1. Chocobo

    Friends, I have a boundary dilemma. I have a new baby and I’m struggling with relatives who simply take the baby straight out of my arms without even asking. They’ll say: “Come to Grandma!” and just reach out and take her. Sometimes I will have barely gotten my child out of the carseat before she’s grabbed from my arms. Then we will spend the rest of the visit with the baby being passed from person to person without ever being put down to rest, or given back to me. Even when she starts to fuss or cry and I come over to retrieve her, they will insist she’s okay, they’ve done this before, and walk around with her bouncing to try and calm her, until I finally wrest the baby back from them when she won’t stop. Then the process starts all over again.

    Frankly, I am sick of it. We see our relatives quite often and I work, so the weekend is my time to spend with my (only) child too. I don’t even want to visit any more because I know it means I will not get to spend any time with my baby for hours except when I can manage to get her alone to feed or change a diaper, or comfort her from being overstimulated. I’m tired of not being asked to hold the baby, but I don’t know how to say “Just ask me, dammit!” The baby is not always in the mood to be constantly manhandled by eight family members all day. Sometimes she just needs to rest and be left alone, like anyone would be, without half a dozen people in her face. I hate watching her cry out in her sleep because she’s been transferred from one person’s arms to the next for the umpteenth time, when she really should be lying down for a nap in her carrier or a bassinet.

    We have tried to get around the problem by having limited, shorter visits, and when people come to visit us establishing boundaries which is much easier because I can preemptively put her in a swing or a playpen before guests arrive and tell them not to disturb her for a while. But I’m at a loss when visiting in other’s homes and they feel it is okay to simply take a child out of its parents arms without asking.

    Please, if you have any advice, it would be most welcome. I don’t want to start limiting time with the baby any more than we do and start cutting people off, or saying “No, you cannot have the baby now,” or “Give her back!” but enough is enough. I’m at my wit’s end.

    • Elizabeth

      Chocobo, as I’ve said in other discussions here, there are simply people who are bulldozers – they don’t care about your feelings or what you want, they only want to satisfy their own desires – and you seem to have a few in your family. There is no “polite” way to deal with people like this because they don’t hear the nuance when you say “maybe not right now” or “that’s ok.” Your daughter is clearly uncomfortable with some of the things they’re doing, and you know her best – you’re the mom. It’s up to you to protect and defend her (to whatever degree, in whatever capacity), and that means that you’ll have to grow a spine and just tell people “no!” Yes, they won’t like it. Yes, they may even get miffed. But no one is going to start respecting your boundaries until you draw some up and enforce them. You can practice some scenarios with your husband in advance if you like. “No thanks, she’s tired right now, maybe later.” “No really, it’s ok, I’m going to hold her right now.” Practice turning away and physically blocking someone grabbing at her. Practice approaching the person holding her and firmly taking her away. “It’s time for her feeding/changing/nap.” or “I can tell that she’s getting antsy. I’ll take her now.” If you’re challenged, say flatly: “I’m her mother, I know her best and she needs X,YorZ. (Swoop in and take.)” There’s absolutely NOTHING wrong with: “Sorry, it’s not a good time right now.” or “Sorry, you can’t hold her just now.” or “Give her back please.” “She really needs to be in her bassinet. She doesn’t sleep well being held, and then she’ll be up all night.” Intersperse as needed with “Thanks for the offer, but I’ve got it handled right now.” Even a firm, “NO – thanks.” is good.

      Since you mentioned that you feel like you don’t get enough alone-time or nuclear family time with the baby, it sounds like limiting time with family on the weekend would actually be a good idea. Limit visits to once every other weekend, or just go for 2 hours and leave.

      Think of it this way: if it’s between offending family members (who apparently won’t take no for an answer, or can’t hear ‘no’ until you state it really strongly) or protecting the well-being of your child, which would you rather do?

      • Jodi

        Very well said, Elizabeth.

        Chocobo, I agree completely with what Elizabeth has said. This is your baby and you do know her best. It is okay for you to risk annoying others because it is her health and well-being at risk here — and yours, as well. When it comes to picking your battles, this is one you not only choose to fight, but you must win. Stand your ground, speak calmly and firmly — Elizabeth provided you with excellent wording options — and as she said, use your body to emphasize your words by turning away, reaching out and taking, and firmly holding on. Babies are not stuffed animals to be passed around for everyone’s enjoyment — especially when these people see her on a regular basis. She is a living, breathing little person who has the right to not be manhandled — and it’s never to early to show her that “you have her back!”

        • Alicia

          Ditto. A polite spine is a great thing for a parent to have. Sometimes it is simply for your kids best if you say not now.

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      I agree with Elizabeth and Jodi and would like to add that once you have established that you have the final say in who gets to hold your baby and when, I think the next step would be when your baby is in a good mood you should ask family members if they would like to hold her (one person at a time). Then if she starts getting fussy you can take her back. This will help establish that they should trust you to offer when the time is right and (hopefully) they will learn not to even ask to hold her but to wait to be offered.

    • Chocobo

      Thanks, everyone. I will be firmer. I just hate being forced into the position of having to look like the “bad guy” and demand my own baby back while they whine that they didn’t get enough time, or say “Oh no, you don’t want to go back yet, do you little baby? You like it better in Uncle’s arms.” Putting words in her mouth. I work very hard to be polite and have a good relationship with my relatives and it just seems unfair to be forced into being aggressive and pushy because they are being aggressive and pushy.

      It is easier with my own family. My father will do this sometimes and it’s much easier for me to say, “tough cookies, Dad, you should have taken me up on holding her when I offered before. Now she needs Mommy” while simply plucking her from his arms. It’s much harder with my in-laws, who also happen to be much pushier. It’s tiring to be constantly setting boundaries or else get steamrolled. Any advice on how my husband can handle it? I hate to have him have to sit down with them and lay out the rules plainly — honestly, who needs to be told, “Stop taking the baby out of our arms without asking” and “stop contradicting us” — but it feels like it is coming to that point. He has offered to do so, but I feel like there must be more graceful ways to say “stop that this instant.”

  2. Nessy

    “limiting time with family on the weekend would actually be a good idea. Limit visits to once every other weekend, or just go for 2 hours and leave. ”

    These, my Dear Chocobo, are words of pure gold. This is an important time in yours, your husband’s and your baby’s lives. You need time together to develop as your own little family. All the best Hon x

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