When my first daughter was born three years ago, we lived in London, 5,000 miles away from all our family. By then we had lived there for four years, and our relatives had all visited and turned our tiny second bedroom into the busiest B&B in London.
The birth of our daughter would begin another wave of guests who only wanted one thing: to get their hands on the baby!
Having family drop by to say hello can be stressful with a new baby, and having them stay with you only compounds that stress. We had about a month of constant guests, and it was wonderful even when it was hard.
Here’s how to make family visitors feel like a blessing, not a burden.
1. Be clear about who can visit + when.
We knew that we could handle only one set of family at once, and I said that it was very important to me that my mother be the first one to visit. Then it would be my husband’s parents’ turn, and so on.
Being up-front about what we could handle and when made things less stressful down the road and allowed people to plan properly.
2. Wait it out.
UK National Health Services will not induce a healthy pregnancy before 42 weeks, so my mom did not book a flight until two weeks after my due date. My daughter was born a week early, which meant I had three weeks with just my husband and my baby.
We didn’t plan it that way, but I am so pleased about the timing. It was such a sweet time and both of us gained so much confidence as parents.
By the time my mom arrived, I had recovered a bit and was ready to enjoy company so much more.
3. Find a safe space.
Find a place in your home where you can get away and take a breath. I would go feed the baby in a quiet spot of her nursery so that I had privacy and could clear my head.
Postpartum is rough physically and emotionally, so it’s not too much to ask your guests to give you a few minutes alone to feed the baby, take a shower and walk around the block.
4. Put them to work.
Family who come to see a baby want to hold the baby—constantly. So take advantage of it. Grab a shower or take a nap. Keep a running list on the fridge of things that need to be done around the house. If someone asks if you need help with anything, you’ll be ready to suggest a task.
Also: There is something to be said for a sleep schedule, and there is something to be said for letting grandparents who are about to get back on a plane hold a baby while she naps.
Neither is wrong. You have to find a balance that is right for you.
I barely remember having to help the baby adjust back to napping in her crib, but holding her first grandchild while she slept is something my mother will never forget.
5. Stay true to your mission.
Your job in these early weeks is to take care of a baby and learn how to be a mother.
It is not to clean for company, cook for company or play tour guide.
And your family’s job is to enjoy your sweet new baby, help around the house and entertain themselves.
When you try to escort people on a walking tour of the city despite being exhausted, or when a too-helpful mother tries to be the mother, not the grandmother, is when tension happens. Be clear and kind but firm.
In all likelihood, your family’s visits will be a complete mixed bag. They will have wonderful moments and low points. I loved having our family meet our daughter, but one day I stood outside a Starbucks and cried for five minutes before I could go back in... but you keep going.
That is motherhood: lots of wonderful moments mixed with hard work and tears. Welcome to the club, mama.