Congratulations, Mama! The baby has come and your whole world has changed. In fact, a lot of things have shifted since you gave birth, including the dynamics you have with your in-laws.
No matter how great you might have gotten along before, or if you happened to be more distant, some conflicts tend to arise out of this scenario, as the new grandparents want to be part of your baby’s life.
Here’s what you can expect and some suggestions on how to manage the delicate balance between respecting your in-laws while standing up for yourself.
1. Unscheduled visits
You have just given birth and it’s been an exhausting first few days. As much as you would like to bask in people’s joy over your newborn, you really just want to rest, especially when you finally have gotten the baby fed and sleeping.
If your in-laws tend to drop by unannounced, you need to let them know that you’re grateful for their love and enthusiasm but that you really need a time out. Get your husband to entertain them if they want to stay longer, in a separate room, but get the message across that until you recover from childbirth and settle into a routine, all visitors should check in first to see if it’s a good time to visit.
2. Competing with your parents
It’s possible that your parents spend more time with you and your baby than your in-laws as you learn your way around as a new parent. You might even have asked your mom to stay with you for a while to help you take care of your baby.
Or maybe your parents spend as much time with your baby as your in-laws do, but it still appears that one set of grandparents has had the upper hand.
Whatever the case, assure your in-laws that you enjoy their company and that you look forward to having them in your baby’s life. If they’re tech-able, you can keep them updated with videos and photos of your baby so that they feel included and connected, even when they can’t always be with the baby as much as they’d like.
3. Unsolicited advice (and criticism)
This probably isn’t new to you. As soon as you announced you were pregnant, someone had something to say about your pregnancy, your pending parenthood, and all the do’s and don’ts that come with them.
As a new parent, you have your own parenting style to try and your in-laws might have their own opinion about how you’re doing. Anything from how you feed your baby, your bedtime routine, your bath time practice, whether you should have circumcised your son (or not), whether you should have pierced your daughter’s ears (or not) is up for grabs.
You don’t need to agree with them—nor should you argue with them about your choices. Hear your in-law out and then keep doing what you think is best for your baby.
4. The in-law babycare way
When your in-law wants to do things differently from your preference, but does not really affect your baby’s routine, let them. Give way when you can to your in-law’s way of showing how they care for your baby. If that means having your mother-in-law hold your baby until he falls asleep, when you prefer to put him down in his crib, or when your father-in-law watches TV when you have decided on a no-screen policy at home, let it go.
But when they insist on practices—like making the baby sleep on his tummy—that make you uncomfortable or that you know is unsafe, let them know that you do things differently because of what the doctor has advised or because of the latest studies in parenting have revealed. Be gentle and non-judgmental in your reminder and show them what you prefer instead.
5. Unhelpful assistance
Sometimes, there’s such a thing as going overboard. Is your mother-in-law sending you batch after batch of soup to help your milk flow? Or does she tend to tidy up your space every time she visits and rearranges things so that it’s “easier” for you?
When your in-laws’ “help” becomes unhelpful, appreciate the gesture… then redirect them. Ask for food the entire family can enjoy or to pick up an item on their way when they visit. Utilize their skills and tendencies to your benefit, so they feel useful and you can actually get the help that you need. Don’t forget to let them know how, this way, they really do make things better for you.
6 common in-law conflicts after baby arrives: How to handle them