"I Get No Help from My In-Laws!"

Should you put an end to your duty as sole baby-watcher?

Q. When we visit my in-laws, I'm expected to keep the baby quiet and happy while everyone else socializes. I can't tell you how many meals I've missed because the baby was fussy and no one else would take a turn soothing her. My husband regresses, talks sports with his dad, and is no help.

    A. Kind of makes you not want to show up at all, doesn't it? In fact, maybe that's what you should tell your husband. After all, if you're required to keep the baby quiet, and everyone else is happy treating you as a babysitter rather than as a member of the family, what's the point of leaving the comforts of your own home?

    We'll keep this simple. Much as you might like your mother-in-law to take a twirl with your cranky toddler, you can't force her to do so. (And if she doesn't have the interest, do you want her to anyway?) Your husband, on the other hand, has just as much responsibility for calming your child as you do and absolutely should be spelling you when baby acts up. You need to make that clear before the next trip.

    Just be careful what you wish for. If your husband's walking your daughter around outside, you may be the one who has to rehash last night's overtime with your father-in-law. Are you up for that? If that makes you swallow hard, you can always tell your husband that he gets a pass for now but in the next social situation with baby, you get to "regress" while he takes on soothing duty.

      Kathy Bishop and Julia Whitehead are the authors of The City Parent Handbook: The Complete Guide to the Ups and Downs and Ins and Outs of Raising Young Kids in the City (Rodale).

      Originally published in American Baby magazine, July 2005.