“I’ve done this before, you know.” “I raised you, and somehow you survived.” “Don’t worry, I won’t smother the baby!” (Sarcasm font.)
If the above comments ring a bell, you’re part of the New Parents Club. Welcome! Yep, I was there. Along with all the wonderful discoveries, the building of relationships, and watching the joy in my dad’s and stepmother’s eyes, I got one HEFTY dose of the above comments (and more).
There’s a reason your parents may balk at your concerns about “their grandchild.” And there are equally valid reasons you want to lay down the rules and know your child is safe and happy. Let’s face it: that first time you leave your child can be nerve wracking. You’d think it would be easier to leave your child for the first time when it’s your parents she’ll be with. Yet now that the time is come, you’re second-guessing yourself…and you’re wondering if anyone is as up to the task as you are.
It’s likely you’re in a mental tug-of-war over just how many rules you can, or should, give your parents. You don’t want to offend them, but you want to be able to relax. What to do? Don’t worry: you’ve got this! Here are 7 essential tips to make those first few visits a slam dunk, without any tears – including your own.
Tip #1: Have a Talk with Your Spouse or SO
As a new parent, you may be surprised to discover that some of your biggest “musts” or “don’ts” run contrary to your significant other’s.
Is your SO fine with your toddler having the occasional donut, but you have her on an organic meal plan? Do you think chasing all around the house is great fun but your spouse has visions of concussions and hospital visits? Decide well in advance of that first Grandma’s House visit what your non-negotiables are concerning your baby.
This way, if issues or questions come up during these early visits, you and your SO will be on the same page. The time for an argument is not when your mother-in-law already thinks you’re a little crazy for not wanting your toddler to stay up until 11 watching American Horror Story.
Bottom line: you’re the parents; you get to make the rules. As much as you love your parents, you’re your baby’s voice, so have this talk confidently and calmly. Explain to your SO that you’re doing this for all of you. You may find she or he is relieved to be able to express concerns, too.
Tip #2: Don’t Jump the Gun
While Tip #1 is a must, there’s no need to wave a printed list of rules in front of your parents before each visit. (At least not for most families. More on that in a moment.)
Make sure you’re only a phone call away and calmly ask to be updated if anything goes awry. But in general, if you trust your parents (or your SO’s), give them a chance. They may just surprise you.
Give them a little room and watch these initial interactions unfold. You’ll get more confident over time that your parents really won’t smother the baby.
IMPORTANT: If you’re finding that your rules aren’t being listened to or that there’s some other clash, see Tip #7 below.
Tip #3: Work Your Way Up
Instead of jumping in with both feet, why not take things gradually? Here’s how:
- Have your first outings include you. Invite Grandpa along to lunch with you and Baby. Ask Grandma to come over for coffee; when she asks if she can go get your crying child (it’s pretty much guaranteed she will), say “Sure!” You’ll get a chance to discreetly watch your parents interact with Baby.
- Make the first “alone” moments VERY brief –– but don’t hover or act overly freaked-out. These alone moments can be as simple as asking Grandma to watch Baby while you run downstairs to fold the laundry or while you make a call to a friend.
- For the first entirely-alone visits, again, have these be brief. An hour at the park or for a stroll around the mall is perfect. Keep your phone turned on and ask your parents have theirs on, too.
- When you’re comfortable, extend the visits from there. This often happens naturally. In fact, this is the typical progression for any family, unless you all live together. If you don’t feel the need for things to be gradual, great! Be on hand with your phone and be local enough to get to your parents’ home if you’re needed.
Tip #4: Have an “Away-From-Home” Kit Ready
Pack the things your child will need while she’s away from you. You might even buy a special “Visit to Grandma’s House” baby bag or suitcase; as your child gets older, she’ll love helping you pack it.
If your parents have essential items on hand, they won’t have to scramble for them or run out. This will reduce both your and their stress level, and they’ll have more time to play with and enjoy their grandchild.
Pack bottles, formula or breastmilk, plenty of diapers, wipes, safe toys, a clean blanket for the floor, a baby monitor, a change of clothes, and anything else you feel will be a help. (Leave out the kitchen sink, though. Don’t overload your parents, but do have the essentials available to them.)
Tip #5: Give Gifts that Make You All More Comfortable
The first time your parents visit with Baby, give them a “thank you just for being there” basket. Include items that will make their visits easier. An infant sleep sack, a baby monitor, and a fun bucket of toys they can explore together are great ideas. This is a little different Tip #4 above as these items can stay at the grandparents’ house. That’s a huge vote of confidence for them – they’ll love it!
Again, make sure this gift isn’t judgmental. Keep the focus on how you’re grateful for your parents’ involvement. Express that Baby is lucky to have such concerned and loving grandparents.
Tip #6: Make Sure the Rules Apply Equally
Another way to let your parents know you aren’t afraid they’ll accidentally smother Baby is by making sure your parenting rules are universal. In other words: don’t let your Mom carry baby around near the kitchen stove, yet take your mother-in-law to task for doing the same thing.
The rules are the rules, just as the rules were the rules when you were a child.
This attitude will take the heat off one set of grandparents. Nobody can feel accused of “not being a good enough grandparent” if even the child’s own parents don’t carry Baby around near the stove.
Tip #7: Uh-Oh. It’s Time for The Talk
So you’ve done all of the above, yet your mom or your SO’s father insist on doing things way, way outside your basic rules. What now?
If you suspect your parents are bending the rules in a way you’re definitely not cool with, you absolutely must have The Talk. I know, I know: this can be tough. Keep the following in mind:
- Don’t be accusatory, and don’t get loud or cry. Be calm and state what your concerns are.
- Remind your parents that you love and trust them.
- Ask your parents if they are willing to make changes.
- Explain why you want these changes made.
- Listen to your parents’ input. They may have things to say that you never considered.
Remember: you’re the final word on safety and other rules concerning your child. You’re the mom (or dad) now, after all. Clear the air and really listen to what your parents have to say. Always maintain an open line of communication with your parents as concerns your little one.
Over time, you’ll all be comfortable with visits to Grandma’s…and you may even enjoy the break!