Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Trouble With MILs--Ourselves?

Welcome to the May 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting With or Without Extended Family
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how relatives help or hinder their parenting. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

I was so excited to see the topic for this month's Carnival.  I was planning to write about the relationship I have with my mother-in-law.  It was going to start with a discussion of baby poop, which is a big point of contention between the two of us (she has never seen exclusively-breastfed poop and told me constantly that my daughter had diarrhea.)  Her good intentions are founded on the belief that American-developed products are superior to those of their natural state.  This is because she came to this country many years ago (very precariously, I might add) to have a better life for herself and her offspring. We are like two ships passing in the night.  I have a natural parenting perspective and want to do things like breastfeed exclusively and use cloth diapers and drink raw milk.  Everything I want for my children is backwards to her and seemingly negates everything she came here to do.  We have a constant back-and-forth with the same goal in mind: the best interest of the children.  We do not speak each other's language, literally or figuratively.  Our perspectives are opposite and deeply rooted.  And we are both stubborn.

So that was going to be my blog post, in a nutshell.  Until I read Hobo Mama's miscarriage poetry.  I, too, had a baby that I put in a plastic baggie.  My 21st birthday was a Friday.  I didn't go out or even feel like drinking.  I knew what was coming soon.  I paid a doctor to confirm my suspicions weeks earlier.  The next day I went into labor while out "celebrating" my birthday (or actually spending most of it in the bathroom at the Melting Pot ).  I took my baggie to the doctor's and they returned its contents (but only after I begged them and several weeks later) "properly processed" and marked "products of conception."  It took me awhile to decide what to do with this "tissue", and even longer to actually carry it out.  I was afraid of what I would find.  Would it be human-like?  Would it be accusatory?  Would it stink?  Since we would be moving a lot, we decided to put it in a pot and plant an aloe over it.  Aloe vera is known to be healing and soothing, a metaphor for beginning the healing process within us.  They're also known to be very hardy, and impossible to incorrectly take care of.

I watered it every day; got upset when a leaf would fall off or broke.  I was afraid to use it though, the processing chemicals were in the soil.  I had no idea what to expect would be in the plant's chemistry.  Sometimes when the leaves rubbed against the white wall, it was a little red.

Then I went away to chiropractic school.  Pablo's mom took care of the plant while I was away.  I came back after 4 months, and it was in better condition than I had ever seen it.  A tiny aloe vera had sprouted up right next to it, even.  I took charge of it and it began to get sick.  Nothing from the Internet seemed to work.  I was too afraid to dig up the smaller plant.  I was afraid of Pablo's mom digging it up too.  I was afraid of what either of us would find under that dirt.  We moved one last time and then I left it in the darkest corner of our house.  I didn't know how to fix the problem and I didn't want to fail at it anymore.  Eventually, while I was pregnant with Isabella, the aloe died.

On June 9th, exactly three years after the first baby evacuated my uterus, Isabella was born.  I thought it was a circle of healing commemorating the date.  What really happened was I emotionally replaced the first baby with the second, and I successfully placed all my inadequacies of caring for a plant on my self-esteem as a parent.  I overcompensated by arguing (in broken Spanglish) with my mother-in-law on every piece of advice she wanted to give me.

I learned I injected my past experiences into the relationship I had with my mother-in-law.  Does she have completely opposing viewpoints on child raising?  Absolutely (the whole family thinks I should have weaned my daughter at 1 and that my very chubby 8-month old is not getting enough milk due to tandem nursing...).  The truth is that we are coming from the same place: a love for my children, tiny people who are also known as her grandchildren.  So the next time you have a fight with an opposing maternal viewpoint, remember that your hot-button issues may be made hotter by something totally unrelated.

I now tell myself every day that my horticulture abilities (or maybe lack thereof) have no indication of my parenting qualifications.  This has improved my relationship with not only my mother-in-law, but more importantly with my daughter.  Conscious parenting saves the day!

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
  • Dealing With Unsupportive Grandparents — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, The Pistachio Project tells what to do when your child's grandparents are less than thrilled about your parenting choices.
  • Parenting With Extended Family — Jenny at I'm a full-time mummy shares the pros and cons of parenting with extended family...
  • Parental Support for an AP Mama — Meegs at A New Day talks about the invaluable support of her parents in her journey to be an AP mama.
  • Priceless GrandparentsThat Mama Gretchen reflects on her relationship with her priceless Grammy while sharing ways to help children preserve memories of their own special grandparents.
  • Routines Are Meant To Be Broken — Olga at Around The Birthing Ball urges us to see Extended Family as a crucial and necessary link between what children are used to at home and the world at large.
  • It Helps To Have A Village – Even A Small One — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses how she has flourished as a mother due to the support of her parents.
  • The Orange Week — Erika at Cinco de Mommy lets go of some rules when her family finally visits extended family in San Diego.
  • One Size Doesn't Fit All — Kellie at Our Mindful Life realizes that when it comes to family, some like it bigger and some like it smaller.
  • It Takes a Family — Alicia at What's Next can't imagine raising a child without the help of her family.
  • A new foray into family — As someone who never experienced close extended family, Lauren at Hobo Mama wrestles with how to raise her kids — and herself — to restart that type of community.
  • My Mama Rocks! — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment is one lucky Mama to have the support and presence of her own awesome Mama.
  • Embracing Our Extended Family — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares 7 ideas for nurturing relationships with extended family members.
  • Doing Things Differently — Valerie at Momma in Progress shares how parenting her children far away from extended family improved her confidence in her choices.
  • Snapshots of love — Caroline at stoneageparent describes the joys of sharing her young son's life with her own parents.
  • Parenting with Relies – A mixed bagUrsula Ciller shares some of her viewpoints on the pros and cons of parenting with relatives and extended family.
  • Tante and Uncles — How a great adult sibling relationship begets a great relationship with aunt and uncles from Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy.
  • Tips for Traveling With Twins — Megan at the Boho Mama shares some tips for traveling with infant twins (or two or more babies!).
  • Parenting passed through the generations — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about the incredible parenting resource that is her found family, and how she hopes to continue the trend.
  • My Family and My Kids — Jorje of Momma Jorje ponders whether she distrusts her family or if she is simply a control freak.
  • Parenting with a Hero — Rachel at Lautaret Bohemiet reminisces about the relationship she shared with her younger brother, and how he now shares that closeness in a relationship with her son.
  • Text/ended Family — Kenna of A Million Tiny Things wishes her family was around for the Easter egg hunt... until she remembers what it's actually like having her family around.
  • Two Kinds of Families — Adrienne at Mommying My Way writes about how her extended family is just as valuable to her mommying as her church family.
  • My 'high-needs' child and 'strangers' — With a 'high-needs' daughter, aNonyMous at Radical Ramblings has had to manage without the help of family or friends, adapting to her daughter's extreme shyness and allowing her to socialise on her own terms.
  • Our Summer Tribe — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger shares a love of her family's summer reunion, her secret to getting the wisdom of the "village" even as she lives 1,000 miles away.
  • My Life Boat {Well, One of Them} — What good is a life boat if you don't get it? Grandparents are a life boat MomeeeZen loves!
  • Dear Children — In an open letter to her children, Laura at Pug in the Kitchen promises to support them as needed in her early days of parenting.
  • Yearning for Tribal Times — Ever had one of those days where everything seems to keep going wrong? Amy at Anktangle recounts one such day and how it inspired her to think about what life must've been like when we lived together in large family units.
  • I don't have a village — Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wishes she had family nearby but appreciates their support and respect.
  • Trouble With MILs-- Ourselves? — Jaye Anne at Wide Awake Half Asleep explains how her arguments with her mother-in-law may have something to do with herself.
  • A Family Apart — Melissa at Vibrant Wanderings writes about the challenges, and the benefits, of building a family apart from relatives.
  • First Do No Harm — Zoie at TouchstoneZ asks: How do you write about making different parenting choices than your own family experience without criticizing your parents?
  • Military Family SeparationAmy Willa shares her feelings about being separated from extended family during her military family journey.
  • Forging A Village In The Absence Of One — Luschka from Diary of a First Child writes about the importance of creating a support network, a village, when family isn't an option.
  • Respecting My Sister’s Parenting Decisions — Dionna at Code Name: Mama's sister is guest posting on the many roles she has as an aunt. The most important? She is the named guardian, and she takes that role seriously.
  • Multi-Generational Living: An Exercise in Love, Patience, and Co-Parenting — Boomerang Mama at The Other Baby Book shares her experience of moving back in with Mom and Dad for 7 months, and the unexpected connection that followed.
  • A Heartfelt Letter to Family: Yes, We're Weird, but Please Respect Us Anyway — Sheila of A Living Family sincerely expresses ways she would appreciate her extended family’s support for her and her children, despite their “weird” parenting choices.
  • The nuclear family is insane! — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle is grateful for family support, wishes her Mum lived closer, and feels an intentional community would be the ideal way to raise her children.


  1. I'm so sorry for your loss. I really appreciate your willingness to share your story and all the wisdom it contains. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for sharing so openly and honestly. This is such a painful thing to have gone through, and you seem to have gained so much insight from it. Such a valuable reminder to be gentle with others (as well as ourselves) when circumstances make emotions run high.

  3. "I learned I injected my past experiences into the relationship I had with my mother-in-law" I love how you said this...so many times our conflicts arise from an inadequacy or some other issue within us! Thanks for sharing this.

  4. Thanks for sharing this story with us. Conflicts between relatives can be resolved and relationship can be improved.

    parenting and relationships

  5. I agree with MomeeeZen - those are wise words, and ones that will serve you well (and would serve me well to remember, too!).

  6. Such a great post. My relationship with my MIL is always feeling strained and I wonder if there's something within myself that I need to address.

    Also, just a quick invite to my Carnival of Tandem Nursing since you mentioned that you do it! :) http://mommyingmyway.blogspot.com/2012/05/carnival-of-tandem-nursing-call-for.html

  7. Thanks for your thoughtful post - it really does resonate how other influences can effect our behaviours and expressions. My MIL and I have never clicked, too much murky water under that bridge. Your MIL thinking your child raising choices are backwards makes me think about how I often feel - a cave women with a cave baby (and cave man hubby) in a modern world!

  8. You are so wise! I'm glad the poetry helped you think about this angle of your story. It's such a hard thing to lose a first (or any) pregnancy, and I can definitely see how that seeps into the next experiences you have.

    Interesting about the aloe, and the intertwining with your mother-in-law's care. I buried our baby in a hardy mum, which I mentioned in a couple poems, and the mum survived until the birth of our second child. Some strange tiny black bugs ate it then, and I was sad, but not devastated as I'd feared I'd be if it ever died. It had served its purpose, you know? Well, of course you know.

    Thank you for sharing.