Every week, Dear Prudence answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.
Q. Stork raving mad: I’ve never gotten along with my mom. She gives nonstop unsolicited advice, is paranoid, and believes every conspiracy theory. I’ve tried my entire adult life to talk to her about how we could have a better relationship, to no avail. She shrugs off anything that would require her to change and keeps on keeping on. Before this year, we were in low contact.
Then I had a baby, and my mom became our full-time nanny. We didn’t ask her to do this; we could pay for child care, but she rushed to volunteer because she’s retired and has wanted a grandchild for a long time. Nevertheless, this arrangement does “work” for us: My kid loves her, we don’t have to worry about a stranger taking care of our baby, the COVID risk is minimized, and it’s free. Not to mention that if I did hire an outside babysitter, even for a day, my mom would throw a fit because we picked someone else over her.
But Prudie, I pay for this child care with my sanity. She says and does things every single day that make my head explode. She repeatedly asks to feed ice cream to my newborn, tells me not to kiss him on the cheeks because she thinks it’ll make his face sag, and complains constantly about our Snoo because she thinks it’ll give him brain damage. Nothing I say makes her stop talking, not even threats that she won’t be allowed to see my baby anymore if she doesn’t stop making comments. And I can’t just leave her alone with the baby because I don’t trust her to follow my parenting rules.
Our relationship has worsened since she started taking care of my baby. I hate her; it’s a horrible thing to say about your own mom, especially one who spends so much time taking care of your child, but I really do. Her nonstop talking has worn down every bit of goodwill I have for her.
A: You have to take back control here. The arrangement does NOT actually “work” for you! She’s feeding your baby things you don’t want him to have and—just as important—stressing you out. You’re worried about the impact on your relationship if you fire her, but your relationship is bad now! You hate her! And you’re not even leaving the baby alone with her, so that’s not real babysitting! There is really nothing to lose here. Tell her you’ve made another choice about child care (no explanation or negotiation required), brace for the anger and tears, let them pass, and carry on living a much happier life and knowing your baby is in better hands—and you can actually leave the house.
Q. Wedding dress feud: I am getting married in a just a few short months. Everything has been going wonderfully, the only snag in the whole proceedings has been the wedding dress. I found a perfect dress six months ago. My fiancé’s mother found the perfect dress for me as well: her old one that she got married in. I politely told her that I appreciated the possible heirloom but had found my own dress. I figured that would be the end of it and that she would give it to one of her daughters. Apparently, that was not the end of it. She was so hurt over my choice that she told my fiancé that she wanted nothing to do with the wedding and has not helped since! Fast-forward to now, she has been calling me every single day. Thirty to 50 times a day. Begging me to wear her dress and end the feud. She says she won’t stop until I agree.