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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Do I HAVE to?!

Last night DH and I were discussing an upcoming holiday co-worker dinner thing that we have to drive to Hickory for on Saturday night.

We’ve offered to take our friends with us, and that means that Baby Michelle will be coming along!

Being as Baby Michelle is the closest thing we’ve got to family in the baby department ((My siblings with small children all live on the West side of the country!)) We’ve adored watching these new parents raise this baby, seeing her grow, gain a personality, smile, laugh, and straighten herself out stiff as a board in rebellion and SCREAM!

We know that culturally, the way we raise children may be different. For instance, Harriet’s mom came over from Africa right after the baby was born, and has stayed 6 months ---spoiling baby Michelle completely rotten and just left last week to go back to Africa, leaving mom and dad with a 6 month old baby that won’t sleep through the night, screams to be picked up at all hours and has to be held all the time.

So, DH tells me last night…that he and Michael have plotted and planned, and that I need to take Harriet aside and tell her that the baby needs its own room, and time to scream and not be picked up all the time.

I laughed and said…. “But this is not MY responsibility! I don’t want to butt in here. I mean, if she ASKS for my advice, I’m happy to give it, but I’m not going to tell her how to raise her child or what she should do unless the opportunity to talk about possibilities comes up. I’m not going to START the conversation, and I’m not going to tell her what to do.”

I know they are frustrated with lack of sleep and Michelle screaming her head off several times a night to be picked up. Michael is about falling asleep on the job ----the other night he did put Michelle in her crib and let her cry, and she eventually fell asleep. Then Harriet came home and she woke up and Harriet picked her up immediately. This makes DAD the bad guy…LOL!

So my question is…..where would YOUR boundaries be, as a friend. I feel like I need to wait until she gives me a lead in and wants some advice. And I’d never say “You need to get that baby in her own bedroom and let her bawl herself to sleep” ---I’d have to preface it with “When my boys were little, we had the same kind of situation with the first one and we had to let him cry and get used to entertaining himself --- and it took some time, but it was worth it.”

I just can’t bring myself to tell ANY parent what they should or should not be doing with their children ---babies or grown up ones – of any age!

So help me out here……what would YOU do? How can I be a good supportive friend without coming across like a know-it-all? I want to help, but how much help is too much help?

50 comments:

Sandra in the UK said...

I think you are right, Bonnie! Advice is always best given when asked for. It may come up anyway if you are spending time with the baby there. Why can't the father discuss this with his wife himself? Let them sort themselves out.

canuckquilter said...

Trust men to suggest you do that! :) I think your approach is way better than the guys'! When my kids were little, and let's be honest, even now that they are less little, here's how I summed up advice: if I asked for it, it's advice, if I haven't asked, it's criticism. If it just comes up in conversation then it's just conversation. I'm sure little Michelle will be just fine, and her parents will eventually figure things out - just in time for the next parenting challenge to crop up!

Barbara said...

I think you are right on target, Bonnie. You could get the conversation started, when just you and Harriet are together, by asking how things are going for Harriet now that her mom has left. If she wants advice from you, she'll ask and you'll be free to explain how you handled your kids. Good luck and she's lucky to have you for a friend.

Anonymous said...

I understand and agree with you that you can't just tell someone how to be a parent, just like you can't tell a girlfriend how to deal with her man. :) Having a conversation about it is one thing, but telling her what to do is off limits.

Even if she doesn't outright ask for advice, you can work in your own experience. For example, if she tells you how tired she is, you could say something like, "Oh, isn't Michelle sleeping through the night yet?" or "My boys ...(what you wrote in the post)".

Andrea in MO

LindaR said...

Oh, Bonnie, what a dilemma. Different cultures have different thoughts. And all new mothers who rely on our mother's experience are reluctant to waiver (after all, "we" grew up to be OK, didn't we?). I'm usually a bold one, but I think I would do my best to leave this until Harriet gets a hint from someone else. Hopefully, she feels close enough to you to eventually give you a lead. When that day comes, take it.
Having said that, if Harriet considers you her "other mother and Michelle's other grandmother", you might start a quiet discussion about our culture. Whatever you do, don't give in to your DH and her DH and do it because they think it's best. If they're so right, let them tell her themselves and then you be there to pick up the pieces and make it all alright.

Impera_Magna said...

Whether Harriet is your DD or DDIL or someone totally unrelated to you, I agree that unasked for comments are criticism and not advice. One commenter wrote asking why the husband didn't talk this out with his wife? He can certainly recommend you as an experienced mom...

I got a lot of practice keeping my mouth shut (and it was difficult, let me tell you) when my grandchildren were babies. The kids did ask for help/advice and I gave it then and only then. The result of not offering unsolicited advice is that the kids still talk to me about their kids and ask for advice.

There have been times when I was with the kids were at their wits end b/c they were not able to get a crying baby to go to sleep.... I just offered to hold/rock/walk the baby and give them a break.

Yes, I was successful at getting various grandchildren to go to sleep... but there is something different about your children and your grandchildren... maybe it's that you're much more relaxed with your grandchildren and the babies can sense it...

I think I've done much more reassuring that everything will be just fine than giving advice. And the grandchildren are turning out just fine.

Hope this makes sense...

Marilyn said...

I agree with those who have suggested that you wait for Harriet to ask. My youngest son and wife have spoiled our granddaughter. They say she has never wanted to sleep in her own bed since birth. She will be two years old shortly and still sleeps with them. They say she will cry and wake up her older brother whose bedroom is next to hers. They say she is their last baby and it's okay. My daughter-in-law has asked for advice but when it comes to having to let the little one cry she just won't do it.

vtquilter said...

As a Mom to 2 toddlers, I think you are correct with your gut judgement on this one. If she asks for advise - tell her how you handled it with your kids. It is always nice to hear how others have handled situations and plants a seed to think about. Good luck and enjoy your time with baby Michelle!

Genie said...

Golly, Bonnie, you you sure don't bring up the easy questions. But IMHO it would be way out of line to try to talk this mother into caring for her child differently than she wishes. She appears to have strong feelings about it already. New parents have ways of baby-rearing than that were not popular when I was a new mom (back in 1970!).
I would not dream of offering this "advice" to my kids or my friends either. Let the baby's father talk to his wife if it is interfering with his performance on the job.

Janet O. said...

You are spot on--but if the husband is so desperate for help maybe he could help set up the situation. When the four of you are together and the subject of the baby arises (which I'm sure it does) he could express his problem with lack of sleep and innocently ask if you ever faced such a situation with your boys and if so, how did you handle it. Then the door is wide open.
Good luck--tough situation, I agree.
p.s. I had a sister-in-law constantly bringing their little one to bed many years ago. After over a year of that, my brother finally had to physically hold her back from getting up to get the baby during the night before she actually let the baby cry herself back to sleep. Old habits die hard, and the little one cried for hours, but over the next week it got shorter and shorter, and finally she slept through the night. Not easy, but so important!

Ann Marie @ 16 Muddy Feet said...

Well they must be starting a conversation if you know they aren't sleeping, that is when I would jump in and let them know I had the same problem, and how I fixed it. Also if they don't fix the problem now, it is only going to get worse. That baby needy thing they do have to be held all the time, happens between 6-9 months of age. She needs to let her scream for a awhile so she learns she isn't being abandoned, that the grown ups will return.
My babysitter was picking mine up every time she let out a sound, and pulling the play pen around the house so my daughter could see the babysitter at all times and all of a sudden I had a non stop screaming baby on my hands. I asked her why was she doing this, as soon as I found out she was being picked up and pulled around, I told the babysitter....no way, it needs to stop ASAP. Let her scream, she will get over it. After about 4 days, things went back to normal.

Anonymous said...

Tell the dad he needs go to Doctor with the mom and baby at the next appointment. Make sure he brings up the lack of sleep problem and ask the Doctor for solutions. Maybe the dad should say he is afraid it is affecting his job preformance and driving. Our Dr told us one of the most important things for us to do as new parents was wear seatbelts, be safe. I think Get the baby to sleep wasnt until about 6 months. Let the Doctor be the "bad guy" and tell them they need to let the baby cry a little, then they can console, but dont take the baby out of the crib. Just go back after a little while to console if needed. Good Luck to Dad!

Tina in NJ said...

You are absolutely right that it isn't your job to solve this problem. It isn't yours. The father should talk to his wife or he'll never get any sleep. Michelle is his child, too. He could say that he's talked to a friend and suggest that she talk to you or another mom with experience. However, if it's a cultural thing, he may need to get the pediatrician on his side. Doctors have more authority than even friends with a dozen kids.

Sue SA said...

I agree, dont say until your asked and even then its difficult territory. I was one of very few that I know managed to let my baby (he is now 5) cry (controlled crying was the term the nurse used) the other mothers couldnt keep up the consistancy. And you know what when it came to DS2, I didnt do it, because he only woke once a night so I just put up with it and I survived. The other dicey area is that her DH is obviously keen to do this, but if she is opposed (and likely to because thats not what her own mother would do) then you stand in the way of someones marriage...when they are clearly both under stress. And while its tough on new Dads who have to go to work, its equally tough on new Mums who are with the baby 24/7. Personally thats why I had to let the baby cry, it was that or I knew i would snap. Plenty of my friends slept with baby and DH moved into another room or the mother got up and held baby til it slept...not my idea of a good solution, but thats what most of them did rather then leave a crying baby. Good luck Sue SA. PS There is a high risk of infant death from Suddent Infant Death Syndrome when a baby sleeps with an adult in a bed or on a couch and I would hate to think of what that statistics are of new parents (who are sleep deprievd) crashing cars because they took the baby for a drive to get it to go to sleep.

Granny Stitch said...

Bonnie, you are most certainly right on this one. I agree that if an opening comes up and she makes a comment about "what to do?", then you can give her the gentle advice you mentioned above. But for you to come on as strong as those men think you should could lose you a friend! I also think the idea Anonymous has about having the doctor be the bad guy is good advice. Push for that idea.

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

Go with your gut Bonnie and don't get involved in this unless the mother herself asks for your advice. (Don't get pulled into the discussion by the two husbands.)

--C.B.

Anonymous said...

Wow, who needs Dear Abby! How fun!

dakotaessence said...

I think Harriet and her husband need to learn to communicate!

Patricia said...

As a mother of 5 and grandmother to 7 I need to tell you that you are absolutely correct. I would wait for Harriet to seek your advice. Just think, if you don't, she will not hear you anyway. I think that if her husband is that concerned, he should talk to her himself. Actually, he should have had to "heart to heart" with his MIL :c) It sounds like you guys are friends, and she is going to come to you anyway--just be patient.

Elaine said...

I agree with the lady above who said have them go to the Doctor. They will tell them to get the child into her own room/bed and to let her cry. It does only take a day or so before they change their ways. My youngest had her days and nights mixed up, and that we what we had to do, don't pick her up and let her cry. Not easy, but can be accomplished.

The Calico Quilter said...

Oh, there's no win-win here - unless you stay well clear of the whole conflict! If your DH is so sure this conversation needs to happen, perhaps he should initiate it. And why isn't Michelle's daddy the one to broach the subject? Men! Always putting off the tough stuff on the wives!

A Left-Handed Quilter said...

When my nephew and his wife had twins - my sister said they got a "night nanny" so they could get some sleep. I had never heard of such a thing. I kept my mouth shut and laughed for a week. ;))

miss jamee said...

I agree with you, Bonnie. In my mind tho, it seems that Michael may be round aboutly asking advice from your husband? Maybe your dh can be coached as to word choices during those man to mans? then michael can bring it up with his wife. tho ultimately, it is their kid...and the RIGHT way to raise a child varies throughout not only our own culture, but all cultures around the world!

Tracy Johnson said...

I agree, you cannot give her advise (especially a first time mom) without her opening the subject.

BUT you can ask her how she is doing and allow her to open the crisis. If she doesn't just let her know that you are there, anytime, to bounce ideas or concerns off of, a shoulder to lean on.

AND you can tell you DH to tell the new daddy he can take himself off to another room to sleep until things come around. He needs to communicate one way or another how disruptive the babies sleep pattern has become.

P.S. the baby's 6mo checkup should be about now and the doctor will be giving his opinion, too.

Naomi said...

I think everyone here has offered great advice on how and when to broach difficult parenting topics, but realize with this one you are dealing with cultural differences. We westerners will let the baby cry. Other eastern and African cultures tend toward attached parenting/ co-sleeping. This is all about cultural norms as well as perceptions about the right way to parent. Tread lightly because this looks like one big hot MESS.

Anonymous said...

Please do not give your opinion. Many people co sleep and wear their babies in the US. It is part of natural parenting, not necessarily cultural. A crying baby has always stressed me out, it was much easier for me to hold and console. Crying it out isn't for everyone, and at 6 months the baby is still young and trying to communicate a need. They aren't crying, just to cry. I slept upright in a rocking chair for 10 month because the kids had gas, we're hungry, or wet. I can guarantee the baby will be happy and healthy, sleeping through the night, and no more seperate on anxiety by elementary school. They should cherish these moments. It goes by so fast. This too will pass!!

lifetakesaturn said...

There really isn't anything much you can say that you would ever be thanked for, and there is a lot you can say that you'll never be forgiven for.

So I would say....nothing.

laquaqltr said...

Let her ask for Advice, but I personally don't agree with the cry it out, thing, or picking up a baby too soon when they are crying. I think a good friend might do some research and come up with several alternatives,or ideas to try to help them see which one works for them. My in-laws were concerned about my children's eating preferences and pressured me into doing something I now regret and if they had done their research and given me alternatives or even some references to books that would help I would have found that so much better.

Camilla said...

That poor mother! She has a baby who won't sleep, is missing her mother after a long visit, and her husband, inlaws and friends are all pressuring her into a parenting decision that feels wrong (to her). Not only that, but her husband went behind her back and left the baby to cry when she thought he would be holding her.

(Cry-it-out actually worked great with my older son, but not at all with my younger... I like the technique, but I think pressuring the mother to use it will be wholly counter-productive.)

Generic offers of support (ready-to-eat meals, so a parent can nap through dinner time...) would probably be appreciated. If the mother feels supported, and not circumvented, she might be more willing to think clearly about how she wants to parent. But, if everybody's pressuring her, she'll be in an ugly trap of trying to protect her baby from her husband.

Jennie said...

I really feel for those parents, but you are 100% right. If you get a lead in you can comment..otherwise you risk a friendship by offering advise not looked for.

Jennie said...

I really feel for those parents, but you are 100% right. If you get a lead in you can comment..otherwise you risk a friendship by offering advise not looked for.

Lori said...

As long as your not listening to the baby scream all night and keep you awake it is not your business...unless she asks, of course.

Camilla said...

Also, Our Babies Ourselves, by Meredith Small is excellent for keeping some of the parenting wisdom in perspective: http://www.amazon.com/Our-Babies-Ourselves-Biology-Culture/dp/0385483627

It's an analysis on just how parenting babies differs culturally, and what the consequences are - it really doesn't take sides, and is a friendly read, whichever agenda you support.

liz said...

I like the way the two fellows have decided that you should do the dirty work. It would have been an interesting conversation to overhear! Do not get suckered into it.

madakamom said...

I think you are right... wait until she asks and then tell her what you did in the same/similar situation.

Eat, Sleep, Quilt said...

I agree with you that you should wait until she asks for advice, then tell her how you handled it. Also, this is their first child and every situation with baby Michelle is a brand new one for them!

Pat said...

You might ask Harriet how she is doing, now that her mom has gone home, and see if she opens up about needing some help/advice. If that opens the door a crack, you can steer her in the direction of some good on-line mommy forums, or help sites that might help her discover her own solutions.

ritainalaska said...

too bad the baby's daddy can't tell his wife how he feels, that they should let the baby cry it out. good for you standing up for how you feel! but, now that you've offered them that ride, with a screaming baby, you'll have to suffer along with them.

Reena said...

sounds like they need THERAPY! Or maybe the baby has some kind of condition that is keeping it awake! Or too many daytime naps probably because the poor mother is exhausted. Anyway- everyone is right- just smile and MYOB. Somehow they will survive and so will you!

Patti said...

The Dad seems to know what to do. He just needs to grow a set and explain to the wife he needs to sleep or there won't be food for the table because he lost his job.

Angela (Cottage Magpie) said...

It's so hard to watch someone struggling with a newborn, isn't it? I hear you! But I agree with many others here that being available as a listening ear if one is wanted is probably the most helpful thing. People all have various parenting styles and what works for one may not work for another.

I personally chose attachment parenting with my kids and I carried them and co-slept with them and it worked really well for my family. My Mom, coming from a different parenting style, thought I was nuts and pushed me to let the baby "cry it out" because she felt that it wasn't good for us to "spoil" the baby that way. But all it did was make me frustrated and want to avoid being around her! (For the record, my kids seem just fine so far! :-)

I actually was reading recently that parenting styles in Africa are dramatically different than the U.S.. The post I read (from an African American mother with a newborn) said that in Africa, to have your baby cry AT ALL would be considered horribly negligent parenting. Very different from the majority of US parenting! Just something to keep in mind if the subject does come up!

It's tough to be a new parent when it seems like everyone wants to give you advice and tell you how you should be doing things. It was hard for me, that's for sure! The things I were most thankful for were friends who (a) offered to come and give me some specific assistance, like, "I'd love to come bring you a cassarole on Tuesday, would that be okay?" or "I'd love to come on Wednesday and help watch the baby so you can take a break...etc.." or (b) reassured me that I knew my baby best and to trust myself (assuming my pediatrician also was on board).

Sorry -- I'm going on and on -- hopefully in a supportive/helpful/offering another experience way! :-)

Best,

~Angela~

SubeeSews said...

My wonderful Mother-in-law was my babysitter for my first daughter. Spoiled her so bad. It was good and also it was bad. She had to be rocked to sleep but would wake up when placed in her crib. And then she would get so distressed that she would vomit. Finally took her to the doctor who told us to warn the neighbors what we were doing and let her cry. And we could clean up the vomit or allow her to be in it. (I cleaned it up)
It worked after 3 or 4 nights. That little girl is now 41 and still has projectile vomit when she is stressed ( each of her 4 children arrived as she was vomiting)
I would not offer advice until asked. You are so correct!
Subee XOOXOXOX

carolyn berroeta said...

My daughter has just had a baby, and this little boy spends so much time in her arms. I gently tried to suggest that maybe he would be better in his crib, but she says the pediatrist says (we live in France) babies need their mother. And that she should not listen to any advice given by grandmothers, friends, etc ..... So I let her do it her way, but when I baby-sit him, I try to do it my way !

Gari said...

We have been in the same situation both in the "we let them cry" part and the "want to give advice" part. We didn't give advice unless asked and then even when we did share we saw that most of the time the advice was not used. The advice probably should have come after the MIL had been then 1 month and then it would have been "SEND HER HOME." ;-)

Elaine Adair said...

MYOB! LOL - Stay out of it if you want to remain friends.

My own son was always a good baby, all the time, but one night he started crying, and after a 5 minutes went and picked him up. The next night he did the same and after 10 minutes I picked him up. Next night, I'm getting perturbed and after 20 minutes I picked him up - then it dawned on me that I was the problem! Next night he cried for 45 minutes. After peeking to see that he was OK, he fell asleep and we never had that problem again. Good luck with this one. 8-)) Lotsa opinions

Jennifer said...

There's a lot of really good advise here, all expressed in love and support. But what interests me is that I haven't read anything about what the MOTHER of this baby believes. Shouldn't that be the first thing that happens? If you know what she believes or prefers, then you'd be able to determine what is appropriate to talk over with her and what may not be.

Anonymous said...

Bonnie, Sticky situation - some new Mom's are glad for the advice, others want you to mind your own business. We became Granparents last yr, Our Daughter in-law is laid-back & happy for any advice, but Our 26yr old Son suddenly became "Old Mother Hubbard" -he was the one that read "What to expect, when you're expecting", not her, lol. He worries & panics over everything, he had contractions before she did.

When he'd ask us to babysit, I'd get a mile long list of instructions & he'd call 10 times. Finally took him aside, reminded him we'd raised him & his 2 Brothers, they were all still alive, I'm a Peds RN, hubby's been a Peds Respiratory Therapist for 30yrs & could swing watching the Grandson for a few hrs without an instruction manual (but I said it in a nice way), ha...

My advice for you is - I wouldn't tell her what to do, just say, I remember those sleepless nights, things got much better when the Boys were in their own little cribs. Just my opinion, I'd never let a baby cry for too long (might be something wrong), but even tiny ones need their alone time & if you pick them up everytime they make a peep, they'll become very cranky & never learn to pacify themselves.

American Husbands letting the Mother In-Law hang around for 6 months, will seriously - never catch on!!! Good Luck!!! Susan - sewnsuzie@yahoo.com

CindyB said...

I think it's good for an older baby to have spells of just plain mad crying but bad for everyone else. So you have to suffer for the good of the baby. I would never give advice to a new mother unless asked except to my DDs. LOL

Michelle said...

Sounds like what Grandma was doing is attatchment parenting. Is that what Harriet wants to be doing? If it's not, and her mother set the baby up to expect to be held and cuddled, I think I want to cry for them both.

I'd be careful offering advice until you figure out which side of the fence Harriet is on. If she wants to put the baby in her own room and let her cry it out, offer your support. If she doesn't, you might just annoy her with unwanted advice.

Whatever style of parenting her husband wants to go with, he should be discussing it with her himself.

Miriam said...

I completely agree with not volunteering advice to any parent unless it's asked for, especially strangers. There could be issues with their kids you have no information about. (You'd be amazed how many total strangers know exactly how I should be parentally my special need child.) It should not be a shock to discover babies don't always go sweetly along with what we have planned for them.

One thing I would say is that, while it may be the mom-in-law has conditioned the baby to being held all the time. There may be other issues. Our first child would sleep in her bassinet and later her crib for appropriate amounts of time from the beginning. Then along came baby # 2 and he was having none of it. He slept no where but in my arms for the first 4 months. No amount of "crying it out" made a difference - remember, baby 1 slept in her own bed, we knew what we were doing - baby 2 was not wired to go with the same plan.

Years later, we now know our son has Sensory Processing Dysregulation. He literally could not sleep anywhere else. My smells, sounds, and touch were the only thing that could calm his mis-wired sensory system enough to let him sleep. As he got older sleep was always difficult and usually involved part of the night in our bed (he'd go to sleep in his and wake up in ours - until he was seven. Around the age of 10 we discovered melatonin and it was a huge help. He uses so much seratonin dealing with his sensory issues he doesn't have any left at the end of the day to turn into natural melatonin. He had literally never felt "sleepy" until he was ten.

So don't assume, don't criticize, and don't advise because you really DON'T KNOW. What that family needs is support. Feed them, go over for a couple hours in the afternoon so Mom can get a nap, run some laundry, take the dog to the vet. And most of all be a safe place to talk things through. With good support they will figure things out soon enough.