When a new baby joins the family, it’s all rainbows and sunshine, the grandparents are supportive and tell the new parents that they’re the most amazing super parents that have ever graced God’s green earth. In a perfect world that’s what it would be, too often than not that’s not the case. So what do you do with grandparents, friends, or other family members who mean well but might step on your tender, new parent toes? Here are some tips for setting boundaries with family members after having a new baby.
The first thing to keep in mind is that even though the advice and micromanaging may seem malicious, most of the time it’s well-meaning. The other thing to keep in mind is that older family members haven’t raised a baby in decades, in most cases and a lot has changed since then. There are resources like the grandparents’ class offered by Green Bay Doulas, to get grandparents hip to the times but not all grandparents may be open to this idea.
Be a Unified Front
Before any decisions regarding your child are made both parents need to be on the same page. You need to be a unified front, if you two aren’t in agreement then it’s going to make things infinitely more difficult. If you’re flying solo or co-parenting then all you need to decide is what you need, bottom line it’s about what you and your child.
Just because you’re relying on grandparents for childcare doesn’t mean you give up your autonomy as a parent, that is your tiny human, you make the rules no matter what. If this is the first grandchild it’s exciting and those new grandparents have no idea what it means to be grandparents, which is a supporting role. They’re used to being a parent and calling the shots, their new role can cause some friction as everyone adjusts.
Be very clear in what you what and need, if you feel that your authority isn’t being respected you may need to put your foot down. What that means is going to be different depending on your situation and relationship with the grandparents in question, hopefully, it just means being honest and sensitive to the grandparents’ feelings. Pro tip flattery can go a long way.
So what do you do if you have that discussion and your boundaries aren’t respected? Well, you have two options, you can work it out with the grandparents or look for other childcare options. If the situation gets extreme enough you’ll have to establish some more strict boundaries and be very firm with them, any wiggle room is going to set the wrong expectations and can lead to exploitation.
For example, if you’re breastfeeding but the grandparent in question thinks you should be formula feeding, the first time they bring up formula tell them gently that you’re choosing to breastfeed. If they bring it up again be firm, this is going to be uncomfortable, this is after all your parent or in-law but you’re a parent now and you need to advocate for yourself and your child. If the issue is still questioned things can escalate, you may need to set some even more strict boundaries. You can institute a timeout rule, if you feel a boundary is being violated just tell them you need a timeout and they need to leave. This may mean you don’t get to rely on them for childcare, which can make things very difficult for you but will be worth it in the long run.
Let’s take a closer look at the timeout rule if you feel you need to go that route. This is going to look different for each parent, the biggest part of this is communicating the “rules” to the grandparents. For example, if a boundary isn’t respected and the timeout is initiated, it means no contact with the grandchild for two weeks. It really depends on your situation, but the bottom line is you have to be firm with the boundaries and be willing to follow through. The situation isn’t going to change if you make empty threats or don’t establish those important boundaries and maintain them.
This isn’t going to be fun for anyone, it’s going to cause hurt feelings, and it’s going to be uncomfortable for everyone involved. There will most likely be tears, it will pass and it will get better. Setting boundaries with family members isn’t easy, it’s especially hard when there’s a new baby but it’s something that most people will find necessary.
Never forget that’s your tiny human, you get to make the rules and it’s no one’s business. If you want your baby to run around your house butt naked under the full moon, wear pink and only pink every second Tuesday, or whatever decision you think is best for your baby.