DEAR MR. DAD: My fiancee and I recently had a baby. I’m thrilled with everything, but I can’t help but feel like I’m taking a backseat to her parents. It’s almost as if their opinions matter more than mine. What can I do or say?
Answer: In the minds of your fiancee’s parents, their opinion DOES matter more than yours. Their daughter just gave birth to their grandchild, and they consider themselves to be the best authority on all things related not only to their new grandchild, but to their daughter as well. That’s a tough dynamic to change, but you can do it.
Your fiancee has to be on board with you in order to make that change. First of all, you and she will need to have some serious discussions about what, exactly, your role is going to be and what “involved father” means to each of you. It is not uncommon for the man and woman to have very different expectations. Be very specific with each other about who’ll be doing what. Who gets up for those 3 a.m. feedings? Who’s responsible for the diapers – both changing and buying? When will you introduce solid foods and what will that food be? Will you use a playpen or not? Should your baby sleep in the same bed as you and your fiancee? Are you going to teach your baby sign language? Dealing with those issues now will make life easier for both of you in the long run.
Once you hammer out your roles, your fiancee will have to be the one to break the news to her parents. They won’t hear it from you. She’ll need to tell them, respectfully, that you and she have decided to raise your child in such and such a way. While you both appreciate their opinions and are very grateful that they’re around to help out, you and she will be parenting the way the two of you have agreed. She should be sure to tell them what wonderful grandparents they already are, and how, as grandparents, they get to have all the fun of parenting with a lot less of the dirty work.
With any luck, that talk will have the desired effect. If not, your fiancee may have to take it up a notch or two by telling her parents that if they can’t go along with the parenting program as you’ve outlined it and respect the two of you as parents, they simply won’t be able to spend as much time with their grandchild as they’d like to. Hopefully, it won’t come to that.
Armin Brott is the author of many best-selling books on fatherhood.
His new DVD, “Toolbox for New Dads,” has just been released. You can find out more about it and Armin’s other resources for fathers at www.mrdad.com or by emailing arminmrdad.com. Try DaddyCast, his new, twice-weekly podcast (http://www.mrdad.com/daddycast)