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The Postpartum Visitor Guilt Trip

By Amalah

I am 32 weeks along with my first baby. My husband and I are from the Midwest; he is in the military and we are currently stationed in the Southwest, about 1,400 miles away from family and friends, which sucks but we are doing the best we can with it.

My mom and in-laws were talking about coming to visit us a little after our daughter was born but we ran into a few problems: my mom is terrified of flying, and a couple months ago told us she may not be able to come because her fear of flying was so strong (which I told her I completely understand). It turns out my MIL has the same extreme fear and would not want to fly unless FIL was with her. He’s not able to make it because he has too much traveling for work.

My husband and I talked about it and decided it would maybe be a better idea if we had no one come visit us. To clear this part up – my daughter will be born the end of December, my husband is getting out of the military, so we will be home for good by the end of May. We thought it would be a little easier on everyone else if we just waited till we came home for everyone to have an equal opportunity to see her at the same time. There are other reasons too: we do not have the room for people to come stay with us, my family cannot afford a hotel room, it will still be the holiday season when they visit and plane tix will be expensive. There were a couple of friends we’ve already told this to and they completely understand our reasons.

My mom, however, is extremely upset and is taking this decision as “I don’t want her around” which couldn’t be furthest from the truth. I tried explaining all this to her and she says she just doesn’t understand and is devastated that I “don’t want her here.” I don’t want her to be upset and to understand and respect my decision. I was wanting a little advice on how to better explain things to her. And my question is: Is this right for me to say/do? Am I truly being cruel to my mom?

Sad

Holy guilt trip, Batman.

Let me get this straight: Your mom already told you that hey, that hypothetical visit we were talking about? Probably won’t happen, because of a fear of flying. So you know, heads up that you probably can’t count on her 100% for postpartum support/help. You graciously explain that you understand, it’s okay.

So then you and your husband talk things over and come up with an alternate plan that works for you and your current living situation, AND a plan that doesn’t put any guilt or pressure on people who don’t want to fly. And your mom freaks out over a trip that she already told you might not happen and is now twisting your words and intentions for maximum Bad Daughter Guilt.

You know what? Whatever. This is my least favorite Mom (or MIL) Move and I am fresh out of patience for it. I sense you could explain and explain until you’re blue in the face and it won’t make a bit of difference, because your mother has gone Full Drama Queen. You are not being cruel; she’s being more than a tad ridiculous.

Sure, it’s understandable that she’s disappointed that she’ll need to wait a few months to see the baby in person. It’s a bummer, but it doesn’t really make sense for her to go so overboard when the trip was already kind of iffy. And her disappointment doesn’t make it okay for her to make you feel like crap. Sure, I completely understand that some folks are deathly afraid of flying, but…what did she expect you to do? Buy her a ticket and then just sort of hope she’ll get on the plane? (Or even better, hope that she doesn’t spend the rest of your pregnancy making you feel guilty about the plane trip and the anxiety and the stress of it all.)

I also can tell you from years of Advice Column Experience that there are a ton of daughters out there who would straight up FREAK OUT over their moms using a fear of flying as an excuse not to come see them after giving birth, and would insist/beg that their moms find some way to conquer their fear (therapy, Xanax, etc.) for the sake of the baby. You gave your mom a pass on that and, after further reflection, decided it was probably for the best. I see nothing wrong with this.

Maybe this isn’t the first time her fear of flying has caused her to miss out on something momentous, and rather than realize that “hey, this is an irrational level of fear that needs to be dealt with somehow,” she’s deflecting blame onto you. Maybe she’s got a victim/martyr complex and thinks you’re “punishing” her for something she “can’t help,” but…you’re not. That I feel like I know for sure. Your reasons for no postpartum visitors are sane, sound and perfectly reasonable. I assume you guys are used to bridging the temporary distance with frequent phone calls, photos, Facebook, Skype, etc. This really isn’t the end of the world. This isn’t because you “don’t want her there,” it’s just the way things are right now. Cramped, far-flung, and soon to be in a massive state of flux. The same no-visiting rules apply to everyone, and no, that doesn’t mean your mom isn’t still super special and won’t be missed. But this is you being the grown-up, making grown-up decisions about how you and your new family would like to spend the first few months together.

What’s important is that YOU feel good about this decision, independent of how ANYBODY else feels or what they think. You no longer need to defend it to anyone. Stick to your guns. Stop trying to re-explain things. Change the subject when she starts guilt-tripping you with “I don’t understaaaaand” and such. Maybe one last, “Mom, this isn’t about us not wanting you there and you know it. Stop making me feel guilty about this decision, because it’s final. Moving on.”

And then file this little tantrum away for future reference, once you’re all moved back home and in regular, closer proximity to her. I’m guessing this pattern of behavior will repeat, as will your need to recognize it, stand strong and not let it get to you.

_________________________________________________________
If there is a question you would like answered by Amalah on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected]

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Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

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 Ama...

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 amyad[email protected].

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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Beth
Guest
Beth

I get this feeling that maybe Sad’s mom is hoping that she will spontaneously suggest that SHE get on on the plane with the newborn and husband to visit them instead. Hoping I’m wrong! I was in your shoes, Sad. My husband and I were both in the military stationed far away from my family. It’s hard right now because I’m sure apart from your husband, your family has probably been the most important part of your life. The first baby will make you have to reevaluate everything. You’ll have to start putting the needs of your little family over… Read more »

Melinda
Guest
Melinda

I thought the same thing! Which would be the most ridiculous idea of all because newborn + plane + husband who can’t just take time off like a normal job + new first time mom + winter illnesses + winter weather + all the other reasons = NO WAY. 

Grandma needs to calm it down. Be direct. Kind, but firm. Shut down ANY conversations where you begin to feel guilted. It’s the ONLY way! Been there, done that.

Caroline
Guest
Caroline

Yes, this exactly. She wants to force her daughter to fly with the newborn because really this is about HER fears and HER as the central character here… do not cave. Just very simply ask her what she visualised and if she had her own way and a magic wand, what would she do, given the circumstances? Force her to spell out her selfish and totally unreasonable little manipulation. And Amalah is totally correct; watch this space for the future. How you react right now will determine a lot going forward, so stay calm and reasonable, make decisions and stick… Read more »

Sarah
Guest
Sarah

I’m getting the same feeling that she’s hoping they will decide to get on a plane with the newborn. 

I agree with Amy, she will get over it. Stick to your guns. You have been more than accommodating.

MR
Guest
MR

Yes, I got the same feeling, that mom was hoping you would come to her – which is INSANE. But seriously, she already told you that her fear was most likely going to keep her from coming, so her throwing a fit over you being ok with that is absolutely ridiculous. She can try to make you feel guilty, but you don’t have to buy into it, and you shouldn’t. This is HER problem. Don’t make it yours.

z
Guest
z

Yeah, I don’t get what she wants.  She didn’t want to fly.  So she wants you to fly?  Or she wants to drive or take the Amtrak or something, even though it is far?  Or maybe she wanted to heroically overcome her fear of flying, after much pleading from you about how you just can’t possibly have a baby without her?  

I smell passive-aggressive drama.  You are right to shut it down.  

Ally
Guest
Ally

And if the LW’s mom’s goal was to have everyone get on a plane with the newborn and come visit her, LW has one of the best excuses available: My pediatrician doesn’t want my infant on a plane at the height of cold and flu season.

Kate
Guest
Kate

I know right! You’re not even supposed to take them out “in public” for at least 6 weeks let alone get on a plane!

Kerry
Guest
Kerry

I’m a little more on the side of trying to talk to your mom. Future grandmas are people too, and it might be worth finding out what her insecurities are and trying to reassure her if you can. I had something similar come up with my mom….turns out it wasn’t really about me and was very much about someone else she’s close to getting suddenly and abruptly cut out of their grandchildren’s lives. The whole grandparent role is a complicated one and it can be a source of incredible happiness AND sadness for people and its understandable if she’s freaking… Read more »

SarahB
Guest
SarahB

On the one hand, I see the drama, but on the other hand, I see a soon-to-be grandma who wants you to be sad she’s not coming if she can’t overcome her fears and make the trip. You might offer them a bit of an out: “You know we’d love to have you meet the baby.  We didn’t mean to sound like we’re canceling any visits.  It just seemed that you weren’t able to make it due to your fears of flying.  You’re still more than welcome to come if you think you can handle it.  Just be in touch… Read more »

Karen
Guest
Karen

I’m with Kelly and SarahB. Babies are new for everyone and require everyone to really up their game when it comes to communication, even when however it was before totally worked. And congratulations! 

Michelle B
Guest
Michelle B

Yep, my MIL has irrational fears. When she says she can’t do such-and-such because of said fear, what she really wants is for you to accommodate her. I mean, she really is afraid and fearful, but still wants what she wants to occur, which means it’s your problem to make it happen. When I read this, I immediately sniffed this behavior in your Mom. She wants your butt on a plane shortly after giving birth so she can see her grandchild without having to fly. Nope nope nope!!

liz
Guest
liz

What others said, I have the same feeling that mom wants you to go to her. NOPE.

If you’re in an area with Amtrak or Grayhound and she wants to visit, send her a ticket on one of those (if you can afford it). MIL, too. In fact, have them travel together.

If there’s a hotel nearby, and you can afford it, have them share a room there.

If you really would prefer no visit, that’s one thing. But if it’s about the flying, that can be solved without you and the baby getting on a plane instead of grannies one and two.

Sam M.
Guest
Sam M.

I have a mother that might be similar to yours. We’re really used to being away from each other (I’ve lived away from home for almost 15 years) and she finds traveling really stressful. She did actually make it by car to see the baby about a month after the birth and came to my PhD graduation in the summer, but these two events were so stressful that I was amazed we didn’t have a meltdown of epic proportions (your mother might not be this stressful but I empathize).   I think she’ll eventually calm down about the not wanting… Read more »

Melinda
Guest
Melinda

I just wanted to add that we weirdly have the same life right now! I’m due with first baby 12/31, boyfriend is military, we’re living very far from any family or friends, and he’s getting out in March at which point we’ll be moving back.  Ha, imagine that!  Now, I know your hubs is going to need to be back at work in 10 days (including hospital time), so if there is ANYONE who can come stay with you to help with housework/food/etc during that time it will really help. Hopefully you’re lucky enough to have made friends where you’re… Read more »

Myriam
Guest
Myriam

Maybe a pospartum doula would be an option to consider? Or even a babysitter to come over for a couple of hours during the day while mama showers and naps. Hired help would soften the blow to the family. Depending on how the birth goes, and how the OP is feeling, it might not even be necessary. After my 2nd was born, we sent the husband back to work after a week, to save his paternity leave (ye Québec!) for when the baby got bigger. I was able to take care of the older one (get her ready for daycare… Read more »

Melinda
Guest
Melinda

True, even just hiring a housekeeper once or twice a week would probably help a lot. 

It also depends on how the birth goes, your personality, and if you’re breast feeding. 

Childbirth! Such an unpredictable time! 

LaurenBE
Guest
LaurenBE

I am so glad that other people thought exactly what I was thinking…your mom is ABSOLUTELY waiting for you to offer to fly out to her with the baby. She’s stressing her fear, blah blah blah and her hurt feelings so that you will feel guilty enough to say then you’ll come to her instead. Not to mention putting additional stress on you so late in your pregnancy totally sucks. SEL-FISH. I’m with Amy, don’t give in. Put your foot down right now that your priority is to do what’s best for your family (and that means you, your husband… Read more »

Shan
Guest
Shan

I totally support the decision to wait until they move to see fam. BUT! Is it really the worst idea to consider flying down with the newborn (assuming OP wants to & could afford it)? Newborns are so easy on a plane at that age! You just nurse them & they sleep. It’s much harder to fly with older infants & toddlers. If OP is home alone a lot due to her husband’s travels, she might enjoy visiting family for a bit.

Kate
Guest
Kate

It’s not safe for the baby who would be all but completely unvaccinated and flying at the height of communicable disease season. As I stated above you’re not even supposed to take newborns out “In public” for the first 6 weeks; let alone fly on a plane. 

leslie
Guest
leslie

While I understand why people would be hesitant to have her take the baby on a plane during the winter (overkill IMHO, but ok), telling expectant mothers they can’t take their baby out in public for SIX WEEKS is just crazy. What are they supposed to do, hide inside for six weeks? As if being a new mom isn’t isolating enough. No, just no. Moms…take your kids out. It’s ok! They will be ok. If you’re really scared about germs, make sure people wash their hands before touching the baby, but please, please don’t feel like you have to stay… Read more »

Elle
Guest
Elle

OP’s husband isn’t gone frequently traveling, that is OP’s FIL. I think it’s a horrible, terrible idea for OP to leave her husband and fly up to the midwest in the middle of winter (hello flu and whooping cough that baby is definitely not vaccinated for and freezing cold) by herself with a newborn.

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BeeBelle
Guest
BeeBelle

I felt bad memories burbling up just from reading this. I was across the country with my firstborn. My mother offered to (and did) come out the first week after baby was born. She cleaned everything, went grocery shopping and made dinner every night plus some for the freezer, and was able to hold the baby pretty much when she fetched her for me to feed. I slept when baby napped. It was awesome. MIL and I had a rocky relationship so I asked her to wait a month. FIL called DH to chew him out for this and hugely… Read more »

France
Guest
France

“Dear Mom,  I would love for you to come and meet the baby when she’s born! Please, do get on a plane/bus/wagon and come stay with us for a few days [after all, OP did say she’d be happy to have her mom, just that there didn’t seem to be an easy way].  You can’t? Oh well that’s a shame, I’ll really miss you, but don’t worry, we’ll be back in no time and you will be our first scheduled visit when we do. In the meantime, we will Skype every hour/day/week.” THE END Ok, so maybe not quite THE… Read more »

S
Guest
S

Totally been there with this. My mom and mil had difficulty with sharing time. They both wanted to be given the special “I am a grandma”attention during the first days of my sons life when he was very ill. My mom also has a fear of flying and wants all plans to accommodate this. Something also to consider, my kids both deliveries were c sections. Both kids were sick. Drs did not want us traveling far from the dr office. I didn’t even drive for six weeks. My husband had a generic “the kids and wife are getting better we… Read more »