More red letter responses from The Dame…
Background: My husband and I grew up in neighboring towns and now live 9 hours away via car from our families-of-origin. We host our parents several times throughout the year, and we always make it a point to be a good hosts & make everyone feel welcome (deep clean the house so it’s spotless, make sure we have their favorite foods on hand- including brands my husband & I don’t consume, make at least one fancy dinner during their stay, make a full breakfast every morning, take them to dinner for local cuisine, and plan fun outings, etc).
My husband & I recently welcomed a new baby boy, and both sets of parents generously offered to come visit in order to help out. Due to medical indications, I knew in advance I was having a c-section, and was instructed not to lift anything heavier than the baby and minimize stair-climbing post-op- so I was looking forward to some help. My husband was able to take the first 2 weeks off, but we thought I would likely still need help for a few weeks after. With our new baby, we’re down to just one guest room, so we thought it best to stagger our parents’ visits, pending their schedules. Tiny newborns do not need their own bedroom at this age. A bassinet by the new mom’s bed works just fine and strengthens the idea that this new baby belongs with the new mom. A separate nursery room segregated the baby in such a way that your mom could commandeer control of the baby easier. Btw, your bedroom you share with your husband should be sacrosanct, as in no one goes in there unless invited. It’s the one place in the house you can retreat with the baby that everyone should honor. My mom even suggested we not have everyone visit at once, but told me to “make sure I knew who was using the guest room first”- meaning my father & her. As it turns out, my in-laws couldn’t visit until the baby was a month old, due to work schedules. We talked to both sets of parents, explained my post-op restrictions, and how I wasn’t going to be up to my usual hosting standards, and if they wanted to come visit to help, I could really use assistance with cooking, cleaning, laundry, and grocery shopping. We asked that they not come visit until after my husband’s paternity leave was over, since that’s when I would need the most help. I figured this would give us a chance to establish a routine & breastfeeding, and bond as a new family.
Both sets of parents were on-board with this plan earlier in my pregnancy, but as we got closer to my due date, my mom became more demanding. She started referring to my unborn child as her baby. Pretty common. Ignore it. She started insinuating that it “wasn’t safe” for my husband to take care of me and the new baby during the first 2 weeks alone, since he has minimal childcare experience- trying to angle for an earlier visit for herself. When that didn’t work, she decided as maternal grandmother, she had exclusive rights to be the first to hold the new baby, and was going to come visit (9 hours away) in the hospital, and then since they were “already there”, they wouldn’t need to go home for 2 weeks just to come back. She happily informed me they could just stay for the whole month! We told her that wouldn’t work for us- they were welcome to make the trip to visit in the hospital but were going to have to leave when we were discharged because we were really looking forward to those 2 weeks at home to bond as a new family, and they could come back as scheduled (their plane tickets had already been purchased for the later visit).
-During their stay in our home, my mom sat on the couch holding the baby the entire time. When the dryer would buzz, she’d say something like “oh, is that your dryer? Someone should get that” and then look at me expectantly. So me, with my fresh post-op body, would be folding laundry, while my mom bonded with my new baby.
Ornery me would have simply piled the clean, dry laundry and left it unfolded in an ever increasing laundry mountain.
-She “helped” in the kitchen by unloading the clean dishes from the dishwasher and leaving them all over my counter because she “didn’t know where anything went”- despite the fact that our cabinets have glass fronts so you can literally see where everything goes without even opening them, but whatever. My mom did the same thing. She’s trying to be helpful but is self limiting that help out of a concern to not make it hard for you to find things she’s misplaced unintentionally. My husband still puts kitchen stuff away in the wrong drawers and cabinets when he empties the dishwasher.
-During my third trimester, I had made a bunch of meals for my freezer, so we wouldn’t have to worry about cooking. My mom decided we should save those for when I went back to work, and thought it was somehow “more convenient” for me to go to the grocery store every day to purchase whatever she wanted for dinner- which she offered to make, but never would, and then wouldn’t eat once I cooked it- saying “you know I like to eat dinner late”- meaning like 10 or 11 pm. Such a late dinner was not working for me or my baby’s schedule, and she insinuated I was being rude because they were guests and we should alter our dinner time to accommodate her. She would refuse to tell me what she wanted to eat for multiple days in a row, so we had to make a daily trek to the grocery store. My mom refused to drive the 1 mile to the store by herself, because the roads in our suburban neighborhood were “too dangerous” for her. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. This would have happened about 3 times before I caught on to the manipulation and simply said, “Dinner is XXXX and is being served at XX:XX time,” and then stick to the menu and dinner time. Your mom is not under any obligation to actually eat anything you prepare but she’s also not allowed to whine for different accommodations of her eating preferences. If grandmom has a problem with that, provide her the addresses of local restaurants, phone numbers of restaurants that deliver.
-She would insist I needed to nap, and then once I would lay down on the couch to nap (& inform her of my intentions), she would strike up a conversation and get offended if I ignored her. (I was supposed to minimize stair-climbing, which is why I didn’t attempt to nap upstairs in our room at first). The one time I did nap upstairs, she left my kid in a dirty diaper and onesie soaked in spit-up for 3 hours, because she didn’t want to put him down and refused to change any diapers. That was the last nap I took during their stay. Your mom and dad didn’t change a single diaper?! How useless!
-She would wait til my baby was screaming in hunger and my poor, engorged breasts were leaking before relinquishing my son to eat. I had to request she hand him over multiple times, while she tried everything to soothe him herself.
Where was my husband in all this? Working. Where was my dad in all this? Working from the home office he set up on our dining room table. Also, he saw no problem with my mother’s behavior. Why didn’t I have a shinier spine? My parents were visiting for 2 weeks, had non-refundable plane tickets, and my mom has a tendency to be a drama-queen. If you get into an argument with her, she WILL NOT let it end until you agree she’s right- going so far as to follow you into your bedroom and prevent you from sleeping. I bit my hormonally-charged, sleep-deprived tongue the whole time in order to survive the visit.
According to my sister, after my parents left, my mom was under the impression that they provided “so much help” for me, and how her only wish was that I would’ve napped more. According to my sister, she felt I had been rude about “hogging my baby” to breastfeed, when she could have fed him a bottle. She felt I was rude for going to bed early (she goes to bed at 2 am), and for scheduling repair men to come to the house to fix the furnace at 8 am while I was on leave because it interfered with her ability to sleep in. She felt I was rude for not appreciating the fact that I still had my freezer meals and instead had to make multiple grocery store runs. She felt I was rude for not taking her shopping for clothes and baby accessories more. My sister’s take is that while our mom is annoying, I should just appreciate what she did for us and cut her some slack because she’s excited to be a grandmother. E-hellions, what is your take? Is it rude to not play hostess to out-of-town guest while recovering from major surgery? Should house guests that are visiting a family with a new baby be expected to pitch in- in a way that’s actually helpful to the new parents? You cannot have an expectation that someone owes you anything. If the prospective house guests take the initiative to state a desire to assist the new parents in a specific way during their visit, invite them to come. If there is no offer to extend specific help to the new parents, you say, “I’m sorry but we cannot accommodate your visit at this time,” because the latter has an unfortunate expectation of being served like a guest when the host is post-operative. Or by inviting guests to stay, are you obligated to cook/clean/provide preferred foods, Not if you are post-surgery, and unlimited baby snuggles? I don’t know about you but I found it impossible to snuggle my newborns 24/7 so all the love the baby can get is great regardless of who is doing the snuggling. If this is your mom’s first grandchild, remember that she is almost 10 hours away and likely not see her grandchildren frequently. She was soaking up the baby love to store it for memories later. Cut her some slack. I promise you that by the fourth grandchild, she won’t be this hyper. For what it’s worth, my in-laws came, changed loads of diapers, cooked & cleaned, and allowed me to nap & breastfeed my kid with little drama. 1025-17
A new baby changes everyone’s lives and can bring out the worst and best in people. Any baggage you and your mother had is going to magnified in this “hormonally-charged” time period. You do not have baggage (or very little) with your in-laws so neither of you were primed, locked and loaded to get offended.