Care and Feeding

My Mother-in-Law Wants to Be Called “Nama” by Our Future Child

How do I tell her “nah-ah”?

A sad grandmother.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by shironosov/iStock.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Email careandfeeding@slate.com.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My husband and I are expecting our first baby. My mother-in-law was originally going to be “Grandma” because all the grandparents on my husband’s side go by “Grandma” and “Grandpa.” Easy. Now, my MIL is adamant that she wants to go by “Nama.” It’s random, and I am not a fan. My husband absolutely hates it. He refuses to have our children call his mother “Nama.” My MIL told me that “he’ll just have to deal with it.” I’m just curious how this all works. This is obviously new territory for us. Thanks!

—What’s Wrong With Grandma, Anyway?

Dear WWWGA,

Thank you for including details that make this question extra easy for me to answer. Details such as “My husband and I are expecting our first baby.” There’s no existing human child saying “Nama” who needs to be redirected? Tough luck, Grandma.

Generally speaking, I think people should be called what they want to be called, but if there’s a) family tradition and b) no child yet! and c) your husband “absolutely hates it,” and the choice is between Grandma and Nama (which, let’s face it, is totally a transparent attempt to get a mama-adjacent title!), she can suck it up.

Happily, she is your husband’s mother, and he cares even more than you do, so this is his problem to sort out and not yours. Hurrah!

Here’s what you will need to do: Just keep reinforcing it: “Eilonwy, meet Grandma!” “Marion, you know we’re not doing Nama.” “You seem like you’re getting emotional about this, we can try again when you’re feeling better.”

Would I do this? No, I don’t care enough, and I think it’s meet and right to go along with the small whims of otherwise respectful and beloved people. This is a big move with the potential for drama. But you both care a bunch, and only you know if Wants to Be Nama is usually an absolute doll of a woman who hated her own “Grandma” or if she’s already up your ass 24/7 with her opinions and it’s time to lay her out.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My wife and I have a 3-year-old daughter, and are expecting another little girl in a couple weeks. Because that means I’ll be the only one working for the next year, we have to pull our oldest out of day care, because it would be impossible to afford.

I think we’re both feeling guilty, because she’s made so many friends and can’t really process the idea that she’s going to be leaving soon. Even on weekends she’ll ask if she’s going to school that day to see her friends! Anyway, the question I have is, does anyone have tips on helping her transition into life without day care? What can we do at home to keep her stimulated and not missing her friends too much?

—Where Everyone Knows Your Kid

Dear WEKYK,

I am SO glad you have written to me! Ordinarily, whenever someone informs me that they are timing a second major change in their child’s life to coincide with the birth of a new sibling, I flip out and try to stop them (it’s always a disaster), but this might not actually be the case for you. Let me explain why.

In a different set of circumstances, I would say you should pull your kid out of day care right away, before the baby arrives, so that she’s not absorbing two huge alterations in her daily schedule at once. Looking at your family, though: a) your wife probably doesn’t have enough leave from work to really pull that off, and b) the last thing you want is for your small child to get used to spending all day with her mom just in time to have a tiny noisy newcomer monopolize all her time, to your detriment.

Start swapping numbers with the parents of her little day care friends ASAP and explain your situation. Some weekend play dates might suit everyone very nicely indeed. And do what you can (it’s so hard with a newborn) to try to give your toddler a predictable routine for her new weekdays at home with your wife, even if that’s just “lunch is at noon, in the afternoon we go to the park.”

Three-year-olds, blessedly, are like goldfish in terms of memory, and if she gets to see some of her friends on the weekends, she will not feel the loss of her current day care schedule too keenly.

Rooting for you!

Dear Care and Feeding,

My husband and I are expecting an unexpected but very wanted second child later this year. However, there are complications in the pregnancy that have us waiting to tell people. We’ve told a few close friends and our son we’re expecting, as it’s quite obvious by now, but haven’t told our respective families. (I’ve been on bedrest, so traveling the two or three hours to visit them has been avoided so far.) My parents are both alcoholics, and my husband’s parents are mentally and emotionally abusive and have been physically abusive in the past. Both of our brothers are unfortunately enablers, so we aren’t close with them, either.

I’m not too worried about my family, as they understand my stance on their alcohol use and I’ve made my boundaries clear. His family, on the other hand, despite the reasoning of having a complicated pregnancy, will not be pleased, and I can’t bear the dramatic ramifications of not telling them sooner. On top of that, I don’t know how to tell either family that we don’t feel comfortable sharing our child’s birth with them. I requested last time that they did not show up until we were at home, yet they both showed up at the hospital. This time, I don’t want them there until we are in a more comfortable and stable frame of mind to deal with them both.

Part of me wants to justify not telling them at all, since there’s no guarantee the issue will resolve and there could be risks all the way up until labor. The other part of me acknowledges I need to be the better person and put my own negative feelings aside, since we will be announcing it more freely in a few weeks. Stress is a major contributor to further complications, so is there a way to tell them all this without losing our sanity? Do I have to tell them at all?

—This Is a Lot to Deal With

Dear TIaLtDW,

Do not tell them about the pregnancy, and register as private at the hospital (all hospitals will accommodate this request, and I recommend you make it clear that no one other than your approved list of names be allowed in the waiting room, should they somehow find out).

You and your husband need to have a serious (yet somehow low-stress!) conversation about what role he sees his abusive family playing in the lives of your children. Since they are actively abusive, my recommendation ranges from “none” to “photos twice a year.” This isn’t Annoying Family; these are demonstrably unsafe people. You will not be doing your kids any favors by allowing them to believe otherwise.

If instead he wants his parents to have some form of active participation in your kids’ lives, you’ll need to discuss that very clearly and hash it out. Maybe not now, because of your stress level, and probably with a therapist, but it needs to happen.

Babies will keep. Keep yours under your hat until you’re on the same page and feel ready to lay out some boundaries.

Dear Care and Feeding,

What are your approaches to allowance? My twins are turning 5 tomorrow, and it feels like a good time to start getting a little more proactive about money conversations. How much do you give? Do you tie it to conditions (like chores)? Do you do a “pot for you, pot for charity” system? Bear in mind that we are a) two working parents who are generally disorganized and so a complicated system will fall apart quickly and b) live in the Bay Area, where a dollar buys almost nothing. We have a daughter who would likely save and a son who may or may not.

—Perhaps a Handful of Magic Beans

Dear PaHoMB,

I credit you hugely on knowing your own limitations! Let me allow you to kick this can down the road a bit further: 5 is pretty early, especially in 2018, when your small children are not regularly strolling down to the general store to buy a hoop and stick and some horehound candy. I would wait until they ask! Asking is an excellent time to sit down and collaboratively discuss the matter.

Some general guidelines:

A dollar per week per age of the child is a decent place to start (e.g., $5 per week for a 5-year-old).

Separate piggy banks.

For the first while (until they get the hang of it), do the saving for both of them, in that you only hand them three bucks each, keeping a buck apiece back weekly to keep for an annual charitable choice they can help pick and another buck to save on their behalf for college or a tablet or a Tesla or whatever. Literally just make a note on your phone and update it once a week—I believe in you.

The three bucks a week that’s theirs? Make no attempt whatsoever to police it. Your daughter may save up for a bike and your son may buy $3 of candy a week, it’s fine.

Require chores, and enforce them in whatever way you would any other rule in your home, but don’t link them to allowance: An allowance is a tool to teach them about money and keep them from bugging you for Twizzlers; chores are a requirement of living in a house together with other people.

—Nicole