When Family Interferes
There are lots of things that trip up parents over the holidays - long travel, strange sleep arrangements, nonstop presents, relaxed rules, missed bedtimes, too much sugar, and quadrupled screentime, to name a few. But of all the things that drive a mother nuts this time of year, the most agonizing of all seems to be the pressure and interference we experience from relatives and strangers.
People who don't normally factor into our daily lives start commenting, interfering, and undermining us; it totally screws up our vibe and makes it damn near impossible to parent effectively. Plus, it pisses us off!!!
Personally, the second I peed on my first pregnancy test everyone in my life had an opinion, and it only got worse after the baby came.
Personally, the second I peed on my first pregnancy test everyone in my life had an opinion, and it only got worse after the baby came. In the early months, family gatherings made me anxious for weeks in advance. And, after a few visits feeling like our family was walking all over me and disrupting my parenting efforts, that anxiety morphed into anger, even before the meddling began.
Every gathering left me feeling criticized, defensive, and furious that people would have the audacity to meddle in another person's parenting. Plus, I was the one who suffered when life went back to normal but my kids' schedules and behavior were totally destroyed.
I wanted to protect myself, my kids, and our relationship from the prying eyes and judgmental comments of everyone else. I got angry, set major boundaries and gave lots of ultimatums.
Sometimes it would work - my MIL would ask before giving my kids extra sweets or my mom would respect my boundaries around naptime. But even when I was 'successful' in changing other's behavior, I was still left with anxiety, feelings of inadequacy and righteous indignation.
I knew they were still judging me, rolling their eyes, or just waiting for a chance to do things 'their way'.
The combination of my powerlessness to change others and my crappy feelings even when I could, brought me to a realization that changed how I think about these situations and completely transformed the dynamics in my family. And it's how I coach my clients about them now. When I have a client struggling with judgment, criticism or interference, I look them in the eye and tell them the same thing I told myself back then:
This is YOUR problem! That judgment and criticism is coming from YOU. It must first be present in yourself before you can perceive it from others. No matter how you parent, there will always be an army of detractors telling you why it's dumb, wrong, or a waste of time.
Our job isn't to get others on board; it's to parent in integrity WITH ourselves, not AGAINST others. It's not about drawing lines in the sand, it doesn't have to be adversarial and it doesn't have to feel like crap.
You're the MOM, for crying out loud! You have all the power, and that means anger and anxiety are totally unnecessary. Pressure from others doesn't change how much agency and influence we have over our children.
We simply choose to give our power away when our insecurities and self doubt lead us to experience the comments and actions of others as painful proofs of our inadequacy. When we are already telling ourselves we're no good, someone else's behavior serves as a megaphone for that inner voice.
When we acquiesce on our parenting values, or tie ourselves in knots over what others think, we're placing everyone else above our child. Of course you don't really believe that; your kids are more important than avoiding an awkward moment, caving to family pressure, or succumbing to angry altercations.
So what's the key to changing this? It's not learning to handle other people - it's learning to handle the real problem - YOU!
Our own insecurities leave us feeling judged, criticized, defensive, attacked, and no good at this momming thing. Even if it were possible to get all those haters to change their ways, at the end of the day, those feelings remain, because they were there to begin with.
Do I have a cool action plan to handle jerk relatives? Hell yes, I do!
When moms work with me, we go through 4 steps to handing meddlers and they get great results: kids who stay on track over trips and visits, family relationships that improve, clear and respected boundaries, and enjoyable time even with relatives who won't change a bit.
But that's ONLY because of the work we do beforehand to get them rock solid on themselves as kickass moms, before they ever get in spitting range of a judgy hater.
So my advice to you in dealing with meddling relatives this year is this: Forget about setting boundaries, giving ultimatums or family interventions. Put your focus on yourself instead. Who are you as a mom? What are you about? What are your rules and, more importantly, what are your beliefs behind those rules? And WHY does it bother you deep, deep down when someone oversteps or comments on your parenting?
I promise you, it's about more than how it impacts your kid or simply that someone did something that's just not right. It MEANS something to you, about you, and there's where the real potential for change and healing lie.
If you're ready to get to the root of these things, I'm ready to help you!
I'm talking to moms now who want to get started in January making changes in the behavior, energy and happiness in their families. The 45 minutes you spend sharing your experiences with me and creating a plan for change could be the turning point for your family. And it all starts with a simple click to book.
PS. Have you joined the Real Life Momming Facebook group yet?