How many houseguests can I accommodate after giving birth?
August 16, 2012 9:47 AM   Subscribe

How many houseguests can I accommodate after giving birth?

I'm 18 weeks pregnant with my first child (and the first grandchild on both sides), and already getting stressed out about the prospect of the inevitable onslaught of houseguests. I don't live near my family, and I know everyone will want to come visit, and they will be staying with us. Will my husband and I welcome the help with a newborn? Or resent the intrusion? Did you set any guidelines for houseguests, such as how long they could stay? Is it helpful to have family around immediately after giving birth, or better to wait a few weeks? (We have a huge house, so space is not an issue. Also, I like my family, so that's not an issue either.)
posted by saratravels to Health & Fitness (33 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
We had only my mom, and then my mother-in-law, stay with us when we had a newborn. Both came prepared to cook, clean, hold the baby and let me sleep, etc. It was very helpful. After he was six months old we felt prepared to host people in a more formal sense, including people who were not my mom/mil. There are times in your life to be a good host, but the newborn stage is not one of them. Ask people to stay in a nearby hotel if they want to visit. And any visitors should be prepared to pitch in. If you think people aren't able to do that, insist on the hotel and/or try to get them to defer their visit for a couple of months.
posted by handful of rain at 9:50 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's going to depend a lot on the people who are coming to visit. Are they going to want to cook and clean and run errands and generally make themselves at home in your house and fend for themselves along with taking over some of your work? Or are they going to want to sit around and hold the baby all day while you feed them and entertain them with conversation?
posted by jacquilynne at 9:57 AM on August 16, 2012 [16 favorites]

One person at a time, two if it's your mom and your dad (and assuming they get along). No more. There's only so much that people can help, and then they're in the way. Tell your mom she can come for X amount of time, then your mother-in-law can come for X amount of time after that (two weeks for each is about right), then have a big party for everyone around the six-month mark.

If anyone objects ("I promise we won't be in the way!"), point out that the baby isn't really that interesting early on, and that a ton of people are offering, and you don't want to play favorites even though they're totally your favorite person, but you know how Aunt Martha gets, blah blah blah.
posted by Etrigan at 10:02 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

We had my mom come a few days after (was glad we had a few days just the three of us) and then my dad, my brother, and his girlfriend descended for Christmas just 20 days after Sam was born. I was dreading it and thought about canceling, but felt like I couldn't. In the end it was totally fine, and I'm glad we have those memories (we were all on different continents then and didn't see my parents again until little dude was 3 months. They also took him so we could shower or go for a brief walk, and generally reassured and were sweet to us all.

We made sure they had very low expectations and we did not cook, did not clean, did not try to do anything except breastfeeding and sleeping and hanging out. I would not host people who expected to be entertained at all, or people I didn't feel comfortable around, and I would not let them stay more than a few days. Let the trash pile up, tell them what to do, make sure you have space to retreat to. Your family may vary, but you will be in quite a vulnerable space and have a lot to do, think carefully about whether they'll hurt or help.
posted by crabintheocean at 10:03 AM on August 16, 2012

I would stagger this out. Besides the freaking amazing and powerful affects hormones will have on your family at that moment, you will be totally exhausted as well. We let our families know they can come down when we were ready. It was a couple weeks later.

Also, people trying to help can also be a hindrance depending on their personality type. Answering questions about what you want, how it should be done, and what they can do, is just about as tiring as doing the stuff yourself.
posted by couchdive at 10:05 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Only you can know whether you will want people to stay. Personally my family annoys the crap out of me, so it was made clear that they were not welcome until we were ready. My mum turned up 2 months in, and sure enough behaved as if she were on vacation, not helping with anything other than holding the baby. Post-partum houseguests are expected to come and help out by looking after the mother in any way the mother requests. It is work, and they should come expecting such. My advice would be that if you think you will need to explain that idea to someone, then they wouldn't be a good idea to have around immediately post-partum. Family members that ask to come with the expectation of helping out, are probably going to be great.
posted by Joh at 10:11 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

As for a number of how many houseguests, it'll be somewhere between ZERO and ONE --- not even two!

The usual is the maternal grandmother for the first first week-ten days, then the paternal grandmother for the exact same amount of time. If either grandfather wants to come, then BOTH of those grandparents should stay in a hotel (at their own cost). ALL other out-of-towners should wait at least six months or more, they should ALL stay in hotels (again, at their own cost), and they should pre-arrange their visits to make sure those visits don't overlap with other visitors or otherwise inconvienence you in any way. (And yes, you very much WILL resent anyone else, especially as houseguests!)
posted by easily confused at 10:21 AM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

It depends on your relationships with everyone. If you are close, and comfortable, it will be fine. They will help out, doing laundry, cooking, while you lie around staring at your baby and resting. If you don't have a super comfortable relationship, it will be an exhausting nightmare. I had my mother and godmother, neither of whom I feel super great with, and it was bearable only because they didn't stay with me.
posted by upatree at 10:30 AM on August 16, 2012

I'm a grandma, have two daughters-in-law who have children. I like what easily confused says above. However, since this is the first grandchild on both sides of the family all of the grandparents are going to want to be there as soon as possible.

Can all of them afford hotels? If so, urge them to stay in hotels and visit you for short bits of time every day. Tell your mom you want to treat both grandmas equally and this is the best solution.

Grandparents should not be there to take care of the baby, but instead to support both of you as you bond with baby. This means that they can help by cleaning house, by cooking, by stocking your freezer full of yummy casseroles, by washing diapers, by buying last-minute supplies. If your baby is a very good sleeper right from the start- highly unusual- they can babysit for an hour or two while baby is sleeping.
posted by mareli at 10:35 AM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

How many houseguests can I accommodate after giving birth?

None, in my experience.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:40 AM on August 16, 2012 [11 favorites]

nth that it will depend on the people involved.

For example, I get on very well with my in-laws. And they are super super accommodating and nice. We had them for 10 days from when our baby was 2 days old. in a 1-bedroom NYC apartment. It was fantastic. I did absolutely nothing in the way of entertaining. They got groceries, cooked, cleaned, bought supplies, held the baby when I needed a break, made me cups of tea.

I... slept and fed the baby. That's it. When she was about a week old, we even went out to dinner in a fancy-ish restaurant. In and out super quickly, but even so.

So if you have relatives like that, then it should be fine. If, on the other hand, my mother had come to stay, there may have been mass murder. She requires entertaining and distraction.
posted by gaspode at 10:41 AM on August 16, 2012

I had no problem directing my relatives to a nearby, inexpensive hotel. I don't have a helpful mother-in-law, and I do have a tiny house.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:46 AM on August 16, 2012

Depends on how much they stitch you up! *rimshot*

Kidding, kidding. I would not invite anyone into your home with whom you are not 110% comfortable during the first weeks of your kid's life. My mom stayed with me, and it was tremendously helpful. My father-in-law ALSO stayed with me, and it was hell on earth. It really, really depends on how close you are to the person, how well they know you, and how much they can help.
posted by julthumbscrew at 10:50 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are these people you would want around when your whole family was suffering from the swine flu? Assuming zero risk of immunity, of course. If yes, then yes. If not, then no.

Note that in my experience, the first few days of new motherhood are not quite as awful and arduous as all of this makes it sound. You will likely be able to have pleasant conversations and enjoy their company. Just... maybe not for as long, and you really, really need to make sure that the people you have around will understand if you go to sleep for the night at 7pm or you walk around with your nightclothes on all day, will expect to fix you a sandwich instead of the other way around, etc., etc.
posted by Andrhia at 10:57 AM on August 16, 2012

Absolutely nthing "it depends." My sisters came and helped us finish unpacking (we'd just moved), cooked up a mess of food and froze it in individual servings, took the baby so I could shower and get my hair cut and were all around awesome. My parents were low-key for the most part, didn't really expect me to entertain, but didn't really do much helping. My mother-in-law, who ironically was the first to visit, was demanding, criticized my housekeeping, thought I was overfeeding my 3-week-old newborn because her visit coincided with his first cluster feeding spurt, subtly told me I might need to start thinking about my weight, and sat while I cooked for her and did laundry. From the truly awful to really, really awesome.

One thing we did that I would absolutely recommend was that we insisted on having 3 weeks to ourselves at the beginning so we could get used to the new member of our family without the pressure of visiting relatives. My husband was able to take those three weeks off too and it was heaven cocooning together. That being said, I tend toward being more introverted and cocoon-y anyway, so YMMV.

When you do have relatives come, I'd suggest having a list of very specific tasks you need help with and don't be shy about handing out jobs. Also, if you need to go sleep for a while, absolutely make sure you give yourself permisson to do that.

Congratulations on the addition to your family and good luck with your relatives!
posted by goggie at 11:04 AM on August 16, 2012

I would not trade the first few weeks of just the three of us getting used to being a little family together for anything. For us it was awesome bonding time, and it would have felt very weird to have extended family in the middle of that -- kind of like having them in the bedroom during sex. But, we are not close with our families so I don't know what it's like to have a family that I would genuinely choose to hang out with. Definitely listen to your gut on this one.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:37 AM on August 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

I was floating on new mom I-love-the-world hormones, so was okay with visitors, but my husband was quite anxious for us to get our bearings as a trio. While he was off work on paternity, that was fine. After he went back to work I loved having my parents visiting. They are good help, though. (Everything that annoyed me about my in-laws was magnified, though, particularly criticism of our parenting. Beware.)
posted by purpleclover at 11:39 AM on August 16, 2012

There is a frequently-referenced rule that for the first 30 days after giving birth, a woman is the Queen of Everything, and all must follow her wishes. It may sound a little extreme, but it may or may not be. You are 18 weeks along; it is good you are thinking of this now, but you really have no way of knowing what your needs will be post-partum. I know women who bounced back quickly and were full of energy. I know women who emphatically did not. You don't know at this point whether you will have a short labor, a long one, a planned c-section, or an emergency one.

Expectations can be a source of resentment. Start calibrating your future visitors' expectations *now*. You can find a humorous way of telling people that if they want to stay with you, they will have to work. They are not coming to see the baby, they are coming to take care of *you* while you recover.

I second, third, the idea of having some time with baby alone to bond as a family unit before the grandparents descend. Three or four days may be enough for some, three weeks may be right for others.
posted by ambrosia at 11:45 AM on August 16, 2012

Agree with all of the above (except that I was very grateful to have my mother-in-law's help, and didn't care about having special bonding time with just the nuclear family) and just wanted to add: you may be dealing with your own post-labor medical conditions (heavy bleeding is very likely, possibly other things too) and if you are nursing, you will be half-naked a lot of the time until you get the hang of it. If you feel like you have to cover up or look nice around someone, don't have them stay with you.
posted by chickenmagazine at 12:16 PM on August 16, 2012

The swine flu joke above reminds me of something - I had all my houseguests get a TDap booster shot - it was winter, they were traveling by plane, and they all work in schools or hospitals. Tiny babies are vulnerable. Worth looking into I think.
posted by crabintheocean at 12:28 PM on August 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

crabintheocean makes an excellent point. Once you have seen footage of a newborn struggling to breathe because of pertussis, you never ever want to see that again. Start telling people now that if they want to come visit you, especially before the baby is three months old, a TDap or other pertussis booster is a prerequisite. I made my family do this, actually.
posted by ambrosia at 12:33 PM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

We had a bunch -- my parents came right away, my dad stayed for a few days and my mom stayed for two weeks and did all the cooking and cleaning, with our first. Then my siblings came after a couple weeks, just for an overnight visit. My inlaws came after six weeks. (Our house is pretty tiny.)

With my second we were even less concerned and my parents and one of my brothers were there right at the start for several days, helping with the baby and the toddler.

I think the biggest thing is that I wasn't doing anything to take care of these guests and didn't feel obligated to; they mostly helped ME out and did my housework for me, and grandma corralled anybody who wasn't toeing the line.

With my first one, nobody came down until we called to give them the okay. Like you, I wasn't sure if I would want visitors at the beginning, but I was pretty clear on day two that I wanted and needed family around to help. Otherwise they would have just made a day visit to meet the baby and come back for a stay at a later date.

I would space people out a little bit, if you can, to get help over a longer period, rather than have a giant crush right at first. I thought knowing people were available, but waiting for my call, the first time, was an ideal situation, so I could decide in the moment.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:45 PM on August 16, 2012

Oh hi - I am 4 weeks post-partum, and I can tell you with great confidence: only have guests who are there to help you - they aren't guests at all, but helpers. And only have them if you are 100000000% comfortable with them.

You will be physically and emotionally a mess, quite possibly - sweating, crying, bleeding ... And are you breastfeeding? If so, you will be walking around topless for the first two weeks and leaking milk too! So, only have people around who you will feel ok letting it all hang out in front of.

It's also really nice to have some private time with your husband while he's on leave to get used to the new family. This doesn't preclude having people over, but I wouldn't have wanted them there 24/7.

Once my partner went back to work after 2 weeks, I started to want company during the day - but again, only friends who wanted to bring lunch and coo over the baby briefly - the best was mom friends who can give advice and reassurance. Now that I'm 4 weeks out, I am just starting to be able to contemplate having actual guests.
posted by yarly at 12:54 PM on August 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

My mom came for two weeks and stayed with us, in our tiny house with one bathroom. And, yes, to all of the above -- she was only welcome because she was overwhelmingly helpful. She fed us, she cleaned the house. I unexpectedly had a hospital birth, and when we came home, she had scrubbed EVERYTHING. It was amazing. She wakes up really early, so she'd come take the baby at 5 or 6 a.m., and they'd sit on the couch and make faces at each other while I got a couple hours of sleep.

Despite this, by the end of the first week, we were all ready for her to go home. My partner and I really wanted to start feeling like a family unit. I am so glad that she was able to come; I am so glad she didn't stay any longer.

I would really avoid having houseguests who aren't helpful like this anytime in the first 6-12 weeks.
posted by linettasky at 1:03 PM on August 16, 2012

Do you have lots of guestrooms, and a housekeeping staff? Guests don't know where anything is, or where to put things away. They forget that you're allergic to/hate milk, and eggplant. An ideal guest during postpartum not only cleans and cooks, but does it your way. And they should make sure you get plenty of time with the baby when the baby is well-rested and happy.

Visitor? Grandparents, maybe, and one at a time in your home. Others should wait, or stay elsewhere. Unless. Unless you really want the family there. I think you'll be happier waiting a month to feel a bit more settled.
posted by theora55 at 1:24 PM on August 16, 2012

Any guests who are respectful, thoughtful and coming to cook food/clean house/go shopping/tend mother and baby when necessary can be accommodated, provided there is room in your home and they understand that they'll have to give you tons of space most of the time.

Any guests who don't meet all the criteria above should stay in a hotel.
posted by davejay at 2:13 PM on August 16, 2012

Oh yes, and who are willing to leave in a short period of time. Bonus points for people that are willing to coordinate with each other (not through you) so that each spends a short time doing these things for you, then leaves before overstaying their welcome.
posted by davejay at 2:14 PM on August 16, 2012

Ooh, chickenmagazine makes a good point, I spent the first few weeks topless because my baby nursed every hour, and each feeding took 45 minutes, so it made no damn sense to wear anything on my upper half. Plan accordingly.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:54 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

An ideal guest during postpartum not only cleans and cooks, but does it your way.

Amen. My parents come for the first two weeks. My mother is a better housekeeper than I am, and just as good a cook. She does everything -- cooking, cleaning, taking care of our other children, laundry -- without being asked. She makes it so the newborn is my only job, which is huge.

My dad has the knowledge and expertise of a general contractor, combined with the perfectionism of an engineer, and he tackles several of the more pressing projects presented by our 106-year-old house. (I make him a list before they get here.)

They are awesome, and the first time my mother left me post-partum, I had a momentary desire to wrap my arms around her legs and beg her not to go.

My mother-in-law comes the next two weeks. She does a subset of these things -- cooking, entertaining the other kids -- but, ah, not in the way I do them. She pinked two loads of laundry (with REALLY OBVIOUSLY RED THINGS mixed in with white things) the first time she came, and then cried about not being appreciated when my husband asked her not to do the laundry anymore. The last time I had a baby, I had a 3-year-old and a 2-year-old, and they both still napped. She would lie on the couch with her Blackberry the entire 2 hours while I cleaned, etc., and then get up after they'd woken at 4:30 and announce that she was going to the grocery store to shop for dinner, meaning I was on my own with newborn, 2-y-o, and 3-y-o, and also that dinner would be at 7:30, which meant that I'd have to figure something else out to feed the toddlers at 6:00, when toddlers eat. That said: it works out fine because I'm 2 weeks out, so physically a lot stronger, and it's probably a good transition back to doing everything myself, but I would NOT want her to come immediately after the birth.

I went to visit my sister 3 days after she had her first baby, when I was 19 and she was 21. I had no idea she needed help at all. Her baby was jaundiced and needed to be in a lightbox, and I let myself show my sister how sad and terrible I felt about it, instead of focusing on bucking her up. My sister cried constantly. I didn't know how to cook a meal. I doubt I did any laundry. I'm sure I was a complete pain in the ass.

So those are three different pictures. All are of well-intentioned guests who love the new mother very much and whom the new mother loves very much and is comfortable with, so that's not a sufficient test for whether they'll be a good post-partum guest. But! I'm sure I could have told you before actually having these experiences that my mother is highly competent and matter-of-fact, with a lot of executive function, and my mother-in-law is affectionate but flaky, and 19-year-olds are generally selfish and clueless. Only you know what kind of guests your relatives will be!
posted by palliser at 2:57 PM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Do you have space in your house -- like your bedroom -- with a door that you can close and hang out with the baby? A good way to handle this might be to say "I'd love to have you, but I also really want to bond with the new little one, so I'm going to be spending a fair amount of 'us time' while you're here." And then hang out in your room a lot, with the baby. It's understandable that a new momma would want to really bond and rest, and this should not be a problem for anyone. And definitely fold your husband into this, too.

People can make themselves busy while you, your husband, and the baby hang out - for hours at a time - alone. You're not entertaining, you're creating a family unit. That family unit includes your extended family, too, so it might be really great to have them around. Since you say you like your family, this shouldn't be a huge problem.

And of course you can set limits on the amount of time they stay. And don't be afraid to put them to work while they're there. If you all like each other, this should work just fine.
posted by k8lin at 4:07 PM on August 16, 2012

Regardless of what you settle on, make sure there is a clear understanding with you and your partner - and your guests - that they may be required to vacate the premises and stay in a hotel or whatever if it's all too much. No one can predict how it will go with you having a baby, and it will save much social friction at a time when you have little patience/social lubricant, if you are up front about playing it by ear, and your partner can say at any time, "hey there, it's getting a bit much, would you guys mind spending the next few nights in a hotel? Thanks."

You don't want to be negotiating those troubled waters when you have a new, newborn around.

More broadly, we didn't have any guests, and the guests we had - even afterwards - were mainly more trouble than it was worth. Mostly people who are newish parents themselves will be the only ones that understand, helping out etc. Everyone else seems to get retrospective amnesia about the first six months. We had guests staying for hours (>8 guests for >6 hours, expecting entertaining! Crazy!), grandparents offering "helpful" advice etc.

Staying in a hotel gave had no potential negative for us and our guests; whereas staying in the apartment definitely did.
posted by smoke at 5:01 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

You know, I thought about it a bit more, and another thing to think about is that you might really, really want and appreciate the help of family members over the next few years, especially if you plan on having any more children. Small children are very hard, and visiting grandparents and aunts and uncles can be a lot of fun for them, and a relief for you. I'm thinking about the fact that after that initial visit, I did become a helpful houseguest for my sister's infants and toddlers -- feeding early-waking children breakfast and taking them to the park so my sister could sleep in, folding laundry, helping with dinner -- and my brother-in-law at one point said he'd be happy if I lived with them.

It just struck me that we see a lot of AskMe's about how people would like their relatives to function as more of a "village" as they're raising their young children, and I wonder if taking an arm's-length attitude just after the birth could damage the potential for that kind of relationship. I did bond with my little niece and long to see her again, and if my sister had treated me as the pain in the ass that I was on that first visit, I'm not sure I would have gone back so often. And my mother-in-law is a great help to us in general, always willing to take a couple of days off work to come help out if we need her. It's a 2-way street, because we also take time to include her in our lives when we don't need her for something. Just something to think about!
posted by palliser at 5:55 AM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Thanks, everyone! This has all been most helpful, but most importantly, made me feel like I wasn't being overly anxious with all of my doubts. Part of the reason my husband and I bought such a large house was to accommodate any visitors, but I think if we set some expectations ahead of time, space everyone out, and, perhaps most importantly, put people to work while they're here, it might work out. (I just wish some of them were better cooks!)
posted by saratravels at 8:03 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

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