Tell Me About It: Make use of grandparents

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Question: I have a baby on the way and a set of unhelpful in-laws who have offered to help when the baby comes. We have not accepted this offer, but instead suggested they visit a few weeks after the baby is born and stay in a nearby hotel for a few days.

Their tone indicates they are not thrilled, but they aren't fighting it. I also think we need to indicate that we'll have daily visits with them (one or two a day), but they won't be at our house for most of their waking hours. My husband said he's mentioned there are restaurants and theaters within walking distance of their hotel, and this should be indication enough. I disagree and would like him to be direct with them before the baby comes. Thoughts?

Answer: How, exactly, is their help unhelpful? A baby is a big deal, and you are in charge, but a baby is also a big deal with grandparents. The more compassion you can bring to your limits, and the more you can arrange things to draw out their strengths, the better this whole relationship will go.

Question: They are unhelpful because they have health problems and mobility issues, and one is very impatient around kids. Neither cooks. "Helping" to them would be holding the baby.

Answer: That does leave a few chances for helping out, though. Holding the baby, for one, is lovely for them and the baby, and gives you a chance to take a hot bath. They can do laundry if the units are on the ground floor and fold it if they aren't. They can plan, order, and clean up after delivery meals, or they can reheat and clean up after meals you or others have prepared ahead of time. They can take pictures.


E-mail Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com.