While you’re eagerly tracking each new development during your pregnancy, you may be missing another transformation taking place. Your parents and in-laws are learning to navigate a new relationship with you. They may even be experiencing grandparenthood for the first time.
Here are a few questions grandparents-to-be may be hesitant—or way too eager!—to ask you. Learn how to have the right conversations to avoid hurt feelings when your newborn arrives.
How soon can I see the baby?
You didn’t realize your mother-in-law intends to be in the delivery room until you overheard her announce, “Of course I’ll be there when my grandbaby is born!” to someone else.
The easiest way to avoid an unwanted audience is to wait until after your baby’s born to call family. If you want your mom to hold your hand but want your mother-in-law to wait until you’ve given birth, showered and napped, then the situation calls for diplomacy. Enlist your partner to help explain that there’s no favorite grandma, you just need your mom’s support during labor.
Emphasize when you do want grand- parents over. “We’re so excited for you to meet the baby once we’re settled in at home” might go over better than, “No hospital visits, please.” And do make a point to invite both sets of grandparents as soon as possible. You can agree on a code word with your partner beforehand to signal that it’s time to gracefully end a visit.
What kind of help do you expect in early days?
The early days with a newborn can be precious and nerve-wracking, sweet and stressful, all at the same time. New parents may hope for help with cleaning and meal prep, or they may want time to bond alone as a family. The AARP reports that 69 percent of grandparents live within 50 miles of grandchildren. Expect those eager family members at your doorstep!
Melissa Blau and Tracy Hogg, authors of Family Whispering: The Baby Whsiperer’s Commonsense Strategies for Communicating and Connecting with the People You Love and Making Your Whole Family Stronger, write, “Your parents, siblings and in-laws are your other significant others. You might not think about them that way, because they’re the peripheral players. But they are part of your past, and they shape your present.”
In other words, let family in! Ask for specific help you need, and include an end time: “Could you come over for a few hours after work to get dinner started and give us time to shower? We’ll take some time to ourselves after bedtime.” Or, “It would be great to have you stay with us for two weeks.”
It’s important to remember that your job after the birth is to recover and bond with your baby. Your job is not to entertain or cook for family and guests while they snuggle the newborn. If you find yourself on your feet too often, it’s time to thank grandparents for the visit and steer them to the door.
Will babysitting destroy my social life?
In some cases, grandparents-to-be may worry that you’ll expect too much from them. Media depictions of grandparents still concentrate on a gray-haired, cookie-baking stereotype. In fact, the Pew Research Center reports that more than half of U.S. adults between ages 50 and 64 have at least one grandchild.
In Becoming Grandma: The Joys and Science of the New Grandparenting, Lesley Stahl points out that “granny nannies” can find themselves in a complex situation. On one hand, it’s rewarding and revitalizing to spend time with the baby. On the other, it can chafe to disagree on child-rearing decisions. Grandmas also get the stink eye if they admit they’d ever choose a pedicure over changing diapers.
If you’re hoping nearby grandparents will be your day care solution, make sure to ask well in advance. As much as they love your baby, they may also have work, friendships and activities in their schedule that they need you to consider, too.