Knowing and Setting Boundaries with Parents and In-Laws
You and your partner are expecting your first baby and the idea of the unexpected drop-ins is giving you shivers.
Ask the Expert
ASHLEY MARIANI M.S.W, R.S.W., owner of Mind Online is a Clinical Social Worker and Psychotherapist. Ashley works with new parents to navigate through a variety of concerns with confidence.
Parents, In-Laws, and New Baby
The arrival of your newborn shifts family dynamics and gives you more power than you probably realize. If you're close with your parents and in-laws, you've probably spent the a lot of your time respecting their wishes and showing up wherever and whenever you're told. Then suddenly, you have a baby, and that baby's schedule, and the subsequent happiness of baby, from sticking to that schedule; becomes a lot more important than making it to Sunday dinner every week. It's a conundrum for sure, but one that can be handled gracefully if you follow some simple guidelines.
Here's how to put your new family first and set boundaries with your extended family without any drama.
Boundaries Help You Get Badly Needed Rest
Call First - it's important to have a schedule before they have a chance to say, "We're all coming over for dinner tonight." Emphasize how much you want them to visit but remind them that you need to rest when the baby sleeps which is totally unpredictable, so a head’s up for when they’d like to visit, would be appreciated. You might say, “We love that you want to stop by, but please call first so the baby and I don’t both sleep through your visit.”
If a family member objects and says she can take care of the baby while you rest, smile, thank her and remind her of your visiting hours.
The Parent/In-Law tug-of-war
From their point of view—one set of grandparents believes (whether or not they’re correct) that the other set spends more time with the new baby. It is rare that two sets of parents have equal time—typically your parents are around more often and in-laws feel slighted. To calm jealousy, reassure your in-laws that the time together—whether short or extended—tells you what fabulous grandparents they will be, how you look forward to sharing the wonder of the baby as they grow.
Don't be the hostess with the mostess.
It is easier to have people come to you when you have a baby, but that doesn't mean you have to get them drinks and snacks. Don't be afraid to tell a family member who wants to visit the baby to bring lunch for themselves and, more importantly, for you.
Don't change your parenting style or question your choices.
Advice and suggestions around caring for your baby run the gamut from breast to bottle feeding, from getting the baby to sleep to sleeping with the baby, right down to the temperature in the house. Hear an in-law out, but if you believe in the choices you’ve made, an in-law’s comments should not bother you as much.
Need to breastfeed but don't want to do it in front of grandpa? Then ask grandpa to leave the room or move to a private space with the baby. Want the baby to nap in their crib? Then your mom is going to have to wait to hold them.
Your child, Your Rules
Prioritize your child, not making everyone happy. All families come with their own unique dynamics, struggles, and traditions, but as a new parent, your job is to do what's best for you, your baby, and your partner. And if that means you're the only one not at midnight mass, your sister's third engagement party, or your cousin's book club, then so be it.
Ashley's mission is to help couples (including plural relationships), new parents, and those in the crux of transitions, feel relief from the layers of overwhelm and hardships. Visit MIndOnline to learn about the services offered.