We just had a new baby. Is a daily video and three visits a week too much?
Our elder has some advice for a letter writer who needs to set a few boundaries with his mom.
My girlfriend gave birth recently to our first perfect baby boy. We love each other very much but have only been together for a year and a half. We bought a house together and for all intents and purposes we are married. The issue we are coming up against is that she believes my mother is inserting herself a little too much into our lives. My mother wants pictures and videos of the little guy daily (which she asks me for) and sees him one to three times a week. Sometimes they come up (she asks me) or we go there on Sundays which is about half an hour away. My mother also wants to babysit or take him for the night. He is only five weeks old and she understands that we don’t want to part with him quite yet and we’ve told her that, but she’s brought it up multiple times. My girlfriend is concerned that if we leave the baby with them to babysit my mother will do things with him that are ‘firsts’ and we won’t have the chance to do it. Also, the increase in visits and calls get on her nerves because it wasn’t like that before the baby. Her parents are only about a four-minute drive away and she has a very close relationship but they seem to give us more space. She and her mother speak every day, but they don’t ask for the pictures or all the visits and seem to let us decide when is good. She doesn’t want to feel bad leaving the baby with them for the first time. Looking for some advice because I think one to two visits a week isn’t over the top but also understand where my girlfriend is coming from and that she wants to start our own life. Please help.
This is a tricky situation, but it is manageable if you set boundaries now. You need to have a calm, but firm conversation with your mother. Don’t leave it for your girlfriend to do, as it will be a huge problem later between your mother and your girlfriend. Be kind, but firm.
Five weeks is extremely young for overnights with grandparents. If your girlfriend is breastfeeding (and you didn’t mention that), that complicates things even more. That can be uncomfortable for both mother and baby.
I have 12 grandchildren ranging in age from 29 years to 10 months. Included in that number are my stepson’s stepson, stepdaughter, and daughter, and my oldest daughter’s two adopted children. So, I’ve had a lot of experience in grandparenting. Each set of parents has their own rules and their own way of doing things. I respect their wishes, their lifestyles, and their rules. As a result, my husband and I have a good relationship with all of them.
Your mother needs to respect your girlfriend’s wishes and back off a bit. Babies are sweet and wonderful, and we all want to hold and hug. However, your girlfriend needs time to be a mother. Frankly, there is no way I would insert myself in my children’s family life even once a week. I have let my kids know that I am here for them when they need me. We try to have a family meal (for the locals) about every two months. When they need a babysitter, they call me. I keep in touch with them all on Facebook and through family email. My oldest daughter lives 8 hours away, so she calls me probably once a week as she is commuting home from work (hands free device). Occasionally, we Skype with her family. We go for a week-long visit about twice a year. When I need work done on my house that my husband and I can no longer do, or when I have computer problems, I call my very handy son-in-law. He is a stay-at-home dad right now, so he brings the kids with him, and I get time with the kids while he solves my problem.
We attend special events for our grandchildren; baby blessings for christenings, baptisms, etc. For the locals, we attend dance recitals, piano recitals, ball games, etc. We take the local grandchildren to plays and concerts occasionally.
The best thing we do as grandparents is to hold “Granny Camp” one week in the summer. All my grandchildren participate except the three adult grandchildren. We do crafts, games, field trips, a backyard camp out (Granny is too old to sleep on the ground anymore, so I pull my recliner out in the backyard), tell family history stories, do skits, do one-on-one “grandparent interviews” with the kids, etc. This has brought our family closer together, and the kids love it! Granny and Grandpa get lots of quality time with the grandchildren, and the cousins get a chance to build lasting relationships. (It also has brought my children and their spouses closer together.)
Gently let your mother know that there will be lots of time for her to be a grandmother, but right now you and your girlfriend need some time and a little space to build your family. Now, speaking of building a family, marry her. Don’t save for a big wedding – that money is better spent on things your child will need, and for providing food and shelter for your family. You have a child together, so what’s holding you back? Children have a divine right to a married mother and father who love each other, and who love them. Have a small family gathering and make this a real family.
When you speak to your mother, make sure it is in a quiet setting; don’t do it in anger. Having important conversations when someone is hungry and grumpy is not good either. I’ve kept my marriage together for almost 42 years by feeding my husband first and then having the difficult conversations. It works for all relationships. Be ready with some positive suggestions as to when and how your mother can be with the baby and bond. Maybe suggest a family dinner every two weeks. Make sure you explain that there will be no overnights for the baby until both you and the baby’s mother feel comfortable with that, and that you will let her know when you are ready.
The most important thing here is not to throw your girlfriend under the bus. You said that for all intents and purposes you are married, and couples need to stick together and support each other. Your mother needs to know that this isn’t your girlfriend’s decision, but your decision as a couple. Use “we,” not “she” in your discussions. Maybe even tell her about “Granny Camp,” and tell her that you would love for her to do that when your baby gets older. Give her something to look forward to doing. (If you want more information on that, let me know. I have a ton of ideas. Actually, I wrote an article about it recently.)
I hope that’s helpful. Good luck in establishing boundaries. The sooner you do this, the better. Your little family needs some privacy.
Article #: 426992