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As we draw closer to the end of this series, I am going to look closer at things that annoy parents the world over. The biggest complaint outside of your relationship is what OTHERS say and do.
Tonight I am going to look at people who just drop around all the time, or just unannounced just after you have arrived home from the hospital.
Sometimes it is a cultural thing and it can have its pros and cons. For example, my wife’s family is Greek and they have an open door policy. Just drop in anytime, have a cuppa while they have brought something to nibble on. Sounds great…..until you realise the decibels are less on a chainsaw as the kids try to sleep in the next room.
It’s probably not intentional but the Greeks love a good time and with good times comes broken routines, and broken routines lead to broken Mums And Dads. The after effects are not always seen and the cyclone they leave behind can be stressful on Mum, Dad and the kids.
I once heard a saying to this effect…
‘If you complain without offering a solution , it’s just a complaint and is meaningless. If you make a solution and enact it, then there will be nothing to complain about.’
So this is the foundation for this little snippet of wisdom. If people are coming around unannounced, at odd times of the day or night or want to stay longer than they are welcome, don’t sit there and stew over it. Chances are you will take it out on your other half or the kids when they have done nothing wrong.
I am going to refer back to Part 2 of this series at this point. Do you remember the whiteboard trick?
Set up a little white board in view of guests at your place about 6 months into the pregnancy. Write ‘fold a basket of laundry clothes’ at the top. When they ask what it is, tell then it is the ‘Key to Hugs n Kisses’. When they either ask what you mean or give you a blank look, explain to them that in order to get ‘Hugs n Kisses time’, they must complete one item on the list you are drawing up.
Again, by prepping friends and family on your intent, you will see some people either never come over again (yes it will happen!), or if they take it well, ask them to add a small job to the list. It is a simple ‘something for something’ and it usually works well. You get the help you need and they get to hold or entertain the babies while you can actually have a hot cup of coffee or tea. 🙂
Sharing the load can be a godsend!
Now this is where all that preparation can really pay off. Since the implementation of the whiteboard three months ago, you have had the chance to also set some expectations and boundaries for your family and friends. Let’s rewind a bit….
When you put the whiteboard in plain sight and it starts up the conversation of what it is for, this is a unique opportunity to let them know what to expect. It will save putting a lot of noses out of joint, stress, anxiety and just adds a healthy dose of plain old common sense…not that it’s common these days.
As part of this conversation, let them know you are going to be establishing a routine that you don’t wish to have interrupted and cite a few examples.
EG: You will have something akin to visiting hours, the kids will not be woken up just because someone has arrived, do a job off the whiteboard before they get kisses n cuddles, text message you before just dropping in, etc….
With this casually repeated a few times most will take note and have no issues, there are however, a few exceptions who tend not to hear this and I refer back to Part 2 of the Series about Parents and In Laws. As well meaning as they are, the kids are not toys, they need their sleep and routine to make your life easier. As also discussed in part 2, setting those expectations at the ‘afternoon cuppa with the family’ where you can get everything out in the open, you can gently remind them that they had their chance to have a say then….not now.
I am going to go a little off topic here, but it does fit in with what you’re trying to achieve.
My wife and I agreed long before the twins arrived that we were going to go down the path of a routine. Being a special ed teacher, my wife had seen the benefits of routines and what they can achieve. Who was I to argue?
When we arrived home, we just kept a track of feeding & sleeping times. To our surprise, the boys had fallen straight into a three-hour sleep and one hour awake (4 hr) cycle. After 4 days we started to keep this as their routine.
Awake at 6am, feed at 7am, sleep until 10am, feed at 11am, sleep until 2pm, etc….
We would allow a 15 minute variation on the feeding. It it also allowed is a lot freedom as well. Routines are a godsend and I will discuss this in more detail in Part 9.
Once when we knew the boys were going to be awake, visiting hours were established. As people started to ask when they could pop around to say hello, it was easy to say sure, which of these times suit you, 6-7am, 10-11am, 2-3pm or 6-7pm. You have immediately set the boundaries of not only when they can come, but also how long they can comfortably stay.
In the blink of an eye, we knew the kids would be awake, they could help feed them, if they so desired, and also fold a basket of laundry. Everyone got what they wanted so long as they also knew the kids would only be awake for that hour. If they arrived late, they miss out, no ifs or buts! Stick to your routine!
If people don’t get the hint, sometimes a little sign on the front door can be a timely reminder. Draw up a neat sign that simply says,”If you wake them, you take them” and stick it to the front door. If they don’t believe you and do wake the kids, immediately shove them in their arms and let them deal with 2, 3 or more screaming bubs while you go to make a cuppa. When they offer to hand them back, say ‘No, no, no, the sign on the front door is not just a decoration’, it might start to sink in.
Cruel to be kind? Maybe. Effective…absolutely!
Of course there is a level of sensitivity to all scenarios like this, you just need to be as polite, firm or in between as you need to be to get the message across. Remember, if your friends and family don’t know, then what right do you have to get all short tempered or narky?
Lastly, if someone wants to visit and they a sick, have a sniffly nose, a cough or anything resembling not being well, the answer is no, not today, thanks but no thanks or maybe when you’re well enough. A newborn household full of sick kids and parents is just disastrous and it isn’t pretty either. The lost routine and having to re establish it after loosing 4 days sleep is something you don’t even want to contemplate.
Are you sick of hearing the words ‘be prepared’ yet? Well, get used to it, it is your lifeline, your single resource that will let your sanity hang in that little bit longer that you had hoped for….but trust me. At the end of your ‘infants’ period of their lives and you say, ‘Hey, that wasn’t too bad’, you can give yourself a pat on the back for 10 seconds because it’s all about to change. 🙂
In part 9 I’m going to talk about how soon before you can get out and about as a family. In the meantime, those of you in the Northern Hemisphere, look forward to a magical spring. To those of you who are ‘Down Under’ rug up, winter is definitely on its way…