Welcome to the world of parenting–you may have just found out you’re expecting your first baby, or maybe you’ve just welcomed them into the world and are truly obsessed with every little inch of them. You may have noticed that there’s a lot of opinions and judgment coming your way since becoming a parent; and it’s probably coming from your family. You’ve probably felt flustered, anxious, upset, and even put down by those close to you, and let’s be honest, it can feel awful. So how do you handle overbearing family members as a new parent? We are here to help you find balance and help coping so you can get back to enjoying that new baby of yours!
It’s very natural to look to our elders for guidance because they are older and have more experience, and also because we value their knowledge. But when we do something different from the way they did it, they can make you feel like either you’re not doing a good job or that your values, decisions, and way of raising your child are flawed.
So much has changed since grandma or your aunt was a new mom, and there is a lot more new information on the things parents face while raising kids. Plus, basic differences of opinion can be a very big factor. Some family members may have a total opposite view on how you should do things; they’re sure that the way you’re doing it is 100% the wrong. Let’s be honest, it is hard enough getting little-to-no sleep, struggling to find the time to shower and look presentable, and worrying about all that your new life with a baby brings; we definitely don’t need that overbearing person breathing down our neck, right?
Here are some tips to try that we hope will help:
Communicate and Set Boundaries
This is a big one. While pregnant, you can tell your family members what plans you have for your child, such as whether or not you will formula feed or breastfeed, whether you will pierce their ears or not, or what sleep training method you plan to try. Sharing things ahead of time can help your family member(s) come to terms with your choices. Remember to set boundaries on what criticism or judgment you are and are not willing to take.
If you just gave birth, communicate what you’re comfortable with and what you’re not. Remember to listen to your body, and that you and your baby should always come first. It’s okay to set boundaries. I used to be afraid of sharing my boundaries because I was afraid of what others would say, but since becoming a parent of three, I’ve found that the more clearly you communicate your expectations and boundaries, the better you will feel and the more likely your expectations will be respected by others.
You Do You
This means that you need to do whatever works for you and your family. Remember, what may have worked for your mom or your sister may not work for you. Parents and babies are all different, and your child and your family should be priority #1. Do what you and your partner are comfortable with.
So many times as we become new parents, we are pushed into thinking there is only one right way to do things, but the truth is that there isn’t always one right way. You get to figure out what works best for you and your baby, and it is important for the people who love you to support you in that.
Be Kind and Open
Something that I’m learning is to pick your battles. And think hard about what topics are worth being upset over and which ones you’re okay to just let roll off your back. This is definitely easier said than done, but a little patience and kindness can pay big dividends.
Also take note: there are so many ways to do things in parenting that it’s important to open yourself up to different ideas. Who knows, maybe your grandma’s advice can actually help you or baby? And if you have something you’re firm in doing, politely let them know that your mind is made up, but thank them for sharing and being willing to help.
Know that you can always say, “Thanks, I may try that!” and not actually end up doing it. It just lets them know you care and are being kind, but in your home you can continue doing what you think is best. TheBump puts it well: “Keep in mind that you’re looking for peace and respect, not revenge.”
Work as a Team
You and your partner should present a united front when it comes to decisions you make for your family. If an overbearing advice-giver comes from your partner’s side of the family, consider letting your partner take the lead on communicating your choices/boundaries with them. Sometimes (though not always, thankfully) that family member may be more agreeable if the correction is coming from someone they’re already close with.
Let Them Be Involved
Remember, they just want to help. If you’re disagreeing on how to approach a certain task, let them be involved in something else–something on which you can agree. Maybe you don’t need their opinion on how to bathe the baby, so offer to let them hold, play with, or feed the baby instead.
Remember to Say Thank You
This isn’t much of a tip, but it’s something that can seriously help with the relationship. If the advice given has worked, then always thank them. Not all the advice they share may work, but as you’re thanking them for their input, it can not only help them feel valued but also can help them learn to respect you and your decisions. A little bit of gratitude can help you both feel better.
Call Out Rude/Disrespectful Behavior
If you’ve already tried to aim for peace and politely shut down what doesn’t work for you and were met with harsh criticism, judgement, or a disrespectful response, it’s probably time for you to (politely) share how you feel. Let them know how you are feeling and what you expect from them. Recognize that you know they mean well, but that you’re going to go another direction. Remind them that you are your child’s mother and you deserve respect and the freedom to rely on your own best judgement.
For more tips on dealing with overbearing grandparents, read more here.
Hopefully these ideas can help you cope better with well-meaning but overbearing family members as you enter the world of parenting. It can be tough, but as you gain experience and figure out what works for you, you will feel stronger and more self-confident when dealing with pushy people.
Remember that becoming a parent is a joyous new chapter in the lives of you and your partner, and that all those close to you are just as excited about the arrival of the newest family member. Certain things they say or want you do can come off as demanding or rude, but just know that you’re the parent and it’s your child and you know what’s best for them!
What has helped you cope with overbearing family members as a new parent?