Becoming a mom is one of the most difficult transitions in your life. You go from taking care of just yourself (and sometimes your spouse) to now having keep another human alive. It can be an exhausting, humbling, and at times insanity producing experience. It is, therefore, vital for your own mental health to set healthy boundaries with others.
Setting Healthy Boundaries with Family / Friends
Family and friends will start to contact you to try to "see the baby". People you haven't seen in years will come out of the woodwork to come to see your baby. If you are lucky, you have considerate family and friends who will call/text you ahead of time to ask about when a good time would be to visit. Be honest and open with them. If you are exhausted, going through Post-Partum Depression, or just not feeling like entertaining visitors right now then you can ask them to check back in with you later. It is OK to say "Thank you so much for wanting to come and see the baby. We are still adjusting to having him/her home. Can you check back in with me in a few weeks please once everything has settled?" Most people understand that you might need some time to adjust.
If you are unlucky, you might end up having unannounced visitors. Best case scenario is you were able to shower already, get dressed, your baby just finished drinking his/her milk, and everyone is in a good mood. Worse case scenario (also known as reality) is that you haven't showered, you're in your PJs, and your baby is fussy or asleep. Either way, it's rude not to open the door so you are stuck entertaining visitors. Take a deep breath. This happens to everyone. No matter what your visitors are walking into, it's still a great opportunity to be honest with them. If things are going great during their visit then feel free to say something like "You got lucky today. This is not what it's usually like around here. Next time you feel like visiting can you please call or text me ahead of time so that we can try to get this lucky again?". If things are not going well during their visit and they can hear you over the your screaming baby, you can say something like "I'm sorry about baby being so cranky today. I didn't know that you were coming. Next time you want to come visit can you please call/text me ahead of time so that I can give you a good time to visit when baby is happy? I really want you to get to experience baby when s/he's happy".
Setting Boundaries with Strangers
So, you're out with your baby in public running some errands, going for a walk, etc... Strangers will stop you; whether you are pushing 1, 2, or 3 babies, you will get stopped. It's inevitable. You will be asked all sorts of questions from the babies age, to whether you're breastfeeding, to the babies name, to "is it natural?" (that one is especially true for parents of multiples). It's up to you to decide how many of those questions you feel comfortable answering. Of course, the most appropriate way to answer any questions that you don't want to is to simply say "Oh I'm sorry but that's a bit personal". However, I understand that social norms often times make us feel uncomfortable being so honest so here are some other responses that seem to work well: "Oh sorry, I have to go", or "I'm sorry but have you seen the __________?". Usually, a small distraction is all that you need to have the stranger forget what his/her question was. In addition to questions, people love to touch and kiss babies. Even strangers have no problem coming up to you at Target and touching your baby's cheeks. This seems to be even more of an issue with the older generation; often times grandmas have no problem with this type of behavior. Of course, the most appropriate response is to ask the stranger to please not touch your child or to offer him/her hand sanitizer before touching. However, once again, most people feel uncomfortable with this type of communication. What has worked for me, every single time, is when I see someone coming in to try to touch my babies I simply quickly put my hand out and say "Oh be careful, s/he is really sick right now". You will be surprised at how quickly someone pulls away from trying to touch your baby if they think s/he is sick.
I hope that these small tips have been helpful in making your life a little bit easier. Please feel free to post or comment your thoughts. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or would like some support.
Written by Linda Meier Abdelsayed, LMFT
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