Parenting: Setting Boundaries with YOUR Parents

This is a guest post from one of our forum members.  She has asked to remain anonymous.


One thing that will hopefully happen towards the end of your pregnancy as you anxiously await the arrival of your new bundle will be pledges of help from family members. While appreciated, it may soon become obvious that some boundaries need to be set for those over-zealous relatives. You may find yourself especially needing to provide the grandparents of the new baby some more direct limits.

While every family is different and you may find yourself reading this with fond memories of every bit of help received by a favorite aunt or mother-in-law, usually there are a few times when boundaries need to be set. Why? Because you are your child’s primary provider and there may be certain tasks that only you want to do (such as your baby’s 1st bath), there may be a parenting style or decision you would like to uphold (like breastfeeding), and of course there is your sanity, if visitors are causing too much stress, it is ok for some limits to be set.

Like your wedding, the newborn phase lasts only a very short time and there are many  sweet, tender moments to be enjoyed between mother, father, baby, and any siblings. If you are getting nervous thinking about all the friends and relatives coming in to see your baby, or starting to worry about feeling rude or making anyone feel uncomfortable by your requests, just keep in mind that YOU are the Mom (or Dad!), YOU have the right, and THEY have already had the chance to welcome a precious baby into the world, it’s YOUR turn! Repeat to yourself as necessary!

Setting the Boundaries

Always use “we”.
As you come to make these decisions and explain them to family members, always use WE. This will present a mutual and united stance on whatever you are discussing and will cut down on the chance for the relative(s) to go behind you and question the subject with your spouse. It will also hopefully prevent them from directing any animosity towards you, if you’ve included your spouse (perhaps their own child or relative) then they will be less likely to be upset on the subject if they know it’s coming from the both of you.
Key phrases.
If you are anything like me, you hate confrontation and balk at the need to discuss subjects firmly. For me anytime I needed to press an issue with a family member, I would repeat a key phrase over and over in my head so that I could use it when the opportunity presented itself. I’ll give you an example from another time this was an issue. A few close family members kept repeatedly asking about private financial information. I get so flustered when I have to “say something” so I just prepped myself with a few vague phrases “We are taking care of things” “Don’t worry about it” “We are fine with things” so that I knew what to say, and it gave me a quick and easy out. For you this may be “this is the decision we’ve made”, “We will be doing this”, or “We will have to pass”. Saying these key phrases is especially helpful when your family member is insistently pressing you on an issue, if end up having to repeat your practiced expression long enough, it will serve as an awkward reminder that enough is enough.
The original request.
In the same vein, an easy way to deflect any tension is to refer back to the original request without having to rehash anything. For me, I made it clear to a close family member that she would not be able to be present for the birth of my son. Thankfully she took it well and it wasn’t brought up again, but if I had needed to remind her, it would have been easy to say “As we discussed earlier, it’s just not what we want.”

I also want to touch on the birth itself. Like I mentioned earlier I did have to set some rules with some of our family regarding the birth.  We headed off the request in advance with a firm “No.” I have discussed with many women the anxiety they feel over who will be at the birth. Remember, now is not the time to worry about stepping on peoples toes! Not when you are going to be pushing a baby out! It may be your husband’s frail aunt who would love to be present for the birth of her first grand-niece but it is YOUR comfort level that takes highest priority. Just remember that YOU need to be in the best frame of mind you can be in when you give birth and if YOU aren’t going to be comfortable just say no.

Don’t be afraid to delegate!

When it comes down to it, the most important thing when welcoming a new tiny family member is the bonding experience between you, your spouse, and your baby. The dishes and housework can wait.  Don’t be afraid to ask those excited family members to fulfill for you. I remember being so upset with the limited bonding I was able to enjoy with my son while we had some family with us the 2nd and 3rd weeks of his life. Because I did not enforce certain boundaries with the family we had, the only time I got to “enjoy” my son was when he was screaming mad and needing to be fed by me, or at night (oh fun!). I began to feel distant from him and felt a lot of resentment towards the family members who I would see cooing at my baby, getting to enjoy his most pleasant awake time, while I was busy sweeping the kitchen floor and doing laundry. I shouldn’t have been so permissive and my husband and I have talked many times about not making this mistake again with another child. If your family really wants to help you, make sure you delegate some other tasks (laundry, meals) so that you can get your rest and enjoy your new baby.

Bottom line: Employ the help but don’t be afraid to set some boundaries in order to make your new family your  first priority and keep the stress levels lower.

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