20/01/2010 17:31 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Ask Joanne: How Do I Tell Granny To Back Off?

What's your biggest challenge in family life? Send your questions and dilemmas to experienced l ife coach Joanne Mallon via this confidential form. Your name can be changed on request.

Claire writes:

I am six months' pregnant with my first child. It's also the first grandchild, and my mum is getting over-excited – over-the-top excited in fact! She can't stop talking about the baby and buying stuff for it. I think she thinks it's hers. So far she has planned for how she will look after it when I go back to work, even having it to stay overnight. She has started buying baby clothes and toys, and at this rate there won't be anything left for me to buy my own child. And most of it is the kind of stuff I would never choose.

In some ways it's a relief because I've never had a brilliant relationship with my mum, and this gives us both a new focus. But I feel like I need to tell her to back off now before the baby's born so she doesn't think it will be OK to steam in and take over. What's the best way to do this?

Here's our life coach's reply:

Dear Claire

Look at it from a different perspective: would you rather your mum was disinterested in your baby and didn't want to be involved? Would you rather she never bought the baby a gift or offered to babysit? Because plenty of grandparents do take this attitude, and their families are poorer because of it.

I know right now that her intentions may seem suffocating, but remember that she is genuinely excited and is adjusting to the process of becoming a grandma, just as you are adjusting to becoming a mum. Both of your attitudes will change over time. And perhaps your mum is attempting to mend fences with you because she realises that your relationship hasn't been good in the past.

No one can take away the fact that this is your baby and you are its mum. You and your partner are the ones who make the decisions – other people can only assume this power if you let them. It's great that your mum is offering childcare and babysitting, but that doesn't mean you have to take her up on this. And in time you may be glad that she does offer. One thing that parenting will teach you is that whilst we might be able to do some of it alone, a little help is often welcome.

Instead of telling her to back off, I would look for ways to help her feel involved so that she has a channel for her enthusiasm. Perhaps you could go together to look at baby equipment, or if you think your mum would like it, you might want to get her one of the Good Granny series of books, which are full of sage advice.

Best wishes and good luck with your pregnancy,


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