I have a wonderful husband and I’m six months pregnant with our first child. Our life is the very picture of connubial bliss…except for a latent culture clash that is coming to the surface as I get closer to my delivery date. I am Chinese and my other half is of Western descent. His mother wants to come and take care of me through my post-birthing weeks. The idea of nursing a newborn while trying to please my mother-in-law (she’s nice but also set in her sometimes demanding ways), eating her (Western) food instead of the soothing soupy fare that Chinese serve their daughters post partum is terrifying. I want to be taken care of by my own mother at this crucial time. What should I do? Sacrifice my own wants for the greater familial good? Or be demanding and straightforward? Please help!
Dear Nervous Mother,
Congratulations on your upcoming parcel from the stork! This is a wonderful time and a scary time for any couple, much less a cross-cultural one. Have you ever pulled an all-nighter for work or school? Imagine doing that for four months straight while putting on a happy face for the mother-in-law. Maybe nursing a newborn will be marginally better than staying up for work because you’ll be getting sleep in two-hour increments…very marginally. So, better diffuse this time bomb now instead of waiting for things to blow up when you and your husband are both panda-eyed and covered in baby gurgle. (A blow up under new baby stress is almost 99.9% guaranteed). Any daughter- and mother-in-law will have their differences — physical duress will only amplify the cultural issues. Tell your husband you appreciate his mother’s thoughtful offer, but that you’d be much more comfortable (and likeable) if fed a diet of your mom’s home cooking. Propose an alternative to make up for his mother missing out on bonding time with the baby, perhaps Thanksgiving at his house, or taking a post-baby holiday together during the first year. You’re not being demanding, just practical. If your husband is as wonderful as you say, he will understand.