A recent write-in to Care and Feeding, an advice column from Slate, by a new mom who's at odds with her mother-in-law has raised the issues of boundaries when it comes to non-immediate family members and how to most tactfully handle a situation so that it doesn't become explosive. The new mom wrote in because her husband's mother decided that she wanted to be called Ama by her grandchild and the new mom thought that the name sounded too close to mama.
It used to be that grandparents didn't choose their names and grandmas were simply grandmas but grandmothers now associate the word grandma with being old. Since they consider themselves to be way more lively than their parents, they're opting for more cool and hip names. It may seem silly to some but the new mom indicated that since the names were so similar, she feared she wouldn't be able to distinguish who her child was talking to, which would break her heart.
Tensions between a wife and mother-in-law is a story as old as time and often the butt of many jokes and major storyline of some of our favorite TV shows and movies. If you haven't written off this issue as trivial, you may have already picked a side and maybe that choice is influenced by your own relationships with your mother-in-law or daughter-in-law. Before you're quick to condemn one party of the story, the column brings up an appropriate subject that doesn't get discussed enough and one that is probably the deeper issue that needs to be resolved. It also gives us insight into both women's perspectives that make us a little more empathetic to their overall dynamic.
For this particular new mom, she felt bullied into accommodating and it's probably safe to bet that if she felt bullied in this particular incident, it's not the first time she felt this way with her mother-in-law. Being a new mom is also incredibly hard and it doesn't help when you feel as if you're fighting someone that you believe should be supporting you. There are also some internal issues that grandma herself is struggling with that may make her seem overbearing. A mom will always be a mom and just because she's a grandma now, doesn't mean that switch automatically cuts off. We've all had experiences where an older relative undermines us even though we've reached full adult age.
Joining two different family dynamics is never an easy task and while some people luck up and have no issues, most people end up with some sort of conflict with a close in-law. This can usually be resolved by setting boundaries but setting boundaries with a close family member can be hard and if healthy boundaries aren't set, then chaos can ensue. There will always be a family member that gives unsolicited advice and the more these interactions go unaddressed, the more the resentments fester and the more likely small issues will seem like big ones.