My husband, kids and I are very blessed to have many grandparents in our lives. My parents separated when I was very young so add in some of my step-parents and you have basically doubled the grandparent pool. This can be amazing at times but also incredibly complicated when a new baby arrives. I am asked frequently about how to manage visiting grandparents around the time a new baby is born; I could probably write a book on the subject, but in the interests of keeping this brief I have made a list of important things to remember and important things to decide to help relieve the stress of grandparent’s visits.
First of all, make sure you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to grandparents. It is not fair if only one of you has to deal with it or if you are not in agreement on the boundaries for the visit. It can be doubly stressful when the grandparents you are dealing with are your in-laws. My husband and I have a rule to avoid that added complication that when it comes to plans with grandparents I talk to my parents and him to his, this eases the discomfort – for the most part anyway.
Remember grandparents are simply overflowing with excitement to be around and meet the new baby. So try as much as possible not to take their overzealousness as annoying but as a sign that you have really interested loving grandparents that want to be a part of your new baby’s life and help you out as parents. Also, remember however, they are not used to the fact that you are now a new family unit figuring out how you want to do things, so there can be some growing pains to all these new relationships. After all, until now they have been the parents, not you!
If you are having the opposite experience and your grandparents seem un-interested or unwilling to help then you have to make a decision whether you want to discuss this with them. It is true, rare but true, that some grandparents don’t want to be involved. It can also be true that they don’t want to interfere and are just waiting for the green light from you to come and visit. Try and to assess which is your situation and if you’d rather not wait to see what happens after the baby is born, talk to them about it.
Whatever the situation, over-zealous and demanding, not interested, or just wanting to help out wherever and whenever possible, communication is key to any successful grandparent-parent relationship. Also, trust me when I say that what feels right to begin with probably won’t as time goes on and certainly not if you have more children. Which is even more reason to keep communicating as your needs change as a family. Try and establish right away that you will be pro-active and tell them when is a good time to visit, how they can help out the most and what your values are as parents. And always, make sure that if they are going to be involved and around your children that they have taken an up to date CPR and safety course (this goes for any care-taker of your children). Grandparents can be the greatest asset but you have to help them help you.
The timing of grandparents coming to visit can be difficult around an upcoming delivery, especially when there is more than one grandparent that wants to come and stay. Many people let grandparents come and stay before the baby is born but having everyone sitting around on the sofa starring at your belly waiting for the arrival of your baby is going to make the minutes feel like hours and pretty much drive you insane. Instead I recommend making those last days/weeks before your baby arrives a time for you and your partner to spend a lot of quality time together and if you already have children it is a great time to spend one on one time with them and talk about the upcoming arrival.
Once you’ve established whether the grandparents will be staying with you or nearby, try and figure out whether they can make their travel plans once you have gone into labor or whether they need to book far ahead. If the latter is the case then try not to have them arrive before your due date to minimize the “starring at you on the sofa phase”!
Remember that the transition may be difficult for them too. Before your baby is born you were their baby and they were your parents and you may be very different as a parent, with different values which can make fertile ground for conflict. Make an effort to talk to grandparents about your values as parents but also make an effort to listen to their wisdom. You may not completely agree with them but you’d be surprised how much you can learn from grandparents even if it is to simply know that you’d like to do the opposite! Also, remember it was a long time ago when you were a baby so it may take them a little while to get back into their stride. Give them a little slack, becoming parents and grandparents is a learning process.
Most of all remember that having grandparents willing to help with childcare and to be a part of your children’s lives is a true blessing. My Nana was one of the most influential and important people in my life. I carry her spirit and love with me always and I wish everyday that my children will have a similar relationship with their grandparents. Help your children to do the same by bridging some of these temporarily awkward situations. If you manage to do it, I promise grandparents are a wonderful, wonderful thing!