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Carolyn Hax: Mother-in-law engages in pre-emptive damage control

DEAR CAROLYN: My husband and I are both in our late 20s and have decided to start a family through adoption. A childhood illness left me unable to have biological children. My husband knew this before we ever started dating, and his parents have known for years. No one – until now – has led me to feel ashamed of my condition.

We’ve been talking about our adoption plans with friends and our immediate families, but recently my mother-in-law advised that we not discuss it with her extended family and should hide our adoption books when they are visiting. When I declined to put away the books, she hid them herself! She says she wants to break the news about our adoption plans to her parents gently because it’s not how they expect to have a great-grandchild and they’ll be shocked and need an explanation.

Logically, I guess I understand where my mother-in-law is coming from. My husband’s grandparents can be abrasive at times, and she’s trying to protect us from the potential onslaught. But on the other hand, I feel hurt and betrayed.

Should I tell my mother-in-law how I feel, or just let it pass?


DEAR M.: It is not your mother-in-law’s place to referee the relationship between you and this set of grandparents.

Your husband might have no interest in the spokeshusband role, and that’s fine – there’s no one way to solve this – as long as you talk your way to an alternate plan together. You two are all that matter, and the approach that works here is by definition the approach you both embrace.

As for any “onslaught,” I suspect your mother-in-law is acting out her own unresolved stuff more than anything, and these grandparents will manage.

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