Jen's mother-in-law is visiting. She's come from her home in Michigan to help with the Washington, D.C. baby--five months old and gurgling. Jen's just come back to work--she has the office next to mine--and she needed the help: Her husband is away at a conference and she has some obligations this week that would make it hard for her to get home in time to pick up the baby by day-care "curfew."
She and her mother-in-law are getting along very well, Jen says. Except for one small thing: Should the baby stay home with grandma or go to day care? Her mother-in-law stayed home with the baby on Monday. On Tuesday, she suggested the baby go to day care. "You don't want to get her out of her routine," Jen's mother-in-law said.
Here's the conversation I had with Jen:
Jen: I'd much rather my baby stay home with her grandmother. I don't care about breaking the routine.
Me: Maybe that's your mother-in-law's way of saying, "'It's too much for me."
Jen: I can understand that. And I'd be happy to take the baby to day care. I just want her to be honest with me.
Me: That can be hard. She loves the baby. She wants to be helpful. But it can be hard staying home all day with the baby.
Jen: Well, I asked her if she preferred I take the baby to day care. She hurt her ankle the other day and I told her I could understand that it might be hard on her leg to move around with the baby. I asked her to be honest with me. And she just said, "You shouldn't break a baby's routine."
I know what Jen is talking about. I also think I know what her mother-in-law is saying. You want to be helpful; you've come to your daughter or daughter-in-law's house to help out. But it's confining and lonely and, depending on the Grand's age--tedious [newborns sleep the hours away] or exhausting [you're on guard every moment]. I've used similar subterfuges to avoid saying, "It's too confining and lonely. This isn't my house. I have nothing to do here--you don't want me taking over your kitchen or putting my imprint on your house. I need a break."
Jen's point: It's OK to say I don't want to be home with the baby all day today. Just don't pretend it's otherwise, because that way the best interests of the baby may not be being served.
That may be what she says. But is honesty the best policy? What would you do?