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Advice for New Grandmas

Mar26

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Hey Amy! I realize I am a little out of your normal spectrum of readers, but I started reading your Advice Smackdown when I was searching the web for new parent information, because my daughter is expecting a baby this month!! She lives 1000 miles away and it has been planned that I will travel to stay and help her out with her first baby (and my first grandchild-can’t wait!). The question I have for you and anyone else who cares to contribute a comment is: HELP! I so very much want to be helpful and not a pain. I would like to hear from other new mothers what did your mom/MIL do that was very helpful after your baby arrived? What was annoying or unhelpful that I could avoid?

My daughter and her husband are the most polite people I know and even though she is my daughter I am quite sure she would never communicate to me that I was in the way or getting on their nerves. My common sense tells me not to give too much (unasked for) advice and I would want to be helpful without being overbearing and taking over their household. I have been looking online (that’s how I found your blog BTW) trying to get the most up-to-date information on baby care (for instance I have learned that babies sleep on their back nowadays) in order not to be out of date with my baby knowledge.

So any advice to make this visit a helpful start to parenthood for my daughter and son-in-law (instead of a nightmare of “when will she ever leave?”) would be most appreciated.

Thank you!
Gramma-to-be

Hooray! And congratulations! And aren’t you SO NICE for even thinking about this stuff. I know quite a few daughters and daughters-in-law who would probably love to adopt you right now.
Okay, so here are some things that my postpartum family company (both mother and mother-in-law) did that we really, really appreciated.

1) Help assemble, address and mail birth announcements. Bring your own address book just in case your daughter realizes she’s missing addresses of cousins and aunts and other relatives.

2) Pick a household task that you can do with minimal guidance and do it. Try to get a quick rundown on say, their laundry preferences (detergent choice, water temperature) and a good tour of the kitchen so you can unload the dishwasher without a lot of “where does this go?” questions. Help with chores was a HUGE ONE for me, because that’s exactly what got kicked to the curb while caring for a newborn.

3) Take pictures of the new family, all together. Don’t constantly ask them to pose and say cheese, but if you see the three of them together on the couch, just grab a camera and snap a picture. I have so few photos of Jason and I together with the babies and I regret that.

4) Offer to babysit. Let them go see a movie or go out for dinner. (And if you’ve got the technology, send them text message updates or camera-phone photos during the date — this way they can be comforted without having to interrupt their night with nervous phone calls home.)

5) FEED THEM. Make breakfast in the morning and offer your daughter plenty of snacks and drinks during the day, particularly if she’s breastfeeding.

And now, a few DON’TS, also from personal experience:

1) DON’T have an open-ended visit. Commit to a set length — it’s totally fine if you end up extending the visit, but oh my goodness, don’t just stick around waiting for them to tell you to go home. Chances are by the time they tell you that, you’ve already overstayed your welcome by a couple days.

2) DON’T always feel like you HAVE to “help.” They may actually be looking forward to doing stuff on their own and need to experience some success in this area before you leave and it’s trial-by-fire time. It can be hard to know when to step back and let the new parents be, but just remember to occasionally stop before swooping in to take the baby or help with dinner and ask if they want your help. If they say no — even if you disagree or think they’re just being polite — listen and back off.

3) DON’T offer unasked-for advice. Your instinct is good: it’s your daughter’s turn to be a mom and make all the mom-type decisions. Even if certain choices seems completely off-the-wall to you, chances are you raised a smart kid who has researched this stuff and knows what she’s doing, even though she might not always feel that way. Be open-minded and respectful about modern parenting ideas instead of constantly talking about how things used to be done (at least in a tone that suggests you think it was better that way, plain old reminiscing is totally fine). Don’t argue and definitely…

4) DON’T go against your daughter’s wishes behind her back. I don’t even want to get into the specifics here but I still deal with this quite a bit with my in-laws, and it infuriates me to an unbelievable degree. You don’t seem like the sort who would ever think to do this, but oh my lands, it happens all the time and NOTHING will strain a relationship faster, because she always figures it out.

5) And lastly, don’t forget to be her MOM. My mom and I watched old B&W movies and made popcorn in the middle of the afternoon a couple times, because that was something we used to do when I was a kid. We went out for lunch. She got me a blanket and tucked me in when I fell asleep on the couch. When I had problems nursing, she didn’t pretend that she could fix it, but just gave me hugs and assured me that I was doing a really, really good job and she could tell I was going to be an amazing mother. The confidence she gave me is the thing I most remember about her visit, even more than the baby clothes or clean kitchen countertops.

Photo by ScottieT812

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About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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52 Responses to “Advice for New Grandmas”

  1. Angela Mar 26 at 11:43 am Reply Reply

    One of the things that my MIL did that was wonderful was to encourage me to take naps. She was perfectly content to hold the baby and let me sleep for a little while. She also helped with laundry, cooked for us and probably best of all, she told me every day how thin I was because the weight was coming off and how great I looked. I think that might have been my favorite part, after the naps. My mom was there mostly when we were in the hospital, but I do remember that she was more “advice-y”, which since she was there for such a short time, didn’t have a chance to get on my nerves.

  2. Anonymous Mar 26 at 11:50 am Reply Reply

    Great advice Amalah! And new Grandma- you are awesome! DO NOT GO BEHIND MAMA’S BACK- I caught my MIL mixing up rice cereal to GIVE MY NEWBORN. She was (and is) convinced my breast milk just could not be enough. Sheesh. My own Mom- best thing was to be my Mom, not just Grandma, but take care of me too!

  3. Melissa C Mar 26 at 11:53 am Reply Reply

    I love this question. How thoughtful of you! My mother came at the 3 week mark and these are the things she did that were so helpful:
    1. Ventured out of the house with me and the baby (my husband was back at work by then). It helped build my confidence to have another adult with me for Target runs or a trip to the store. After she left, I knew I could do it on my own. My Mom did a great job of getting us out and about once a day – even if it was just for a walk.
    2. Took the early morning feeding. We were on formula, so if your daughter is breastfeeding this may not be possible. My mother got up for the 4 am feeding every morning she was staying with us. It was heavenly! I would put the basinet outside her door when I finished the 2 am feeding and when she heard the baby wake up again, she took over.
    3. Cooked dinner. She made dinner every night and went to the store on her own. She didn’t ask us what we wanted, she just did it. Not having to think about it at all was so wonderful.
    4. Watched the baby one evening while we went out to dinner alone.
    Things that were annoying, and to be honest, were mostly done by my mother-in-law:
    1. Constantly insisting that I go nap. I knew when I wanted to sleep, I didn’t need anyone telling me. I felt nagged even though I know she was just trying to help.
    2. Dressing up the baby/putting bows in her hair/unwrapping her, etc.
    3. Asking what she could do to help (multiple times a day). Its not helpful to have to think of things for people to do. Just jump in and do them. Doing a load of the baby’s laundry, running the vacuum, making dinner, or going to the store will all be welcomed. Just do it and don’t make your daughter have to think about it or ask her too many questions. She’ll be grateful for the help even if its not exactly how she would have done it.
    Have a wonderful visit and enjoy the time with you daughter and the new baby!
    -Melissa

  4. Jamie Mar 26 at 11:55 am Reply Reply

    She’s right, we want to steal you away! Just for looking up all this information I have a feeling you will be just fine. Pat on the back for a caring Mom & future Grandma.

  5. Cobblestone Mar 26 at 11:58 am Reply Reply

    OH OH OH!!!
    My mom is 800 miles away and too allergic to my house to be able to come in so here is what we did.
    She was there for the birth and hospitalization. I had a scheduled-c and my husband agreed that he should keep teaching while I was in the hospital and be home my first week home. It worked well for us and my mom is really good at sitting in hospitals so we just chatted it up and she stepped around the corner every time I had to whip out the girls to get the hang of bf’ing.
    The AWESOME part was that she came back down about 2 weeks before my leave ended. She stayed in a hotel, I drove over in the morning and hung out all day (showered, ran errands with her as I got ready to go back to work, etc) and then I went home about the time my husband was coming home.
    By then I wanted to talk to adults, but only about how dang freaky this whole thing was. She was flexible about doing or not doing stuff and it was basically just like hanging out in the living room for a week. By then I had started to get the hang of things but she, just in chilling with ShortStack, showed me little games I hadn’t discovered myself.
    OH! AND I got to get a haircut, which was awesome!
    Good luck, be her mom – she’ll be delighted.

  6. EmilyG Mar 26 at 11:59 am Reply Reply

    You sound *so* sweet! I will second the taking pictures idea. My MIL took a million pictures of my husband with the baby, but not a lot of me with him. That was kind of sad.
    The most helpful thing that both my mom and MIL did was let me start doing everything gradually. So before they left, I had made dinner once, I had done the dishes once, I had taken out the dogs and bathed the baby by myself. It was a real confidence booster to get to practice doing all of that alone, but knowing that my mom was literally right there and could swoop in if I needed it. When I was finally alone with the baby, I felt capable because I had done it all already.

  7. Rachel Mar 26 at 12:01 pm Reply Reply

    Yo Go Grandma! You sound like you’re on your way to a great visit already. Like Amalah said the fact that you are even asking this makes my heart happy for your daughter.
    My mom stayed with us for a week after my son was born. She was there when I needed her and was pretty good at disappearing when she thought my husband and I needed to be alone with the baby. Here’s what she did that I love:
    1) She fed us. She didn’t ask a lot of questions about what we’d want, she’d just say stuff like “I was thinking of making X pasta dish for dinner, is that okay with you?” because let me tell you I was so overwhelmed I couldn’t think straight.
    2) She held me while I cried because those PP hormones were awful.
    3) She sometimes told my husband what to do (e.g., “why don’t you make Rachel some toast and bring it up to her”)
    4) She gave advice when asked and didn’t when she wasn’t asked.
    5) OMG I found out when she left that she had cleaned my stove and microwave! I mean those hadn’t been clean in FOREVER and I was so idiotically gleeful after she left and I opened the microwave and found it sparkling. I’m pretty sure she also cleaned behind the couches and other places that hadn’t seen a mop in years.
    CONGRATULATIONS to you and your daughter!

  8. Alexa Mar 26 at 12:02 pm Reply Reply

    I want to second feed her…my mom and aunt came down while I was in the hospital and cleaned up the house and made a lot of food for the freezer. It was such a relief the first few weeks to just pull something from the freezer and put it in the oven. I was so overwhelmed I couldn’t even think of making something in the kitchen, so the frozen home-cooked dinners were a godsend.

  9. kate Mar 26 at 12:33 pm Reply Reply

    Oh I love you – your daughter and son-in-law…and grandbaby! – are so lucky to have you!
    Here are my additional comments to what Amalah mentioned:
    1) I personally liked being able to do my regular “chores” around the house – it helped me feel normal. So my mom / mil would just sit with the baby so I could vacuum, etc.
    2) I loved that I had help staying at the house with us, but also loved having “alone” time with my baby. So my mom/mil would run to the grocery store for me, or make up some kind of excuse to get out of the house for a couple hours. We all benefitted from the little breks during the day.
    3) My mom also didn’t want to over-step the advice boundary, and I found it shocking how much she DIDN’T tell me. At first I was over-sensitive and took it to mean she wasn’t all that into me as a mommy, but then I realized she was waiting for me to ask before butting in. So, I guess, be sensitive to the “clues” your daughter might give you. And jump in there when you think she needs it – since she’s invited you to her home, chances are she realizes the benefit of having an experienced mama around those first few days.
    4) ENJOY every moment. It made me happy to know that my baby (who I OF COURSE loved loved loved) also made other people happy, too.

  10. HomeValley Mar 26 at 12:40 pm Reply Reply

    This is great! I am expecting my first in May… how do I politely get this to my own mom to peruse??

  11. Anya Mar 26 at 12:41 pm Reply Reply

    A few other suggestions:
    If your daughter tries to do something nice for you, LET HER. Remember you are still a visitor in their house, and while she is sure to appreciate everything you do to help, she may still want to keep up with certain good hospitality things.
    Give them SPACE. If your daughter excuses herself and leaves the room, don’t automatically follow her. If they don’t seem all that engaged in whatever conversation you are trying to maintain, maybe try quieting down for a bit. They are sure to be overwhelmed with everything else new going on, and may just need a little more peace and quiet.
    Don’t monopolize the baby!
    ASK them if they have any safety/baby care preferences. They may not know or think to share these–like babies sleeping on their backs–or may not want to hurt your feelings by suggesting you don’t know.

  12. Anonymous Mar 26 at 12:44 pm Reply Reply

    I second EVERYTHING she says here! Spot on advice. What an amazing Mom! Just the fact that you want to help, not OVERHELP, and that you know your daughter well enough that she might not tell you if you’re overstepping…I think you’re probably already set. My Mom came and stayed with me, too, and I loved it. The biggest helps were: COOKING. She kept us fed, and I never had to think about it…and CLEANING! Oh my. Not the most fun thing to do, but honestly, I SO appreciated her help with the regular chores that I was too tired to do anything about. When I got overwhelmed instead of offering advice she’d say, “You can do it, whatever you decide will be the right thing. You’re a good mom, we all felt like this in the beginning. Don’t worry.” Things like that. And when I asked her for advice she gave it without worrying, but made sure that even I did something differently, she thought it was the best choice because I am the mom now. For example, we used the Miracle Blanket to swaddle our son, and she HATED the thing. But she did it even when we weren’t around to keep things consistent, and because our son really needed it to sleep.
    The best thing you can do is just love her, take pictures, “disappear” every once in awhile so that the new parents have some time on their own. My Mom would go for walks or run to the store, giving us just enough time to be on our own and still enjoy her presence when she was there.
    Don’t forget that the visit can be about you, too. Enjoy your new grandchild!
    Oh, and one more thing…I still feel a little bad when I leave my son with my parents, and ESPECIALLY in the beginning when I’d nap between feedings. My Mom or Dad or husband would be with the baby, and I remember apologizing ALL THE TIME as if I were asking them to do something hard. It felt hard to me because I was overtired from nursing all night and a nap seemed like SUCH A GIFT!!! Just tell her that it’s not work, that it’s amazing to be able to sit with your grandbaby and you wouldn’t do ANYTHING else even if you had the choice. I had some really good sleep because I knew that my baby was being loved and cared for while I got some rest.

  13. Erin Mar 26 at 12:45 pm Reply Reply

    I second EVERYTHING she says here! Spot on advice. What an amazing Mom! Just the fact that you want to help, not OVERHELP, and that you know your daughter well enough that she might not tell you if you’re overstepping…I think you’re probably already set. My Mom came and stayed with me, too, and I loved it. The biggest helps were: COOKING. She kept us fed, and I never had to think about it…and CLEANING! Oh my. Not the most fun thing to do, but honestly, I SO appreciated her help with the regular chores that I was too tired to do anything about. When I got overwhelmed instead of offering advice she’d say, “You can do it, whatever you decide will be the right thing. You’re a good mom, we all felt like this in the beginning. Don’t worry.” Things like that. And when I asked her for advice she gave it without worrying, but made sure that even I did something differently, she thought it was the best choice because I am the mom now. For example, we used the Miracle Blanket to swaddle our son, and she HATED the thing. But she did it even when we weren’t around to keep things consistent, and because our son really needed it to sleep.
    The best thing you can do is just love her, take pictures, “disappear” every once in awhile so that the new parents have some time on their own. My Mom would go for walks or run to the store, giving us just enough time to be on our own and still enjoy her presence when she was there.
    Don’t forget that the visit can be about you, too. Enjoy your new grandchild!
    Oh, and one more thing…I still feel a little bad when I leave my son with my parents, and ESPECIALLY in the beginning when I’d nap between feedings. My Mom or Dad or husband would be with the baby, and I remember apologizing ALL THE TIME as if I were asking them to do something hard. It felt hard to me because I was overtired from nursing all night and a nap seemed like SUCH A GIFT!!! Just tell her that it’s not work, that it’s amazing to be able to sit with your grandbaby and you wouldn’t do ANYTHING else even if you had the choice. I had some really good sleep because I knew that my baby was being loved and cared for while I got some rest.

  14. Katie Mar 26 at 12:48 pm Reply Reply

    Not too much to add to Amalah’s advice. My mom was at our house making dinner when we came home from the hospital with our newborn, and she had stocked up on fresh bread and milk and lunch meat and simple things we could make quick meals of. I loved that. She was really good at being supportive and commiserating without offering too much unwanted advice. It helped that she lived a mile away and was “there” for me without always being THERE. Ha.
    I think you’re going to do great, and I’m sure your daughter will appreciate your help!

  15. Amy Mar 26 at 12:54 pm Reply Reply

    In major metropolitans – or heck, probably anywhere with a decent sized hospital these days – they often offer Grandparenting classes at the local hospital. These may give some more tips like the “no back sleeping” thing and hopefully even some advice on being helpful without overstepping boundaries.
    My mother was a saint when I gave birth and the biggest thing she gave me was encouragement! She also brought a TON of already cooked food (lasagna, chili, pans of enchiladas, chicken tenders, cut up fruit/veggies), which although you probably can’t do if you’re flying to visit, you could prep during her 2-3 day hospital stay and have already in the fridge when she & hubby return home. That way whenever someone gets hungry, they have instant reheatable homecooked food…even if it’s after nursing for the 9th time that night at 3:17am.

  16. jive turkey Mar 26 at 12:54 pm Reply Reply

    I heartily second the “backing off when they say they don’t need help” advice. My mom came to stay with us during my first week postpartum, and she got really offended when my husband and I wanted to handle all the diaper changes, sponge baths, etc. I couldn’t make her understand that we just NEEDED to do those things to prove to ourselves that we COULD, not because we wanted to exclude her. She cooked and cleaned and did the grocery shopping and laundry for us all week which was AWESOME and PRECISELY what we needed, but when I would thank her for it, she’d say, “Oh, I haven’t done ANYTHING,” because I know she felt like we were hogging the baby duties, which in turn really stressed me out.
    It all came to a head one night when my husband was handling a diaper blowout and my Mom kept hovering and repeatedly trying to take over. My husband finally snapped at her, and she huffed away to her room and slammed the door. It was unnecessary drama and NOT what I needed after a long, sleepless, and hormone-filled week.

  17. heels Mar 26 at 12:59 pm Reply Reply

    The best things my mom did for us were:
    1)COOKED! And kept a full glass of water next to me at all times.
    2)Held my son so that I could shower and let me take as long as I needed.
    3)Helped me get to the first few doctor appointments- it was difficult because I couldn’t drive (too much damage) and was not yet used to packing around a baby AND all the STUFF.
    4)Hung out with me, and helped me through those lonely few weeks when my husband went back to school.
    5)Reassured me that I was doing a great job.
    It was wonderful to have her, and probably the high-point of our adult relationship.
    Have fun with your daughter and new grandbaby!

  18. Kay Mar 26 at 1:01 pm Reply Reply

    This is a great question!
    Things my mom/MIL did that I really appreciated:
    * Baked yummy cookies and treats.
    * Made a huge pot of soup that I ate for a week after she was gone.
    * Babysat for a couple hours so daddy and I could go out for breakfast.
    * Took baby on a walk outside for a bit – it was so nice to be in my house relaxing without worrying about the baby.
    * Washed dishes.
    * Made comments about what a good job we were doing (made a big difference!).
    * Offered to look up answers in our up-to-date baby book when we had problems – I liked how she didn’t always have the answer and it was helpful to have someone else paging through the book while I held baby.
    * Reassured us a lot.
    * Encouraged us to nap while she held baby.
    * Just marveled at our little girl and enjoyed her with us – it was really special.
    Things I didn’t like:
    * My MIL woke up in the middle of the night when the baby cried to check on us – good intentions, but I was so tired and I didn’t like having MIL hovering over while we were trying to figure things out. Also, I always felt really bad when she didn’t get to sleep… I much preferred that she leave night parenting to us and rest up to help during the day.

  19. CLE Mar 26 at 1:02 pm Reply Reply

    If you choose to help out by cleaning and organizing their house while they’re at the hospital (which I appreciated, because I went in an emergency situation mid-nest), make sure you label everything or give a map or something. Five months later and I’m still not sure where everything is.
    DO NOT say things like, “well I raised X# of babies and…” Yeah. I don’t care. This one is mine.
    DO NOT hijack the baby so that mom feels like a dairy cow and only gets him for feedings.
    DO make dinner. Don’t ask, just do. I overdid it trying to cook in the beginning because no one else did it first.
    Follow your daughter’s preferences on how to do things in her house and with her child.

  20. Jess Mar 26 at 1:10 pm Reply Reply

    One thing my mom did that I don’t see mentioned was – when baby went to sleep for a nap and then I crashed as well, she would stay in the room the baby was in (with a book or the tv on) and tell me to turn off the monitor. If baby woke up, my mom would see if anything besides a feeding would calm him down to give me a few extra minutes of sleep.
    Not being woken up by crying every single time I tried to get an hour of sleep was HEAVEN at that point.

  21. Keely Mar 26 at 1:16 pm Reply Reply

    The best thing my Mom (actually, both my parents) did for me:
    1. Took the BABY out of the house. I didn’t feel up to leaving, and I felt guilty not attending to the baby even if other people were there. They bundled him up in the stroller and took him for a 2 hour walk so I could have a long, luxurious nap!
    2. Brought over take-out. No mess, no guilt about my mother slaving over a hot stove, and there were leftovers.
    3. Told me I looked confident (even if I wasn’t), I was doing a great job, and they were impressed with how I/we were handling it.
    Your daughter is so lucky to have you! Congrats!

  22. Beth Mar 26 at 1:17 pm Reply Reply

    I wish I had a mother as sweet as you. I’m 25, and I don’t yet have any children. So I can’t give you any advice. But you sound like a kind, thoughtful person, so I’m guessing you don’t need very much.
    If I had a mother like you, my life would be SO different.

  23. Someone Being Me Mar 26 at 1:23 pm Reply Reply

    The biggest things that my Mom helped me with were laundry(after a c-section that was really painful for awhile), buying yummy groceries and cooking for us (she got lots of fresh fruit and snacking foods which were great for breastfeeding/pumping), and hiring a housekeeper for 6 months to help me until I got used to working and having a newborn. I think the biggest thing is just looking for the day to day stuff that gets put aside because of the baby like laundry and dishes and stepping in to help. Also a huge help if grandma gets up early in the morning or stays up later in the evening so Mom can get to bed earlier or sleep later. Advice was welcome but I really appreciated any stories she told me about how hard it was for her when she had babies.

  24. Tracy Mar 26 at 1:24 pm Reply Reply

    I wish my MIL had felt the same way! Instead, she had ME serving HER and refilling HER water!

  25. Sara Mar 26 at 1:27 pm Reply Reply

    Oh wow, what a thoughtful question and great advice already from Amalah. Especially the taking photos idea – we (still) have barely any photos as a family and I regret that as well.
    I loved the week and a half my mom came to visit, because through the emotions and baby-blue-isms, and general “omg what am I doing, I can’t do this” feelings that I had, she was my support and sounding board. And she made dinners and helped with the laundry and all that stuff. And reminded me to sleep (badgered me to, in fact) and it really was a special time that I look back on fondly now.

  26. Jenn Mar 26 at 1:35 pm Reply Reply

    My son was a barfer, and puked on everything. My Mom constantly kept the washing machine going those first few weeks, and folded and put everything away too (my nemesis!) It was a godsend!

  27. Molly Mar 26 at 1:48 pm Reply Reply

    Please, please please don’t hover. My mother has an annoying habit of standing two feet away from me and staring blankly at me while I’m doing anything baby-related (nursing was the worst.) We know, it’s a cute little baby and your own baby is so cute being the cute little baby’s mother, but OHMYGODPLEASESTOPIT.
    Make dinner, and freeze the leftovers. Run to the grocery store. Pick up a movie at redbox (or order a few from Netflix). Ask if she feels like getting out of the house, and go out for lunch with her if she wants to.
    Be thick-skinned. Your daughter will be freaked out, sleep-deprived, hormonal, and dealing with the biggest, scariest thing to ever come crashing into her life, and she won’t know what to do pretty much most of the time. Don’t get your feelings hurt when she snaps, or turns down your well-meaning offers, or won’t let you hold the baby when he’s crying. I spent most of the first month of my son’s life feeling crummy about how mean I was to my mother and how hurt her feelings were. But, in my defense, she was pretty clingy.
    Lots of people have said the thing about taking pictures. But one of the things that drove me nuts is the fact that she loved to take pictures of me eating, or with a boob hanging out and the baby attached to it, or at 7 in the morning after a particularly bad night, before I’d had a shower, with toothpaste stuck to to my chin. I felt awful and tired and bloated and self-conscious even when she wasn’t taking pictures of me. Just consider whether she’ll want to see herself like this when the baby’s 14 and maybe ask “Do you want me to get a few pictures of this?” before you start snapping away.
    And congrats, Grandma! Good on you for asking for the input. I wish my mother would.

  28. Musings of a Housewife Mar 26 at 1:49 pm Reply Reply

    I can’t think of anything much to add, but I’m touched that a grandma-to-be would be so considerate. I’m sure you’ll be GREAT.
    My mom basically came right out and said, “Let me know what you want me to do. I can hold babies, change diapers, make dinner, scrub toilets… Just tell me and I’ll do it. I don’t want to be in the way.”
    That was great b/c it allowed me to tell her exactly what I wanted and needed. She stayed for a week when my first baby came and 2 weeks after each of the next ones. IT WAS A LIFE SAVER. She didn’t get on my nerves (or my husband’s) b/c she was so helpful.
    Good luck, AND ENJOY!! :-)

  29. Lindsay Mar 26 at 1:54 pm Reply Reply

    Here’s the only thing that drove me NUTS! If your daughter asks you NOT to do something, DON’T do it! No questions asked.
    Remember to have fun and just hang out with your daughter. How often do you get to do that? :)

  30. DB Mar 26 at 2:16 pm Reply Reply

    Both my mom and aunt came (not at the same time) and I have to say, my aunt actually out-shined my mom (I know both of them will never read this, so it’s ok). Even though my mom was awesome in many ways, one thing that was not good was when I was having trouble breastfeeding she really tried to get me to give up and give him formula instead. Now I know it was because I was REALLY upset, and so was the baby, and in her day no one really breastfed, but it only took a couple more days (and a lot of hard work) and he nursed fine. If I had listened to her I would have given up that great experience!
    so, if you don’t know much about breastfeeding, I think it would be great if you read up a little about it so at least you can maybe give some suggestions, or at least be supportive. Or even offer to call a lactation consultant if she is struggling.
    My aunt was great because she spent the whole time in the kitchen, quietly cooking TONS and TONS of food to freeze, stopping only to do our laundry and clean!!! LOVED it!!!

  31. cassie Mar 26 at 2:21 pm Reply Reply

    Like Rachel above, my mom cleaned my whole damned kitchen, in places even I’d never gone, and it sparkled afterwards! It was such a great gift, above and beyond general cleaning. I’m still amazed.
    Other things she did that helped out tremendously:
    * Offered to take over with the holding and rocking late at night when Hubby and I were exhausted and at our wits’ ends.
    * Made me nap. MADE ME. And then took over caring for the baby if he woke up before I did so I’d get a smidge more sleep.
    * Took lots of pictures, including the one I love most of me and baby cuddled up together in our pjs.
    * Went out and bought a handful of clothes that we needed (like this would be a hard thing for any new grandma! *G*) and grocery shopped.
    Things I WISH she would have done:
    * Given us a little more time for just the three of us – dad, mom & baby – to be alone as a family. Even if it was just to go out for an hour of two in the afternoon.
    * Cooked less, because, um… omg horrible daughter here!… I really don’t like her cooking. :P
    (But my dad did go out and pick up takeout several times, so… BIG UPS for that! :))

  32. Courtney Mar 26 at 3:11 pm Reply Reply

    My mom came and helped out for a week after my husband went back to work, when my son was about three weeks old. It was great. She had absolutely no expectations – no pressure for me to provide food or entertainment, and she was seriously so happy to just *hold the baby*. At first I felt bad when she got there and I would tentatively ask if she’d mind if I went to take a nap, but by the end of the week I would just hand him to her and run to the bedroom.
    She talked with me, helped me with latching, encouraged my skills as a new mom, listened to me blabber about everything that I was going through. She told stories about when I was a baby. and gave me advice when I asked for it. Plus, she watched my son, helped change him, whatever else I needed so I could get a break. And she brought her own food.
    I think the best part was her perspective – as a new mom, I was so anxious about everything. Was he sleeping enough? Eating enough? Why was he crying? Etc. etc. But she had the years of experience to just chill out and enjoy the moment. It helped me do the same.
    OH! I forgot the *absolute* best part. My son came three weeks early, before I had the chance to do the huge deep cleaning of our place. She came over a few days after he was born (this was when my husband was still home) and they cleaned the place from top to bottom. Even all the crazy stuff that only I, as a crazy pregnant nester lady, had wanted to do, like scrub the fridge shelves and the grout in the bathroom. She cleaned for hours while I just sat and relaxed and tried to feel only marginally guilty.

  33. Marni Mar 26 at 3:15 pm Reply Reply

    What a sweet, wonderful mom! You’re so nice to ask. Both my mom and my MIL were very good about not offering unsolicited advice. (Although, my mom still did it now and then, but a quick look from my father would stop her in her tracks.) My husband does most of the cooking, but the moms (they were NOT there at the same time, thank goodness) were great about cleaning and laundry – that was huge.
    The thing that did strain me a bit, and others have mentioned it: I felt like I had to beg to hold my own baby. In fact, at one point, I took her into another room and closed the door, saying I needed to feed her, but really just wanted to spend some time with her by myself while she wasn’t on my boob. I don’t want to sound selfish, because I knew that when they left (they lived across country) I’d have her all to myself, but . . she was new to me, too, and being a brand new mom I wanted to savor as many moments of that sweet little soft newness as possible.
    Be prepared to come up with creative ways to calm the baby during the “witching hour”, that late afternoon / early evening timeframe when many babies start crying and are difficult to calm down. We walked around in circles, danced, bounced, swung, and the moms were good about helping brainstorm (“you used to like being swaddled, do you want to try it?” “your sister-in-law says xxx works with your nephew, do you want to try that?” – but don’t be offended if she doesn’t want to give those ideas a try).
    Have a wonderful time with your daughter and new grandchild!

  34. Anonymous Mar 26 at 3:19 pm Reply Reply

    My mom did all the lovely things mentioned here. I’ll also add that she got the baby(s) (she was there for all 3) soothed, changed and ready for me to nurse, for EVERY feeding. All I had to do was stumble to the rocking chair, feed the baby, and stumble back to bed. My mom figured I would lose enough sleep after she was gone, so she took the hit while I recovered from my ceasareans.
    And right before she left, she took me to the salon for a cut, color, mani and pedi. She sat right next to me holding the baby and let me luxuriate. I still bless her for that.
    You will be a wonderful Grandma!

  35. NewMom Mar 26 at 3:35 pm Reply Reply

    All the comments are great. You’re definitely on the right track by even asking.
    On the list of DON’Ts (things that my mom/MIL did that drove me NUTS!):
    1) If you are cleaning, DON’T move everything! My MIL cleaned our house when I was in the hospital before my first was born (he came early, so we hadn’t finished preparing the house), and while that was nice, it took 18 months to find some of the stuff. Her cleaning now drives me NUTS in general, because I (somewhat irationally, I admit) feel like she’s insulting me, or saying that my way of keeping the house isn’t good enough. (She actually did say something like this to my mother, which is obviously a terrible thing to say.) When she comes to visit now, I notice whenever she has moved anything. She seems to move all the items in the guest bathroom, even if it is just an inch or two.
    2)DON’T insist that the baby wear some particular item. If your daughter says something is too big/too small right now, please accept that. My MIL bought a very cute pants and jacket set that I was happy to have my son wear, but it was WAY too big for the first few months (baby was less than 7 pounds, and it was a 3 month size). I finally got tired of arguing about it and trying to put it away for later, and she put it on and my husband actually said, “Why is he wearing Hammer pants?” (It was all I could do to keep from laughing/crying, I hadn’t said anything about it to him.) When my son grew into the outfit, I put it on, took pictures, and made sure my MIL got to see him wearing it.
    3) Definitely DON’T constantly ask what else you can do to help, or constantly be running the vacuum or dishwasher. Sometimes new mothers just need some quiet.
    4) Be aware that asking if the new parents are handling everthing well ALL THE TIME can be received by a new mother with crazy hormones as an insult, or insuation that the new parents don’t know what they are doing.
    I think the basic idea is to be available, listen, be supportive, give advice only when asked, and remember a new mother may be overly emotional/sensitive. Little things can snowball out of control, but as long as the snowball never gets rolling, little things shouldn’t become a problem.

  36. Margie Mar 26 at 3:36 pm Reply Reply

    My only thing to add besides emphatic head nods are that, obviously, every mom is different, and I personally pretty much always wanted to be holding the baby except when she was crying and I was losing it. So I worried that my MIL and FIL would want to hold her too much, but they were great, and I made sure that they got to hold her as much as I could stand, and they made sure that I got to hold her a lot too and didn’t make me feel like I was being selfish. It was very gentle of them.
    I wish they had cooked a bit more, and I wish they had something like knitting or a book to occupy themselves when not much was going on so I wasn’t worrying about them not having something to do, especially when conversation beyond “Oh my goodness, isn’t she just the most perfect/sweet/beautiful baby ever” was difficult for me.

  37. kakaty Mar 26 at 3:40 pm Reply Reply

    All great advice, both in the post and the comments. One of the things I know about my mom is that she *can’t sit still* so I was ready with a couple of bigger projects for her to do when she came for a week. She was great about doing all the other stuff and not hogging the baby from me but she HATES idle time. Before I had my girl my mom and I talked and I threw out a couple of “nesting” projects I didn’t think I’d get done before I went into labor. She remembered these and when all the other daily stuff she wanted to do was done, she’d jump into those projects to keep her busy.
    The first was to clean out our kitchen cabinets – she pulled everything out, washed out the cupboards and drawers and then put everything back. The other was to make a slipcover for our couch (we both sew a lot). Both projects were easy to stop and start, they weren’t “do or die” items (like laundry) so if she never finished it wasn’t a big deal.
    This gave her something to do without hovering over me and the baby, made her feel productive during her visit and I appreciated the hell out of it.
    I’m due with our 2nd in a few weeks and I’ve already asked her if she wants to do the cupboards again! :)

  38. gizella Mar 26 at 4:07 pm Reply Reply

    this is a good question. I had a terrible experience with both my mom and MIL, so i can only say what not to do:
    My Mom: Don’t make it all about you from the get go. I had a c-section, and needed womanly help around the vagina etc, but my mom was fixated on what she could clean or cook. My husband wanted to cook. She got offended. It goes on, and in the end, she went in her room and sewed, then left while my husband was in the shower. a day before Christmas. I was a wreck.
    MIL: We were still trying to get to know our daughter, don’t be surprised if you come in the first week and they don’t want you to hold the baby as much as you’d thought. I think another commenter said it better, but my MIL got offended. Then she wanted to clean, but had to ask me how “i did it”, down to washing the GD dishes. In the end she did nothing, helped no one, and left early. grr.

  39. Krista Mar 26 at 4:09 pm Reply Reply

    Someone else said this, but I’ll reiterate — sometimes the best thing you can do is leave for a while. Go grocery shopping, return some of the baby gifts that won’t be needed after all, pick up photos from Target or wherever — just give them an hour or two a day to be by themselves to rest or decompress. I loved having my mom around, but she was a still an extra person in my house, and that can be draining however much you love them.
    Also, if you put a load of towels in the washer right before you leave, make sure you tell your daughter that you did so. Otherwise she might be unpleasantly surprised when she finally gets around to doing laundry, four or five days later. (Ew.) (Not that this happened to me.)

  40. Kate Mar 26 at 5:40 pm Reply Reply

    There’s been so much good advice already that I only have a few things to add.
    If you’re there for the labor/delivery and your daughter is ok with you leaving for a bit offer to go out and get takeout for everyone. My MIL did this while I was in labor and it was awesome. Also, my mother brought real coffee with her so no one had to drink the terrible hospital stuff.
    My mom only lives 2 miles away so she didn’t stay with us after the birth (although she offered) but we spent a lot of time together at their beach house over the next few months. She’s an early riser so she would listen for my son to wake up (at around 5, yuck) and then come in a few minutes later so that after I had nursed him I could get a few mores hours of sleep.
    On a similar note offer to watch the baby while she takes a nap but don’t push it if she declines. Even though I was exhausted I was so wired the first few weeks that I really couldn’t nap even when my son was napping because every little sound would wake me up.
    The most important thing is just to be there. We came home from the hospital on a Monday and that Thursday found out that my husband might have to go away on a business trip starting the next Monday. I almost had a total meltdown and was completely freaking out until my mother said that if he did have to leave she would just take off work and come and stay with me. Knowing that I would have that extra support if I needed it was wonderful (and luckily it turned out that he didn’t have to go after all). When my husband did return to work after he had used up his two weeks of vacation (no paternity leave) she would come over every day after school let out (she’s a teacher) and be there to help or just hang out until my hubby came home.

  41. Abby Mar 26 at 6:02 pm Reply Reply

    I’m sure I’m repeating other folks, but the key for me was simply having my mom there to mother me (and my husband)! My first was born five months ago and my mom drove from another state so that she could be present for the birth. She made it and boy was I happy. The best thing she did was stay at the hospital with me that first night (baby was born at 7:20p, we made it to our room at 11p) and sent my hubby home so that he could get some sleep, send out the announcement email and bring things from home we’d forgotten in our 4am rush to the hospital.
    Like others, my mom volunteered to take the 6am babycare shift so hubs and I could sleep (hallelujah!) and she cooked and cleaned without being asked. She also didn’t monopolize baby . . .
    My MIL on the other hand, was insistent about doing things that I wasn’t necessarily comfy with, but I gave in because I didn’t have the energy to fight with her. For instance, she wanted so badly to give baby a bath that she did it despite both my husband’s and my protestations. (Baby screamed the entire time but she did not stop, even when I started to cry.)
    And the gifts! MIL brought a SUITCASE filled with useless crap (and her feelings are hurt when she realizes we’ve consigned most of it) when she first came to meet little one. Ugh. We were moving in three weeks – didn’t have room for the stuff we already owned, for crying out loud.
    You’ve done the most important thing, new Grammie – showing interest in being the best grandmother you can be. Congrats on your new arrival – your relationship with your daughter will likely just grow and grow beyond what you thought imaginable.

  42. Melissa Mar 26 at 6:06 pm Reply Reply

    I think the comments here are awesome and second basically all of them. I especially second the following:
    1. Cook. My mom also made a few things to store in the freezer, which were so great to have when she left, especially since they were “mom’s cooking.”
    2. Clean, to the extent you can given that it’s not your house. But stuff like vacuuming, dusting, cleaning kitchens and bathrooms is pretty universal, I’d guess.
    3. Give advice/help when asked, and not when not asked. I think the fact that my mom wasn’t over-advicey made me more likely to ask for her opinion.
    4. Make sure not to hog the baby, especially from Dad. Moms tend to get a good deal of baby time, especially if they’re nursing. But I know my husband had a hard time telling my mom (because he’s shy and it’s not *his* mom) he wanted to hold the baby, while she wasn’t aware he wanted to since he hadn’t ask.
    5. DON’T get up with them in the middle of the night, unless asked. I was cranky and tired at that point, and the question “is there anything I can do” was just annoying at that point, plus, I felt bad for waking her.
    This is sort of specific, but around 6am, my mom would get up and we’d bring the baby down to her while we slept for a few more hours. It was awesome! She got one-on-one baby time; hubby and I got a few uninterrupted hours of sleep. Bonus for her is that babies are often at their best at these early morning hours.
    Have a blast. I’m sure you’ll be much loved and appreciated — you sound like a wonderful Grandma already!

  43. Becky Mar 26 at 6:34 pm Reply Reply

    This is all good advice!
    Just remember to not take it personally if she does something different than what you did. In some cases, the recommendations have changed — like babies sleeping on their backs nowadays. In other cases, your daughter may just have a different parenting style than you did. Don’t take it as an attack against what you did — it’s not like she remembers when she first had rice cereal, or whether you carried her in a sling. She’s just doing what’s best for her family.
    My mom and MIL have both, in general, been great. It helps that my mother is particularly aware of the latest recommendations about sleeping and solids.

  44. KEK Mar 26 at 7:37 pm Reply Reply

    Oh, what a wonderful Mama/Grandma!
    Everything everyone said above, seconded heartily – especially the part about just being her mom, like you always have been. Comfort her like you always have when she cries (oh, the hormones!), make a big deal over the adorableness of the baby (not that you have to be told that, but my MIL seemed a little cool at first, which hurt my feelings – she was trying not to be grabby, and by day 2 of their visit couldn’t help herself anymore and things were good).
    Also, just DOING without asking “how can I help” was the best when my mom came, because she knew where/how I wanted things. MIL, bless her, did try this but put my dishes away all will-nilly – grr.
    Also, I had vastly underestimated how many nursing t’s/nightgowns/swaddle blankets we’d need, and my mom and dad just went out and picked a bunch up – I didn’t have to make any decisions or fret about spending money – what I needed in the moment just appeared.
    But, above all, just be her wonderful, loving mom.

  45. Heather Mar 26 at 7:56 pm Reply Reply

    The best gift I received was from my dad and his wife. They literally cooked us dozens of meals and filled our freezer. I didn’t have to think about cooking for weeks. They made numerous soups, casseroles, all simple stuff, but it was a life saver. I echo everything everyone said about keeping mom feed, cook breakfast, make snacks, prepare things for a few days out. Walk the dog, clean the house, all the simple stuff makes a huge difference. Your daughter will be so grateful!

  46. LJP Mar 26 at 8:42 pm Reply Reply

    What a thoughtful question! I’m sure I’m repeating much of what’s already been suggested by Amy and the other commenters, but here’s what my mom did for me that I really appreciated:
    From the outset, she quickly made it clear she was here to help ME, not just visit the baby. Then I didn’t feel badly bossing her around (nicely, I hope!). Also:
    (1) Cooking and cleaning. Probably number one. I felt like I lived in a hotel in my own house. Even little things, like making the beds, made it seem like the place wasn’t full-tilt chaos.
    (2) Noticing what needs to be done, chore-wise, and just completing it, without asking a lot of questions.
    (3) Making it clear that anytime I wanted to go have a nap or shower, she would be thrilled and delighted to just sit and hold the baby. I didn’t like to be pestered to sleep (especially when sometimes what I wanted was a little conversation), but knowing that I wouldn’t be a “bad host” if I went off to sleep was great.
    (4) Making tea/coffee, etc, when other guests arrived. I felt like I could sit and hold court with the baby while my mom was the real host.
    (5) Offering help but listening to me when I say “no, its ok, I’ve got it”.
    (6) Make it seem fun! Those early days/weeks can be pretty tense, so my mom was great at keeping a sense of humour going.
    (7) Mom left a notepad in the kitchen for a to-do list or shopping list. When I thought of something I needed, I just jotted it down for mom’s next trip.
    Man, writing this list has really made me appreciate everything she did for me! Enjoy this time! I can only imagine what it must feel like to see your children have children. Amazing!

  47. Jesse Mar 26 at 8:43 pm Reply Reply

    What a great question!
    We had our first baby last September and my MIL came for about a week and a half & it was great. My own mom lives closer so came for shorter visits.
    Some of the stuff my MIL did that was awesome:
    - made meals. This was HUGE for us, as if she hadn’t done this, we literally would have forgotten to eat or just eaten complete garbage. She even brought us breakfast in bed almost every day (not that you should feel you have to do this, but it was lovely!)
    - let us have a nap or two while she snuggled the baby – great so that they two could bond and we could have an hour of uninterrupted sleep. sigh.
    - we had just moved into our house (the same weekend as we had the baby!), so she also helped us unpack and just generally make the house feel like home. We stressed that we didn’t want her to feel like she had to do *work* all the time, and didn’t want her to be doing chores the whole time she was there. But she picked up on small things that needed doing (fixed our leaking bathtub tap, tidied up our small yard, did little things here and there), and it was SO helpful.
    - it was also great just to have her there to reassure us that we were doing awesome and so that she could spend some time with her new grandson.

  48. Kimberly Mar 26 at 8:45 pm Reply Reply

    My son and I struggled with breastfeeding, and my mom handwashed my pump parts after every pumping session. She also cleaned up after herself – the guest room and bathroom were ready for her next visit! Congrats, Grandma!

  49. Gramma-to-be Mar 26 at 8:47 pm Reply Reply

    Oh! I cannot BELIEVE how much amazing good advice you all have and how much I have learned from reading all of this. Thank you so much Amy for answering my plea!!
    Well, here I am right now at my daughter’s house…baby was due on the 22nd…we are waiting (not very) patiently. . . but doing some fun stuff while waiting like shopping, eating out and going to the beach.
    I have gotten many many good ideas here…particularly making positive remarks about how she looks & how well they are doing, taking a few pictures when everyone is cleaned up (no toothpaste on chin pics), COOKING! (that seems to be a universal favorite). Also, great suggestion to find daily errands to run to give the three of them some alone time. She will be breastfeeding (and I did breastfeed all three of my kids so if she asks for help I can probably help, or at least give encouragement). I will leave the nighttime feedings to mom & dad, but a great idea to hand over the baby to me after the early morning feed so they can get a little more sleep. And after reading Amalah’s advice about a set time to leave, I brought that up with my daughter this afternoon and we determined that I will stay for five days after the baby is born. I will be re-reading these replies again after the baby arrives to refresh my memory, too many great ideas to remember all at once. THANK YOU ALL! You have helped me immensely.

  50. Karen Chatters Mar 26 at 9:15 pm Reply Reply

    My mom and dad were SO helpful with things around the house. They did everything in the kitchen – cooking, cleaning, emptying the dishwasher and things like laundry. They ran errands and did all the grocery shopping. But most importantly they stayed out of the way!!
    My MIL was very unhelpful. She was great with the middle of the night crying (she’s a night owl) but was kind of in the way and wouldn’t go to the store and therefore didn’t cook anything because we didn’t have any food.
    Anyway, find out what would be most helpful to them and focus in those areas.
    Congrats!

  51. Julie Mar 27 at 1:51 pm Reply Reply

    “DO NOT hijack the baby so that mom feels like a dairy cow and only gets him for feedings.”
    AMEN! Be sure to give the baby to mom when she’s happy from time to time – especially if baby is BF, it’s easy to fall into the “Try everything else to settle the baby down first and then give to mom to feed if that doesn’t work”, but it results in mom always being handed a crying baby. Much easier on everyone if baby is passed over at the very first hunger cues.
    Make sure there’s a good supply of pre-assembled one hand lunch/breakfast foods when you leave. My husband was home for dinner, so we just did lots of crockpot meals, but making breakfast and lunch for myself once I was home alone was the hardest part for me.

  52. Grandma-To-Be 2 Mar 28 at 9:14 am Reply Reply

    My daughter is expecting my first grandbaby (a boy) in June and sent this to me. I am so grateful she did and for everyone’s comments! This is great advice, its been over 27 years since she was born, and frankly, I don’t remember too much other than being total in love with her and still am! I didn’t have any help after she was born and my husband was gone mostly “working on the railroad”. I do remember being on the phone with my mom alot and she was very helpful when I asked for advice without making me feel like I was an idiot for asking. I think it made her feel good that I went to her first for advice. It confirmed she did a great job with her children.
    One thing I didn’t like was my MIL constantly grabbing my child out of the car or out of my arms as soon as we arrived. I wouldn’t get her back until it was time to breastfeed.
    Congratulations to all the new mom and dads. You have no idea how much joy it is for us parents to becoming grandparents. I can’t wait for my daughter to hold her son and know how I feel about her. Love no greater!

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