Many mothers-to-be are not sure where to draw the line about having house guests stay who may be excited to see newborn baby. You may get many offers of help, but on the other hand having friends or family staying with you makes for less privacy and can sometimes make things harder instead of easier.
This article will help you identify when to say yes, and when to say a polite “no thanks!”
Every situation is different
Let’s start by noting that every situation and every set of extended family is different, just as every new mom-to-be is different. Although this article offers guidelines below, they are by no means hard and fast rules, and ultimately you need to go with whatever you feel is best for you and baby.
A new mother and new baby are the top priorities in any household; it is far better to say a straightforward ‘no’ to a needy guest-to-be (even if the friendship is destroyed over this) than trying to be ‘polite’ and compromising your own needs at this very important time in your life.
On the other hand, a friend or family member who is there to help with cooking and laundry, and who honestly wants to be a part of the ‘newborn experience’, will be a fantastic source of much-needed help for you, and the experience will make for a stronger bond between you all.
When to say Yes
- If you have a positive relationship with the person, and
- if they are low-maintenance, and
- if their stay in your house is designed purely to help you out, and
- if you feel that the practical help they will contribute will outweigh the inconvenience of having them there.
For example, your parents and parents-in-law (if these are positive relationships for everyone) would typically be in this situation. Also, a close friend who honestly loves babies and would help by cooking meals or being willing to do the driving to get take-outs could be a great help in this situation.
When to say No
- If the person happens to be travelling in your part of the world for other reasons, e.g. vacation, and is looking for a place to stay. (Unless the person happens to already fall into all of the categories under the ‘yes’ list, then don’t even think about hosting someone on a ‘vacation’ while caring for a newborn!). Or
- If the person is under the impression that you will be taking them around sight-seeing and/or fulfulling other traditional ‘host’ roles, or
- If you feel that the net inconvenience of having them as a house guest will outweigh any practical help they might provide, or
- If the person is a needy type, is not easygoing or has their own issues or emotional baggage they tend to bring up, or their health is poor enough that they need assistance, however occasional. No matter how strong you are, this is simply not a time in your life where you will be able to help other people; instead, you will have to let others help you. Or
- If you have concerns about the person’s personality putting baby at risk. For example, someone with anger management issues should not stay in the same house with a newborn baby, for the new baby’s sake. Be blunt about this if you need to. Or
- If the stay is for more than a few days (unless the person already fits all of the categories under the ‘yes’ list).
When it’s hard to decide
If it’s hard to decide, then simply ask yourself the question of whether the person would be more of a net help than a hindrance. If the answer is yes, then have them stay! If not, then just say no. However, if you’ve said yes in a hard-to-decide situation, it may be best if the visit is kept short (no more than 3 nights) – this is a great way of ensuring you’ll have some sort of reprieve soon if things don’t work out as you’d hoped.
Again, every situation is different and it can be hard to know if you’re making the right decision beforehand (which unfortunately is when you need to know!) Hindsight is always 20/20.
Don’t be shy about accepting help – you’ll almost certainly need it!
This article is not trying to warn you away from having any overnight house guest helpers, it is simply explaining the need to pick those helpers wisely. Odds are, you will need help and be very grateful for it! The key is to know who to have help with a newborn and who should visit later when you’ve got things more established.
If You Say ‘Yes’ Be Sure to Set the Parameters of the Visit!
To avoid misunderstandings, it can be very helpful to set some boundaries ahead of time if you have said ‘yes’ to someone’s offer of help.
Remember, without guidance the house-guest-to-be will have a hard time trying to walk a fine line between wanting to be there long enough to help you versus not wanting to overstay their welcome. You can simply say “Yes thank you, we’d love for you to come. We definitely will want help with baby and cooking meals and we really appreciate your assistance with those tasks. We would love for you to be here for [insert your timeframe here]” e.g. “anything from a few days up to a week and a half.”
Remember to leave your helper some wiggle room as in the example above – you don’t want to specify something so precise and unyielding that they then have a hard time making travel plans for those dates or it is problematic to take the time off work. Of course, if you are asking for a shorter visit then of necessity there won’t be as much wiggle room. But try to offer whatever wiggle room there is, e.g. “for anywhere from 1 to 3 nights – do let us know, as we have other family interested in coming too.”
Also, in setting up the timing of a visit, make sure to consider the wishes and the schedule of your husband / boyfriend. Consider whether your significant other would prefer to have his time off work dedicated to just you and the baby, or to include the period the house guest helper is there. Or perhaps some of your significant other’s time off could overlap with a portion of your house guest’s visit with the remainder reserved for just you, himself and baby (this set-up can be ideal for if your parents-in-law will be coming). Just make sure you and he come to some agreement about that before discussing timing of a visit with a potential house guest.
“No” during the newborn phase needn’t mean “no” forever!
Some guests may simply be easier to have a few months down the track when things have settled down more. In that situation simply mention that you would prefer to have them after things become more settled.
Having said that, if it is a guest who will be coming at some point anyway and will be involved in the child’s life – and yours (e.g. grandparents-to-be) and there are no toxic relationships, you may wish to consider having them stay during those very early newborn days. The reason for this is, if you will be having them stay anyway, why not have them in the early newborn days when they will be of most help to you (assuming they will actually help with chores), so that you may gain some benefit from the visit? In contrast if they come later they may expect more of a traditional ‘host’ role from you, so have them stay early while you can be expected to be in need of their care!
Also, the newborn days are a precious experience to a grandparent – a visit, whether short or long, can provide a grandparent with many treasured memories. Besides, many grandparents-to-be remember their own days as new parents and will not expect you to wait on them, cook for them etc. So learn to ‘let go’ and let others take care of most of the household tasks you would normally do.
Maternity Leave is Not a Vacation
Some people erroneously think that the first 12 weeks after birth are a vacation, simply because in the US this is the length of time that you are on ‘maternity leave’. Maternity leave is not a vacation! It is the time you are taking to heal and recover from the birth and to get breastfeeding established for optimum infant health.
Instead of thinking of this time as ‘maternity leave’, think of it as a new job – one which has you be ‘on duty’ for long hours, and ‘on call’ at nighttime, where you WILL get call-outs. It is rewarding, yes, but it is hard work. So make sure that any house guests are ones you would still be comfortable having if you had just started a new job at a firm which entailed middle-of-the-night call-outs.
And now finally, the bottom line…
The key is simply to make sure that any overnight house guest helpers you have in the early newborn days will truly be helpful. Say a polite “no thanks” or “later when things are more settled” to potential house guests who are likely to be more of a hindrance than a help. Some parents-to-be have more than one helper in those first few months (usually sequentially, not simultaneously). Others have just one main ‘newborn helper’, usually for the first week or two, while others prefer to wait a month or two before having anyone stay at all. The choice is yours.
If grandparents-to-be have a positive relationship with you and will be visiting at some point anyway, you may actually prefer to have them in the early newborn days so that their visit may be of most practical benefit to you. If so, be certain to set some parameters to make sure everyone has the same expectations of the visit!
Learn to ‘let go’ and be a bit flexible about the things that don’t truly matter when your helper shows up. Yes, your mother-in-law may fold the towels or wash the dishes differently to how you do it… but hey, she’s doing your housework for you so don’t complain about the way she does it! You’re in charge when it comes to baby’s care, but let your helper do housework or chores her way. If you try to be ‘in control’ of everything, you’ll go crazy. Life with a newborn just doesn’t work that way!
Ultimately, whichever decision you come to, remember that the needs of the newborn baby and the new mother need to come first in any household.
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