Dear Prudence

Help! My Mother-in-Law Is Furious That I’m Refusing to Follow This Family Tradition.

Dear Prudence answers more of your questions—only for Slate Plus members.

Hands handing over a box filled with kids' toys to another set of hands.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

Every week, Dear Prudence answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.

Q. On the move: In my husband’s family, it is a “tradition” to hand down baby items to the next pregnant family member. I am an only child and respect this to an extent, but most of the stuff isn’t valuable like a christening gown—it’s onesies, threadbare teddy bears, and beat-up strollers. A lot of the stuff isn’t safe to use. I caused a tiff because I refused to use my cousin-in-law’s car seat with my second child and offended the family by sending them all a copy of the recall notice for the car seat (they wouldn’t drop the subject until I did).

My husband and I have three children now and are done with having babies. My youngest sister-in-law is not looking to settle down any time soon. We are moving out of state and into a much smaller house. There is barely any storage so decluttering has to happen. We already got rid of most of the non-essentials, older furniture, and random sports equipment.

The problem is my mother-in-law is extremely upset. I want to get rid of all the baby stuff, but I “need” to save it for my sister-in-law. I told her we don’t have the space and we aren’t hauling to our new house. If she can recall a specific item and I could find it, I would mail it to her to hold onto (she hasn’t yet). Otherwise, it is all going to be donated.

My husband is away at his new job so the kids, the house, and the move are on me. I don’t have time to deal with this. How do I make it clear to my mother-in-law without causing more trouble? I really can’t understand this, it isn’t like anything was handmade!

A: Pack up a reasonably sized box and drop it off at your mother-in-law’s house with a note that says “Please save for sister-in-law’s baby.” While your husband isn’t there physically, he can be there emotionally by letting his mom know the hand-me-downs are coming and dealing with any backlash so you don’t have to.

Classic Prudie

I am married with two children of my own. My brother and his wife have been consumed for the past five years with their infertility struggles. Surrogacy was their last option. We wanted to help with their heartbreak, and I volunteered to be their surrogate. It was successful, and I am four months along.

My sister-in-law will not stop hovering.