Setting Boundaries with Family After Baby Arrives
Pregnancy brings so many new things into our lives that are both exciting yet often overwhelming because they’re happening to us all at once. While it’s normal and reasonable for us to focus most of our attention on our ever changing bodies and preparations for bringing a baby into our lives, it’s easy for something equally significant and life-changing to escape our attention: We are creating a new family that is uniquely our own. The definition of “family” we have known up until now and the role we’ve had within it will be forever different.
With the arrival of a baby comes the advent of a new generation within our families. We who have been children become parents; our parents become grandparents, and so on. Of course, a new parent is ultimately a child, and a new grandparent is still a parent (and also a child) themselves, but this is where things can become a little more complicated.
As you venture into forging your own family, you need to acknowledge the shift that’s occurred and what its significance will be. The roles that you and your partner have played up to this point as children to your parents must now be reexamined and redefined. Now that you’re about to become a parent yourself, this new role takes precedence over your role as child. And it’s up to you to decide how your new role will change the dynamic with your parents.
Your parents might assume that the well-established dynamic they’ve had with you throughout life won’t change once you become a parent yourself. Maybe they’re used to dropping by your house without prior notice or expect you to come to dinner or Zoom them every Thursday night. Or perhaps they never miss an opportunity to dispense unsolicited advice and have an opinion about pretty much every decision you make for yourself.
You may have tolerated this treatment from your parents reasonably well as you transitioned into adulthood (reserving your eye rolls for when they weren’t looking), however now that you’re a parent (or about to be) it’s time to shift gears and establish new boundaries. After all, you have a baby to raise and protect. You’re the parent now – your obligation is to your baby and life partner first and foremost. Although sometimes parents respect this newly formed family from day one and don’t require any course correction, unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
If you’re still pregnant it’s not too early to start reminding your family members that you’re the one making the calls when it comes to your new family. You hopefully don’t have to become adversarial to make your point, but in small yet deliberate ways you can begin setting the boundaries that will serve you well in the future. The first time your Mom stops by unannounced at an inopportune moment, instead of welcoming her in, you can come to the door and say, “Sorry Mom, it’s not a good time for me right now,” and gently close the door. It will feel awkward the first time, of course, but it will also feel liberating. If your family is making all kinds of plans for the baby’s birth without your input or consent, put on the brakes sooner than later. And if they’re not on board with your birth plans, agree to disagree and move ahead with how you and your partner want things to go.
If you’re a people pleaser like a lot of us are, it will probably feel uncomfortable setting limits with your parents initially if it comes to that, but over time you’ll be glad you did. The consequences of not setting boundaries can disrupt your transition into a parent. Emancipating yourself from the limitations of being someone’s child vs. the vital role of being your baby’s parent is a big deal. Don’t be afraid to embrace your sovereignty and set the boundaries to be the best parent to your child you can be.