August 01, 2008,
C.G. asks from Portland, OR on December 23, 2007
Visits from In-laws: How Often Is Too Often?
My husband's father has been coming over a lot since the birth of our first just over two months ago. I think his visits border on intrusive but don't know how to kindly ask him to back off. The worst part of his visits is that he seems to examine my baby thoroughly, asking if things are "normal" or for explanations on why the baby looks/smells/acts the way he does, etc. This is my first kid so my take on what is happening and what is normal comes from the advice I've received and the books I've read. He's had two kids of his own and has another grandchild born almost two years ago so it's not as if this is the first time he's laid eyes on a baby.
To clarify, my husband's father will call ahead of time but it could be as short a notice as an hour or two. He always asks if it's okay to stop by but I know I certainly feel the pressure to say "yes" not only by him but my husband as well. (I'm getting better at this, though. I just have to be the one to answer the phone.) I'm also breastfeeding our baby and feel extremely uncomfortable doing this in front of certain people, including my father-in-law, which means when he is here I will at some point have to leave the room with the baby. The other grandparents live outside the state and are not constantly dropping by.
My husband thinks the compromise is to have his father over once a weekend but I would prefer once or twice a month. Has anyone else run into this problem? How often is too often?
So What Happened?™
I appreciate all of your comments and suggestions. I didn't realize the great response I'd get when posting the question but now know I can come here and get some truly helpful information. It hasn't been that long but I did get an opportunity when my father-in-law was present to comment on how stressful it can be to have people over. I was able to explain that even if they just come to hold the baby, etc., I feel like the house needs to be completely clean and I need to be presentable, which can add a lot of stress. It isn't always possible to pick up the house or find time to take a shower and style your hair, etc. when you have fussy baby. Not to mention I'm so baby focused right now it's difficult to maintain a conversation and be entertaining. I took the passive-aggressive route by not speaking directly about his visits but I think he got the message. I've also talked to my husband about my need to bond with him during the weekends. Since he's gone working all week long and we only see each other in the evenings, when usually he's working from home or dealing with the dog or we're both playing with the baby, that only leaves the weekends for us to try and reconnect.
P.M. answers from Portland on December 24, 2007
I so agree with Alexia's response. I'm a granny to only one grandchild, and I love him as dearly as I love my daughter. I love being part of his life, and he has gotten pretty fond of me, too. I wonder how I would feel if my son-in-law wanted to restrict my weekly visits. Of course I would comply, but I think my heart would break. And the sense of shame I would feel would be earthshaking - to think I had somehow caused this young father, whom I respect and care for deeply, such discomfort by coming around. I would wonder what I had done wrong, or if it was just ME that was wrong.
Surely you are tired, stressed, and not at your best these days, and so your reaction is understandable. I wonder if you can identify, specifically, what it is that's bothering you about your father-in-law's visits? If he drops in unannounced, wakes the baby, smells bad, whatever, it would be far easier to work on those complaints than to ration his time with his grandbaby.
And do put him to work. Make him your ally! He might be surprised, but I'll bet he'll be grateful. His curiosity about the baby may be exactly that. Men of his generation were far less likely to be involved with the daily care of infants. As he gains more expertise, he may not need to ask so many questions.
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J.M. answers from Seattle on December 23, 2007
How often is too often is when it happens too often for YOUR comfort level. If you would be more comfortable with once or twice per month THAT is often enough. This is your home. Your castle. Your refuge.
A woman with a two month old, with her hormone levels all in flux PLUS dealing with sleep deprivation and a husband who is reluctant to step up to the plate and help make your home a more peaceful place would be enough to drive anyone to distraction.
But. YOU cannot be the one to ask your father-in-law to back off. Your husband has to do this. If your husband won't step up to the plate after you explain that you need his help, then I would suggest that you make certain you have "errands" you need to run with the baby as soon as your father-in-law arrives unannounced. Be polite. Be pleasant. Apologize for having to run out the door and give him the "golly gee whiz, I sure wish you would have given us a call before taking the time to come over, but we have plans -can you come back next Saturday?" before you scoot out the door with the baby.
One way or the other, either your father-in-law or your husband will get the message.
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A.H. answers from Portland on December 24, 2007
I agree with Abra that there isn't a right answer here. That said, let me give you some food for thought, okay? I know you are working on crazy hormones and likely sleep deprivation, not to montion the insanity of having to life your world around this itty bitty (cute) thing, BUT while you deserve all of the kudos in the world for being the mama and all that that entails, **you aren't the only one here who had a baby**. Your husband became a father for the very first time. That's big for him. And HE is somebody's son (your in laws to be exact), and (especially if he is the first of his siblings to have kids) his parents became grandparents. So many grandparents now are realizing they worked their children's babyhood and childhood away (especially the men), or they just MISS it, and being a grandparent open whole new doors and avenues for them to get to have FUN with the new little ones.
How would you feel if one day down the line your little son grows up and he and his wife has a baby and she tells you that you're only allowed to visit a few times a month? Would that not break your heart?
And so what if he asks tons of questions - see it as it is (not as your irrational hormones are telling you - that he is questioning your abilities as a parent) that he is obviously AMAZED by the wonderment that is your new son, and he is CURIOUS about him. Take it as an opportunity to school him on babies, their functions, the basics, etc, and once he's "got" it - LEAVE THE BABY WITH HIM AND GO TAKE A NAP!!!! Use him for every cent of grandparent worth. He obviously wants to be involved, let him. Who's it going to hurt? Might you just benefit? (My husband would like to add - think about it: The more you can get your baby to bond with grandparents NOW, the more likely it is that babysitting will be easy and natural in the future - like 18months from now, where WE are - and you just might get a date night or two out of it) And if he were to get sick tomorrow and die, would you begrudge him these visits? Would you feel ashamed of yourself for trying to keep him away?
I didn't understand my husband's grandfather who did much the same with my daughter. He just wanted to be there, see her as she grew, and I regret FULLY to this day every time I asked my husband to get him to leave, as he is now dead and I can't take it back.
Now, we've moved away and my in laws have never even met my 15 month old son due to it being "inconvenient" for them to travel here. Trust me, I really wish I had your problem. It breaks my heart that they are so hands off.
So anyway, sorry this is so long. I hope you read all of it. You are not a bad person for feeling the way you do, I did once as well. But, hindsight being 20/20 I see now that it isn't hurting anything, and you can actually benefit a great deal from it. I hope that this has changed the way you view your situation. I wish I had had someone to change MY view about my husband's grandfather when my daughter was little - he just wanted to watch her grow up, and I pushed him away! (I AM ashamed, by the way, every time I think about it now, and I've cried through much of this)
Let us know how this goes!
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J.G. answers from Anchorage on December 24, 2007
your husband wants once a weekend??? How often is the granddad coming over?? And is it unannounced? And does he come visit when your husband is gone at work?
Try this: set one night a week you have grandpa over for dinner - so your husband can see/hear what his dad is saying/doing and it takes some of the burden off of you to answer those questions. Or even see if your husband can give you a break one night a week for you to go out with some girlfirends/work out at the club/shopping/whatever, so that you don't have to be there.. have your husband bring baby to grandpa that night. Then maybe have grandpa over to your house once or twice a month. No mention of grandma so I imagine he is lonely and probably proud of his grandchild and wanting to see him as much as possible.
Start by getting on the same page with your husband: "Your father has been coming to visit.. and it is a bit too often for me, could we work out a plan that could allow him to see our son and at the same time allow me more time to get stuff done around the house - I can't get much done if I am entertaining." And remember this is your husband's dad.. so you already are trying to be sensitive to that aspect.. but you should come first for your husband. Explain to him that it bothers you that he asks so much about the baby - that you end up thinking your father in law doesn't think you are a fit mother. Don't use the word feel - using think is very important because these are thoughts not feelings - your husband should come to your defense. Or you could even say "I think he doesn't think WE are good parents." If you present it in a way that your husband would be HELPING you rather than putting him on the defense about his nagging father... then he will be more inclined to help you and come to your defense instead of his dad's.
You have the right word in mind - balance... and work towards becoming a team with your husband in dealing with your father in law. He needs to be able to see his grandson, but you also need balance so you can go on with your everyday activities/responsibilities.
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G.B. answers from Portland on December 26, 2007
I would find out from your husband when he has time to support you while your father in law is going to visit. If you are stressed, then he needs to be there too.
Advice is good only when it's supporting you and not the values of your in-laws. You and your husband are there for your new baby and if either of you are stressed out it may effect your ability to be the loving happy family your baby could benefit from. Meeting the in-laws some where else can help take the stress off waiting on them and what they want. This may be harder to do with a new baby, but it puts you and your husband in the postition to work together in providing care for your baby. Let your in-laws know you two are working it out and decide when it's the right time to pass the baby over for show etc. This is good practice because your in-laws are not the only people that will want to see the baby. Now is the time for you and your husband to decide what works for you both and consider what is going to help the baby out the most because they grow up so fast.
It's always a good idea to make time for yourself by taking a nice bath, burning a candle, or having a chat with a girlfriend. It makes the day go a little easier when you feel refreshed.
Congrats,take care of yourself!
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M.D. answers from Portland on December 24, 2007
Oh man - can I relate to this one. I had a child who would only sleep for one hour at a time, was colicky, constantly needed to be stimulated, etc. On top of this I had in-laws who also wanted to be over all of the time. They would make comments like "why is his diaper on so tight," "why won't he sleep?" etc. At a time when you are sleep deprived, stressed out, trying to be the best mom that you can....snoopy and judgemental in-laws are the last thing that you need. In retrospect, I wish I would have been very blunt with them and said "listen - I know that you are interested in getting to know your grandchild, but I need some time to adjust to our new baby as well. I need time to sleep, and I need to be free from criticism. I know that you're curious about different things about the baby, but the comments come off as judgemental and make me feel like I'm not doing an adequate job as a mom. If I am going to be a good mom, I have to first take care of myself, and that will mean reducing visits from family and friends for a while. Can we work out a schedule where you come one or two times a month?" Let him know that you understand that he means well but that you are very fragile right now and need to take care of yourself. You are doing the most important job in the world and you need to be at your best - without stress, judgement, or having prepare for company. Just take this time to enjoy your child as much as you can. Your husband might want you to temper your statements to his father somewhat, but the bottom line is that you need to be honest and direct...many times people don't realize what they're doing, although they should. Hugs to you!
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K.C. answers from Portland on December 26, 2007
I think that talking about it and recognizing what your needs are is by far the most important part. BUT... just remember to not drive your in-laws too far away. Your journey with this brand new baby is just starting. 5 years from now, your bonding time with your husband may depend on using your father-in-law as entertainment for your busy little child. Encourage the relationship AND get used to setting limits. Our attitudes and interactions as early parents set the tone for our child's relationships with extended family as they become older children and even into adulthood. This is all a normal part of healthy parenting and a healthy marriage. With all the good and bad, Welcome to motherhood :)
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A.H. answers from Portland on December 23, 2007
I'm not sure there is a "right" answer here. This sort of question is going to vary so much from family-to-family that it's hard to give a generic answer. I personally would have my in-laws over every weekend, but my best friend would have hers over once a year. I would say that 2 times a month sounds fair, but you'll need to agree on that with your husband and have him talk to his father about it. It's quite likely that your father-in-law will stop coming so much as the baby gets a little older. Did he have a child pass away? Sometimes there are reasons for people's personalities, it might come off wrong, but they mean the best. Good luck with this.
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