Your baby has arrived, and so has the family! So you’re expecting a new baby, and relatives from out of town! To some that may sound like bliss to others, chaos. Whether you are closer than peas in a pod to your family or not, having them come for an extended visit coinciding with the arrival of your newborn can be trying. As a Midwife to many expat and urban couples I’ve helped them find the right balance between keeping family happy and focusing on their own needs as a new family as well.
So how do you handle this delicately so everyone ends up happy?
Living abroad or a distance from your family changes the dynamic of visits. Instead of coming for a few hours to help out, visits tend to last at least a week. So before you extend an invitation to have relatives present for the birth or visiting right after, think about the logistics. While it would be great to have an extra hand or two helping out when you get back from hospital it also means a few extra bodies around the house. And during the first few weeks of nighttime feedings, sporadic schedules and the stress of having a new baby, for many it may not be an ideal time. It very much depends on how you feel about it and how comfortable you are with setting boundaries. Weigh the pros and cons, talk things through as a couple and then decide what you think is best for you and your family.
The idea of not having your Mother or other close relative present for the birth of your baby or shortly after may seem inconceivable, especially if you are close. And the idea may be even more ridiculous to your relative. Feelings can get hurt if not handled delicately and thought out beforehand. But there are many legitimate reasons for not wanting family around too soon that have nothing to do with them and everything to do with you. They may include:
1. The birth of your first child- Most couples need a few weeks to regain energy and learn the ropes before they welcome the extra in-house help.
It’s equally as important for the couple to have a few weeks on their own to find their new rhythm as parents.
2. Personality type- Some people get energy from having others around, others get drained. If this is you it’s wise to delay the overnight visitors for a few weeks.
3. You live in a small space- Babies take up a lot of room and having visitors in the house can exacerbate the feeling of living on top of one another.
4. Your partner has paternity leave- Some couples relish the fact it’s just the two of them with their new family and enjoy the time alone.
5. You’re training hired help- One set of directions is best; having your relatives put in their two cents will only confuse the matter.
If you decide to take a few weeks before opening your doors, make this clear to relatives well before the birth. Best not to spring it on them at the last second leading them to believe they were going to be visiting for the birth all along.
Like I said the right time may be before the birth for some and well after for others. It’s a very individual decision based on individual personalities and situations. However the needs of the new Mama and baby should be put at the forefront. A relative’s demands, or convenient travel times should not trump a Mama’s wishes and needs. She needs time to recover physically and the couple needs to get in a good place mentally. If you feel that having family stay over could help, then go for it. But if the thought makes you feel stressed then I would advise waiting 2-3 weeks. A middle of the road solution, although it can get costly, would be to arrange alternative accommodation. This way you’ll benefit from having the extra help while maintaining your own space.
“I couldn’t bare the idea of not having my Mum around for the birth of my firstborn, but living in Hong Kong in a one bedroom flat didn’t exactly work. Luckily friends were going out of town and offered their flat to my Mum for 2 weeks. It was the best of both worlds really” Nicole Mama to 3-Casey, Erin and Tara.
When the time is right and you do welcome overnight family remember it comes with its benefits as well as its challenges. But there are ways to make it all work for everyone involved. Here are a few tips to make the most of your visitors:
1. As a couple make a list of the pros and cons of having family stay
2. Make a to do list so that everyone has a role
3. If you are already outsourcing help such as a nanny or housekeeper, make your relatives aware of the hired help’s roles so as to not step on toes and waste time
4. Set boundaries- Welcome advice but don’t let “Grandma’s Way” dictate your way. Some advice givers will overstep, find a gentle way to let them know you appreciate the advice but got it covered
5. Give the relatives a break- Remember it’s hard work for them too. Send them out for the day or evening and give them a breather.
6. Being in someone else’s home can also be a bit trying for visitors
7. Take advantage of the time- Don’t helicopter over them as they tend to your baby. Get done what you need to or take a much-needed rest.
8. Remember you just had a baby– Even though you have visitors, daily outings and tourist trips are not the point of the visit. Take it easy, one day at a time.
At the end of the day, having family that’s eager to visit and help out is a blessing. Plan ahead, be honest with your needs and open your doors only when you feel ready. Then and only then will you truly enjoy the love and support that family can bring.
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