Tips for a Mother-In-Law about to become a Grandmother for the first time:
(Ladies: Have your Husband email this to his mother! See email link below)
Dear Mom/Mother-In-Law/Grandma to be:
You have successfully raised your own children and are excited to be a grandmother. You know what you are doing and you want to help. Just be careful to remember that this blessed event isn’t about you as a new Grandmother, it is about the new Mom and Baby (and OK the Daddy). While they need help, they also need space. They need time to bond, to establish their own routines and to gain confidence as parents.
Try to remember what it was like for you as a new mom – the exhaustion, the hormones, how vulnerable you felt. New moms are faced with an overwhelming amount of often contradictory advice from mothers, in-laws, sisters, friends, doctors and parenting books.
How did you feel when your Mother-In-Law visited for the birth of your children? What would you have liked her to do differently?
In sum, the best thing you can do is to offer help, bite your tongue, and wait until you are asked.
Some (but few!) new Moms are quite relaxed and want their MIL to participate heavily. But, better to err on the side of caution and follow these hints:
- Do not expect (nor ask) to be invited into the labor room, it is a private moment and many don’t feel comfortable sharing it with their Mother-In-Law. Your Daughter-In-Law might want her own mother in the room, and while this seems unfair, you need to respect her wishes during what is an emotionally charged time
- If you live out of town, do not assume you are invited to visit at the time of the birth. This can be a stressful time, and the added pressure of out of town guests can be too much for a new Mom to bear. Your Daughter-In-Law may feel tremendous pressure to clean the house for you, when all she wants to do is take a nap and perhaps cry in a hormonal meltdown!
- Offer to visit whenever it is convenient for the new parents. Tell them you would love to be there for the birth, but that you would understand if they would prefer you to wait a few weeks or even months.
- Offer to stay at a hotel, friend or relatives’ house. Do not assume that there is room for you at their home. Do not offer to stay on the couch or floor, as new moms often need their living room at 3am
- Unless you are specifically asked to stick around longer to help with the newborn, offer to keep your first visit short (e.g. a long weekend) and agree to come back for a longer visit after things have settled down
All of this remains true even if the other Grandmother is attending the birth. Most, but not all, women feel more comfortable with their Mothers than their Mother-In-Law. Do not expect equal access. This is unfortunate, but a fact of life for most MILs. If you are lucky enough to have a daughter, perhaps you will have more access to the birth of her children.
- It is OK to offer to get up in the middle of the night with the baby, but don’t be offended if the new Mom doesn’t want you to. She is likely awake anyway if breastfeeding, and may not want to make small talk with her MIL in the middle of the night when she is exhausted. Try not to be offended – we know you are offering to help
- Never feed a newborn without specific permission. Mom is likely trying to establish her breastfeeding milk supply and/or get the baby on a schedule. This makes new Moms crazy!
- Know that nearly everything has changed since you had your babies. Current Doctors’ advice will directly contradict what you did with your newborns decades ago. This included breastfeeding v. bottle feeding, sleeping on backs instead of tummies, pacifiers, sleep schedules, when to begin solid foods etc. While it worked for you, recognize that it is extremely hard for a new Mom to go against her doctor’s orders.
- By all means, offer to look after the baby so the new Mom can take a nap, shower or grab a bite to eat
- Clean, shop for groceries, cook and do laundry. Do not wait to be asked, as your Daughter-In-Law may feel uncomfortable asking you to do housework
- Offer to baby-sit while the new Mom and Dad go out for a quick bite between feeds
No one wants to be a despised Mother-In-Law. A good rule of thumb is to never offer the same piece of advice more than once. We know it is hard, but try to bite your tongue as much as you can – it will be appreciated. Remember, you are setting the precedent for a lifelong relationship with your grandchild and daughter-in-law.