One of the most challenging parts of becoming a new parent is dealing with outside pressure from family. If it’s your first time as a mom, it is normal for you to feel like you need to take everyone’s advice and the weight of feeling like you need to please them can be real. But you and your partner are the ones who know how you want to care for your child, and it can be frustrating to have to justify your choices and actions constantly. To maintain healthy relationships, clear the air and set some ground rules. Here are tips on how to create healthy boundaries with grandparents.
Help them understand
One of the main reasons we might not see eye to eye with our mom and pop, especially when we become parents ourselves, is generational. Think about it, since you were a child, the world around you has changed considerably. So has the way we parent. The list of things you will do differently from your mom is a long one, and you will hear the phrase “well when you were a baby” a lot. Many of your choices may be obvious to you but might not be to them, and generational differences in parenting styles can become a pain point in your relationship.
Remember, though; our close ones are not in our heads. If you want them to have a central role in your kid’s life, it can help to take the time to explain your parenting choices and priorities. And maybe to give them a gentle reminder of how new studies have debunked some of their go-to methods. A grandparent’s role isn’t the same as ours, and the relationship with the kids will differ, but if your parents are by-passing some aspects of your parenting style that are very important to you and your partner, let them know. Being a grand-parent does not give them a free pass to undermine your wishes and authority. “The grandparent’s role is not to challenge but to fit in with the family culture,” says J. Lane Tanner, M.D., associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of California-San Francisco. “Parents delegate authority to the grandparent, not the other way around.”
They need to learn to respect your wishes, but you should give them a chance to do so. It might take time and repetition, but if it’s important to you and your partner, hold your ground. Hopefully, they will be receptive and respect your choices.
Address the unsolicited advice
If you are a new mom, then brace yourself. If you have been here a while, then you know: having kids seems to open the floodgates for all kinds of unsolicited advice and opinions. Now, not everyone will tell you what they think to your face, but chances are your parents and in-laws will. Everyone wants to help you by sharing tips or tricks or stories, and it is normal; they have been there before, and they want to be involved as much as possible. But it can sometimes be overwhelming and, well, annoying. You are trying to get your bearings as new parents and want to do things your way. An overload of advice or comments can create self-doubt in your capabilities when you need to be trusting your instincts. Be clear with your loved ones. Sometimes it takes time and patience and repetition, lots and lots of it. But expressing how you feel is crucial; you don’t want to bottle that up and wait to implode.
Although it takes a village to raise a child, you know your child more than anyone. It is good to have an open mind and listen to the people in your life who have been through motherhood; they have loads of knowledge to share, but remember to weigh that against your own experiences, values and understanding of your kids. Your parents aren’t with them every day, and chances are, they don’t see every facet of your child.
Pick your battles
In some cases, picking your battles may be necessary to preserve relationships. If what they are doing is super annoying, but is not something that is either undermining you or hindering your child, then sometimes it may be better just to let it slide.
Suppose you have been clear with your family, have taken the time to explain how you feel and why it is essential, yet the relationship remains tense when specific topics come up. In that case, it’s ok to just walk away (metaphorically) from a conversation that isn’t serving you—no use in stirring up unnecessary negativity. They need to remember who the parents of this child are, and although it can be tricky, it is not up to us to compromise our values to please anyone. Thank them for their concern, and move on.
Remember their intentions are good
The day you announced your pregnancy, I’m betting they were probably as excited (maybe even a little more) than you were. I mean, their baby is having a baby, and they can’t wait to smother it with love and attention. Although it can be challenging to see eye to eye with your family, just remember that it is probably coming from a place of love for you and your child. Take it for granted that they mean well. Allow them to have a relationship with your child, enjoy them, and remember to be grateful for their presence and love.