Q: My wife had our baby last week and asked that I take two weeks of vacation to help her get into a routine. But she also invited her mom to stay with us for the baby's first month. My mother-in-law is a pro at this stuff and I really appreciate the help. But I feel superfluous around my own house, if not downright in the way. I'm not sure it makes sense for me to stay home for another week, but I worry that mentioning this to my wife will make her think I'm being unsupportive.
A: You're on to the right problem, but I urge a different solution. Explain to your wife that you feel superfluous with her mom around because she's such a pro and that you'd like to ask Grandma to step aside, to allow you to learn by doing while you have the benefit of her safety net. She'll have the following two weeks when you're back at work to get her fill.
At the risk of making too much of this: If your reaction to feeling superfluous to your child's care is to go back to work (or run errands or whatever else), then you're taking the first steps toward detachment from your marriage and child. It's a well-worn path.
Get in there. Set that precedent. If Grandma doesn't take it well, then it's better to do damage control with her than start a bad pattern in your own family. There will be many times when it will seem "easier" for the more experienced person to handle everything, but that quickly gives way to an overburdened do-everything spouse, a detached bystander spouse and enough resentment between them to light Manhattan at Christmas.