The presence of willing and able grandmothers, aunts, and cousins -- once almost universally available to give generously of their time, material wealth, and advice to new parents -- has become increasingly rare. Today these family members are apt to live across the country or to be fully occupied with their own leisure or business commitments. Whether or not you see the grandparents often, you'll quickly learn that there is a new dynamic in your relationship. In this section, you'll read about how your relationship with your parents and parents-in-law may change, how to reconcile two generations' child-rearing ideas, and how to deal with unwanted advice.
Grandma's relationship with the baby.
A grandmother who does live near you and wants to be involved in the care of your baby can be a help or a hindrance, depending upon her common sense and personality and upon your own attitude toward her interest. If she is critical of your efforts at housekeeping or baby care, plays the martyr, or refuses to consider the possibility that any way but hers is the right way to do anything, you won't be overjoyed to see her coming. But if she gives advice only when you ask for it, accepts you as you are, and is willing to help you in the ways you choose, she can be a treasure to you -- and to your child, as well. If you have special memories of a relationship with a grandparent, you want your child to have that same experience, one that can develop only between individuals separated by a generation.
Grandpa's relationship with the baby
Your baby's grandfather, too, has a special interest in your baby -- his descendant. Accept his involvement in your baby's life and encourage him to develop the privileged relationship that exists between a man and his grandchild. He may not be as actively involved with your baby as the baby's grandmother, but his feelings may be just as strong.
Grandma's helping hands
Your first experience in sharing your child with a grandmother may be immediately upon your arrival home from the hospital, when she comes to give you a hand during the first days or weeks. Don't be surprised if she prefers to do the cooking and cleaning and leaves the care of the baby to you. If she hasn't been around a newborn for some time, she may be hesitant to test her long-forgotten skills. You may prefer this arrangement anyway. Other grandmothers may want to take charge of caring for the baby to show you how it's done. Try not to feel resentment if she does want to care for the baby. You'll have your chance later, when she has left. If you delivered by means of a cesarean section, you may be grateful for some extra time to rest.
It's quite possible that as you and Grandma talk about your baby, a difference of opinion between the two generations will arise. The problem is usually one of conflicting information. Grandma may have to make many mental adjustments before she can accept and approve of your enthusiasm for some practices considered old-fashioned and outdated when she herself was a young woman: giving birth without anesthesia; options such as birthing rooms and home births; and today's emphasis on breast-feeding. She may find a young father's total involvement in birth and child care inappropriate because her husband left all that to her. You may find you and she disagree about the use of pacifiers, about having a rigid schedule for feeding and bathing the baby, about whether to use cloth diapers or disposables. If Grandma is inflexible, you may dread the years ahead, anticipating continuous conflict about everything from nutrition to discipline.
However, those of the older generation who have raised families have a great deal to offer. Not every piece of advice Grandma gives you is based on a myth or an old wives' tale; her years of experience taught her much you can probably use. And many older relatives are willing to learn from new-generation mothers that, for example, a baby who is picked up every time she cries does not become spoiled and demanding, or an immaculate house is not important to a baby's health and welfare or a family's happiness.
Dealing With Unwanted Baby Advice
With goodwill and a sincere desire for communication, you can strive to take the best your parents and other older relatives have to offer and tactfully teach them the best of what you know, without lowering your standards or sacrificing your values.
Start by using the many available resources to back up your opinions. We all tend to believe what we read, and women of the older generation held doctors and other experts in high regard, so show Grandma the passages in books and magazines that reinforce your opinions. Quote your physician to her. Share with her the literature you have from organizations such as La Leche League and the National Childbirth Education Association. Tell her what you've learned from people whose opinion she respects -- your neighbor, whose children she always admires, or your sister or sister-in-law. Sometimes simply stalling is a good technique. Thank her for her advice, and say and do nothing more about the matter. Or forget to try her method, or tell her you'll probably "start soon."
With good humor and consideration, you and Grandma can at least approach the ideal relationship, working together for the benefit of your child and one in which the child is more important to both of you than are each other's opinions about child care. Bear in mind the ultimate benefits of your rapport with Grandma go to your child, whose relationship with her is priceless.
The bottom line, in dealing with Grandma or anyone else, is you are the parent, an intelligent and well-informed person, and you have the right to determine what is best for your child and to raise him as you see fit. In the end, if you have to, you can remind these people they chose their ways and you will choose yours. Of course, all this is easier with acquaintances or strangers, who will perhaps surprise you with their audacity in telling you what to do or in asking you impertinent questions about the way you are caring for your child. You do not need to justify your actions to such people; you can avoid confrontations by simply thanking them politely for their interest and going on your way.
Do be sure you are actually being criticized before you react. Remember that the more insecure we are, the more we tend to infer criticism when none was intended, and we all sometimes overreact to situations that concern our children. Few issues are important enough to force confrontations with relatives or close friends.
It's surprising how much our baby affects our relationships with other adults. You may suddenly develop an understanding with a relative you've never really talked to because your philosophies on raising children are similar. On the other hand, your close relationship with your mother or mother-in-law could become strained if you have strong opposing ideas on child-rearing. Luckily, the family pet couldn't care less which sleep method you've chosen, as long as you remember to include him as much as possible. If you're concerned about your pet's reaction to a new baby, move to the next page for tips on introducing the new baby to your "other baby."
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.