What Happened When I Lost My Temper With My Mother-In-Law For the First Time

"While the help was appreciated, I didn’t want her to be taking every opportunity to care for her. I needed time with my daughter, too"

Welcome to “Why I Yelled,” Fatherly’s ongoing series in which real dads discuss a time they lost their temper in front of their wife, their kids, their coworker — anyone, really — and why. The goal of this isn’t to examine the deeper meaning of screaming or come to any great conclusions. It’s about yelling and what really triggers it. Here, Peter, a 33-year-old new father in Houston explains why he blew his top at his mother-in-law. 

When was the last time you yelled?

Oh I don’t know. But the time I most recently remember was about two weeks ago.

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Okay. What happened?

I lost my temper with my mother-in-law.

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Oh boy.

Yeah.

Do you normally have a good relationship with her?

Honestly, yes. I love her. She has a great sense of humor and is really warm and caring. She also loves watching college football — she’s a big UT fan — which gives us something to bond over. We never once had a moment; she’s always been warm and lovely to me.

Okay. So what did she do that got under your skin?

Well, some backstory: we are new parents. We have a two-month old little girl. My in-laws were here for about a month to give us a hand with the early days. And it was fantastic and such a big help.

But…

[laughs] but they have a tendency to want to take care of everything because they knew best. They were quick to hold her when she was crying, change her diapers, swaddle her, etc. While the help was appreciated, I didn’t want them to be taking every opportunity to care for her. I needed time with my daughter, too. I think that’s ridiculous. My wife was getting lots of time during late night feedings but I was getting very little. I mean, one morning the baby was crying and I went to pick her up but my mother-in-law swooped in and grabbed her before I did. I don’t think she did it on purpose, more of a tunnel-vision sort of thing. But I didn’t feel too great.

Okay so what happened.

Well so I handled this as best I could. But I got frustrated. I want to make this clear: Both she and my father-in-law were being really helpful during this time. But I started to get extremely annoyed about them jumping in all the time. I wanted to hold my daughter and bond with her and screw up and learn without them watching over me and grabbing her when things didn’t go right.

So I was there one day. My wife was napping and my father in law was out doing something. The baby was a bit fussy and I picked her up. But my mother-in-law said something along the lines of “no, no, like this” and grabbed her out of my arms, as though she was going to teach me something and then just soothed my daughter on her own. So I lost my temper. I forcefully explained to her that she couldn’t keep doing this and that, even though I appreciate the help, she’s making me feel as though I’m a bad father and hogging these new parent moments.

Did you say it that nicely?

I may have been a bit harsher when I said it.

How did she respond?

She was a little taken aback. I’ve been married for two years and have never even come close to raising my voice with her let alone yelling at her. So she said okay and gave me the baby back and left the room for a minute. I didn’t go in and try to make amends or anything because that would’ve made me look like I regretted what I was saying, which I didn’t. She needed to know. As they say, there comes a time in every man’s life…

How did everything resolve?

It was one of those things where the resolution is unspoken to be honest. We never really discussed the moment. It was awkward for the afternoon and my wife was mad at me for getting mad, but my mother-in-law was certainly slower to grab the baby. I made my penance and was sure to tell her at every moment how great she was with her and happy she was to be around. I also made her feel special by handing her the fussy baby and telling her ‘I don’t have your super powers’ so that she could soothe her. I think she appreciated it.

Now that they’re gone, do you miss your in-laws’ presence?

God yes. Like I said, they helped with so much. That said, I don’t regret yelling. I needed these early moments to learn, to grow, to become a father my wife and my in-laws and everyone else would be proud of. If I don’t have any hands on, how could I learn?

 

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