I think many people would agree that one of the biggest challenges about becoming a parent is dealing with the new grandparents and their endless supply of “advice”. As with most things regarding multiples, the headaches regarding the onslaught of motherly input is doubled with twins. In addition to the fact that 53,554 things have changed in the world of babies since your parents were parents, they were probably parents to just one infant at a time.
For my husband and me, both sets of grandparents (our parents) seemed to be supportive about the fact that many things have changed when it comes to keeping infants safe and happy in the last couple of decades and signed up for “grandparents’ classes” at local hospitals. When they returned from their adventures in the classroom, however, they seemed to have forgotten to ask their instructor the 64,534 questions they had and instead turned to us to wonder why they couldn’t put their grandchild to sleep on their belly when we all slept our bellies and turned out fine? And why are bumpers in cribs frowned upon now when they almost certainly stopped us from sticking our limbs through the crib bars as newborns?
Handling Unwanted Advice from the Grandparents
Lucky for me, my husband is a lawyer and therefore well practiced in explaining things using reasoning, logic, and fact. While my blood started to boil at every pointed question (just because I was carrying the baby didn’t mean I was making the rules, after all) he calmly pulled up articles where doctors, scientists, and other certified professionals clearly answered all of their queries. They didn’t really accept any of the explanations because, after all, “we all turned out fine”, but they did at least let things go.
Fast forward a few months and the advice from grandparents (and all other parents, nonparents, and people of the world) came flooding out as soon as the twins were earthside. My grandmother even, at almost 90 years old, constantly recanted tales of her days as a new mother and what sort of sleep schedule her oldest son had and how many times a day my aunt spit up at week three of life. To this day (my twins are 2.5 years old) I constantly ask my husband how it is possible for our grandparents and parents to remember minute details from various infancies when I can barely remember what I had for dinner last night. But such is life. They care, and therefore, they share.
You’ve got to decide early on how you’re going to handle unwanted advice from family members and friends. Obviously, no one wants to burn bridges over suggestions on the best bottle for your baby or whether or not white noise is really advisable. But it’s hard enough being a parent to twins, so you need to do what you can to make other aspects of your life easier as soon as possible. I’ve heard many stories of feuds beginning when potential baby names are tossed around…
“What do you MEAN you’re not going to make your son “the fourth”?! It’s tradition! You must!”
“But you MUST use the middle name Elizabeth because your great grandmother INSISTED on it!”
“That’s a lovely name but your (unwed and very non-pregnant) sister chose that name for her firstborn when she was just thirteen years old!”
And names are just the “silly” stuff, but they can act as kindling to much bigger fires that you might not want to put out two days postpartum. Mothers and mothers-in-law are the first to suggest the “easy” way to nurse a child or the “right” way to swaddle a newborn, even though you’ve been through all the courses and you and your partner have a plan that you plan to follow. It’s less common from the fathers and fathers-in-law at the onset, but if boundaries aren’t set early you’ll be hearing from them a few years down the road. Your father warned you not to let your daughter play a certain sport or swore it was more financially advisable to send your son to such-and-such a school. Regardless of the issue and again—we all know (or at least hope) so much unsolicited advice comes from a place of love—it’s best to try to figure out how much you do or do not want to hear early on.
If the advice comes at you that makes you stress the tiniest bit more than necessary…
- Kindly tell the giver that while you appreciate their opinion, it’s really important that you and your husband do things your way. If you’re lucky, one quick and polite remark will be all it takes to quell the crazy.
- If you “put your foot down” on an issue that you and your spouse feel strongly about, you can get back in good graces by asking for advice on other things; like deciding which of two outfits to bring your little ones home from the hospital in, or just ask your mother-in-law what your husband’s favorite book was as a baby. Being able to contribute a suggestion or anecdote in any way should help those grandparents fulfill their desire to help out in any way possible.
- If your particular grandparent is the overbearing sort, you might have to be more firm, call on your spouse to help (intervention style anyone?) or sadly, avoid them until you’re in a place where you can let in outside stressors.
I repeat…being a parent of multiples, especially in the newborn stages, is tough. Your goals are simple each day: keep those babies fed, clean, and happy and keep your sanity in check as best as you can.
Katelyn Heindel is a communications manager-turned stay-at-home mom two 18-month-old twins. She lives in Richmond, Va with her husband, two monkeys (err, toddlers) and the world’s weirdest cat.