UNSOLICITED: Stop Being Those Grandparents Who Make Their Kids Crazy

Those of us with grandchildren already know how precious time spent with them is, and how much we miss when we are apart for long stretches. Sometimes it’s pandemic restrictions that keep us apart, sometimes it’s distance and travel but oftentimes it’s because, well, they just don’t want you over because your grandparent comments and behavior make them crazy.

Those of us with grandchildren already know how precious time spent with them is, and how much we miss when we are apart for long stretches. Edited in Prisma app with Surf

New parents are already stressed out by the realities of bringing a baby home and being ultimately responsible for this little human, so they have thin skin when it comes to advice, observations, and suggestions. And, because the best communications are strategic, what you say and do should be tailored to the circumstances and preferences of the new parents. Truly, it is not about you!

My grandchildren range in age from 4 months to 12 years so I undertook a wholly scientifically invalid survey, beginning with their parents. Then it spread out to a new parent Facebooks group where I hit the motherlode of grandparent cautionary tales.

The Facebook commentary was also telling in the number of YESSS comments; seems insensitive grandparents are everywhere. Here are some dos and don’ts, based on those comments.

Visits

One of the most common complaints has to do with out-of-town grandparents who move in shortly after the baby is born but do nothing to help, instead expecting to be catered to as in the childless past. This also applies to in-town grandparents who think it’s okay to drop in on the new family, with no intention of doing any chores or helping out.

Not helpful:

“We’re going to swing by in a bit to meet the baby!” This is the cruelest thing you can do to a new mom, especially if you come empty handed. The house is a mess, I JUST got the baby down for a nap or I have full tits out trying to feed her and really don’t want everyone to just “swing by” on a whim to share their germs with my newborn or overstay their welcome or, heaven forbid, need me to entertain them.

Big one is don’t come to my home and tell me to change my routine to make you more comfortable in the days after I just gave birth and had an extended hospital stay with my premature son. Instead let’s have a conversation about what I need and options for us to both be comfortable that aren’t more taxing on me.

Rearranging my kitchen during your five days stay, folding laundry different than how we are used to after being asked multiple times to not do the laundry and telling the neighbors the baby is “yours” when they ask. Just tell them you are his grandparent.

“While you’re up will you get me ‘xyz’”- when I’m one week post-partum and my MIL invades my space and doesn’t help and expects me to wait on her. I was up getting myself water after she refused to get it for me.

Any advice or “buck up” reply after begging for help or opening up about having a hard time. A simple “your right that sucks” or “your right that sounds difficult to experience”. Or “go nap/eat/shower/get your nails done and I’ll pick up/fold laundry/cook some freezer meals/do dishes” would’ve been nice when my MIL & SIL ‘visited’ when our baby was 1 week old, and I was still having uterine contractions that took my breath away.

Any variation of “what can I do to help?” “What would you like to eat?” “Would you like me to hold the baby so you can go take a nap/shower/ take a walk?” “Can I do the laundry for you? – Better yet, don’t ask– just do it.

Helpful:

“I’m here to ACTUALLY help you. I stocked up the fridge and freezer, and I’m going to go clean your kitchen.” – My mom took full charge of keeping our house clean and had three meals a day, plus snacks, ready to go for all of us. She knew we wanted to bond with the baby and made sure we had a clean/calm environment and sustenance to help us focus just on the kiddo.

My mom and mother-in-law cooked and did the dishes for weeks, along with some tidying and laundry, after my babies were born (they took turns staying with us). When my babies would not sleep on anything but a person, my mom would sit in the nursery holding a sleeping baby for hours so I could shower, nap, etc. The best thing my mom ever said to me when I was going through a lot of issues with my first (breastfeeding, sleeping, etc.) and was not in a good mental place was “I know this is so, so hard, but remember that now you have a daughter for the rest of your life”. It helped put things in perspective without downplaying my feelings.

Grocery shopping, bringing water while I pump/feed, cleaning the kitchen while we were in the hospital. Being respectful of masking up and covering clothes with a receiving blanket. Being clear from before baby was born about what you are comfortable helping with (how often and how I can ask for help when I need it).

Any variation of “what can I do to help?” “What would you like to eat?” “Would you like me to hold the baby so you can go take a nap/shower/ take a walk?” “Can I do the laundry for you? – Better yet, don’t ask– just do it. Or “You are really doing a great job,” or “Being a parent is hard, I know, but you’re doing great!”

Comments

Adding insult to injury, things spiral out of control pretty quickly when grandparents beak off with potentially hurtful and insulting observations.

Not helpful:

“The one that makes me the craziest is “You should do this or that”. It feels like I’m being judged.

“Well back in my day we did it this way.”

“You look terrible.”

“She can skip a nap every once and a while. Just let her stay up later and she’ll sleep in later in the morning” 🙄

Suggesting that they’re disappointed in the sex of your newborn (10 day old they’re holding) and encouraging you to try again.

Judging the way, you choose to feed your baby (breastfeeding vs formula feeding) or making comments like “you probably don’t have milk in there” “the baby must be starving, you don’t know how much she’s getting” etc.

If I tell you not to do something with my baby, if I tell you to stop, If I tell you, it’s not okay, If I tell you no, YOU NEED TO STOP. Don’t tell me you did this and that with your children and they turned out just fine. You are not my baby’s parent, I am. MY BABY, MY RULES.

“Well, we never did that and you turned out fine”… this pisses me off…and my response (if it’s an unsafe practice) is usually “well some kids weren’t fine. Some kids died.” Usually that shuts down the argument.

I usually say, “you used to smoke indoors around children, was that also okay?”

“It’s our job to do whatever we want when we have your kids and not follow your routine.”

My mom has said things like, “She really should be sleeping through the night at this point.” Or “She really should be eating x amount per feeding by now.”

Most of the time, I want to vent. Unless I straight up ask, “What would you do in this situation?” Or “What do you think?”, then don’t offer advice. If I don’t ask for it, then the job as my parent (grandparent of my child) is to be there to listen and offer support aka to watch the child and give me a break. Support is not telling me what to do and how I’m doing everything “wrong” according to you. I’m so sick of feeling like I can’t do anything right.

Constantly saying how much harder we were for them than our baby is for us… it’s not a competition about who’s had it harder in life. It doesn’t make you look more experienced it makes you look apathetic and insensitive.

Even seemingly benign critiques of the baby can sting, especially in the first few months, like, “is he always this fussy?”

When your baby has a great temperament and eats/sleeps amazing and is generally a happy baby, and EVERYONE says to you “just wait until the next one”, “the next one won’t be so easy”…

“Just wait ‘til they’re 4, 14, etc.”

My MIL asking me if the mess in our master bedroom was ok with my husband. 😡😡😡 I’m sorry, I’m super sick with my pregnancy, can’t keep up on the laundry and YOUR SON is the one who recommended we let laundry go for a while. Flippin rude.

When they refer to them as their baby 😂

Even seemingly benign critiques of the baby can sting, especially in the first few months, like, “is he always this fussy?”

“Don’t worry about it! He’s a baby. Just let him sleep whenever he wants sleeps.” – Or any equivalent of “you just need to relax”. Infuriating. I NEED the baby to sleep at night, so I NEED him to nap at the right time. So back to the fuck off or YOU can get him at 2am when he won’t calm down because he’s over/under tired from a shitty nap schedule.

“You look tired.” – No shit, Sherlock. Thanks for your amazing observation. How ‘bout you take this screaming poop machine and get me a damn glass of wine and maybe I’ll look more refreshed.

Helpful:

“Wow, that sounds hard. I’m sorry the both of you aren’t sleeping through the night yet. Let me know when I can come over to watch the girls so you can take a nap.” Like my mind would literally explode if I heard those words

Grandparents
My son was very colicky, and my mom would come over every day (while my husband worked 7-7) to give me an hour or two to nap, take a bath, just walk away from my crying baby — she had so much patience with him, and me when I was a hot mess of emotions trying to navigate being a new mom with a baby who was always crying

… Sometimes you just need a break and to hear that you’re kicking ass even when you feel like you aren’t all of the time. I hit the mama lotto. ♥️

When I was struggling with breastfeeding and my mom told me it’s ok to use formula, and that she also struggled with breastfeeding, and that I’d already lasted twice as long as she had.

Baby Talk

Grandparents talking to baby in front of us (husband and I), telling them (in “baby talk” voice) things they think we (the parents) should/ shouldn’t be doing in hopes we overhear, rather than telling us directly.

Ex: *baby starts crying and grandparents immediately say to them “Oh! You must be soooo hungry. Are you hungry? Do you want milk? Aww, you poor thing. You’re so hungry.” …. all while I’m sitting right there next to them with sore nipples and baby isn’t crying because they’re hungry, but more likely over-stimulated by all of the loud cooing from people holding them (who also don’t want to put the baby down) and it’s now past the time for them to take a nap. It would be more helpful if once baby starts crying and isn’t consoled with simple rocking or didn’t just poop, etc., then they turn to me and say something like, “oh, she seems upset. What do you think is the reason?”… that was way longer than I intended. I guess I had some emotions to get out 😂

OMG – THIS. I’m so glad I’m not the only one. I’ve tried to talk directly to my MIL so many times, but she will only address her commentary on my parenting to the baby.

Ugh, that drives me and my husband crazy! I feel you girl!

Food

Feeding people is the way I have traditionally expressed love so it’s great to hear how many of these new parents absolutely crave home cooked meals, delivered at convenient times, and suitable for the diet they’ve chosen.

Unhelpful:

When you (grandma) come visit a new baby (literally day 2), bring or make food. Don’t ask your daughter-in-law, ‘what’s for dinner?’

When you (grandma) come visit a new baby (literally day 2), bring or make food. Don’t ask your daughter-in-law, ‘what’s for dinner?’

I think every time my parents have visited it’s been “what’s on the menu?”.

Stop trying to stuff processed carbs down my son. I am teaching him to eat vegetables and have a broad palate. Stop assuming he needs Mac and cheese and pancakes because he may not be eating all of or everything that we are serving him. Soooooo annoyin…

We don’t warm her milk after refrigerated (I exclusively pump) and almost everyone asks, “Does cold milk cause more gas?” no. We always have to repeat our pediatrician confirmed it makes no difference in regard to gas, and if we don’t have to warm her bottles that’s one less thing!

Comments that I was starving my baby by just giving him breast milk. Oh, and don’t get me started on his poor sleep due to me not feeding him rice cereal.

Same — they were telling me to put cereal in a bottle since she was a month old 🥴

yes! Same 😵‍💫

Helpful:

Oh, and definitely offer to bring dinner whenever possible.

Every time you visit, bring food. Because raising kids is a lot, working full time outside the house is a lot, hosting people is a lot, and coming empty handed and expecting dinner is the opposite of helpful.

“I’m going to drop dinner off at your front door. What is a good time to do that so it’s hot and ready for you?” – Like once a week from an amazing neighbor who knew exactly what was up. New moms don’t want visitors all the time. Food is always welcome, people are not. Be considerate.

If I can offer some unsolicited advice to all you grandparents, when it comes to interacting with your kids and kids-in-law and their new babies, listen and ask questions. Offer concrete help based on what they ask from you. Try to bite your tongue rather than make comments or give advice that may be outdated, irrelevant or just plain thoughtless. Walk the dogs, buy diapers, clean up the kitchen, bring food, and don’t overstay your welcome.

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Read more articles from Joanna Piros

Joanna Piros
Joanna Piros

Joanna is a mother of five, grandmother of 5 (and counting), a communications coach, avid cook and often runs out of olive juice before running out of olives for dirty martinis.

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