you know what i mean. They said they don't do that sort of thing here but he kept on flashing his thing.

the last days came when he got an infected bed sore, surgeons had to amputate his leg. when my mom wheeled him back to the car, he pooped all over his pants. mom had to wipe him with rags and whatever was in the car. filial piety to the max, dude. just ask my bro who till this day can't get near a wheelchair. he says he'll remember the smell for the rest of his life. gramps never recovered from his lost leg and passed on soon after at 92.

Posted by: NoGramps | November 14, 2006 4:41 PM

Are those words cracking anybody else up?

Posted by: baubles and trinkets | November 14, 2006 4:42 PM

Taking a vacation for three weeks and having my daughter cooped up at home for three weeks with grandma are entirely different things. But to answer your question, when she's older (i.e., in a school setting where she would "fall behind" if she took three weeks off), no, I wouldn't pull her out of school for three weeks for vacation. That's what summers/holidays are for, right?

Next summer we're planning a two-week vacation (the longest I will have ever taken in my life!) and of course I will pull her out of school then (at not-quite-three).

Posted by: PLS | November 14, 2006 4:42 PM

So, it sounds like it's all about your daughter (and maybe you) being happy. You know your family, so maybe it's for the best. But I suggest you be careful. A 15-year-old who expects the world to revolve around her is not pleasant.

Posted by: to PLS | November 14, 2006 4:45 PM

Wow! To live with your MIL for so many years and STILL be married and retain your sense of humor. You are an unusual person. One poster asked why your husband did not represent you and defend your ideas of raising your children to his mother. What a naive question! In my experience husbands ALWAYS take their mothers' side. Even if she is wrong, they would say something like "she is old, you have to take the higher ground and forgive her". You can probably tell where I am coming from. In fact, I would rather PAY for childcare than have my MIL or my mother do it. This way I know it's going to be done the way I want it and there will be no arguments and no hurt feelings. I often look at grandparents at playground and wonder if they somehow "get it" while my MIL is too old-fashioned or too stubborn to adapt and learn the modern way of raising children. I envy these families who have "cool" and "young" grandparents nearby. But maybe behind the closed doors DIL or SIL have to endure never ending opinions and instructions and "in my day and age" comments. What a sure way to put additional stress on a marriage! No thanks, not for me.

Posted by: a daughter in law | November 14, 2006 4:47 PM

When I was growing up, I wanted to go to the beach for vacation, but every year we went to another part of the country where my grandparents lived.

Now that I am an adult, I realize how glad I am that I have a good relationship with my grandparents, which would not have happened if my parents allowed me to go where I wanted. And trust me, I made it clear that I didn't want to go - no friends there, it's boring, nothing to do. It's not always about the child being happy.

And slightly off topic - I never worried much about keeping my kids on a strict schedule for anything. That includes meals, naps, bathtime, bedtime, etc. Our household was hectic and we were happy that everyone got fed, clean, and to bed. My children seem more flexible than their friends who were on more rigid schedules. Just an observation.

Posted by: anonfornow | November 14, 2006 4:54 PM

It figures that people who are satisfied with only an hour a day on weekdays with their children think that it's enough for grandma as well when she comes to visit.

Why shouldn't grandma have a vote in this? If she wants to spend time with the child, and she's not abusive, why shouldn't she be allowed to? She wants to be with her grandchild! Good for her! Do you know how many bitter old people say "heck, I raised you kids, you go on and raise your own now."

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2006 4:58 PM

4:59

Posted by: clock check | November 14, 2006 4:59 PM

Olfactory recollections indeed!

First, flyonthewall's memory of smells. Then the Grandpa amputation story from NoGramps. HA-HA!! Only on On Balance.

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | November 14, 2006 5:00 PM

5:00 woohoo! quitin time!

gots ta pick up the kids from the daycare.
make dinner.
bathe kids.
read/play/sing to them.
put them to bed.

Posted by: clock check | November 14, 2006 5:01 PM

These comments are exactly why I'm kicking myself in the butt for visiting this blog. Completely judgmental and narrow-minded. Heaven forbid someone have different priorities or view on child-rearing from the posters!

Thank you to those of you who have been supportive. I had *no* idea that I would be stirring the pot so much.

Posted by: PLS | November 14, 2006 5:03 PM

To PLS: Don't kick yourself ... I can never guess what will stir up the pot. There are some regular posters who offer opinions without malice and some topics actually make it the whole day on-topic so to speak.

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | November 14, 2006 5:05 PM

PLS, come back again as someone else and kick @ss!

in the past we've come up with very good suggestions for making this a nicer blog but Leslie has refused to implement any of them. hence, we are left with a free-for-all wasteland.

Posted by: 521 | November 14, 2006 5:21 PM

To RYOK:

Yes, I know what you mean. There are enough problematic things in both my husband's and my genetic background to reinforce our disinclination to have children.

Sometimes you have to listen to those voices even though they're not saying what you'd like to hear. On the other hand, in our case, the "voice" was in accord with our plans. :>)

Posted by: pittypat | November 14, 2006 5:22 PM

PLS...don't go away. I never responded to your posts, but I thought you were representing yourself well.

Posted by: dotted | November 14, 2006 5:26 PM

To "you're clueless":

That is a ridiculous response to the poster whose kid really likes to go to school (even if it's actually daycare).

So many kids have trouble with the idea of going to school, and many more just never learn to like it. This mom has a little girl who already loves the learning environment. Why on earth would you want to dislodge her from that?

There's nothing SAD about this mom's wish not to interrupt her daughter's mental, emotional, and social growth just so grandma can have more time with her.

Whose needs should be met here? The daughter's!

Posted by: pittypat | November 14, 2006 5:27 PM

Does schizophrenia run in your family?

Posted by: to pittypat | November 14, 2006 5:27 PM

"It figures that people who are satisfied with only an hour a day on weekdays with their children think that it's enough for grandma as well when she comes to visit."

Your assumptions only reveal your ignorance. Not that it's any of your business, but I get our children off to school in the morning. We have at least an hour and a half between when we wake up and when they leave in the morning. After school, my spouse is home at 4. I get home around 6 and we are together for between 3.5 and 4.5 hours in the evening. We are not just in the same house at the same time. We are actively engaged together as a family kicking the soccer ball around nearby, working on homework, doing art projects, talking about our respective days, playing musical instruments, and yes, dinner and baths, when needed. and you don't even know my gender.

Take a shot at being honest about whether you spend 4.5 hours per day in one-on-one, non-tv, non-cleaning, not-otherwise-distracted-or-engaged, time with your children and we'll crown you King of the Parents.

Posted by: to anon at 4:58 | November 14, 2006 5:32 PM

what happened to Koko today....??

Posted by: wondering | November 14, 2006 5:36 PM

"Just wondering - does this mean that you would never take a 3-week vacation because it disrupts the child's school schedule?"

Now that's a really dumb question.

PLS has said repeatedly that she doesn't want to take her daughter out of her stimulating school environment so that she can sit in the house with grandma and be completely unstimulated.

Don't you think a family vacation would be a bit more exciting, educational, and, yes, stimulating than that?

Posted by: pittypat | November 14, 2006 5:43 PM

"Not that it's any of your business, but I get our children off to school in the morning. We have at least an hour and a half between when we wake up and when they leave in the morning. After school, my spouse is home at 4. I get home around 6 and we are together for between 3.5 and 4.5 hours in the evening. We are not just in the same house at the same time. We are actively engaged together as a family kicking the soccer ball around nearby, working on homework, doing art projects, talking about our respective days, playing musical instruments, and yes, dinner and baths, when needed. and you don't even know my gender.

Take a shot at being honest about whether you spend 4.5 hours per day in one-on-one, non-tv, non-cleaning, not-otherwise-distracted-or-engaged, time with your children and we'll crown you King of the Parents."

OK, as long as we're doing the math and picking:

I'm going to assume your children are not teenagers since you're still bathing them. I'm then going to assume that they start school at 8:00 and leave at 7:30 since you're obviously shipping them off on the bus or on foot. That means they get up at 6:00. And on those days where you're "actively engaged" with them for 4.5 hours after you get home at 6:00, that means they're going to bed at 10:30. So you have pre-teens who are only sleeping for 7.5 hours a night? Hmmmm

I also call complete BS on the "actively engaged" for that much time during the day. You don't cook dinner or breakfast or prepare lunches for them? You (or someone in the family) doesn't do the dishes after dinner? You don't bathe, dress, and otherwise take care of yourself? You don't EVER read the newspaper or your e-mail (or whatever it is you do) in the evenings? You're counting bathing, dressing, teeth brushing, face washing, diaper changing, etc. (or supervising those things) as quality time with your children? Seriously??

And if I don't get to count non-cleaning time with my kids, why don't you have to count non-cleaning time with your children in your day? If you're paying someone to do it for you, goody for you. But if you're not, you don't get to pretend that time doesn't exist in your day.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2006 6:32 PM

Well, I doubt Duh is coming back to read this, but I can't resist writing back... just in case.

I agree that we are too consumer-driven as a society. And, by the way, while I don't agree with you that moms need to stay home with their kids, I wish I could have (in fact, I still wish I could) stayed home with my now-seven-year-old. I truly have worked out of economic necessity. My husband has had a very unstable career, and only recently got a raise to his highest pay: about $38,000 a year, which is better than the median household income, but honestly does not go far in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. As it is, I buy little clothes for my child (thankfully, she has generous grandmas) and little for myself (and definitely not designer stuff -- my usual shopping places are consignment stores, Target and Lands' End). Our vacations are to visit family members, many of whom live far away, so we must fly, but my DH stays home (saves money that way). We did take a two-night vacation away from home to visit a museum in Chicago this summer, but we stayed in Madison to save money. We've never bought a new car; we are rarely making car payments at all. DH does most of our home and car repairs, and our home could really use some upkeep (i.e., new paint and carpet) that we are putting off because it isn't in our budget. By world terms, we are rich, but we definitely are not rolling in the dough by American standards.

Thing is, when you make statements about parents like you have been, saying "of course, I know some parents have to work, but those who don't are bad parents" (not an exact quote, but basically what you are saying), you can't help that imply that I am a Bad Mom along with those who have a choice. After all, if they aren't real moms, what makes me one, just because I work from necessity and they don't? You can't vilify them and say I'm okay; I don't buy it. I think deep down, you despise all working moms, but you are trying to be cool and excuse those of us who have to. That is a little better than those who believe no family should have to have both spouses working, no matter how tough it is to make ends meet, but in the end, your argument that there is a difference between me and other working moms doesn't hold water.

Here is what I know: My daughter is deeply attached to me. She isn't perfect, but I'm not either, and staying home with me may not have changed things at all. Her daycare provider (she went to inhome daycare up until she started school and for her first summer after K) has provided her with things I couldn't have, because she is a different person. Because my daughter is an only child, her daycare family provided her with a chance to have sort-of siblings. So, maybe you could say her daycare provider was like a second mom -- in a way, she was, and there will always be affection there. But I know I am the mom, and that I mean the world to my daughter. And in the end, I've been the one who is there for her when she is throwing up, when she had a dance performance (the daycare provider, who is wonderful, was invited but couldn't make it... I would be there unless I was dying, because I am Mom), when it counts. No, I can't be there with her all the time. That hurts. But I know I am a darned good mom anyway, and truly a mom. And that is true of every working mom who is a decent mom (there are bad moms both at work and at home), whether or not her income is necessary.

Posted by: MNKate | November 14, 2006 6:38 PM

'Don't you think a family vacation would be a bit more exciting, educational, and, yes, stimulating than that?'

Gee, when I go on vacation, I am looking for restful, relaxing, non-exciting, peaceful, serene atmosphere. Definitely not stimulating.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2006 6:40 PM

I just spent the past 2 hours at Chuck E. Cheese at a birthday party (it was horrifying, as usual)- there were 4 other mother's there. I mentioned that I had read an article on parents and in-laws moving in with their children and out came claws, veins and bulging eyes. Everyone had an In-law "situation." I almost felt bad for bringing it up as it dominated the conversation. Given my scientific research of the day I am not surprised by the amount of arguing on the forum. 3/4 of the other women said they "could not handle" their in-laws moving in - 2/4 could not handle their parents either.

Apparently eveyone's mother in law is a she-devil from hell waiting to ruin their grandchildren the first chance they got them alone. I actually felt lucky - my MIL is a pretty nice lady - but I still don't want her to live with us.

I figure the easiest way to clean out a room is to announce "Your in-laws are on the way!" - people will jump through plate glass windows, off decks - whatever it takes to get the heck out of there!

Posted by: cmac | November 14, 2006 6:43 PM

"Gee, when I go on vacation, I am looking for restful, relaxing, non-exciting, peaceful, serene atmosphere. Definitely not stimulating."

I'm assuming you're not 2 years old, right?

Posted by: pittypat | November 14, 2006 6:44 PM

You call complete BS? That's quite bold in light of the inaccurate "math" accusation you lobbed earlier.

I drive them to school and we're in the car between 8:15 and 8:30 so your clocks off -- big surprise there. The kids take their own baths. No one cleans for us, mows the lawn or provides any other services. goody for you if your life and budget is different than ours. WE clean only after the kids are in bed, and I must say that if cleaning and e-mail are your top evening priorities we have even less in common than I thought.

Posted by: to anon at 6:32 | November 14, 2006 6:45 PM

oh, and ma'am? my kids are reading your comments, rolling their eyes and laughing at the snarkiness. even at 5 and 11 they recognize folks who are unable to civilly share a sandbox.

Posted by: to anon at 6:32 | November 14, 2006 6:47 PM

To Mary Ellen,

Nice post. I know that having either my mother or mother-in-law living with me would be challenging. How could it not be? The addition of any additional adult with preferences, opinions, and personality of their own would affect any household dynamic.

I would honestly prefer that neither ever came to live with me. However, my house is open to either. We would find a way to deal with whatever problems arise.

It saddens me that so many posters today were so negative about their elder family members. I truly hope that people are just venting and treat their families better in person than you might think from reading their entries.

Learn to pick your battles. I bite my tongue regarding some of the grandparents methods, and when I do actually say that I prefer things are done differently, they usually say OK. Compromise. Give and take. Love your families.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2006 6:50 PM

This blog alternates between informing the childless they will will be missing the greatest joys in old age - and showing just how little priority many place on caring for the elders in their families. Primary family is the husband & my kids ... they are worth every and all sacrifice. The families of youth are minimal obligations for which there is no need to sacrifice or tolerate inconvenience. (Particularly if it is the husband's family.) Isn't there a bit of a disconnect? Why shouldn't **unconditional** love go up the family tree as well as down?

Posted by: depressed | November 14, 2006 6:53 PM

Foamgnome should shadow a Fairfax County elementary school teacher for a week if she wants to know why they need Monday afternoon off. I'm a high school teacher with only one planning period every other day, but I wouldn't take a 100% raise to be an elementary school teacher. In addition to the classroom time, teaching is like all other professions: there's always some ditz upstairs who wants to start something new so he can feel necessary. And the teachers have to meet about it, implement his "groundbreaking" new idea into their planning, meet about it again, submit reports on it, etc. Oh, that and teach 28 little pixies in a room that's decorated to the hilt.

Cordelia

Posted by: Cordelia Reagan | November 14, 2006 7:11 PM

I missed foamgnome's comments - I like that worldview much better.

To many others it seem like the simple adage "Do unto others as you want done unto you" would apply. There is a chance that you will be the MIL someday!

Posted by: (not as) depressed | November 14, 2006 7:15 PM

I have been reading this blog for a while and I have come to the conclusion that, for most of us, you really can't have it all.

The amount of time required for some of the high powered professions precludes having enough time with children, spouse, and other family. YOu may be able to cover all the bases with hired help and family help, but there are too many looking for reduced schedules, telecommuting, job flexibility, and more help from the hubby for me to believe that you really think you are spending enough time with your families.

For those with regular jobs, not high-powered, and regular 40-hour-weeks, there is still a desire for more job flexibility, assistance with daycare cost, higher pay to be able to support the family including future college and retirement expenses.

For SAHM, there is the question of giving up identity, being a good involved parent without smothering the children, financial concerns, family suffering if Dad works excessively to allow mom to be home.

I work full time 40-hour week in a job with flextime. Work from home is not allowed, but the atmosphere is very family friendly and the (male) boss is great about family concerns. Even so, there is internal conflict. This week is National Education Week. Next week, there is school Mon and half-day Tues. Also, report card conferences. My workplace has Thanksgiving holiday, but Friday is a regular work day. Even though I would be allowed to use leave for any amount of time I choose, there are conflicting priorities. I want to observe the teachers this week, meet for conferences next, and also be a good employee and get my work done. Not to mention that I would like to accumulate some leave for a real vacation next year. Plus, what to do with the kids on the school closed half and full days? No daycare since it's high school.

So even though I feel like I have it all in some ways - job I like,( no evening work or work travel, weekends off,) lots of time with my family since all non-work time is devoted to them, in many ways I do not. I am regularly stressed from too much to do and not enough time, too little sleep, too little time with friends and extended family. Enough money for a decent life now, but not enough for long range concerns.

To me, having it all would be working school days only, 4 hours per day and making enough money to support our current lifestyle. I don't even need a lot of job fulfillment - I just don't want to hate my job.

I don't know what the answers are. Maybe realizing that certain professions don't lend themselves to parenthood unless you really are comfortable with spending small amounts of time with the kids. Men have been doing this for years, especially those with SAH wives. I see no reason that women shouldn't do this also, if they choose by having other spouse SAH or lots of hired help. But, if you are not happy with the long work hours, maybe look for a different profession.

After all, everyone knows if you work retail, you'll be working the day after Xmas and Thanksgiving and lots of extra hours in between.

Don't be a policeman, nurse, or doctor if you don't want to work shiftwork or weekends.

Posted by: thinking | November 14, 2006 7:26 PM

Thinking says: To me, having it all would be working school days only, 4 hours per day and making enough money to support our current lifestyle.....

Well, this is exactly why I became a teacher--to have time with my family. The pay stinks, but working with these blossoming personalities (I teach 9th graders) is heavenly! And I get the same vacations as my daughter because I teach in her school!

Posted by: Cordelia | November 14, 2006 8:44 PM

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15720339/

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2006 11:29 PM

"And when the kid grows up and has her own 2-year-old, don't be upset if you are the visiting granny and the 2-year-old gets sent to school."

No, I wouldn't be. I was raised in a house where school came before everything. Before play, before vacations, before jobs. Getting a good education was mine (the kid's) job, and everyone in the family, grandparents included, got that.

Posted by: AG | November 15, 2006 11:55 AM

Duh, Don't assume that just because you are home with your children they will appreciate all that you are doing. I was raised by a mother who stayed at home and I always wished she would have had a "real job" and envied my friends who had moms who were nurses and bank tellers. I thought those moms had such exciting lives and realized that those families had so many more options than we had - and I'm not just speaking in economic terms. Did you ever think you are shielding your children, particularly your daughters, from an important issue in today's world - that of contributing to the common good of society?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 15, 2006 1:18 PM

I haven't read all of the comments but have a few thoughts:

My mother lives with us. She cares for our 6 year old and almost 3 year old three days a week. My mother in law has them one and I'm home one. My husband is a teacher so he is home in the summer and off on holidays. So, my experience on the child care front is a little different in that my mother is not full time or year round. We also reevalute every summer to say, "have you had enough" I do not want to take her for granted and want her to know its okay to say enough and enjoy her own retirment.

My mother would never tell me how to raise my kids, its just not who she is. We've had some ups and downs, mostly ups. There are ups and downs living with anyone--your spouse, your kids, your college roommate. But the ups are far more than the downs for ALL of us involved.

Last point, I grew up in an intergenerational home. My great grandmother and grandmother lived with us and so I think I am probably more understanding of the give and take involved in this relationship.

Posted by: cb | November 15, 2006 1:44 PM

The moment my in laws give me direction
I go the complete opposite way
Why - BECAUSE they are not me - my children, husband and life is not theres to comment on. They are fine people who have already been married (once - twice - three times but whos counting!) raised children and lived life. Thats great glad everyone made it- But it gets down to your life- your children and the decisions you make. Simple Simple Simple - The hard part is keeping it Simple!

Posted by: verdi | November 20, 2006 7:32 PM

the problem- you didn't have to experience the ends and outs of having to drag the kids to school, go through the aches and pains of homework, complain 3 or 4 times before the kids finally get in the bath. It's hard to appreciate what you got unless you've experienced the flip side. I think you have a lot to be thankful for

Posted by: justme | November 28, 2006 3:59 PM

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