For many grandparents to be, nothing is more exciting than the birth of a new baby. They can’t wait to meet this new little human. They count down the days just like parents to be. They daydream about who this person will be and the relationship they want to have. They even decide what they want to be called. Let’s face it, they’re stoked and want to be involved as much as we will let them. Sometimes, this is more than we can handle.
As excited as everyone was to meet my babies, the last thing I wanted to do right after I’d given birth to my children was to hand off my baby before we even had time to bond. I understand wanting and craving those snuggles, because we’ve been waiting 9 months for them, but those are moments we don’t get back.
Grandparents, we know you mean well and we love you for it, but this is our time to figure things out. The first few months after having a baby can be tough and it’s a big transition for our family, but we have to figure it out. After all, we are going to be these babies’ parents forever.
I was lucky. My family members respected our wishes and were helpful in the ways we needed them to be at the time, but it’s not that way for everyone and it can be really difficult to say how you feel. You appreciate the help but it can be too much or maybe not quite in line with your parenting ideas/styles. Maybe you’re relationship is strained. Enter Penny Simkin and her “Letter to Grandparents.” Originally published in her book Pregnancy, Childbirth, & the Newborn, it’s a great reference to have on standby in case you find yourself needing it to share it with your loved ones.
Hang in there! You’ve got this!
A Letter to Grandparents
Dear Grandparents (and other family members),
Congratulations on the birth of your new grandchild! This birth marks the continuation of your family into a new generation. Your support and love can ease your own child’s transition into parenthood.
If your children invite you to come and help, recognize it as an honor. Ask them what you may do to help. Do they want you to prepare meals, do laundry, shop and keep the house clean? You will work hard, sleep little, and leave tired and appreciated. But please avoid the mistakes that some new grandparents make – monopolizing the baby, criticizing the parent’s decisions and actions, and giving unwanted, out of date, or opinionated advice. Of course, if they ask you for advice, feel free to give it, or to check the books in areas where you are uncertain.
What your grandchild needs most from you is your nurturing support of his or her parents. The parents need you to support and honor their thoughtful decisions about parenting and their style of parenting, even if they are different from yours. Ask to read the same books they are reading on newborn care and feeding. They need you to support them as they learn about and care for their new baby.
They need to hear from you that you think they are wonderful parents, and the very best parents your grandchild could have . They need to hear from you that parenthood is always challenging and tiring and at the same time, one of the most important and rewarding things they will ever do. Let them know you have confidence in them.
If your relationship with them is strained or difficult, think of what you can and cannot do to support this new family. If being with them is too difficult for you or for them, your presence might worsen your relationship and make their adjustment to parenthood more difficult. Instead of visiting them right away, you could send help in the form of a postpartum doula, diaper service, meals, or presence of another family member. Reaching out in this way could go a long way in healing the relationship between you.
They need you to be gentle with your expectations of them and forgiving if they forget to thank you for your presence and your gifts. Memories are made in these first weeks following birth – ones that are never forgotten. Your children will always remember your unconditional love and acceptance.
With best wishes for joyful grandparenting,
Cristina Evans is a Mother of 3, Wife, & Birth Doula