You could ask caring in-laws not to help with baby, but why?
Q: Our second baby is due soon. My very caring and loving in-laws are coming to visit, and we enjoy having them around … most of the time. From our firstborn, we've learned that they have this stance of, "We've raised X kids and taken care of Y grandkids, so we know what we're doing."
Great, I know their kids and grandkids are great. However, it doesn't mean they shouldn't respect the way we, the new parents, prefer to do things in our house with our kids.
The first time around I was too chicken, and ignorant, to speak up. This time, I would really like to set some boundaries without hurting anyone's feelings. How do I go about having the conversation, "I'd really prefer you check with me before you decide to give the newborn a bath, or dress the newborn in an outfit of your choice for a special occasion," etc.?
A: You, ah, don't.
Unless there's a bath- or outfit-related health or safety issue, there's no great consequence to letting the grandparents fuss in this way.
In such cases, make no mistake, letting them fuss is your best move — especially for your in-laws' sense of involvement and your kids' bond with their grandparents, but also for your peace of mind. Namely, you're not going to get any if you put your weight into emotionally charged battles you don't need to win.
The battle you do need to win is to establish your parental authority, and you do that by figuring out important, consequential ways in which you differ from your in-laws on child rearing, and set your boundaries there. Do they believe in letting indulgences, or TV programs, or nutritional labels go unchecked? Do they knowingly trash your household routines, thus leaving days of cranky kids and painful reteaching in their wake? Do they smoke around the kids, lob profanities, scoff at car seats?
Then, you'd have something to converse about: "You're a great help, and you've raised great kids. It's important to us, though, that our kids don't eat preservatives/watch TV/curse like stevedores" or "do stick to a bedtime routine/hear the word 'no'/ride only with us in the car."
You will want to be the one who fusses sometimes, yes. But assert that case-by-case, not by fiat: "I'd like to do bath tonight, thanks."
Otherwise, though? Embrace that these grandparents are present, responsible on the important stuff, and offering you a little break — if not now, then soon — and overrule your territorial growl.
Epiphany about long-term relationship comes as surprise
Q: I broke off a six-year relationship this week because I realized that I needed to have someone with whom I was more bonded, more emotionally connected. Sounds strange, doesn't it? I'm a guy.
Spring Cleaning and Resurrection
A: What's supposed to sound strange — that you were in a relationship without intimacy, that you took six years to notice, that you're a guy and you noticed at all, or that you're telling all this to an advice columnist?
No matter. When people surprise themselves, it's usually a good thing — even when it's a bad surprise — because it suggests that a long-neglected side of them finally got their attention. My advice is to see this as an opportunity, and use it well.