Need space for new family
March 21, 2014 4:57 PM   Subscribe

We have a new (4 month old) baby. Hooray! My husband and I both have wonderful parents who want to see their only granddaughter as much as they can. His parents live almost across the country so don't visit often. The problem is with my parents, and I need a reality check about what I'm asking of them- am I setting reasonable boundaries or being selfish?

We live in a 2 bedroom apartment, one bedroom is ours and one is the baby's. We have a futon in our living room/office area. My parents live about 4 hours away and want to visit at least once per month. I am ok with this, but suggested they stay in a hotel for some/most visits as our apartment is crowded with 4 adults and 1 baby. They were very upset about this.

Here is the situation from my (and my husband's) perspective: we are trying to carve out some space for our new family. We both work, so weekends are our only time to all be home together. We love my parents, but our place is just not big enough and ends up feeling less like a slumber party and more like our home is being taken over.

From my parents' perspective: We are all "family" and they are very generous with us. They always welcome us into their home and are going out of their way to visit us and baby.

Help me metafilter- I feel like I need some objectivity from you all as to whether this sounds cold and selfish or if this is something reasonable that new families do.
posted by chela to Human Relations (29 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You are entitled to ask them to stay in a hotel. If you live in a metro area see if you can help by finding them a nearby Airbnb apartment to reserve once a month. You could even go visit them there!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:02 PM on March 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've had both my parents stay in our two-bedroom place; four adults and one small in an apartment with one bathroom is a lot to handle. And it's hard to relax when you can't let it all hang out because there's somebody sleeping in your living room. How long are these visits? For 1-2 nights, I could probably deal with couch crashers; any longer than that and a hotel sounds good. It's your house, you set the rules. That said, your baby is only 4 months old, so I would try not to piss off Mom and Dad too much because in 6 months, you might be desperate to have them crash at your house and entertain baby so you can (go out to eat/go away for the weekend/run errands without having to drag a stroller with you/whatever).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:08 PM on March 21, 2014 [9 favorites]

Oh and this is beyond reasonable. You only have 3 rooms. Unless they are abjectly poor they can afford to do this (unless you live in Manhattan). They really shouldn't be upset. I always offer to stay in a hotel when I visit my sister and her two kid's even though they have a 5 bedroom house. They are in my opinion being kinda rude.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:08 PM on March 21, 2014 [10 favorites]

You're not out of line and you expressed the reasons kindly and frankly. One thing that worked for me was 'we are just getting used to being a family' and 'we are just learning to be parents and need some space' etc. But hell no to having visitors on a monthly basis in a small space, regardless of who they are.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:08 PM on March 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

I don't think the request is out of line -- four adults and an infant in one apartment sounds like a LOT, especially if it is happening on a monthly basis. That said, I wonder if the cost of the hotel on such a regular basis is part of the sticking point for your parents (although they may be embarassed to admit it). At least in many areas, 3-4 nights staying at a hotel every month really does add up, especially when you factor in gas for the trip, meals, and other associated costs. Perhaps it would be possible for you to let them stay with you guys for 1-2 nights, and then split the cost of 1-2 nights at a hotel.
posted by rainbowbrite at 5:23 PM on March 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Nthing the above. And set and enforce boundaries now before it becomes harder.
posted by cestmoi15 at 5:25 PM on March 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Your space, your rules. If they are upset enough to become less generous, so be it. I'm sure they laid down the law similarly when you were a teen, and you probably got upset. Youre just doing what they taught you about setting boundaries.
posted by davejay at 5:26 PM on March 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

(Grand)mothers tend to want to bond with their daughters when their daughters have their first child.

However, having a child changes the entire dynamic. For husbands and wives / fathers and mothers, it takes about a year to return to some sort of equilibrium after the birth of a child.

So the dynamic that exists between you and your parents is going to change, too. They will just have to get used to it, since I have learned there really is no arguing with a new mom in at least the first 6 months after birth :)
posted by KokuRyu at 5:27 PM on March 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

No, not out of line at all. Be happy you and your spouse are on the same page about this kind of thing.
posted by JenMarie at 5:50 PM on March 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is definitely a situation where I believe that how you say it matters as much as what you're saying. If you just say in something like "We're thrilled that you guys WANT to visit that much, and we're so lucky to have you guys, and we feel really bad about this, but this is more of a space issue than anything."

The suggestions about booking a hotel or airbnb for them would help to soften the blow even more, but probably aren't strictly necessary, and it obviously depends on your/their financial situation.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 5:55 PM on March 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

It might help you talk to them if you knew how things were between your parents and their parents when you (or your oldest sibling) was born.

Some possibilities might be
- Never saw their parents (dead, distant, estranged) and this is what they wished had happened (Lets you say, "I'm so lucky, I really appreciate you but you might not realize we don't have quite enough space, let's make one tweak to the arrangementso it works better for everyone)
- Saw their parents all the time but it was easier because everyone lived closer and went home at night or they had a larger house or easier in some other way. (Again, you can say this is great but a little difference, need this one small change)
- Saw their parents, didn't like it at the time and have forgotten/don't realize they are doing it to you
- Actually had the same situation and had no problems (not likely but then you just have to say "I guess we are different, hubby and I need more privacy/space)
posted by metahawk at 6:10 PM on March 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

It is the old "country hospitality" thing. There is no reason for it now since the build-up of cities and towns, and the invention of motels and handy hotels. Grandparents need to realize that.
posted by Cranberry at 6:31 PM on March 21, 2014

Aw, why not put the baby in the room with you for a few nights in a Pack n Play or similar, and pull the futon into "the baby's room" for your parents, or get an air mattress? The baby doesn't care where he sleeps, but your parents do.

It may be a little disruptive, sure, but for a short visit, why not? At least try it for a few months.

It is worth making the effort to be generous.
posted by nkknkk at 6:33 PM on March 21, 2014 [11 favorites]

Plus, if it's JUST A LITTLE uncomfortable (despite your best efforts, good pillows, etc) I bet they get tired of it quick and find a hotel of their own accord...
posted by nkknkk at 6:35 PM on March 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think the inconvenience of this depends on length of stay and the easyness of the baby, but let me put it this way; we didn't do this with the first, and insisted on it with the second... it's better for everyone.
posted by smoke at 6:48 PM on March 21, 2014

To clarify about the length of the stay, it's usually 2 nights. And I know the money is a concern for them which is why we thought maybe every other or every few months we could have them stay here. Thanks everyone for the answers so far!
posted by chela at 6:53 PM on March 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also I don't want to be all psycho parent here op but fyi this is just the start of a thing all parents face, which is others insisting on how you run your family, or that you should give your family lower priority than you want to. View this as valuable practice in the art of pushing back diplomatically as it never stops from here out. Always be confident that you know what's best for your kid and your family, and never feel guilty about pursuing it.*

*Unless you don't believe in vaccination ;)
posted by smoke at 7:07 PM on March 21, 2014 [22 favorites]

When our older son was born, our parents came and stayed with us in our house. It wasn't easy for my wife. An apartment would be pretty challenging.

If money is an issue, why not offer to pay for their stay in a hotel?
posted by KokuRyu at 7:25 PM on March 21, 2014

It's interesting to me that you are having different ideas about this with your own parents (rather than with your in-laws). My parents would never dream of staying with my in my apartment (baby or not) and I wouldn't want them to, but my fiance would "never make his mother stay in a hotel." So I think it's totally reasonable that you would not want them crowding in but I can see how different people have different ideas on this subject. As suggested above, could you rig it so your parents stay in the baby's room and the baby stays with you? Or they stay in your room and you stay with the baby? That would at least free up the living room.
posted by radioamy at 8:41 PM on March 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

2 nights at your house seems very doable to me. A friend has had her parents in her living room for nearly a year (the bigger house they are renovating is taking much longer than planned). That's four adults and three little ones. There are differences in cultural norms in space requirements, however, and I think Koreans are on the "squash in, it's more cozy and I'll get to see more of you!" side of the spectrum.
posted by spamandkimchi at 1:31 AM on March 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think this depends a lot on how they act while taking up 1\4 of your family weekend time with a small baby. Do they help out with cleaning and meals? Or do they sit on your couch and hold the baby and expect to be hosted?

If they are helpful then i would try harder to accommodate. If they hold the baby so you can clean and cook for 2 extra people, then no.

also consider what you want your family expectations to be for the future - do you want to set up a one weekend a month dynamic as your child gets older? Once she gets involved in more activities and such it may be harder to accommodate that.
posted by nakedmolerats at 2:38 AM on March 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

We also have two bedrooms and my mother comes to visit from out of town and it works out great because we have an arrangement. She sleeps in the room with BabyJungle and gets up for night time feeds and in the morning and we get to sleep, it's amazing! Now that BabyJungle is ToddlerJungle she gets up with her in the morning and fixes her some milk and they read books and play until breakfast.

HavIng someone else get up with the baby is a bit strange at first but oh my gosh is the sleep worth it. Maybe ask them what they'd think about it and go from there.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 4:56 AM on March 22, 2014 [6 favorites]

Why not compromise, alternate - they stay at your place on odd months and the hotel even months. 2 days every 60 days seems super doable to me, and it cuts their annual hotel bill half, lastly you are showing them that you do care about how they feel by giving up a little bit.
posted by ill3 at 5:37 AM on March 22, 2014

Why not compromise, alternate - they stay at your place on odd months and the hotel even months. 2 days every 60 days seems super doable to me, and it cuts their annual hotel bill half, lastly you are showing them that you do care about how they feel by giving up a little bit.
posted by ill3 at 14:37 on March 22

This, with an extra twist, once the kid is old enough for you to be comfortable with it: the 'hotel weekends' also alternate: one time they stay at the hotel, the other time, you stay at the hotel. They have an extra opportunity to bond with the kid, you and your partner have a weekend for just the two of you.
posted by Ms. Next at 5:50 AM on March 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

once the kid is old enough for you to be comfortable with it: the 'hotel weekends' also alternate: one time they stay at the hotel, the other time, you stay at the hotel.

This can also have an extra twist: once the kid gets old enough, put this is the rotation: they stay at the hotel WITH THE KID and you can have your house in peace for a few days.
posted by CathyG at 8:37 AM on March 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would keep in mind the fact that this is a temporary situation and the benefits of grandparents involved in the raising of your child are *so huge*. Absolutely, the decision whether they stay with you or not is yours alone and you need to assert yourself and let everyone be absolutely aware that you are in charge of your home. But with this being a new baby, especially if this is a first grand baby, you can expect fewer visits as time goes by and they will be more concerned with their own comfort when they visit in the future. You very well may be moving to a larger space for the benefit of your family anyway.

But you *will* want well bonded grandparents to come and watch junior when daycare suddenly falls through, you *will* need a weekend away from the kid at some point. Having people whom your child trusts, who know your child's schedule, who know where the extra diapers are kept or how to get milk at 3 am in your neighborhood is so so helpful.

I think a simple statement like "I'm looking forward to you guys spending more time with junior this weekend. Lately the Mister has been coming home late and needs a little space at night, and junior's sleep schedule is really off and we need the living room open for feeding/play/ working from home. Here's what I was thinking would make sense and I want to know what works for you..."
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:56 AM on March 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Even if you were being totally unreasonable, it's your home. You're allowed to make rules about who can stay there. If you don't want house guests for the weekend, then you are allowed/empowered/encouraged to say no. If people stay with you for the weekend then that's 12 days of zero downtime (work week + guests + work week). That's a lot to ask of a new family.

By the way, your parents aren't being "generous" if they expect repayment in the form of unfettered access to your home. They aren't going out of their way; they are doing what they want to do to see their grandchild. There's some serious manipulation and guilt in those sentences.
posted by 26.2 at 12:14 PM on March 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Honestly, a year from now you might welcome free babysitters for the weekend! And it's hard to explain, but once you see your child independently develop a relationship with his/her grandparents, then the situation will take on a whole different dimension.

I'd take a middle road here and let them stay every 6-8 weeks if you can't put them up in a hotel yourself, and let things evolve as necessary.
posted by yarly at 8:44 PM on March 22, 2014

Work out what's best for you and your family and then work out how to help your parents come to visit.

Firstly, you say at least once every month, which means that some months it's more than once? Secondly, you say it feels like your home is being taken over by them. This makes me think that they are not really unobtrusive house guests who make themselves useful by asking what they can do to help and do that but that they may start to interfere in your routines and ways of doing things?

I think you need to have a good chat with your parents. Work out what your end goal is before you have the conversation. Do you want less frequent visits? Less frequent visits where they are house guests in your home? Would it help if they were 'better' house guests, whatever that means for you?

Once you know what you want explain to them that you love them and want baby chela to get to know them and have a good and close relationship with them. At the same time space is limited, your family time is also limited and your home is yours and is organised and run as you like it. So the current pattern of visits does not work for you for reasons ABC. What you'd like to see is X.

Hear what they have to say. Work out a solution that works for everybody. Are they concerned about cost, do they feel excluded, do they not realise their idea of being helpful is interference? Be kind but firm. As others have said this is the first of many circumstances where you have to negotiate family interactions between your new family and your old family.
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:04 AM on March 23, 2014

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