"Since my daughter was born 9 months ago, I've dreaded dealing with this particular issue. My mother-in-law is a chain-smoker (one is lit at all times) and fills her house with cigarette smoke and scented candles, thinking that the candles mitigate the smell of the smoke. It does not in any way. I've dutifully visited her with my husband before I was pregnant and even during my pregnancy for short visits, but now that my baby is born, I feel so strongly that I do not want to expose my child to the secondhand smoke. My MIL would not smoke in the baby's presence, but the second-hand smoke is in the air regardless. It hangs in the air and is unavoidable.
There are many problems here. My husband thinks we should just bring the baby and visit her "to keep the peace." He is afraid of rocking the boat, of confronting her on this issue. (She is also an alcoholic and her family enables her bad habits. No one wants to confront her because she is irrational and makes her family members feel guilty for not taking care of her). My husband understands that secondhand smoke is terrible to be exposed to, but he sees little harm in short visits. It is causing lots of tension between us. I just want him to advocate for our child, and he says that by doing so, he would effectively end the relationship between us and his mother. He is so torn and I feel terribly for him because he feels he has to choose between his mother or me and our baby.
Part of me dies when I think of exposing my daughter's little body to a known carcinogen just to "keep the peace." I even talked with her pediatrician at her 6-month visit who said that my MIL should just visit us at our house and that we should not expose our baby to second-hand smoke. My MIL only lives one hour away but acts like we live across the country and does not want to make the drive to our house.
We have gotten away with not visiting her thus far because our baby vehemently hated car rides as a small infant and we just said we weren't traveling with her anywhere. But my MIL knows that the baby is getting better in the car and is pressuring us to bring her out for a visit.
The other key issue is that my MIL and I do not have a good relationship and never have, and I am afraid that this is going to set us back even farther. For the sake of my husband and my daughter, I want to have a functional relationship with my MIL.
Am I being too over-protective? Is my mother bear instinct getting in the way of what's right in terms of family? Do I just suck it up and bring my baby over there? Or can I stand my ground and say that it is not right to expose our daughter to the second-hand smoke, even at her grandmother's expense? I truly want to foster a relationship between my daughter and her grandmother, but my daughter's health is (and should be!) my priority.
This is definitely a rock and a hard place. If your daughter was 10, you could deal with the smoke for a very brief visit. But so many of her body systems are still developing. OTOH, this could be the final rift between your family and your husband's mother, and it sounds like your husband just isn't willing to stand up to his mother.
First off, when the dust settles on this, you might try to get your husband in to see a counselor with you about some of the issues with his mom. Or at the very least try to get him to go to an Al-Anon meeting or two. Growing up with an alcoholic is serious business, and is going to affect his instincts and parenting in so many ways that it'll be the best investment he could ever make in his daughter's well-being to get some clarity on how he's been hurt by his mom's addictions and how he can recover from that.
Now. There's got to be a weaselly way around this so you don't have to put the hammer down without support. Could you go see them but meet someplace else? "We really want to take you out for a special brunch because of everything you do for us." Or could you stall for a few more months until the weather is warm and then go but stay outside the entire time? "Our pediatrician says the fresh air is the best thing for her at this age."
You really can't go and put your daughter into the smokehouse. Your pediatrician advises against it. And, frankly, anything that makes you feel like part of you dies just thinking about it is something you shouldn't do, even if no one else backs you up.
Readers, any way around this one? She needs to keep the peace (at least at this point), but not expose her daughter to the house.
(Is anyone else thinking that this question is more difficult even than the one about the pot-smoking grandparents? What is it with flaming sticks and in-laws?)