New parents are often very anxious about keeping their wee bundle of joy as healthy and pure of the world’s many toxic evils for as long as possible. They want to shepherd them to adulthood with the cleanest food, water, and lifestyle the can afford, at which point their kids will start voluntarily ingesting as much junk as possible. It’s called college, mom. While it might be a losing battle, it’s understandable that someone would want to give their kids the best foot forward they can, but it can cause conflict at home.
A new mom wrote in to Slate’s parenting advice column, Care and Feeding, written by Carvell Wallace. The new mom says she is worried about how to address a touchy subject, which is her mother-in-law’s chain-smoking.
Mom is worried about thirdhand smoke, a less-known issue with cigarettes. The residue of cigs attaches to surfaces, clothing, and skin, and can potentially be as dangerous to the body as secondhand smoke, according to a paper published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information, Distractify reports.
While Mom is sure of what she wants, she’s not sure how to say the following to her MIL:
My mother-in-law is a heavy smoker. I’m not worried about her smoking in front of my child, but after researching thirdhand smoke, I am very concerned about her holding the baby after she has had a cigarette. My husband and I have decided that after she smokes, she needs to shower and change her clothes before she can pick up the baby.
At first, Wallace admits they responded to Mom’s concerns dismissively, since they’ve absorbed quite a lot of secondhand and thirdhand smoke in their lives. But it is a real thing that circulates in the air and can be inhaled by tiny, vulnerable baby lungs, Wallace admits.
The practical advice is to be strict within their own house, since a level of control over what is touched by cigarette smoke is in their power. But when they’re visiting the MIL in her home, they should probably rent a hotel and be ready to loosen the rules a bit. It’s too much to expect the MIL to wipe down every surface in the house before the baby comes over.
But the best advice from Wallace might be the reminder that mom can feel however she wants about the thirdhand smoke issue:
I know you don’t want your mother-in-law to feel ostracized, and I know that’s a likely outcome of stating what your needs are here, but I would take this opportunity to remind you that you are perfectly within your rights to ask for what you want; her response to that is her business, not yours.
Wallace is clear that Mom’s rules should be expressed with as much love as possible, not as a hostile ultimatum, however. They even suggest it might make the MIL think about her smoking. Maybe holding her grandchild is the only fix she really needs and she’ll give it up entirely. Love is almost as addictive as nicotine.