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Appreciating the Support of Your Baby’s Grandparents (While Setting Boundaries)

April 11, 2012

Many new parents are both relieved and grateful to have the support of their own parents during those frenetic first few days and weeks of their new baby’s life. When you’re still healing from labor and neither you or your partner are sleeping well, handing over your new baby to his grandmother and taking a blissful 45-minute nap can be a revelation.

It’s difficult to set boundaries when you’re sleep-deprived and grateful for assistance! But a lot of moms note that as the weeks turn into months, and they get a handle on the parenting gig, their relationships with their parents and in-laws show some strain. This is usually because grandparents, in an effort to be helpful and involved, can sometimes become a little too domineering and occasionally judgmental. Different generations often have different opinions what to feed your baby, how to handle childcare after going back to work, and how much television is appropriate.

The important thing to remember is that you are your baby’s mother and a leader in your own nuclear family. Grandparents may be your first line of assistance and support, but they are your parents…not your baby’s! Up until now, you’ve thought of yourself primarily as a daughter, but you’re a mom now and you need to assert your mom-identity! Be polite, but firm, in stating your opinions on what’s best for your family, and don’t hesitate to disagree or put an end to behavior that isn’t in the best interest of you, your baby, and your parenting style.

One of your biggest assets is your partner’s support. Talk to your partner about assuming a united front in front of your baby’s grandparents. You may need to discuss what issues are most important to you, and which you are willing to be flexible about. If his parents are troubling you both, he needs to be able to stand up to them. And if it’s your parents who are getting under your skin, he can actively back you up when you need to assert yourself.

Remember that your parents and in-laws likely have the best of intentions. Acknowledge the wonderful support and guidance they give you, by thanking them verbally or taking them to dinner at a nice restaurant. This will make them feel valued and appreciated. You may want to point out the moments when your mother does something truly helpful. This kind of positive feedback will make the disagreements seem less offensive and more productive.

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