Dear Is This Normal,

I am at the end of my rope and need some help or advice or something to help me feel like I’m not losing my mind! My partner and I are the parents of two amazing kids. Our daughter is 3, and we just had a new baby boy two months ago. We’re slowly settling into our new normal as a family of four, and things are going well! For the most part, anyway. We’re having a pretty major issue with my in-laws. 

My parents live far away, but my partner’s parents are just a 30 minute drive away, so they have a really close relationship with our kids, which is great! The problem started when our son was born. They went from visiting every other weekend to wanting to come over every single day. But the worst part is how they’ve started to butt in on our parenting decisions and strategies and try to override rules we have for our toddler. I know they mean well, but it’s like they don’t think we can handle two kids! I’m really starting to resent them and their visits. Help! 

Too Much Nana and Papa

Dear Too Much,

Oh mama. So many people are going to read this and relate SO MUCH to what you just described. Grandparents are awesome! But a little bit goes a loooooong way sometimes and too much of a good thing can quickly turn sour. Especially if they’re not respecting boundaries and trying to assert themselves into more authoritative roles in yours and your kids’ lives. You probably don’t want to rock the boat and risk hurting anyone’s feelings or damage the relationships you have. But I’m here to tell you: one of the most important things we can do for ourselves and our kids is set boundaries.. And the sooner, the better. At least before things get really bad and you just completely lose your ish.

It sounds like your in-laws are trying to be helpful, but in all the wrong ways. While their intentions may be good, it’s clear they’re not coming across as intended. So it’s time to set some rules for grandparents. Yes, you can set rules for grandparents! In fact, I personally feel like EVERYONE should have some rules in place for the grandparents (coming from someone with an overbearing mom, hi mom). The key here is setting these rules and boundaries in a way that doesn’t hurt or alienate anyone. That’s the tricky part.

I know you’ll hate to hear it, but I think it’s time to have a family meeting with your partner and their parents. Let them know that you really appreciate them being so readily available, but that you’d like to establish a schedule for when they can come by and visit. If you’re up to it, maybe once a week! If you’d like a bit more space, set up a bi-weekly family dinner every other weekend. Make sure they understand that it’s not like you don’t enjoy their company and help (again, we’re trying to avoid hurting feelings here), but that you and your partner would like to have time to adjust as a new family of four, and give your daughter a chance to adjust to having her new little brother around. 

You can also see if they’d be up for babysitting to give you guys some one-on-one time with each child, steal a date night every once in a while, and give them grandparent time with the kids. In this meeting you want to make  them feel useful and needed, but also help them understand that you and your partner ultimately decide when and how they are most needed and useful.

After establishing these boundaries, it’s time to lay down the rules. Rule number one? You and your partner are the parents, and as such, you make the rules for your kids. And those rules need to be respected. I know some grandparents have a “No rules with grandma or grandpa!” attitude, but nope. Kids, especially toddlers, need consistency. If you have rules for your daughter at home, like no sweets before dinner or no screen time, then those rules need to be enforced no matter who she’s with. Those are rules in your home, rules for when grandparents are babysitting, and rules that apply with you leave your child with the grandparents.Help them to see that following these rules both helps your toddler and helps you and your partner. 

I know you’re frustrated, and I know you don’t want to cause a family riff. I totally get that. But it’s so important to have these conversations now. Because while your in-laws are your family, they’re not your family family, you know? You have to worry about your partner and kids, and make sure that anyone in your lives are enhancing it in a positive way by not making things harder. I hope it goes well! It might not be easy. But it’s better in the long run to lay down the law now. 

Rules Are Meant to Be Followed,

Is This Normal

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