One mother wanted to make sure her baby was protected – even from close family members. While pregnant with her first child, the mother wanted to make sure her mother-in-law would not smoke around the infant when the baby was born. So, mom wrote a letter with her thoughts to Slate’s parenting advice column called Care and Feeling. She explained that she is worried that the smoke her mother-in-law carries into the home on her clothes and hair could harm the little child. This is what she said:

“I am expecting my first baby soon. When the baby is born, my in-laws will be coming for a visit. 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.”

Mom continued, “We don’t want my mother-in-law to feeling ostracized, and we don’t want to hurt her feelings, but obviously, those are likely potential outcomes. How can we still be welcoming and let her know we are excited to have her around while still setting these boundaries? Also, how long should we remain this strict about the issue? How should we handle this when we are visiting my in-laws?”

The columnist was stunned and wrote back, “Are you f***ing kidding me? I used to light cigarettes for the elders in my family!” However, she then got down to business because “thirdhand smoke is a real thing apparently, so kudos to you for taking it seriously.”

She added, “When she’s visiting you, I think you can be strict about this. When you are visiting them, I think you have to, for necessity’s sake, be less so. It’s not possible for them to clear all residual smoke and nicotine off of everything in their home. You may want to stay in a hotel for that reason.”

The columnist even suggested that challenging the smoker might help her reevaluate her lifestyle.

“With any luck, this will spur her to take a second look at her relationship to smoking and maybe even cause her to let go of something that is clearly standing in the way of being with her grandbaby.”

The mother’s suggestion is that her mother-in-law should shower and change her clothes before touching the baby in order to minimize any exposure to “thirdhand smoke.” She also suggests that, when visiting her own family, the grandmother should be less strict about minimizing smoke exposure, as it’s not possible for them to clear all residual smoke and nicotine from their home.

What do you think about this mother’s suggestions? Do you think she’s being too cautious or not cautious enough?

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