Q: My husband spends all of his free time taking care of other people’s computer problems. He enjoys doing it but also has trouble saying no. Since people know he is a computer geek, they don’t think twice before asking him to spend time on something that can take up a whole Saturday afternoon. I am pregnant with our first child and am wondering if I am going to have to draw this boundary for him.
How does he view this? If he knows he needs to say “no” more but has trouble doing it, that’s much easier than if he thinks everything is peachy keen.
Discuss this with him before the baby comes, because there will be no lack of other lifestyle changes to deal with then. Practice by having the two of you completely block off some weekends for baby preparation, preferably with him turning people down respectfully but firmly.
One ultimate solution to help him set limits might be to set aside a finite period of time per month during which he will help people. Once those slots are full, it’s “no can do” until the next month.
Q: My mother-in-law is always begging to take care of our 7-month-old, but it seems like she never pays her much attention. The last time I picked up my daughter, she was in a soiled diaper (that my MIL pleaded ignorance about), just sitting in her swing while my MIL was vacuuming upstairs. My MIL also refuses to child-proof her house, and my daughter is on the verge of crawling. I’d rather not use her as a baby sitter at all, but my husband says she’s fine and that I expect too much.
If you don’t need her as a baby sitter, that takes some of the pressure off. Make sure to spend time with her as a family, and you can ease back on the drop-off-service aspect of your relationship, or simply let them have walks together or briefer outings while you’re near.
But it’s possible that although your MIL might not meet your standards, she’s still a decent caregiver if the baby is safe (says the mom who may have let a dirty diaper or two linger). And don’t view childproofing as all-or-none. Ask if, only during your visits, you can do a few specific things such as rubber-banding the kitchen cabinets.
Andrea Bonior is a clinical psychologist and the author of “The Friendship Fix.” www.drandreabonior.com.
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