In-Law Angst, in Pie Charts

You guys… I’m having a moment. I’m not sure if I’m over-reacting. I feel like I might be, but at the same time I find that when I am over-reacting to one thing, it means I’m actually reacting to something else entirely. I swear that makes sense.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
We asked my in-laws to baby sit Chick tonight. They’ve done this before, and it has gone mostly without incident. They usually pick him up a few hours early from daycare, drive over to our home, play, eat, then put him to bed. We’re often there around meal time, and walk them through any changes to his schedule or habits. Then we head out for a few hours to be grown-ups.
Yesterday, Mr. O mentioned he would be home when they arrived because his work schedule shifted. No big deal, just meant that they didn’t need extra keys. This was when they let us know they had no plans on taking him back to our house. Instead, they were going to drive the hour back to their house, play, eat, etc. there, then drive him to ours for bedtime.
This ruffles my feathers. I shall explore all the ways.
1) What the hell is wrong with my home?! It’s clean (ish.) It has all his toys. It has his high chair, a changing table, extra sets of clothes, pj’s, his lovey… You know, all the “stuff” that makes looking after a tiny person less crazy. We’re not in a bad part of town. We’re near parks that they could play at. I repeat: what is wrong with my home?
2) What the hell is so great about their home?! There house is… okay, I’ll say it and sound super judgey… cluttered. I’m 99.9% positive Mr. O’s dad has hording tendencies, so it’s sometimes really difficult to maneuver their space. Their house is also not baby proof. That’s fine because they don’t have a baby- I’m not expecting them to cover every single damn outlet. But then why are you bringing my highly mobile, curious child over to your house?
3) What the hell is wrong with Chick’s home?! It takes him a while to warm up, that’s even when Mr. O and I are with him. He is being picked up by two people who aren’t his usual caregivers, then being taken to an environment that is still fairly new to him. (He’s been over there perhaps a total of 6 times since birth.) Perhaps I have mentioned it, but Chick is a bit reserved. As in, when he is in new places, he hangs back a while until he is comfortable. I think this whole thing will stress him out and I worry about how he’ll react. I just do, okay?
4) This strikes me as just plain stupid. Why are they driving a hour out of the city, only to drive an hour back into the city on a Friday night? That’s a lot of car time for Chick in one day. Not to mention that he’ll likely fall asleep on the car ride home, then they’ll have to attempt to transfer him to his crib which may or may not result in a baby waking up and not going down for another hour while he cries and thrashes around because he is tired. (Aside: I’ve always found it amazing that tired babies don’t just go to sleep, but you know… babies be crazy.)
5) When were they going to tell us that this was their plan? The only reason Mr. O and I know about this is because he called them to say that they wouldn’t need a key. Otherwise I don’t think we would have known at all. This bothers me. If you’re going to be doing something that falls outside his or our normal routine, I would like to know first.
6) My hunch is that they are going back to their house because Mr. O’s dad has developed pretty serious social anxiety problems. If it isn’t in his house, he is not comfortable. If we don’t go out to eat in one of a handful of restaurants he approves of, he is not comfortable. And he usually expresses his discomfort by generally being a sour puss and lashing out at others. Look, I’ve struggled with anxiety myself, so I know that this shit is real and hard and disruptive. But at the same time, you can’t allow one person to control an entire situation. This feels like yet another way that his love and support comes with conditions. He’ll look after Chick as long as it is under his terms– not Chick’s.
That’s a whole lot of feelings. They are not, however, all created equal. In order to weed through “all the feelings”, I provided myself you with this handy data visualization. Because that’s what I do.

Nerdy? Perhaps. But also remarkably clarifying. 

Now that I’ve spewed a bit, I assure you I haven’t gone complete rabid-mama-bear on the situation. They are doing us a big favor by baby sitting. They aren’t doing anything I think is unsafe or dangerous. Which is why I didn’t freak out and say “Heeeelllll noooo” to this plan when I heard about it.
It all just sits with me wrong, you know? I am starting to realize that I need to articulate my expectations to them for when they care for Chick. Any of you had luck navigating the grandparent-baby sitting minefield?


  1. labmonkeyftw · September 23, 2016

    It is not ok that at some point you could easily have not known where Chick was – and not just “oh have they gone to the park” not known, but “oh you are AN HOUR AWAY unexpectedly”. I’d be protective mama bear-ing all over that.
    If it is mostly driven by Chick’s grandfather’s social anxiety, then it is a balance of what is easier for Chick versus what is easier for him – and there may be a happy medium that works for all (they baby-proof a room properly, and have some toys and a sleeper on hand, to make transition to crib easier). But they really needed to work out a plan with you and Mr. O. ahead of time, not just create one that only sort-of-works and has glaring communication omissions.

    • thecommonostrich · September 23, 2016

      Thanks for the validation- after I sifted through all my feelings, I realized that really it was the surprise of it all that was bothering me. I hopeful a little non-confrontational conversation before the next time they baby sit might reset the odd tension here.

  2. Molly · September 23, 2016

    “Any of you had luck navigating the grandparent-baby sitting minefield?” HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH–girl, my feelings/experiences on the topic of grandparent babysitting would fill a NOVEL and none of it would be positive or helpful in the least. Start with my MIL repeatedly offering my baby a bottle of beer and end with my mom’s all day use of the Disney channel at a volume so loud it would wake the dead because she refuses to get a hearing aid, but that’s beside the point. Let’s just say that I relate to your feelings.

    • thecommonostrich · September 23, 2016

      Can we talk about really loud TV around babies for a sec?! The loud noise, all the lights! It’s too much for even my grown up sensibilities to take sometimes. My in laws do this too, but they don’t even watch the Disney channel. They will, apparently, watch whatever TV they are into at the moment, which includes stuff like X Files, etc. Now, I love X Files, but I’m not sure it is really age appropriate. Not to mention that we don’t want Chick to watch a lot of TV in the first place. But whatever… I’m not going to fall on my sword over that. Until Chick starts having nightmares about aliens. 🙂

  3. My Perfect Breakdown · September 23, 2016

    My in laws are arriving for a weekend visit anytime now. Trust me I will have some sort of similar chart next week. I have no advice just sympathy and compassion for insanely frustrating grandparents who put their own wants above the child’s needs. It’s not okay yet it seems common….I don’t understand.

    • thecommonostrich · September 23, 2016

      It’s so hard because you love them, and want them to have a close relationship with your kid. But when they do things without telling you or things you’ve specifically asked that they not do… It’s REALLY HARD. Hopefully your charts have a higher percentage of happy things!

  4. Kristen · September 24, 2016

    Yup, yup, yup – been there, done that but! With my own mother. (I’m intentionally single parenting and M is a tad younger than you Chick and you wouldn’t know me from a stranger in the street but I’ve followed and nodded and cheered you on and so thank you for that!)
    It’s only been since her birth that I feel like I understand what it must feel like to have in-laws, but they are my parents! I find it boggling but in an attempt to understand it, found Leslie Stahl an interesting read but this is all to say that yes, I don’t get it either.

    • thecommonostrich · September 26, 2016

      Maybe it’s the difference between the relationships we have with our respective parents… Because I’ve had ZERO problems telling my dad when he is acting inappropriately/inconsistently with my parenting values. But then again, that’s the nature of our relationship– we tell each when the other one is acting like an idiot. At times, this makes things a little tense but not for long. For which I am grateful.

      Mr. O’s parents on the other hand, much trickier. Le sigh…

  5. InfertileGirl · September 24, 2016

    Ugh. Nope, not over reaction. Your kid, your rules. Grandparents want baby time; ya follow the rules. I mean I know that they’re doing you a favour but still, just nope.

    • thecommonostrich · September 26, 2016

      Yes. And that’s pretty much where we landed. We’re not asking for a lot– I’m not insisting that he only eat gluten-free, organic, free-range quinoa sandwiches. Just a heads up of where you’ll be taking my child. Would be nice. Now I just I have figure out how to communicate this without it looking like I’m a she-devil. Hmmm….

  6. Ashley · October 6, 2016

    Wait, your kid has grandparents that BABY-SIT?! My parents simply won’t watch my kids or help out in any real way other than to judge me for any variety of reasons. I’m not married, so I don’t have in-laws to worry about, I’m basically on my own with the option of three young women who baby-sit when I’m desperate. Regardless, should I find myself in such a situation as you’ve described I too would be feeling as you do regarding your in-laws absconding with your child and not giving notice. Best of luck in navigating that conversation, it won’t be easy.

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