Advice for New Grandmas
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information on baby care (for instance I have learned that babies sleep on their back nowadays) in order not to be out of date with my baby knowledge.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.
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.
Five Ways You Can Help the New Parents
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 handle 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.
Five Things You Should Not Do
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 they 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 and ask if they want your help before swooping in to take the baby or help with dinner. 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 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 counter tops.
Photo source: Flickr/ ScottieT812