Ryan Shepard
About Author
June 21, 2022

How To Set Boundaries With Your In-Laws When You Bring A Baby Home

Bringing your baby home from the hospital is an emotional experience. You've just welcomed this new little human into the world, your body has gone through trauma-- even if you had the most beautiful delivery ever--and you're now a mama. The world looks different. Things you never noticed before, like people standing too closely or smoking or playing music too loud now has the ability to completely set you off if you feel like it will negatively impact your baby.

Even under the best of circumstances, with dream in-laws, there are bound to be some bumps in the road as you settle into your new role as a mother and they enter into their role as the grandparents of your child. In my own case, Shep and I decided that it was important that both of sets of our parents felt included and had access to their new grandchild.

Obviously everyone's relationships with their in-laws is completely different. I got lucky and have truly wonderful in-laws but I know that sadly, this is the exception and not the rule. That being said, I also know what it's like to be raised in a family where my mother and her mother-in-law (my dad's mom) weren't close at all and that impacted my relationship, or lack thereof, with her.

Of course there are circumstances where in-laws should be kept away from your child but more often than not, it doesn't benefit the kid to lose out of a relationship with half of their family because you can't stand your partner's parents. I truly hope you find this advice useful but overall, what I want you walk away with is this:

This is your baby and you get to set any boundaries that you feel protect both you and your child. Period.

+ Meet Your Own Needs First

After carrying a human being in your body for months and then going through the process of bringing it into this world safely, your body has been through a lot. Whether you've given birth vaginally or via c-section, what you go through to become a mother is a big ass deal. There are so many emotions and so many new changes that take place when they put that baby in your arms. You're a new person and it will take a long time to figure out and accept this new version of you.

You won't truly understand what kind of support you'll need until you're on the other side of delivery. What sounded like a good idea before you had a baby, might be overwhelming for you now and that's okay. Maybe before you had your baby, you thought you wanted your entire family back at your home waiting to meet your little one, but now the idea of those many people breathing on your child makes panic. It is okay to change your mind and for your boundaries to shift during this season.

Meet yourself where you're at postpartum and give yourself grace. During this period of time, you don't need to show up for anyone but yourself and your baby.  Everyone else can deal.

+Set Expectations From The Beginning

In as much as possible, try to set expectations from the beginning. Here the old adage "under promise, over deliver" works. Before we welcomed Nola, I decided that a house full of people sitting around my home all day while I was recovering from birth and figuring out how to take care of an infant wasn't an experience I wanted. So, when I was about five months pregnant, I called up my in-laws and let them know that I'd prefer that they stay somewhere else. They were happy to do so.

Another thing was telling my mom in advance that she wouldn't be able to be in the delivery room with us. That is an experience she and I both wanted but it wasn't one that my husband wanted to share. We made sure to tell her well before Nola's birth that it would just be Shep and I in the hospital. I'm not saying it was an easy conversation, but it saved us a lot of tension in the end and I'm so happy we talked about it when we did.

Have the uncomfortable conversations now. You don't want your in-laws at your house until two weeks after you've brought home baby? Tell them as early as possible.

Early communication can save you a lot of hurt feelings later on.

+A Little Honey Goes A Long Way (Butter Them Up)

To that end, a little honey really goes a long way. If you feel up to it (and are able to do it) try to take your in-laws out to dinner or lunch and tell them what you want face-to-face. Stress how important they are in your life and the life of their future grandchild, but ask them to extend you a bit of grace as you and your partner become a family and embrace new roles.

Ask them how they invision meeting their grandchild and how they'd like to be permitted to show up and see if there is any room to give on your end if your vision and theirs are wildly different.

+Don't Be Afraid To Make Your Partner The Bad Cop

If you find that the above strategy doesn't work for you, don't be afraid to make your partner the bad cop. If your in-laws are truly unreasonable or just consistently overstep, have your partner serve as the go-between and chief boundary setter.

You father-in-law is upset that you don't want him in the delivery room recording his grandchild being born out of your vagina? Have your partner assure him that the idea of him not being there is your husband/wife's idea. You are growing a child, focus on that. Encourage (and empower) your partner to handle their parents, you've got bigger things to do.

+Implement Healthy Schedules

One thing that worked for me was setting a schedule for my in-laws to come over once Nola was home. I asked them to arrive no earlier than 10 am and to leave no later than 6pm. That may sound bitchy to you, but I knew myself enough to know that that's what would work best for me. I couldn't imagine having to brush my teeth and entertain other people before the morning was half over. Also, I knew that as we entered into the late afternoon/evening, I wanted to try to go to bed with my baby and I wanted my home quiet and serene.

It's okay for you to let folks know that 7 am is too early for them to be knocking on your door asking to see your baby.

+Play To Their Strengths

If your mother-in-law tends to be an overbearing know-it-all, put her in charge preparing breakfast or washing and organizing the babies laundry or even changing all of the baby's diapers if you're comfortable with that. The point is to channel whatever behavior of theirs you find irritating and funnel it into something that benefits you and makes them feel useful.

My father-in-law is what we lovingly call a "tinkerer." He the kind of guy that notices when the gutters are full of leaves or a door hinge isn't operating the way it should and he just...fixes it. There have definitely been times when I've felt that he overstepped and he felt that I wasn't grateful for his hard work.

When we brought Nola home, I made sure he had all the tinkering jobs he could handle. I ordered wall paper and asked him to put it up in the powder room. I had him mount our t.v.'s and hide the cables in the wall. He even built the garden boxes in our backyard.

In the end, he felt needed, appreciated and useful and I got a lot of the items on my to-do list done for free. Win. Win.

+Remember This is Their Grandchild Too

At the end of the day, you have to decide which hill you want to die on. By that I mean, you need to decide what kind of relationship you want your child to have with their grandparents and do whatever you can to lay the foundation for that from the beginning.

In-laws can drive you nuts, even the best of them, but you're going to have to learn to eat the small stuff. It really doesn't matter if your partner's parents don't put the baby's diaper on the exact way you would do it. Trust me when I say from experience, it's not the end of the world.

Set your boundaries, demand your respect and then try hard to let the rest of it go. If your kid is inheriting grandparents that are excited for their arrival, loving and willing to be a part of the village that helps raise your little ones, try to keep that in perspective as often as you possibly can.

This is a new journey for them too. They've never been grandparents to your child before and the grace you ask for from them should be the same you extend back to them when they inevitably piss you off.

You've got this mama.

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