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Direct Answers – In Whose Interest

My mother-in-law is our “nanny.” We pay her $1200 per month, and she  watches our three children every other week based on my rotating work schedule. She has been doing this for eight years now.
She is a strong and opinionated woman who often runs me over, and my husband, too. I am typically good at asserting myself, but I have found it hard to do so in this situation. I thought by paying her we would have more say, but that’s not the case.

Next year our children have the opportunity to do an after school program that will cost a fraction of what we currently pay her. I attempted to discuss this with my mother-in-law and her response was, “Absolutely not. I will not have my babies go to this when they can be here with me.”

Can you offer an acceptable exit strategy? She has my husband convinced we cannot do it without her, but I feel I’ve been a good sport and I’ve reached my limit.

~ Sherri

Sherri, the target isn’t your mother-in-law, it’s your husband. You have to get him on your side. Part of winning him over to your side is knowing you cannot rail against his mother. It is his mother. You have to be smarter.

Check into the program, meet the people, learn their backgrounds and see what they have to offer. Know the program inside and out, circumstances and hours. Do your due diligence, even to the extent of knowing how children benefit later in life from this experience.

Sometimes we have to use strategy to realize a worthy goal. You want your mother-in-law out of your hair, you want to reduce the amount of possessiveness she has about your children, you want to save money and you want what’s best for the kids.

Men often do not care that their mother and their wife are battling for supremacy in the household. But what might your husband care about? Giving him what he desires may win him to your side. That won’t happen if the money goes toward a new washer or dryer.

It has to be money toward something he cares about: a home theater, boat, pro basketball tickets or a new car. It has to be something he wants more than giving the money to his mom.

Presentation is everything.

The other thing he might care about, with his offspring, is this: bigger, stronger, faster, smarter. What in the nature of those after school programs might make the product of his loins bigger, stronger, faster or smarter?

You’ve managed to keep the kids away from childcare. You appreciate that. It’s a fortunate thing. Many people don’t have access to a family caregiver. But now that the children are old enough, it probably is time to give them a new experience.

Parents decide for children. Children don’t get a vote. Just as the kids don’t get to decide whether they go to school or what school they go to, this is a parental decision. Only you can decide what they most need at their level of development.

You must believe the switch is ultimately in the best interests of the children or you cannot do this. If it’s not in their best interests, or if it is primarily because of jealousy of your mother-in-law, you should not do this.

We assume your mother-in-law isn’t doing anything bad with the children. That means you can’t alienate her for times when the kids are sick, or the programs don’t meet, and you don’t have a backup.

You are not going to get your mother-in-law out of your life and have that money for yourself, at least not right now. Her best argument is that the youngest is not ready yet.

But the wisest principle to follow is this. What’s best for the children?

~ Wayne & Tamara

Column for the week of December 7, 2015

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  1. Well, I have to say yes, find out what is best for your children, and secondly, no , I have dealt with a mother in law yes that loved my husband and my children, but she was so judgmental of anything that I may do. If I got a hair cut, she downed and criticized me so much, I lost my self esteem. She was a hateful bully. No if your husband cannot get a back bone as mine did not, your on your own. Take up for yourself, this is not her choice, it is your lives, she is the grandma that’s it.


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