One of the most exciting and overwhelming moments in life is discovering you’re pregnant.
The instant you share the news with Grandma-to-be, you’re both invested in your future bundle of joy. The anticipation builds as you share the experiences of hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time, finding out your baby’s gender, and shopping for baby clothes.
Finally, the life-changing event arrives, and your baby is born.
The first few days of motherhood are exhilarating as visitors gush over your baby and you marvel in your new creation. But reality quickly sets in as exhaustion and the stress of round-the-clock feedings and diaper changes catch up with you — not to mention those postpartum hormones.
While a new grandma is eager to support you, and you may welcome the help, if you don’t communicate well you could end up in the midst of an epic “Grandmazilla vs. Momzilla” battle.
Here are 10 ways to avoid that scenario and make the early weeks with baby precious for you both.
1. Understand it’s OK to spend time alone with your baby
You and your partner may want to spend the first few weeks after birth alone as a new family.
You call the shots when it comes to visitors, even Grandma. If you’re not up to a visit, tell her. On the other hand, if you’d welcome her help, let her know that too.
She may not want to intrude and is waiting for you to ask.
2. Be specific about your needs
Let Grandma know the best way to help you.
It may be doing housework, preparing meals, or watching the baby while you sleep. Your needs may change day-to-day. If you don’t tell her what you need, she’ll do what she thinks you need. If you’re not on the same page, there may be problems.
Specifying your needs doesn’t only apply to housework and caregiving. Grandma may go overboard buying clothes and toys. You may not have room for these items or even want them. Express your gratitude and gently tell her if you’d rather have a gift card.
3. Acknowledge Grandma’s excitement about your baby
Grandma goes through a lot of emotions when a grandchild is born, especially if it’s her first.
She experiences disbelief that her child is old enough to be a parent. She also experiences a flood of nostalgia. By giving her the opportunity to bond with her grandchild, you’ll not only get a break, but also foster the grandparent-grandchild relationship that will benefit your child for life.
Remember, Grandma is adjusting to a new role too.
4. Respect Grandma’s advice, but you have the final say
Grandma may be a little too eager to share baby-rearing advice with you.
While she probably means well, things have changed a lot since she raised her kids. In some cases, her suggestions may not be safe for your baby. Let her know you appreciate her concern and advice. Whether or not you take it is up to you and your partner.
5. Accept Grandma’s help without criticizing
Unless Grandma has gone off the deep end and is rearranging your furniture or peeling paint off your walls, try not to criticize her efforts.
Ask yourself if it really matters if she puts your dishes in the wrong cupboard or the towels aren’t folded the way you like. She’s simply doing her best to take some of the load off you.
6. Set clear boundaries
As a new mom, little things often seem larger than they are. After all, your baby is your most precious commodity. As you settle into a routine and become more comfortable with your new normal, you’ll discover what is nonnegotiable and what you can let go.
For example, you may not want your baby to have formula under any circumstances, but it’s OK if they use a pacifier. Make sure Grandma knows which boundaries can’t be crossed.
7. Support your partner
Your partner may have issues with Grandma and not feel comfortable expressing them, especially if she’s not their mom. Baby-rearing decisions should be made together.
You’re in the child-raising business for the long haul so communicate any concerns to Grandma as a team.
8. Keep Grandma in the loop
Grandma, especially if she lives out of town, is anxious to learn all she can about her new grandchild. Call her, send pictures, and Skype her regularly to update her on your baby’s progress as well as your own.
9. Recognize what you have in common
You may feel you have little in common with Grandma or you may not get along. If she’s your mother, you may have unresolved conflicts and want to raise your child differently than you were raised.
When clashes occur or old wounds reopen, remember you have at least one important thing in common. You both love your baby and want them to grow up happy and healthy.
10. Get vocal
When issues arise, bring them out in the open. If Grandma does something that upsets you or doesn’t follow your instructions, speak up.
It’s important to assert yourself and show confidence, especially if Grandma is on the domineering side. She may not realize she has upset you. She can’t change if she doesn’t know there’s a problem.
Tips for a new Grandma
The number one thing you can do to keep the peace with your grandchild’s mom is remember you’re Grandma, not Mom.
This may be tricky at times because you love your grandchild with all your heart. You may think you know what’s best, but you don’t. It’s OK to offer nonjudgmental advice when asked, but understand you don’t have the final say.
In the same way you knew what was best for your kids, your grandchild’s mom knows what’s best for her baby.
In general, with open communication, your relationship with Grandma can be strong.
When there are bumps in the road, and there will be, a little empathy, humor, and kindness from both of you will go a long way. There’s good reason to make the relationship work.
A University of Oxford study showed kids with involved grandparents have fewer emotional and behavioral problems. Ultimately, when you and Grandma have a healthy relationship, everyone wins, especially your baby.