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Girl Talk: Dueling Grandmas

Q. My mom and mother-in-law think they're in a "best grandma" competition. They're always trying to outdo each other, with better toys, pricier outfits, more trips to the zoo. It's really starting to drive me crazy. How do I deal with these two?

A. You are in a delicate situation, because you don't want to hurt either grandmother's feelings. Nor do you want to entirely give up free, enthusiastic babysitting and all those designer outfits (c'mon, don't tell me you didn't think about that). You can strike a balance, however, by eliminating the insecurity that's providing the water for this peeing contest.

Begin by being proactive instead of reactive. Explain that you would like to set up more of a regular schedule for the baby, and ask them to pick a day for a weekly outing. Set it up so that one takes the baby to the park one week, the other to the zoo the next, and so on.

As for the gifts, tell both grandmas that you would like to save presents for special occasions like birthdays and holidays. (You should do this at a time when they are not handing over a present.) You might also casually mention (again, not when gift is in hand) how you have so much stuff crowding your baby's closet and toy bin that you just don't know what to do with it all.

Finally, make a point of telling them how much your baby enjoys being with them. In fact, you might want to present each of them with an "I love Grandma" mug (however tacky) to make the point that they are more valued than all the Tiffany rattles they could buy.