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Conversations To Have With Your Parents Or In-laws If You’re Expecting New Baby Help

Joanna Nesbit  |  July 20, 2022

If you're expecting help when your new baby arrives, here are the conversations you'll want to have ahead of time.

Expecting a baby soon? You may be counting on help from your mom in the first days or weeks after the birth. Or, on the flipside, maybe her take-charge strategies tend to rankle and you’re a little worried about her postpartum suggestions. 

No matter how positive—or not—your relationship, having an honest conversation about expectations before the big day helps everyone. Your parents and in-laws want to be there for you. Here’s what experts recommend. 

Identify Your Own Needs

Every baby is different, every birth experience unique, so knowing what to anticipate can be difficult. You don’t know what you’re going to get. And then, some couples relish company, while others would rather bond with their baby without extended family hovering. However you want to handle things is totally your choice. But all new moms need a few basics: good food, time to sleep and shower, and someone else to handle groceries, laundry, and walking the dog. 

Before the baby arrives, talk things through with your partner about what your needs might be. And then ask yourself if your parents—or your partner’s parents—can meet those needs, says Kayce Hodos, licensed clinical counselor with a focus on pregnancy and beyond. 

Are you close to your mom? If so, it might be as easy as asking her to come stay for a couple weeks. Not every grandparent has the financial resources to take time off, so if that’s her situation, that’s a conversation to have with her. 

Are you close to your in-laws? They might be able to pick up the slack. Or, alternatively, maybe you want to keep their visit short. That’s a conversation to think through also. 

You may have nearby friends who are better suited to provide certain kinds of support, like a meal train. “It’s figuring out that sweet spot where we can ask for the things we need, and we can also be flexible too,” Hodos says. 

Set Boundaries In Advance 

“No one’s a mind reader,” says Susan Newman, social psychologist and parenting expert. People often think others will understand what they want, but it might not work out, she says. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and set boundaries. “Assumptions are the biggest pitfall because they leave you open to disappointment,” Hodos says.

Boundaries include all kinds of things: how much time you hang out together, how many gifts the grandparents bring, or how you field intrusive advice (or what feels intrusive). If your parents live nearby, they may pop in uninvited. Do you want that? “You may want to set up a visitation schedule for everyone,” Hodos says. 

Setting a boundary can be as simple as retreating to your bedroom with your baby to rest alone or saying “thanks for the tip.” New grandparents simply want to help, but at the same time they need to recognize it’s your turn. Whatever you decide, your parents and in-laws will adjust, Newman says. 

Figure Out What Your Parents’ Strengths Are

Think through what your support network might be best at providing. Ideally, they let you call the shots, but if you capitalize on their strengths, that works out well for everyone. “We get into trouble when we start wanting people to be somebody they’re not,” Hodos says. “Keep them in their zone of genius.”

Are they great at cooking? Have them take on grocery shopping and cooking while you rest. Let your overbearing mom go to town on her prize-winning lasagna for the freezer.   

How about fixing things? “If you have a dripping faucet or a lock that doesn’t work properly, put a parent or in-law to work if they’re good at that kind of thing,” Newman says. Champion gatekeeper? Your parents can handle the drop-by visitors. 

Create a list of tasks so you have ideas at the ready, Hodos says. But try to avoid big projects that take over and suck too much of your energy. The goal is to heal and rest. 

Discuss How Long They’ll Stay

That also includes talking about where they’ll stay. If it’s just your mom, bunking in your spare bedroom might be fine. If both your parents are coming, and you prefer breaks, having them roost at an Airbnb might be the answer. They might prefer that too. 

How you work it out will depend on your relationship, what they can afford, and how long they intend to stay. If you’re financially able, helping them with the cost could be a nice way to thank them. Enlist your partner to handle this conversation with your in-laws. 

Put Your Partner In Charge

In fact, if you have a tentative relationship with your in-laws or even your own parents, “let your partner be a buffer for you,” Newman says. “If you want something done, or you want it done a different way, let your partner deliver the message.” 

And if the grandfolks aren’t really helping? It’s ok to be direct. “You can say ‘we don’t have the bandwidth to take care of anyone,’” Hodos says. “Say it in your own way, but don’t be afraid to ask for what you need from the people who say they are your support.”

Remember, they’re heading home soon, and you’re in charge in your new family. 

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