Setting Boundaries When Baby Arrives
Bringing a new baby home can come with so many emotions – and so many requests to see the baby. While we love our friends and family, the texts and calls can be overwhelming – especially if they are wanting to see the baby and we really don’t want them to. This is why thinking about and creating boundaries before the baby arrives is so important. It can seem intimidating or rude to set boundaries if you’re a people-pleaser like me; however, boundaries are a tool to be used to protect your mental health in those first few weeks and months after baby arrives (and really anytime you’re feeling overwhelmed). To help, I’ve created a few tips to help you develop and maintain boundaries so you and your new family can adjust without the need to entertain. As you read through these, keep in mind that boundaries can look and function however you want. There is not a standard that says, “Set your boundaries like this for success.” Instead, they are flexible based on what is going to give you and your family the most successful start according to your needs and specific situations.
Establish your “yes” circle.
Without a doubt when the new baby arrives help will be needed. Days run together, and exhaustion is real, so having someone (or a few people) on deck to assist is essential. However, it can easily become overwhelming to coordinate who will help you if these decisions are made after the baby is born. Also, with exhaustion at its peak, it would be easy to forgo boundaries if decisions are not made prior to baby’s arrival. So, I recommend creating a “yes” circle before baby arrives. And, truthfully, it doesn’t have to be a circle. It could be a triangle or a square – whatever shape that allows as many (or as few) people as you’re comfortable with having. Whatever shape you choose, these people will be your support system in your home after baby arrives. How do you decide on your “yes” circle?
1. Decide how many people you want and how long you’ll want help. – Actually, L.O.L., we still need help. More specifically, how long do you want someone to come into your home?
2. Decide who you want. – This is most important. I recommend choosing people who will do more for you than just offer to hold your baby. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law stayed with us for a week after LJ was born; they cooked, cleaned, did laundry, and grabbed me snacks while I breastfed every 5 seconds. They also loved on LJ, so we could nap. They did all the “extra” things which gave us space to adjust to parenthood. Your support system doesn’t have to be “traditional” either. It can be friends, siblings, parents, grandparents – whoever you trust.
3. Decide on shifts. – Maybe someone stays with you around-the-clock for one week and then a different person comes after them. Or, maybe you have someone that comes during the day and a different person at night. Maybe you just want someone during the day. After my mother-in-law and sister-in-law left, my mom came over every day for a week but left at night. We felt okay at night, and the help during the day is what we wanted most. Most importantly, be realistic with this. It is absolutely okay to admit you need help around-the-clock if that’s what’s going to give you the best start to parenthood.
After you’ve decided on your “yes” circle, let those people know and include expectations. For example, “Hey mom. If you’re up for it, we would love for you to help us once the baby arrives. We will especially need help with keeping the kitchen clean, laundry, and getting some extra sleep whenever possible. We will need you for one week , and it would be most convenient if you were able to stay overnight. Then Josh’s mom will be coming to help. Let us know if this is something you can do!”
Announce their birth a few days later.
As soon as you announce baby’s birth via social media, mass texts and phone calls will start coming almost immediately. Obviously, everyone is congratulating you and asking what you need, but it can all get overwhelming quickly. So, instead of immediately announcing baby’s arrival, wait a few days until you are home and settled. It’s important to let your “yes” circle know that baby has arrived, so they know when to spring into action, but it’s okay to wait to tell everyone else. Along with your “yes” circle, identify anyone else that you absolutely want to know, tell them, and then ask them not to announce it until you do.
Identify other areas you may need help.
When you do announce baby’s arrival, you will get texts, phone calls, and posts congratulating you and asking how they can help, when they can see the baby, or both questions. I’ll talk more on visiting baby below, but let’s start with how to answer when they ask how they can help. Before baby arrives, create a list of other areas of help you may need. This could include a meal train (people bring food to your house using a site like Meal Train), grocery delivery (Kroger delivery or Instacart), takeout (shoutout to Postmates and Doordash), ice cream, or chocolate (those last two were personal needs). Most of what you will need from outside help will be food related because you won’t feel like cooking or leaving your house; however, you could even ask someone to take your laundry from you or mow your grass. So, when someone asks you how they can help, you can respond with something like, “That is so nice of you to ask. It would be so helpful if you would be able to start a meal train for us” or “Thank you so much for asking. Help is greatly appreciated. We noticed we are out of a few things in the kitchen if you wouldn’t mind making a grocery run and dropping them off at the door.” The most important part of this is if you would rather them not come in to visit, be okay with saying that.
Create a standard response when people ask to come visit.
What a perfect Segway into this last point. Have a response ready when people ask to visit before baby even arrives because it will be less overwhelming to come up with something in the moment. Also, it’s okay to put someone else in charge of this. Sending these responses as well as communicating other needs mentioned above is a great job for the person staying in your home to help you (or a sister who knew what I wanted in our case). This is what your response can look like if they ask to see the baby and how they can help, “We are so grateful for your love and support and can’t wait for him/her to meet everyone. Right now, we aren’t accepting any visitors as we adjust to parenthood and everything that comes with it. However, we will let everyone know when we are ready to have visitors. Help is greatly appreciated though. It would be so helpful to us if you could drop off (insert need) at our door. Let us know if this is something you could do!” Whatever the response is, save it in your phone as a note, so it can be copy and pasted when needed.
Oh, another quick tip – when you do decide to welcome visitors, set visiting hours that work best for you and your family. For example, if you know mornings are hard, let everyone know you will be accepting visitors from 3PM-5PM on Saturday and Sunday. Visiting hours set an expectation and saves you from surprise visits while you’re attempting to breastfeed your starving, angry infant (hi, hello personal experience).
Something I want to underline and highlight after you’ve read through these steps is don’t feel bad about setting boundaries. Those who support you will understand and respect them. Also, no one is exempt from boundaries if you don’t want them to be. Even if they’re a family member, you can set a boundary. And while these tips were specific for bringing a new baby home, these same principles can be applied to anytime when you need time away. Maybe you have a sick kiddo or you’ve lost someone special - whatever it is, use these tips for those times too. Ultimately, setting healthy boundaries is important during any time of adjustment. Happy boundary setting!