Dear Is This Normal,

This is my first holiday with a baby and we’re planning to spend the week with my husband’s family at their house. I am incredibly stressed with the situation – they always seem to give me a hard time about being ‘overbearing’ or too fussy with the baby. I’m too rigid with sleep schedules, feedings etc. in their eyes and I’m feeling extremely anxious to be in their presence all week without being judged and called out for trying to parent my way. Any tips for how to handle? I really don’t want to create drama over the holidays and get into a fight with them, but I’m already gearing up for feeling ostracized.

Scrooge Daughter-in-Law

Dear Scrooge,

Ah, the holidays! A time for families to gather and spend time together, and bond with the newest member of the clan. What joy, what fun! Or … not. Listen, babies do weird things to people, and navigating the holidays with a new baby is difficult terrain, to say the least. The audacity of some people, to question a new mother or father on how they’re parenting their brand new baby, seems to reach EPIC levels during the holidays. Maybe because you’re seeing a lot of people you don’t normally see very often, but also because some people just don’t have the good graces or manners to mind their own damn business. I feel you, Scrooge, I really do. 

I get that you want to do what you can to keep the peace and not make a tough situation tougher. But it’s also important, MOST important, that you feel comfortable being the mom that you are, and are able to parent your new baby in the way that works best for your family. Do you want to piss people off? No, of course not. Do you want to compromise who you are as a parent, put your baby through undo stress, or be forced into situations that make you uncomfortable? No way, no how. 

This is going to require a united front between you and your husband, and it’s going to require setting some boundaries before you head to your in-laws’ home for the holidays. I’m sure they’re expecting a week of anything goes with their grandbaby, and while that plays well in theory, it’s just not the reality for an infant. Unless grandma and grandpa want a week of screaming ANGRY BABY, they should want structured naptimes & feedings, too! Communicate with your in-laws before the trip that while you respect their views and appreciate their advice and help (after all, they’ve done this before), neither you nor your husband will tolerate your parenting choices being judged because they don’t align with your in-laws’ expectations. Expect some hurt feelings (but don’t feel guilty over them). As you’ll soon discover MANY MANY TIMES on this parenting trip, someone else’s hurt feelings are not your responsibility when it comes to doing what’s best for YOUR baby. 

Now, I’m not suggesting that you be a complete hard-ass on the trip and try to rule them like a drill sergeant. As important as it is to set your own boundaries, it’s also important to give in a little, when and where you’re comfortable doing so. This is their grandbaby! You want to give them as many opportunities as possible to be doting and helpful grandparents (key word being HELPFUL). There are plenty of ways you can do that! Rather than you or your husband always being the one to hold or rock the baby, hand them off to your in-laws and give your arms a rest. When it’s time for a nap or bedtime, ask your MIL to help get the room ready. Make her part of the Team Sleep – let her know what baby’s optimal sleep sitch is, and put her in charge of preparing the environment. And if you notice little things they do that aren’t exactly what you’d do, but aren’t derailing your own parenting goals or style in anyway, be like Elsa and let that ish goooooooo. You can absolutely maintain your own boundaries and set your own expectations without being nitpicky about stuff that doesn’t matter in the long run. 

Best of luck to you this holiday season, Scrooge! It isn’t easy to balance being a new parent with wanting to keep everyone happy, but remember, that isn’t your job. Your in-laws will get on board, or they’ll be missing out on some bonding time with you, their son, and their new grandbaby. Put the ball in their court before you get there, and keep doing what’s best for your family.

Bah Humbug,

Is This Normal

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