Dear Rachel,

I am due to have twins in a little over a month. We have two other children, ages 3 and 5. My husband has a very demanding work schedule, so he can take very little time off from work when the babies will be born. My mother in law has decided that she will come to stay with us for a month to help me get back on my feet. I am a nervous wreck about her coming. While she means well, she is a bit overbearing and critical of how we run our home. She does not really understand our lifestyle at all. What can we do to make the visit more enjoyable?

Nervous Wreck

Dear Nervous Wreck,

In-laws can be a source of tension and anxiety in the calmest of times. Coupled with the excitement and anxiety of bringing home two new babies, this has the formula to become a very challenging situation. But, the old adage does ring true, forewarned is forearmed. Going into this situation with the expectation that it will be challenging can actually make it less challenging if you use that knowledge and channel it in the right way.

I think that one of the first things to address is the relationship that you share with your husband. It is very important that the two of you sit down together to discuss how you are going to manage things together in a cohesive way. Talk to each other and decide how you will try to manage the scenarios that you know will cause problems. It will be helpful to group them into which scenarios can be avoided, which can be modified, and which are unavoidable. Think about the ultimate goal of the visit, then work backwards from there.

To help alleviate your mother-in-laws possible feelings of insecurity, ask for her advice on matters on which you are flexibleTry to pinpoint the scenarios you foresee as unavoidable, including various likely outcomes, and brainstorm together how you will handle them. Your husband probably knows better than anyone what irks his parents and how to soothe them, so let him be the first to offer suggestions about how to manage the tension. If his parents were always like this, then he probably has a lot of experience!

When they are critical, try and be as positive as you can and not take their criticisms personally. Critical people tend to be that way because they themselves feel inadequate or insufficient, so they highlight others' perceived shortcomings in an attempt to feel better about themselves. With this in mind, be as preemptively positive as you can with them. Compliment and thank her profusely for any gifts that she brings. Acknowledge her help with the kids and tell her how much it means to you that she took so much time and effort to travel to you and to help you ease into your new responsibilities.

Also, try to talk to your mother-in-law before she arrives. Mention your family's schedule, and what your kids like to do during the day. Be as casual as you can, and try to make the conversation as natural as possible. Chances are that your mother-in-law is also nervous about coming into your home. It's never easy for the mother-in-law to come into the daughter-in-laws home! Giving her the heads up about your household will ease part of her anxiety.

To help alleviate your mother-in-laws possible feelings of insecurity, ask for her advice on matters on which you are flexible. Ask your mother-in-law about outfits for the kids, or, what activities she would like to do with the kids. If the weather permits, suggest outings for her and the kids. This will help lessen your time together, and give you some much needed space to rest and bond with your newborns.

Most of all, try to remember that she is coming to help you. Try and be as gracious as possible in accepting her help, even if it is not exactly how you would like it. After birth, especially with twins is a time that you need to let go of some of the control, and let others help you.

Mazal Tov on expecting your new additions! I want to wish you much luck and may your birth go smoothly.