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While there are guidebooks to help you navigate diaper rash, sleep habits, and how to give your slippery newborn a bath, you're on your own when people come up to you and offer their "expert" advice or your mother insists it's fine to put the baby to sleep on his tummy (after all, that's what she did with you). If you find yourself baffled by these and other dilemmas unique to motherhood, take heart. You're not alone. Here's how other moms have found their way.
The Thing That Wouldn't Leave
When my son Zander was born, thousands of relatives flew into town to "help" me. The average visit was a week long, which meant that by the time everyone left, Zander was nearly 5 years old. (Okay, I'm exaggerating. But only a little.) Amanda Palmquist, mom of Luka, 10, and Kiara, 5, in Oakland, California, had a similar situation. "My mother-in-law moved into our one-bedroom apartment and stayed for three months when Luka was born," she says, shuddering at the memory. "She couldn't afford a lot of trips -- she lives in Costa Rica -- so I felt I couldn't object. Sure, she helped with childcare and cooked from time to time. But she also destroyed any sense of privacy and autonomy that my husband and I might have shared."
Houseguests can be draining at the best of times, but when you're recovering from delivery, even the most amiable visitor can drive you up the wall. How can you keep people away, or at the very least get them to give you some breathing room, without hurting their feelings?
"Enlist the help of a sympathetic relative," suggests Lesley Carlin, coauthor ofMore Things You Need to Be Told and the mom of a 1-year-old girl. "Have that person relate stories of a friend who was driven mad by hordes of incoming relatives after her baby's birth. Such tales should end with 'I know no one in our family would dream of doing that to Isabel and Jon. It's so inconsiderate. Don't you think new parents deserve some time alone to bond with their baby?'"
Or try dangling an incentive. Tell relatives that if they wait about six weeks, the baby will be smiling! Or suggest that what you really need is a loving family member to help with the transition from maternity leave back to work. Especially eager kinfolk might like the idea of two visits -- a peep right after the baby's born and a slightly longer stay once you've had time to settle in.
When your guests do arrive, make sure they know you're convalescing. "I had my husband remind me every morning -- in front of his parents -- that I needed to take an afternoon nap," says Dylan Nelson, the Los Angeles mom of Milo, 1. "And I capitalized on my father-in-law's squeamishness about nursing by hiding upstairs whenever my nerves began to fray." She also declared her bedroom a visitor-free zone -- every mom needs a sanctuary -- and retreated there right after dinner. "Taking to my bed like a Victorian heroine, with a stack of magazines and the baby by my side, felt wonderful," she says. "I looked forward to it all day."
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