Setting Boundaries: Dealing with In-Laws When You Have a Baby

Setting Boundaries: Dealing with In-Laws When You Have a Baby

Don’t let in-laws rain on yours (and baby’s) parade!

It’s time to buckle up and set some boundaries with those well-meaning but sometimes overbearing in-laws.

We’re here to help you navigate this delicate dance of diplomacy with humor, grace, and the occasional eye roll

It’s time to put the ‘fun’ in dysfunction.

Along with diaper changes, spit up, and the infamous sleepless nights, dealing with in-laws when you have a baby can be an, um, interesting part of new motherhood.

You may find that your in-laws have strong opinions on everything from breastfeeding to sleep training to clothing choices.

As for keeping visiting hours, well, not all grandparents have this skill on their resume.

All of this can leave you feeling like you just can’t catch a moment when you and your family are alone together.

Some issues may crop up before your baby is even born.

You can feel under scrutiny about everything from how you deal with your pregnancy to your choice of birth preferences.

And through all this, there’s the pressure to be cautious about getting your partner trapped in the middle.

Yep, setting boundaries with in-laws after you have a baby is a tricky one.

But there’s good news here.

It is possible to have a lot of appreciation for them and their role in your life while looking after your own well-being and that of your family.

And the first step is to set healthy boundaries.

In this article: 📝

  • What do we mean by boundaries?
  • How do you set boundaries with family when you have a baby?

What do we mean by boundaries?

In psychology, the concept of setting healthy boundaries is about knowing where you and your needs end and a relationship begins.

According to psychologist Dr. Danit Nitka, setting boundaries means “taking responsibility for your own actions and emotions, and NOT taking responsibility for the actions and emotions of others.”

Of course, this can be a real challenge, particularly when you’ve been taught to prioritize the well-being of other people.

But clearly communicating where the lines are can be the basis for a good relationship.

When it comes to your in-laws, your impulse might be to ensure everyone feels included and appreciated.

But setting boundaries doesn’t mean that your in-laws are any less important in your family’s life.

It just means that there’s a line between where their involvement ends and your family’s choices begin.

Provided you are making decisions that prioritize the health and well-being of your child, you get to choose how to parent.

This is (quite literally) your baby.

And while support from your community is incredibly valuable, you are the one in control.

Being a single mother creates its own specific set of challenges when it comes to dealing with the family of the other parent.

And it’s particularly important to look after your own well-being here.

It’s only your responsibility to maintain a relationship with the other parent’s family if it’s healthy for you and your children.

While kids are quite resilient when it comes to bouncing back, high levels of parental conflict can put them more at risk of developing mental health issues and can lead to social and behavioral challenges.

And if the families on either side are involved?

Well, there’s potential for the conflict to be heightened.

So boundary-setting is vital here too, both for you and your kids.

But while this may all sound great in theory, setting boundaries is not always easy, particularly if you’re used to making sure that the needs of everyone around you are met.

How do you set boundaries with family when you have a baby?

Don’t worry ‒ we’re not going to leave you hanging.

Here are our top tips.

1. Clearly define the expectations you have of yourself.

Hard truth, but making effective boundaries with others requires a healthy dose of self-awareness.

Do a deep dive into what you are comfortable with and in what contexts.

For example, it may be important to you that your in-laws stick to the feeding schedule you’ve put in place when they’re looking after your new baby.

Or you may want them to give you Sunday afternoons on your own with your new little family.

You may want (or not want) to get tips from your mother-in-law on all things new mamahood, including how to feed and change the newest member of your household and when it’s important to take them to the doctor when they’re sick.

Journaling can be a very effective tool for clarifying your own thoughts about these issues.

As can speaking to a trained counselor about where you’re at.

2. Talk to your partner first.

Before communicating with your in-laws, it’s important that you and your partner are on the same page about the boundaries you want to have as new parents.

It’s normal for there to be some negotiation in this, but don’t forego your own needs for the sake of others’ comfort.

It’s important to remember that new mamahood is hard, and while support from family members is super valuable, you also need the space and confidence to do it your own way.

3. Do it all with love.

Yep, even the unsolicited advice about how to calm your crying baby is often coming from a place of love and not judgment.

More often than not, in-laws are just looking for the best for their grandchildren rather than trying to find fault in you.

So talking calmly and kindly and trying to keep any resentment at bay can go a long way to finding points of connection.

That being said, know that in some cases, even the kindest of communication styles can be met with hostility.

You just can’t control how other people will respond.

But you can control how you respond.

And the more calm, collection, and clarity you bring to the equation, the better.

We didn’t say this would always be easy, but the goal is not to shut out your in-laws.

Rather, it’s to practice self-care and cultivate confidence and agency as a parent.

4. Don’t leave room for interpretation.

This can be a tricky one, but once you have decided on what your boundaries are, it’s important to communicate them as clearly and straightforwardly as possible.

One important tip here is to keep things positive.

By that, we mean to tell them what you want, rather than what you don’t want.

Rather than telling them to stop coming over unannounced, tell them when you are available to have visitors and ask them to call before they come to check that it’s a good time.

It can help to explain your reasons as to why they can’t visit at a particular time.

And not wanting to disturb a nap (either your own or your baby’s) is a perfectly legitimate one.

5. Consider setting boundaries before you have a baby.

If you’re still in the TTC phase of your journey or are currently pregnant, figuring out some of this stuff ahead of time can go a really long way.

Again, talk to your partner first about your desires and priorities.

(We’ve put together a list of questions to ask before you have a baby to help you and your partner navigate some of the Big Deal issues before they arise.)

And then talk to your in-laws.

It may be good to preface the discussion with the fact that things very well may change once your baby arrives on the scene ‒ you just don’t know for sure how things are really going to feel.

Tell them that if you do want to go in a different direction with any of the issues you’ve discussed, you promise to keep the lines of communication open.

6. Know that things might get uncomfortable ‒ and that’s OK.

While conflict is not always fun, sometimes it’s necessary to sit in discomfort rather than try and make it go away.

It can be really tempting to just give in because you don’t want to get into an argument or make things difficult for others ‒ particularly when you’re sleep-deprived and stressed.

But in many cases, this may only mean that you’re depriving yourself of your own needs.

7. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help.

Seeing a counselor for individual therapy sessions can help you clarify your priorities and practice communicating them.

If you are struggling to resolve any conflicts yourselves, family counseling can also be really beneficial.

It’s been shown to effectively reduce conflict within families, improve communication, and enhance parenting practices.

This type of counseling might be an option for you and your partner or something to include the whole family in.

We know this can be tough.

Your Peanut community is here for you, whether you need to vent, cry, or communicate how very well your boundary-setting conversation went!

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