Q. I feel as if my mother-in-law is giving my children short shrift. She always seems to be visiting her daughter's kids, who live in the town next to ours. But I have to practically beg her to come to our house for the day. I know there's a special bond between mothers and daughters, but shouldn't she want to spend equal time with her son's kids?
A. Maybe your "begging" has not come across loud and clear to Grandma. For some reason, she might sense you want your space. It's not unusual for a mother-in-law to tiptoe around the son's wife, right? So make sure she knows she's really wanted. Call and ask her over, saying the kids are missing her. No grandma could deny a request like that. And once she's there, be certain that she feels welcome. Then suggest booking a bunch of days in advance, like an every-other-Friday routine. That way the kids will have something to look forward to and you can find peace (and sneak in a few extra errands) knowing that you've got regularly scheduled visits. But whatever you do, don't bring up the "you're-spending-more-time-with-her" thing. No good can come of it, and you'll sound petty for keeping track. As you said, they are mother and daughter. You can't compete with that -- and honestly, do you want to?
Julie Mazer, a mother of three, lives in Short Hills, New Jersey.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, April 2004.