New parents often receive a lot of questioning and advice. While it is usually intended to be well-meaning, it does not always feel that way. Some may be welcomed, it can also put mothers and others on the defensive. The 4th Trimester is a time for caring in the ways that benefit parents. This can be hard to achieve. This is the start of a new phase in relationships with family and friends. While it is hard to have difficult conversations on top of being postpartum, talking now can help save relationships.
There are ways to politely address conflicts, say “no,” and stand up for yourself and baby. Here are things to keep in mind.
The people in your life can’t read minds. What they think is helpful might not be. Things they used to do that were helpful might not be any more. Being clear about what you need and why is one step. Try to speak up sooner than later so people can change course and feelings can be spared. Thank them for what they ARE doing that you really appreciate to reinforce positive behavior.
They have their idea of what is “correct,” but YOU know YOUR baby best! You can listen to what they have to say – but do what you know feels best for you and your baby. If you feel your choices are being questioned or criticized, find a time to talk with the person about their comments. Explaining your thinking may help them understand that what they are doing is not helpful, and it is hurting your relationship. If it keeps happening, decide which disagreements are just not worth the fight and which really matter. Your partner or someone else who is supporting you could be a good ally and step in on your behalf.
Feel like you have an overextended visitor? A supportive guest is great postpartum – if they are actually helpful. If they aren’t or aren’t helping in the right ways, it is time to have a talk! Decide who is best to be a part of that conversation. They aren’t mind readers, so if they are just trying to help, chances are, they need more direction on when to be around and in what ways they can be more useful.
Send people home or ask them to come over! What is needed will vary by mom and situation. In some cases people may be waiting for an invitation. For others, they may need to be kindly encouraged to head home.
A word about family tradition. Having things that have been done across generations can be wonderful and comforting. And sometimes this can be upsetting. If a tradition isn’t something you are comfortable with, talk with your partner and the people you can trust to have open conversations with about doing things differently.
Have you created a Postpartum Plan? This postpartum planning guide can help you outline who you want help from, when, and how before the baby even arrives. Chances are that you already know which family members and friends will be helpful and which will not. Giving people roles in advance might be one way to have the village around you that you need!
What worked for you? Share your strategies and tips with us here.