As some of you know, my husband and I are expecting our first child (yay!), so what better time to discuss balancing your parents and your in-laws during pregnancy and the birth of a child?
When you search many in-law discussion forums on parenting issues with in-laws, many results center on the common themes of fear and resistance toward having in-laws visit and be involved.
While pregnancy can overwhelm us with many different emotions, ranging from excitement and happiness to fear and anxiety, concern over the involvement of your parents and in-laws (soon-to-be grandparents) unfortunately contribute more to the latter than the former.
It’s very important to try to keep in mind that your in-laws are just as excited about their soon-to-be grandkids as your own parents are. They naturally want to be involved in your kids’ lives and feel they have a right to be involved, which they do (as long as they aren’t harmful or abusive).
Here are a few things to think about post-baby:
- Recovery time: Having a baby will take a toll on your body, and you’ll almost certainly need recovery time. During this time many new moms may not want visits from anyone. With all the excitement, family and other guests may not realize that they’re making you uncomfortable. Remember that it’s perfectly reasonable to want some time to yourself, but you or your spouse will have to communicate this desire to your respective families. Try to be honest but gentle when you convey your needs. But do try to set up some time for family to visit you and your baby. If you know out of town guests are coming for the arrival of your new bundle of joy, make sure they understand your preferences in advance. Remember that it’s okay to set boundaries and ask guests to arrange for other housing (i.e. hotels, other relatives’ homes).
- Accepting help Remind yourself that many parents and in-laws want to help you and your spouse as much as possible. Also keep in mind that you can choose what you want “help” to mean. Maybe you want them around to cook or clean up a little bit, or watch the little one while you nap. Try to be as clear and direct as possible, and remember to take advantage of the extra hands. Personally, I tend to be a very independent person. Throughout this pregnancy I’ve had to remind myself that having family members around will be beneficial, and won’t take away my independence.
- Staying with family: Some South Asian women elect to stay with their parents right after the delivery for a short period of time while they recover and adjust to life with a new baby. The obvious advantage of this arrangement is that it will place a natural boundary between you and your guests, as they may not feel as comfortable visiting your parents’ house as they would yours. And you’ll also have your parents to enforce limitations. Be sure to discuss your intentions with your respective families ahead of time, and be sure to arrange time for family to visit. Communicate your preferences to your parents, such as wanting guests only between certain hours.
- Equal time: Try your best to keep your parents and your in-laws equal in terms of involvement with the baby. Although varying degrees of comfort and past conflict can make this unimaginable for some, it’s important to remember that your baby is a grandchild to both sets of parents. Consider your spouse’s feelings as well. Favoring your family while brushing off his can lead to hurt feelings and conflict.
- Communicate: Try to have an open discussion with your spouse about your concerns before the baby comes. It’ll help you gain an understanding of each others’ thoughts and future plans. Remind your spouse that you’re dealing with a variety of new emotions and that you may need him to advocate for you. Your spouse needs to be your protector while you adjust to this new experience. But always try to keep a balance of emotions and logic when interacting with your spouse.
- Boundaries: Lastly, don’t let family interfere with your parenting choices. Yes, they have more experience than you, and their advice comes from love and concern, but the baby is yours. Listen to the advice, consider it if it’s beneficial, but decide as a couple what you want to do. It’s okay to do things differently than your respective families. Their way is not the always the “right” way, it’s just a way that worked for them. You’ll will find what works for you in time. And don’t hesitate to tell your in-laws or parents about your preferences. If you don’t want them to give your baby a certain type of formula, say so. I understand that it’s uncommon for South Asians to be so direct with their in-laws and parents but when it comes to your child, it pays to be direct. Of course anything you communicate, say it gently with respect and love, and an understanding for their cultural tendencies
- Positive Outlook: Many women experience postpartum mood swings (and sometimes postpartum depression), so this advice may be a bit tough to follow, but it’s definitely worth a try. Throughout this new experience, remember to remain positive, hopeful, and united with your spouse. It’ll make for an easier journey.
Here’s some good advice for mother-in-laws: “When your Daughter-in-Law has a Baby”
We would love to hear some tips from moms that have already gone through this experience. Please share!
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