Misunderstandings, or miscommunications, between in-laws appears to be a common challenge. You are not alone.
It appears that your mother-in-law is extremely thrilled to be a 'grandparent,' and perhaps does not even realize that there is possibly a problem.
Since you currently employ someone else, such as a babysitter, perhaps she is under the impression that she is not needed to work, perhaps not.
Before you and your spouse voice any comments to her, you need to take an 'objective look' at the situation. We can all benefit from this. Again, you are not alone.
I assume that perhaps your mother-in-law is an older woman. Perhaps committing to assisting in caring for a baby at this stage in her life, would be too physically strenuous for her. (Especially after driving two hours to your house.) Perhaps she has typical health problems that sometimes comes along with aging. Perhaps not.
Maybe you and your husband could sit down with her together, and ask her if she would be able to help out with the baby. Only, if the work would not be too much for her physically. (Remember, the demands of the job will most likely increase, as the baby becomes a toddler and begins to walk, etc.)
It appears from your comments, that she at some time, may have mentioned that she cannot always commit to Fridays. You may want to ask her if this is still the case, or if her circumstances have changed.
(*Remember to ask any questions in a non-confrontational manner.)
If your mother-in-law expresses that she would like to be a part of the child care 'work team,' then maybe you and your husband together, can offer her some 'financial compensation.' This could cover the traveling expenses she incurs such as the gasoline she pays for the two hour, (each way), drive to, and from, your house each week, etc. Also ask her if she would be interested in receiving some financial compensation her for time, and the work, she would provide for the baby. Try to make this offer in a thoughtful manner, where she will not feel offended, degraded, or insulted.
Please make sure that she would need to be very certain if she could really commit to this, because if she says yes, you would possibly need to cut some of the babysitter's hours, since it appears you could not afford to pay two people for doing the same work, on the same days, etc..
If she is agreeable to this, the three of you may want to consider finding an attorney at a reasonable cost to draw up a 'simple contract' that all three of you can agree to. Perhaps you can contact the 'Bar Association' in your area to find an attorney. If money is an issue, please be certain to mention this when seeking an attorney. Maybe the association would be able to recommend an attorney who would charge a more reasonable fee, or even a 'legal clinic' who would be able to assist you. This is just an additional suggestion.
If your mother-in-law expresses that she only would like to visit her new grandchild every week just to spend time with him, but not do any work, then this should be okay as well.
It is usually beneficial for a children to have a happy, and emotionally healthy, relationship with their grandparents. Unfortunately, not all children have grandparents who are still living. A happy relationship with grandma, in my opinion, is an added benefit for the child.
Perhaps you and your husband could firmly, but tactfully, tell her when it would be less hectic for her to make her regular visits to your house. (What would be the best day, hours, etc..) Explain to her as to how hectic it could be sometimes, and how the three of you need to start bonding as a new family, first.
Perhaps, you can all agree on a day such as a Saturday or Sunday, (or a day when neither you, or your husband, are working), when all three of you could visit grandma at her house. (*As long as the baby's pediatrician says that taking the baby on the 'four hour road trip' to and from her house, would be okay.)
Perhaps with all three of you visiting grandma at her house this would be more helpful. She wouldn't need to drive two hours to your home as much.
However, regardless, as to whether or not your mother-in-law chooses to make the commitment of the physical work of helping out, or just is spending time with her grandchild, some ground rules should always be in place when she visits your house. (As well as when you and your husband should visit with her, at her home.)
Everyone should be responsible for cleaning up after themselves for tasks such as pouring their own coffee, rinsing their dishes, etc.. If you both state this warmly, but tactfully, there should not be any problems.
If you and your husband should visit your mother-in-law at her house with the baby, then of course, the same rules should apply in her home as well. (Such as pouring your own coffee, rinsing your own dishes, etc..) Remember, if she is an older person, this could be helpful to her as well.
Also, both you and your husband should remember to always sit down with her together for these types of issues. Not just 'you' alone. This way, you are both indicating that the two of you are concerned about this. (In order to avoid the situation being misunderstood as 'your problem only,' or that you 'just do not like your mother-in-law.' You want to avoid a 'she said - she said' situation.)
In addition, as I mentioned above, please remember that any conversations the three of you have, should be tactful and non-confrontational. Otherwise, it could be misinterpreted as the two of you are 'ganging up on her.'
If the situation does not appear to be improving, then perhaps all three of your could join a 'support group', in the area. Perhaps all three of you could seek some 'professional family counseling' with a competent 'mental health professional.'
Maybe a hospital has a 'referral service' that could recommend a competent 'mental health professional' to work with all three of you. Perhaps your physician could make a recommendation.
In addition, perhaps the 'referral service,' and/or your 'physician,' could recommend a 'not-for-profit counseling center' that al three of you would greatly benefit from. Perhaps the center would charge a more affordable fee.
Maybe you and your spouse only, can inquire about 'couples counseling' with a 'mental health professional,' or a 'support group' for new parents.
If financial affordability is an issue, please be certain to mention this to anyone you seek a recommendation from. This way, perhaps the 'referral service,' or the 'physician,' could assist you in finding options which will be more financially affordable.
As stated above, it is wise that you have decided to seek a 'neutral third party professional opinion.' This is a good start.
It is also encouraging that you want to avoid hurting your mother-in-law's feelings. This is also a good start.
It is always important to remember, if you can, to seek a 'neutral third party professional opinion.'
As a general rule, in my opinion, it is counterproductive to discuss a matter like this with friends, co-workers, or worse yet, other relatives.
I say this because, by discussing this type of information with 'non-professionals' such as 'personal friends,' and or 'relatives,' the comments you make could always get back to the person you spoke about. (Sometimes comments can be unintentionally embellished, and/or exaggerated.)
This could only cause more conflict to a situation, as well as cause the person that you spoke about, tremendous embarrassment.
Lastly, I would encourage you and your husband to begin attempting to get this matter resolved immediately. You want to avoid having 'hidden resentments' fester. This could escalate into a more serious family feud. No one benefits from a situation like this.
It is always more 'emotionally healthy' for the child, and/or children, if everyone in a family, gets along. This is especially true regarding any relationship(s) involving grandparents.
Children can benefit greatly from the love, and wisdom, a grandparent can offer, but only if everyone is getting along, and the child sees healthy relationships amongst all members of the family.
I hope all of the suggestions, and opinions stated above, will be helpful to you and your family.
Good luck!, and best wishes.
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Edited by Rosemary S. on 10/15/2009 at 2:39 AM EST