Alice Domar, a psychologist specializing in reproductive medicine counseling, took time to answer your most pressing questions on navigating family problems surrounding pregnancy and impending parenthood. Did you miss part one?
When your family needs to grow up
Question: My parents and in-laws don’t get along at all. There were uncomfortable get togethers when we were dating (huge political differences) which of course have only gotten worse this year and simmering resentments over our wedding: who paid for what, table locations, and on and on. I am now pregnant with our first child and am dreading events when they will have to be together — the christening, first birthday party etc. What can I do?
Answer: I think this is one of those situations where everyone simply needs to grow up. Family events such as a baptism or birthday party are supposed to be happy events, with a focus on the child. So you and your partner will need to each meet with your respective parents and present a set of ground rules which the two of you create. As in, this is what you are not allowed to bring up with the other set of grandparents. With a one-strike-and-you-are-out policy. If anyone crosses a line, they just don’t get invited to the next event. There are so many other more pleasant things that one can talk about these days, it shouldn’t be a burden for any of them.
When you want your mom—not his
Q: My parents live about a half hour away and my in-laws live a three hour flight away. This is our first baby, as well as the first grandchild for both. My mother in-law has declared that she is going to move in with us for the first month postpartum. Although I appreciate her offer to come help, I am really afraid that this will put my parents off. They won’t feel comfortable coming over when she is here since they hate “getting in the way.” I should also add that I have a history of depression so am very concerned about having some postpartum symptoms, and really want my mom to be near me.
A: One good thing about a new baby is that there is a lot of work involved. Most of which has nothing to do with the baby. There is laundry, piles of it. Shopping, cooking, cleaning. Is your mother-in-law the kind of person who plans to move in, roll up her sleeves and get to work? Or is she the type who intends to sit with the baby in her arms while you serve her meals? If she is the one who gets to work, it should be less of an issue since that will allow your mom the space to visit you, see the baby, and provide the comfort you need.
If on the other hand your mother-in-law is not the working type, you need to come up with a plan. Can his mother come for less time, which gives your mom more access? How about suggesting she stay in a hotel, so you can limit the time she is in your home? Can she visit cousins on weekends, and your mom takes over? Being a new mom involves balancing your needs and baby’s needs, with the desires of various family members. You are smart to be thinking about this in advance. This gives you the time you need to make a plan.