Thursday, May 29, 2014
Her Turf, My Terms
Giving Mom and newborn Baby time to bond and room to breathe seems to be a universally respected boundary. Breastfeeding extends the courtesy for a while longer. But I've noticed that every week that baby ages, relatives get bolder and more determined to interfere with mommy time.
I've tried to have an open door policy, allowing friends and relatives to come to my house whenever they can to see the baby. (Prior to having a baby, I rarely had visitors, and was very content to keep my home a private sanctuary.) My mother-in-law is the only such visitor who never calls ahead and the only one who dares to come every day and twice a day when she finds a suitable excuse to do so. I have often thought of refusing to answer the door for her, insist that she call first, or limiting her to bi-weekly visits. But, I don't know how that would set with my husband who generally views her interference as "helping." Besides, her visits, though frequent, are generally brief.
But I've noticed that she is making remarks by telling the baby, "When you get a little older, I'm going to take you away from your momma and buy you a hamburger." And more unkindly, "If you're mom will cut the apron strings, you can come home with me."
Well, she is very hurt that I won't let her babysit, and for some reason she has an intense desire to have the baby on her own turf. So, I came up with a plan to take the baby to see her. Her turf; my terms. I asked if we could visit her the following day so that the baby could have a change in scenery. She was overjoyed and said that she would love that and asked me to bring his bathtub so she could bathe him. Her daughter remarked to me how happy Grandma was, but in the course of the conversation, we realized that Grandma was expecting me to take him to her house and leave him there in her care. I have to wonder if she purposely misunderstood me, or if she simply heard what she wanted to hear. At any rate, I was sure that my gesture would end in her disappointment.
I planned my escape by making a lunch appointment with a girlfriend so that we would not get stuck at Grandma's all day and I did not take the bathtub. When it was time to pack things up, my mother-in-law suggested that I leave the baby with her while I enjoyed my luncheon, but I said that the friend was looking forward to seeing baby. She came up with several arguments, but I overcame each objections without raising my voice or seeming irritated. But when it came to the moment where she needed to hand him over to me, she held him close and said, "No. You can't take him." I must have looked furious because she made it into a joke and gave him up.
I went to my luncheon with baby and when we returned home, we received a phone call asking if we had gotten home okay (Grandma is a worrier). And in a few minutes, Grandma arrived at the house and said that she hadn't gotten enough time with her grandson. She stayed for several hours--the longest visit ever. This, I felt, was a real intrusion. I foresee a time when she and I are going to have a physical altercation where we are pulling at two ends of a screaming child and I see no way to avoid it!
Why do people want to spend time with your baby without you around? It's not like I hover or supervise their visits. I often take a nap or a shower when relatives come to see the baby. But they keep pressuring me to let them take the baby away from me. And the pressure is building as the baby gets older. As long as I am breast-feeding, I am maintaining control. But I'll probably wean him in a year or so. Why is the emphasis on TAKING him?