Care and Feeding

My Mother-in-Law Has Some Strange Opinions About Me Eating Asian Food During My Pregnancy

All I want is for her to put my diet completely out of her mind.

A takeout container with a pair of chopsticks sticking out of it.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My live-in mother-in-law is a terrible cook. I’m a picky foodie. I’m pregnant and even pickier than usual. I’m also not a breakfast person, which bothers her.

I work from home and have had pretty bad fatigue for most of my pregnancy, so I eat mostly takeout and delivery. I eat in my office a lot of the time, and she thinks I’m not eating if she doesn’t see me eat. When I do eat around her, she has a million questions about what I’m eating and whether it’s safe for the baby. She eats a very standard American diet, and my Indian curries and Vietnamese pho are completely new and exotic to her. She questions me multiple times about whether any food that is unfamiliar to her is pregnancy-safe. I work a sales job that requires me to be on the phone all day, and the last thing I want to do most days is give a sales pitch for what I’m eating.

I feel bad because she means well. But I’m hiding in my office to eat and sneaking around the house like an employee taking extra smoke breaks because I don’t want her to offer to cook. I was much pickier as a child and had a lot of friction about food with my parents, until I started shopping and cooking for myself in high school. A lot of people thought I had an eating disorder. I was also the kid that got bullied for my weird, smelly lunches.

My husband has always refused his mom’s cooking and tells her that her food is bland. He has talked to her a few times but her behavior doesn’t change. All I want is for her to put my diet completely out of her mind.

—Picky in Pensacola

Dear Picky,

You sound like you’re a really nice person, and I love the fact that you’re careful about not hurting your MIL’s feelings, but this is straight up ridiculous. Think about this for a minute—you’re pregnant, exhausted, working a full-time job, and you’re acting like a prisoner in your own home. It’s not like you’re drinking Long Island ice teas or smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. You’re a smart person, and you know what to eat to keep your baby healthy—and quite frankly, it’s pretty offensive that she thinks Indian or Vietnamese food is unsafe for an unborn child. You need to put your foot down and advocate for yourself.

With that said, the direct approach is what is required, and I would keep it short and sweet by saying something along the lines of, “I know your heart is in the right place, but I’m a grown woman and I know what I’m doing. I don’t want to engage in any further discussions about my diet, so please stop.” You don’t have to elaborate or go into any additional detail, because we’re talking about your body. If she gets hurt or offended, she’ll get over it. Sometimes you have to use a firm approach to set your boundaries, and this is definitely one of those times.

Don’t allow this to continue for another day. You and your unborn baby deserve better.


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