- Respect the new parents’ decisions, even if you don’t agree with them. Don’t press your opinions on breastfeeding, birth options, or how to parent.
- Emphasize the positive. No one wants to hear about your 35-hour labor, or how your child never slept through the night.
- Pregnancy is a narcissistic time, which is very normal. Your daughter didn’t suddenly turn into a self-centered person. However, watch out for post partum depression, maybe in the form of withdrawal. Grandparents can get so wrapped up in the baby that they forget about the mother.
- Think about what you want to be called, and be respectful of the “other” grandmother, so you don’t both choose the same name.
- Go easy on the shopping. Taking the new family a meal will be more appreciated than another toy or cute little dress.
- Help out, but don’t over do it. If you take over, it sends the message that the new parents can’t do without grandma. Practical help is best. How grateful will your exhausted son or daughter be if you come over and clean the bathroom? Don’t monopolize the baby and leave the parents to do housework.
- Maybe the most needed help would be for you to take care of an older child. Even if the new baby is your first grandchild, a sibling may already be part of the family, even if on a part-time basis.
- Think twice before offering to be a full-time babysitter. Remember, you will need to follow the parents’ childrearing rules. Is this something you can do? Do you really want to give up your career, and maybe the opportunity to return to it? Consider part-time work for the opportunity to be a sitter.
- Put any less-than-positive thoughts of your son-in-law or daughter-in-law on hold during this time. Now is the time to patch up differences with your ex-spouse as well. You will both be grandparents to the new baby, and it will be easier on everyone if it goes as smoothly as possible.
- Establish a good relationship with the in-laws, especially if you are the father’s mother, as the new mom will probably be closer to her own mother. Coordinate visiting times and holidays. And have fun!
Janice McIntosh, M.S., C.N.M, is a certified nurse midwife at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital in West Bloomfield, Michigan.
Henry Ford Health System, one of the country’s largest health care systems, is a national leader in clinical care, research and education. It includes the 1,200-member Henry Ford Medical Group, six hospitals, the Health Alliance Plan, 32 primary care centers and many other health-related entities throughout Southeast Michigan.
Founded in 1915 by auto pioneer Henry Ford, the health system continues to be committed to improving the health and well-being of a diverse Michigan community. In 2009 alone, Henry Ford provided more than $173 million in uncompensated care. Henry Ford also is a major economic driver Michigan: it plans to invest $500 million to expand the Henry Ford Hospital Detroit campus and employs more than 23,000. The health system is led by CEO Nancy Schlichting. To learn more, visit www.henryford.com.