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Girl Talk: Young Love  -- and Parenthood

Q. I'm 20; my husband is 19. I know we're young, but his parents are taking over! They want to bathe our son, feed him, and take him to the doctor. Now they're planning his first birthday party! How do we make it clear that this is our baby?

A.
Let's see. You have built-in childcare from loving family members who actually want to bathe, feed, and cart your baby around town.

I'm sorry, what's the problem?

Okay. I'm just jealous because my folks are far away and I have to take my kids everywhere I go. But despite my lack of empathy for your situation, I still have a good bit of advice: Don't bite the hand that feeds your baby.

Keeping your in-laws close is not always easy, but it is smart. It allows your son to know his grandparents, and their assistance will give you and your husband the freedom and flexibility to create a secure life for your family, despite your age.

The key to making this relationship work is creating boundaries for them before they have a chance to draw up their own. For example, you might tell them that you are trying to develop a routine for your baby and need to stick to a daily schedule. Then pull out your calendar and ask which days they might want to babysit. Limit them to a certain time of day, if that's better for you, and make it clear that you and your baby will be doing things together on all the other days.

As for special events, such as your baby's birthday, assign your in-laws specific tasks. If your mother-in-law is a fabulous cook, ask her if she would bake the cake or make appetizers. Tell your father-in-law it would be a help if he'd run last-minute errands, like picking up Mylar balloons and bags of ice. If either one presses to get involved further, say that everything else is taken care of (whether it is or not).

If you set limits like these, your in-laws will still be plenty involved in your baby's life, but it will be on your terms. And if they insist on doing more, tell them to come on over to my house.

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