All the grandparents want to visit all the time! How do we manage long-distance family visits?

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Family We live on the West Coast, and the grandparents (my in-laws, my mother, my father and my step mom) live in three different East Coast cities. My eight-month-old son is the ONLY grandchild on either side. The grandparents are (understandably!) enthusiastic and each set wants to visit every couple of months, which adds up to a LOT of travel and/or house guests.

We’ve tried to take advantage of the free babysitting possibilities in these situations, but our son isn’t very independent yet, so that’s not as easy as it could be. We still find the every-third-weekend visits EXHAUSTING!

What are your strategies for balancing family enthusiasm with the rest of your life, especially over a long distance? — Alice

Comments on All the grandparents want to visit all the time! How do we manage long-distance family visits?

  1. We had to set very definite limits and learn to say no to visits by family. We literally had less than a week combined in the first three months after my eldest was born in which we were house guest free. Initially it was helpful, but after the first week or two, we were quickly getting back to functional, and my partner got two months worth of paternity leave. Not like I was going to be home alone, nor was I recovering from surgery or anything that required extra help. Everyone just wanted to visit for long stretches of time, and no one wanted to pay for a hotel room. I was even guilt tripped into never setting up my daughter’s nursery (something I felt awful about at the time, and am still very bitter about) so that we had an extra guest room for when more than one branch of the family wanted to visit at the same time.

    When I started to hit rock bottom in trying to handle this mess, we finally set a policy that house guests were invite only, and anyone inviting themselves or just calling us to let us know they were 3/4ths of the way across the state and would be there in an hour would be told we were out/had plans/had no room right then. It only took a couple of times for everyone to get the memo.

  2. We are on the east coast, with grandparents in Europe and the west coast. Our four month old is the only grandchild. We’re slowly learning about setting boundaries, but it’s tough. One thing we’ve done is ask our families to stay elsewhere when they visit. My parents actually did a house swap, which worked out great, because it was free accommodation. They’ve now established a relationship with the couple, and plan to do another house swap with them next summer. For short visits, we’ve asked around friends to see if anyone is away for a long weekend. For Christmas, for example, many of our friends go back home to be with family, so my partner’s parents stay in a friend’s very nice condo not far from us (for free). Air BnB is another cheap option we’ve explored.

    We’ve also chosen to travel to our families while we’re on parental leave. It’s like a mini vacation, plus we get to catch up with our old friends and other family members.

    We’ve also talked about splitting flight costs, meeting in other places (we do a weeks’ vacation as a family somewhere, then one set of parents joins us for the second week of vacation). That way, we don’t use all our precious vacation time and money visiting home.

    We’ve also started to be gently upfront about the help we need during the visit – cooking meals, mowing the lawn etc. One of our bugbears was that family came to visit, and merrily held a sleeping baby for hours, while I washed dishes, did laundry and cleaned the house.

  3. I have the same situation. We live on the west coast, family all on the east. Just deal with it and let rhem visit. They won’t be around forever and you will appreciate the memories and photographs after they are gone. Trust me on this.

    • While this may work great for you, please keep in mind that not everyone feels that way, nor has that sort of relationship with their families. It seems counterproductive to tell someone to “just deal with it.”

      As for Alice, I don’t have any real-world experience with this, but are the grandparents versed in technology well enough that you can try to use Skype and other services like that to allow them to interact, but not travel to you as often? Maybe that will lessen the struggle to set boundaries.

    • I have to second Rae on this one. Its really important for new parents to set boundaries that they’re comfortable with. I really regret not setting firmer boundaries with my family – totally on me, my parents wanted to be helpful and I’m pretty sure would have respected my wishes, I just didn’t have the energy for a confrontation. As a result, I -don’t- have good memories of the post partum period. I’m naturally introverted and need a lot of time to myself and I had people at my house all day for the first seven weeks. It wasn’t a great idea at a point when I really needed to just learn how to be a mama and bond with my baby. I feel like I missed out on creating my own memories with my newborn.

      I hear you on treasuring grandparents’ moments with your child when they won’t be around forever. We’re a long way from our families and there are various health issues with grandparents on both sides that really bring that home to us. But I think there are ways of creating space for those moments and memories while still ensuring that new parents don’t have added stress at a really important point in their lives.

    • I respectfully disagree as well… I hesitated in communicating boundaries that actually made sense for me early on, and so many of my memories from that time are of the resentment I felt towards my in-laws for being around too much in unhelpful ways. We worked through it and it’s a lot better now, but it was hard work. “Just dealing with it” would have left me more bitter, I think, and would mean them seeing their granddaughter even less. You gotta take care of yourself.

    • This is bad and dangerous advice. Telling Alice that she should just suck up constant houseguests is unhelpful at best. This isn’t a week after the baby is born this is someone staying with her every other weekend. That’s a custody arrangement, not normal grandparents. If Alice doesn’t want visitors all the time she should say so.

      Eight months of constant houseguests is tiresome and leaves little time for her and her spouse to find their feet. With all the guests they must have problems adhering to a routine and their family life is constantly disrupted. That being said, Alice, you need to use you big girl words. Say “Mom, that doesn’t work for me how about in 3 months.” If she throws a fit say “You get what you get and you don’t get upset. I’ll see you in 4 months.” For each fit she throws, guilt trip, or other bad behavior add on more time before you’ll allow a visit. Then throw up your feet and find out where the nearest splash park is. (For mom sub in mother-in-law or whoever is behaving badly.)

  4. Any time there are house guests it can be overwhelming! It’s hard to be a host when you’re just not feeling it. There are more chores to do and more food to prepare than you are used to! Here’s what I’ve found helps to avoid the “I love you guys but you have to leave” scenario:

    Ask them to follow your HOUSE RULES. Help them realize that you do things for a reason. Example: taking off your shoes when you go inside decreases the amount of vacuuming you need to do. (My mom was okay vacuuming every day, but I am not!) Provide extra pairs of slippers in winter to encourage this! You may have other rules concerning bed times, morning routines, etc.

    In general, it helps to give them specific tasks, not just ask them to help out. Ask them to walk the dog. Ask them to throw their linens in the washer (your house isn’t a hotel!). Ask them to set the table while you are cooking. Better yet, ask your parents to take over your kitchen and make a favorite childhood meal. Enlist them in helping with projects you’re working on, like photo albums, etc. Ask someone to take pictures or to set up a picture sharing account on a website since you want to take ad

    Organize a space for the guests: Have a little basket or tray for cell phones, wallets, glasses, cell phone chargers, keys, etc so your guests don’t put them down somewhere and they get lost! Have a bottle of water in their bedroom so they don’t have to fumble around in the kitchen in the middle of the night.

    The other important part is to schedule some “apart” time. They can take the baby or not- it will just give you some time to yourself to accomplish what you need to do or just to have some down time. You can either leave the house to run errands, or you can suggest something they might like to do like an event at a library or an exhibit on something they like or see a movie. Or maybe during the baby’s nap you can all have quiet time where they can read a novel and you can do the same or pay bills, etc.

    And the hardest part for me with house guests is SCHEDULING. I try to account for a certain amount of flexibility, but it can be difficult when people change their plans. Maybe a dry erase board can help keep everyone organized on a daily basis, especially if you are trying to keep a schedule for the baby. Note when dinner is, any time away from the house, etc.

    Even though it can seem like mostly a headache, it can be wonderful to have your family around. Hopefully some of these tips that helped me deal with family house guests in general will work for you!

  5. I’m so grateful to see this and look forward to further replies.

    I’m the only child of a single mom having the only grandchild likely to happen in either my family or my husband’s. My mom has already announced that she intends to be here when the baby is born, intends to stay for a week, intends to stay with us (in our tiny apartment), and really cannot conceive of how I’m not ecstatic about this. I love her dearly, and generally we get along well, but I’m completely stressed out about this.

    I’m sure my husband’s family plans to be here, too, but their financial situation is better than my mom’s and they can get a hotel. (She really can’t, and I can’t afford to put her up in one for a week.)

    We have 6 months to address this, but it is already more stressful to me than anything else about this pregnancy. Silly, I suppose.

    Anyway – I’m grateful to see it being discussed! We’re venturing into a whole new realm of family, and with that comes a whole new realm of boundaries!

    • @ dk I know what you mean. We are still pre-baby, but my father already has a visit planned for when he becomes a poppa. While I am thrilled that he wants to be involved, our condo isn’t big enough for 3 adults + baby, and he can’t afford a hotel stay. On his last visit, I broached the subject of having him stay in the hostel that is literally two blocks away from our house. He was visibly offended so I asked him where he thought the baby was going to sleep when he/she arrived. It dawned on him that “his” room would be the baby’s room. I can’t believe that I had to explain that to him, but once I did, he was less disgruntled. Maybe if you go over the logistics with your mother that could help her see things from your perspective and help manage her expectations.

      What I would also suggest is looking into hotel alternatives for the grandparents. If you look on sites like, you can rent apartments/hostels/rooms for whatever length of visit you need. Perhaps your mother and inlaws can share a two bedroom apartment for cheaper than a hotel room. It might be overwhleming to have everyone down at once, but you’ll also be able to send them off together whenever you need a break.

      I’m not sure if this is feasible for you (the parents might not get along), but it might be worth looking into.

      • My parents wanted to visit from 4+ hours away as often as possible after our son was born…and for the eighteen months since then…and we have a fairly small two bedroom apartment, very weird sleep habits, no time to clean to their standards, and three cats. Because staying in hotels, or even houseshares, was just not feasible, we very strategically networked with our friends and coworkers to figure out when anyone was going to be away for a weekend. Grandparents as housesitters means they can’t be in our space all the time – they’ve got responsibilities, whether those be dogs who need walking or plants that need watering – and their visits are essentially timed according to when we coordinate lodging for them. Our friends LOVE having two clean, responsible fifty-five-year-olds housesit for free, and we love having some say over when they visit and for how long.

    • I had to deal with some of these expectations before my son was born, and I’m so glad I did (deal with them, that is). For me, my mom intended to be with us for the birth, and this was a huge “NO” for me. As certain as I was that I didn’t want her present for the birth (I was hoping for a certain birth environment, and I knew her stress-prone personality wouldn’t fit), it was really hard for me to make this happen. I thought of all sorts of ways around saying it directly, but knew that there were always rebuttals. Turns out there’s no good “but what if” response to “I love you, but I don’t want you there”. OK, I didn’t say that exactly, but I got that message across. I even convinced her that our midwife had encouraged us to stay overnight visitor-free for at least the first couple nights after the birth, so that we could connect as a family and not worry about anyone else (I may have made this part up, but it worked). My son’s 11 months old now, she’s visited him a ton, and although I know she was initially upset about my birth wishes, she’s long since gotten over it.

      Also – we were also in a tiny apartment when he was born, and my mom (after a few days) did visit for a little over a week, and it was a lot easier than I expected. She ended up being super helpful, both with the baby and household stuff, and it didn’t feel like she was in the way even though she slept in the living room. Every family member is different of course, but I found that as I figured out what was helpful and not, it was easier to communicate that as needed.

      A lot of text to say to both you and Alice: protect your space as much as you feel you need. Family will either understand (eventually) or will get over it. YOU don’t need to get over anything right now – there’s plenty of other adjusting to do.

    • My mother-in-law was super bummed that she wasn’t present for my daughter’s birth, but that was really how I needed it to be, and we all survived. Stay strong!

    • You need to tell her if you aren’t willing to have her stay with you so she can start saving now. Tell her “Mom, I’m so excited that you want to come out after the birth, but we won’t be able to put you up.” Then, check out Dealing with the Inlaws and Family of Origin on Baby Center to help you through the storm.

  6. My thoughts are that hopefully the more they visit, the less they will treat it like a vacation.
    If they know where everything is in your house then you will have to look after them less as guests.

    Definitely tell them what jobs need done around the house and ask them to help out in this way.
    And yes I feel that you can say no to visitors sometimes, explain that while you love to see them you also need some quiet time and see if they will Skype you more often instead

    • This may seem harsh, but I would take it a step further.

      This is not a vacation. For anyone. There has been a new baby, and if family members expect free accommodations during an overwhelming time for the parents, they can forget it. You can broach this politely or with humor, but include everyone who has invited themselves over (many will see this as their “gift” to you) in on the communication.

      For us, it would go as such:
      Hello! thanks to everyone who wants to come help at this time. Since we, as parents, have a lot to adjust to and need time to bond with our new child, we are planning on setting some “just us” time. We know you’ll understand our need for this. However! We are excited for visitors during this time:_____.
      If you plan to stay with us, please understand space is limited. As a silver lining, rent is cheap. Here are the accommodations we can offer.
      – Living room couch (blankets and pillow provided) rent: clean bathroom & kitchen once a week, vacuum as needed.
      – Unfinished basement (must bring your own air-mattress) rent: help with laundry and daily meals.
      Thank you so much in advance for the gift of your time helping us, while we spend time getting to know our new child and finding a rhythm in our new lives as a family.

      You might also want to specify a time each day that will be just yours with your baby. This might be bedtime or when you wake up in the morning, or whatever. Just some part of your daily routine that you would like to be just you, your partner, and your baby… with no outside interruption. You could offer this up as “time off” or “vacation time” away from your house, or just specify that you might be in your bedroom and would appreciate a quiet house and interruptions will not be welcomed. If you feel you need to offset this, you could also offer up time for each grandparent to have some spoiling time with the baby. This will give you time each day to retreat and take care of your self, and gives them one on one time with the baby.

  7. Setting boundaries is hard, but so very worth it! When my son was born, we made a policy that no one stayed at our house. It was a tough thing to tell my mom, and she was pretty upset at first. But I framed it s the best way to help us. Our place is small and we were up with the baby much of the night. Having her stay elsewhere and come in fresh in the morning, ready to take over baby duty, to make breakfast or whatever was very helpful for us.
    Keep in mind that your parents don’t have an automatic right to unlimited access to their grandchild. Their visits need to work for you, too. You have a right to decide who stays in your house and how long.
    I think setting strong boundaries while your child is a baby will make it easier to set other boundaries with grandparents down the line.

  8. In the past year, I saw my mom (with and without my dad) once a month for six months. She was living in Texas at the time. Most of that time she came to Portland, usually for a weekend at a time.

    Here’s what worked for us:
    1) We don’t have space for houseguests. We have a small house, with only one bathroom, so anyone who wants to come visit needs to find someplace else to stay. This is actually fantastic with my parents visiting. It gives all of us the time and space they need to do morning routines and start our days without getting in each others’ hair. Similarly, it gives them the ability to have quiet, child-free time in the evening after we’re done hanging out. And as my kiddo has gotten older, it’s become necessary. He gets so excited to see his grandparents that they have to leave in order for him to successfully fall asleep at night.
    2) I don’t change our routines dramatically for their convenience. Naptime happens at naptime. Bedtime happens at bedtime, even if that means that we eat dinner earlier than they want to (or we skip out on having dinner together).
    3) Relatedly, I’ve found it easiest to just relax and fold them into our routines. We might go and do interesting things, or have lunch at neat places, but we’re not going on grand adventures. I make a normal dinner, or they cook dinner at my house. They do a little babysitting. Before I had kids, when they would come to visit, it was a Big Deal every time. I find if we don’t make it a big deal, it helps me be less exhausted.

    • “Before I had kids, when they would come to visit, it was a Big Deal every time. I find if we don’t make it a big deal, it helps me be less exhausted.” <–This times a hundred.

      My first son was the first grand and great grand baby on both sides. Needless to say, there was a lot of excitement and a lot of expectations about how everything was going to play out after he was born. My husband was in the Air Force at the time doing a job that took him away three weeks out of every month, so I knew I could use some help, but was afraid that each visit would just be an exhausting sight seeing, take the baby everywhere, gotta do it all thing. We were in a new state that no one had visited yet, and the pressure was just building up in me to make everyone's visit perfect.

      At one point I brought this up to my mom and she made the statement "Why? Why do you have to do it all?" You know what? She was right. It took a couple of visits from everyone to finally figured it out, but I think we've pretty much got it. While we do allow house guests (You all have to sleep in my studio, so plan accordingly! haha) I integrate every visitor into our daily routines.

      Everyone has chores. Everyone has schedules. If you want to sight see, don't be offended if we're too tired to tag along. I have found that for my mother, this has really made things better. Instead of a whirlwind vacation every time she visits, she gets integrated into our daily lives. She can do story time at nap with my oldest, and then have some alone time watching movies while I get the baby to sleep. She can cook some of my favorite childhood meals for her grandkids while giving me a break from cooking and dishes. She has no qualms of doing a load of laundry when the hamper is full ever since I put our was instructions on the lid of the washer. I find that she really cherishes being a part of our lives rather than just a guest, and because it's always a laid back visit she has more money to come out more often.

      Of course, not everyone has taken to this set up as wonderfully as my mother. My inlaws almost never visit anymore because when they visit they want a vacation. Their loss. Even my husband feels that way. After he got out of the Air Force and became a regular member of our family and saw what visits were like from both sides, he agreed that I handled things the right way. A visit from his dad and step mom is downright exhausting for everyone, so they only visit once a year, if that anymore. He feels badly that his family isn't as close to our kids as mine, but he understands the rules I have put in place for visits and is behind them 100% and we both feel it's their fault they don't want to help out as much as they just want to steal away while playing with babies.

  9. My daughter was born early and both our families were overseas at the time. To be honest it was wonderful not to have to worry about them. When they all arrived a few weeks later I was much more ready to visit with them and share the baby with them than I would have been had they been there from the beginning. I’m pregnant with our second though now and very worried about being overwhelmed with family when the next baby arrives. Everyone will expect this baby to be early and won’t be making any plans, and we do actually need help caring for our daughter while I’m in hospital, so we do need someone around – I’m just worried they won’t leave afterwards. With a second baby our apartment will be beyond capacity, so having anyone stay even for a night will be very uncomfortable. Not sure how to approach this – I’m actually considering paying a babysitter to look after my daughter during the labour and period immediately after just to avoid any problems – at least a babysitter would be happy to leave once we arrive home with the baby. Maybe I will need help for an extended period of time though – I don’t want to be churlish and turn people away, only to find that I’m desperate for help after all. Would love to hear what others have done in this situation?

    • Could your oldest stay overnight with relatives? Giving them the job of taking care of the oldest grand baby might keep them out of your hair for a little while you get your newest integrated into your lives. You could frame it as being worried your oldest might not feel as special with all the fuss over a new sibling, and ask each set of grandparents to take her & spoil her for a couple days. This would also effectively stagger any visits to your place with the new baby since they’d be alternating turns away from your house with your oldest.

      My cousin arranged for this when they found out her second child would require surgery. They started having their oldest stay over with Gramma & Grampa, and also with Aunts & Uncles nearby so he would get used to it & look forward to the fun time he would have. It was great for everyone.

    • Postpartum doula! Probably more expensive than a typical babysitter (though that very much depends on the doula and the babysitter!) but would satisfy the requirement of “happy to leave” after caring for your daughter, would be competent around the topic of birth (nice for her, while you’re away in the hospital and unable to exactly predict what you’ll be dealing with) AND the doula would be helpful to you–everything from laundry to breastfeeding assistance. Many postpartum doulas offer a discounted hourly rate if you agree to a certain minimum number of hours. Ask about such packages!

  10. I sympathize SO MUCH. We had people staying here for the first 6 weeks and it was totally exhausting (not to mention really hurt my relationship with some of those people). Our twins are 10 months old and we are still kind of battling for boundaries. We told any group of more than 1 person that they had to stay in a hotel, and that 1 person who wants to stay with us is sleeping on the couch (we have a small apartment, no guest area or storage space for cots, and air mattresses keep getting popped by our cats). That has helped decrease the visits to every 5-6 weeks by each set of grandparents, which is more manageable. At first, each side wanted to visit every 3-4 weeks, which meant 50% of our time was with visitors, in our tiny walk-up apartment, and it just made me go nuts.

    I think the best thing for us has been communicating this with our families. My husband is great at telling his mom what is good for us and what isn’t. I am not so great at communicating with my family but I am working on it. They are here for 4 days right now but are staying at a hotel, they arrive at our apartment at 11am and leave by 9, which is a doable amount of time for 4 days. I try to delegate work and not get irritated by having so many people in the space.

    In the time between visits we do weekly facetime/skype calls for each side, plus I have a twitter that I update regularly and a flickr for all of our baby photos. This seems to help the grandparents feel involved and aware of what goes on on a daily basis without having to actually be in our space. It’s kind of a lot of work on my end but I would rather update a twitter multiple times a day than have visitors every 3 weeks.

    Good luck!!!!

  11. Thanks for this post! We have been putting quite a bit of thought into the topic lately as well.

    Our first child is due in early January (due date is the 3rd), it will be the first grandchild on both sides, and most likely we will be the only couple in the immediate family who will have children.
    My parents live in Europe, and his mom lives on the West Coast (~1200km away), so quick weekend visits are not really feasible for either of them. Especially my mother in law has already expressed interest in staying for extended periods of time to “build a relationship with her grandchild”, which is a daring thought for both of us.
    I am quite a private person and like having time to myself and with my dogs. I would definitely prefer for it to be just our little family for the birth and first little while after.

    Since the due date is so close to New Years, I don’t really want to travel anywhere for Christmas either, so we were thinking of having a Christmas invitation at our house. However, on top of the additional work and stress that would add, we have no clue when we should ask people to leave.
    Before New Years? Bit rude to ask someone to travel so far and then send them home after only a few days.
    Till after New Years? Bit weird, when the birth is only a few days away. And it would also force my parents to fly out a second time if they want to meet their grandchild.
    Let them stay for the birth? At that point, people would have been staying with us for over a week already, everyone will be cranky, and we would prefer being alone anyways.
    Skip Christmas celebrations altogether? That would be perfectly fine with me, but very hard on my mother in law, since she lives alone and my fiance is her only son.

    There’s just no elegant way out of this… sigh.

    • this might not work for your family, but as I got older, my family almost never celebrated Christmas exactly on Christmas. My parents and I would celebrate Christmas together as a family unit on the actual day… but with extended family we would celebrate either closer to Thanksgiving (combine the feasting holidays!) or after the New Year (combine the celebrations of new beginnings!). Waiting until after the new year also made travel plans a bit cheaper for anyone who had to fly in — not to mention the airports are FAR less chaotic then!!! If waiting until after the New Year… or even after your baby arrives to celebrate Christmas, the New Year, and the birth of your little one in one big swoop would be better for you then I wouldn’t be too shy about mentioning it as a possibility. It sounds like it would be more convenient travel wise for your parents & mom in-law. Plus, then your little one won’t have to miss out on the family Christmas fun just because they’re still on the inside. 🙂

    • Why doesn’t everyone just get accommodations other than your house? Hotel, hostel, bed-and-breakfast? Possibly they can group up and share and save?

      And they’re out of your hair.

    • I don’t know if this is one of those situations where it might actually be easier to talk it through with everyone involved? “We really want to see you all at Christmas, but obviously I can’t fly to Europe that pregnant, and I also think I’ll be too exhausted and nesty to host you all the way from Christmas till the baby comes (could be two weeks late, too)- but we don’t want you to have to come all that way twice to meet the baby! What would you rather do?”

      Also, your parents will probably understand that your mother-in-law will likely want to come for Christmas regardless if she’s on her own regardless.

      We are often surprised by what our parents want – one year we felt we should go to our in-laws because it was their “turn”, but they told us they’d rather we went to my family again so that we got on the same schedule as my sister-in-law!

  12. My parents live almost 3 hours away, whereas my in-laws live down the street. My parents were always whining about how little they got to see grandbaby, so they came every other weekend for awhile. My policy was that their visits are a vacation FOR ME. That means if they want to have baby time they need baby in all his glory…every poopy diaper needs to be their responsibility, every naptime that he doesn’t go down easily (nursing) they need to deal with it. They have mostly gotten accustomed to this arrangement (though it works better now that he’s a little older than a wee infant). I don’t leave and go to a spa, but I do feel great bossing them around and reminding them that they wanted the full experience 😉

  13. Granted, I have the best parents and mother-in-law in the world, but it’s worked out really well every time they’ve visited.

    For the first year of my daughter’s life, we lived in a one bedroom apartment. My parents stayed in a bed and breakfast nearby, and when my mother in law visited she stayed on our couch. We warned her in advance that we might need to be up at night with the baby, and she was prepared for that. My parents visited for the first two weeks my daughter was born and it was WONDERFUL. They did ALL the cooking and a significant amount of cleaning (and even made meals with a ton of leftovers we froze and ate for the next month!), came to our house in the morning to hold the baby for an hour while I went back to sleep, helped me figure out how to get out of the house for the very first time, and were absolutely invaluable.

    Now we have an extra bedroom and it’s even better. I don’t have to wait for them to arrive in the morning, I just take my daughter downstairs and “Nana” does breakfast and playtime and diaper changes while I go back to bed.

    So… it CAN be done. I would suggest having a heart to heart, asking whether they’re planning to come to help or to play with the baby. If they’re coming to play with the baby, ask them to stay somewhere else and schedule two or three hours to come over every day. If they intend to come to help, ask them what they plan to do. Cook dinner every night? Take a shift rocking an extra fussy baby who won’t stop crying for five hours? Do all the laundry? Let THEM know what would be extra helpful. Not necessarily in a “you have to do this or I won’t hang out with you” sort of way, but a “it would be SO wonderful if you could go grocery shopping for us” sort of way.

    I also wonder if there’s anything you could do on your end to make these visits less exhausting. Do you feel like you have to entertain and take care of your guests? Is that something they’re expecting or something you’re expecting of yourself? Can you make their visits more of a “staycation” for yourself, even when you don’t go out?

  14. I found it unsurprisingly difficult to manage other people’s expectations around visits quite hard too. One of the best things we did actually was have a no visit period after we brought baby home. It gave us time to get into the groove without very well meaning people in our faces. Because, and I think other people have said it, but my biggest irritation was people who visited and just wanted to chat and cuddle baby while I made cups of tea and made sandwiches and did dishes… Not cool.

    Someone mentioned gifts… Hindsight, I really wish that I had thought of it when people asked what to buy us; I wish I’d asked people to do chores. I was quite undemanding and the result was 100’s of stuffed toys and loud plastic things that toom up space. It’s a brilliant idea to ask for the gift of physical labour! :0) please do the dishes, make us some meals we can freeze, Hoover the house. And I’m a big fan of technology chats. I set my mum up with email so that she could receive photo’s and email updates. Which reduced the amount of visits…

    • An additional idea to this. A friend of mine set-up a calendar so that all friends and family could sign up for days to make meals for them. Worked out great. She put in a disclaimer that she may or may not be up for visits. Everyone understood and was happy to do something in addition to buying toys.

  15. We live on the east side of Canada while my family are all in the UK and my partner’s are in north-east USA. Our son is the first grandchild on their side but 2nd on mine (any my nephew lived in Australia for the first 5 years of his life, so my family are more used to long-distance grandparenting).
    I have found the whole situation a lot harder than my boyfriend; partly because of the different ways our family deals with being grandparents and how they visit. In fact, they would usually just invite themselves over for the first year, seemingly whenever they wanted, and although they didn’t stay with us the first two visits, after that they did. They also expect us to visit them for all festive occasions. I put my foot down after we had just got back from a 3-week trip to the UK to visit my family and turned around 1 week later to drive 8 hours to their place for Thanksgiving, and one month later do the same journey again for Christmas.

    Although we understandably see my partner’s folks more than mine, we now don’t see them for both Christmas and Thanksgiving, and have made it clear that monthly visits are not acceptable. We Skype with them every week and I know they would like to see him more, but our family unit needs more space – everyone is different!

    We are planning to move to Europe in the next 18 months and I am interested to see how we all cope with visiting then… My advice is to set boundaries that you are comfortable with, and to talk about tactics etc. with your partner so you are both on the same page. Skype and Google Hangouts are a wonderful way for distant family to still see you and your children between visits. Another thing we have done is instead of going to their house, or them to us, is split cottage or condo rental somewhere else (whether in between or in a different destination) and go there together – that way we all get something of a vacation and don’t have to feel like we are being imposed upon or imposing on others. Good luck!

  16. I had a baby moon after my first baby was born. its a concept that some of my friends did and it comes from some country (sorry cant remember where). Basically the idea is that for the first month baby and mum have no visitors – except dad. it was a hard thing to tell everyone. We live in a large community and my two sisters and their kids live close, also my mother in law and my partners other kids still live with him. People didnt like that we were doing this but they dealt with it and it made a difference that it was a blanket rule for everyone- no one felt personally insulted. We didnt stick to this baby moon, we invited immediate family over after the first few days, as we felt we wanted to see them. but what it meant is that no one expected to visit. we only had people visit who we asked and they all were very respectful, quite and stayed for a short time only. it also meant that when we didnt want visitors we never had them. The idea behind doing a baby moon is that the babys energy is seen as wide open and everyone who comes into babys space affects it. so to protect babys energy you just have no one come into their space. this helps bonding with mum and dada, it also means that breastfeeding and other aspects of caring are easier because their are no distractions. it made it heaps easier for us. it was beautiful for me and my partner and bubs, and everyone else was really ok about it in the end.

  17. Just wanted to add my experience. My mom lives 2500km from us. When I was expecting my son, we planned for her to come to visit probably 3 or even 4 weeks after he was due–thinking that my husband & I would want alone time in the first few weeks. Well, lo & behold, I had an absolutely brutal 5+ day delivery that took pretty much every ounce of energy either my husband or I had. On about day 4 of my labour, she started making plans to come out that weekend, and it ended up that my baby was about 36 hours old when she arrived. It was heaven! She cooked, she cleaned, she held the baby. I have NO idea how we would have made it through without her. And then she came back again (for the pre-birth planned trip) when my baby was probably 10 days old, and did it all over again!
    Probably if I’d had a more normal labour, my desire for my husband and I to find our own rhythm as parents before having family arrive might have been more realistic. But given how exhausted we were, we needed her help & presence so much and it was so great that she had the flexibility to come to our rescue on such short notice. Good luck!

  18. You are your own, independent family unit now. Decide as a family what your boundaries are and stick firmly to them. They are used to seeing you as children or children-in-law and will treat you this way, meaning the best of course, until you act differently. Any time you change it is hard at first for people to accept and they might struggle against it, but if you keep those boundaries set they will soon accept that that’s the way you are and come to see you as the family unit you are and therefor offer respect to that family unit.

  19. Thanks for all the replies everyone! There are a lot of good things to think about here.

    I should have made it clearer in my question – we’ve made it very clear to the grandparents that things weren’t working, and now that the first year is nearly over they’re (mostly) trying to work with us so that we all have fun when we visit. Part of the trouble is that we both work full time, so out-of-town guests tend to feel rather neglected when they’re here. Mostly I’m looking for strategies to combine different family visiting at the same time, or do things like going on vacation together. Has anyone here done that? How did it play out over time? Were things different with the second kid?

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