The mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship isn’t always the easiest. Even women lucky enough to have a generally great relationship with their MIL have probably butted heads a time or two. But regardless of whether your relationship with your MIL has been good from the get-go or could use a little work, the heightened emotions of having a baby can strain things. Throw some holiday stress in there on top of everything else, and there's definitely some potential for disaster. If you’re expecting, you might want to leave this list of things the best mothers-in-law do for postpartum daughters-in-law somewhere your MIL can see it. (And if you already had the baby, make sure that "somewhere" is fairly obvious, so she can pull her act together fast.)
The postpartum period is draining on every level — physically, mentally, and emotionally (and to be honest, you could probably say the same thing about the holidays). I cried like clockwork every night for two weeks after having my first child, and on top of that I was sore and achy in every place it’s possible to be sore and achy. My daughter was born just after Christmas, so I can't imagine what it would have been like to go through all that while also getting dressed up for family dinners and finishing last minute gift shopping. When you’re feeling that low, you need all the help you can get just to get through the day, let alone the holidays.
Here are 10 things only the very best mother-in-law will do to make her daughter-in-law’s life a little less hectic after bringing home baby during the holiday season.
1. Follow The Rules
A surefire way to set off a postpartum mom is to ignore her rules for after giving birth. With the holidays falling right in the thick of cold and flu season, moms are often extra skittish about exposing the baby to friends and relatives. That may mean restrictions on who can come to the hospital, a ban on unannounced visits at home, or even a mandate to get the flu shot before meeting the baby. That last one can be a total deal breaker for new moms — Healthline recommended grandparents get both the Tdap vaccine and the flu shot to keep newborns safe.
2. Let Her Rest
The sleep deprivation is intense with a newborn — I'm still waiting for it to go away following the birth of my daughter, and she's turning 3 next month. Handling baby duty so mom can hit the sack is the absolute best gift a MIL can give during the holidays, hands down.
3. Handle The Chores
The postpartum period is all about survival, so household chores definitely fall by the wayside. That can be super stressful and embarrassing when holiday visitors show up. A great mother-in-law is willing to get in there and get her hands dirty — perhaps tackling some of the chores What to Expect deemed the most annoying, including emptying the diaper pail and tackling mountains of baby laundry. And don't forget about watering the Christmas tree!
4. Wrap The Presents
Getting down on the floor and bending over to wrap presents while still recovering from birth sounds like pure torture. A mother-in-law who grabs the scissors and gets to work will save her daughter-in-law some major aches and pains.
5. Keep Her Fed
A mom who's nursing her baby is likely to experience some serious breastfeeding hunger, according to Parents. One good way to keep a daughter-in-law from getting hangry is to keep her fed. Take the baby off her hands so she can actually sit down to the holiday feast, or at the very least fix her a plate before the food runs low.
6. Be Flexible
New parents might not be eager to travel for the holidays, so in-laws who have always hosted may need to break the tradition. On the other hand, new moms and dads may just want to show up and relax and not have to worry about cooking for a crowd. A MIL who goes with the flow will win major points.
7. Be The Gatekeeper
Handling visitors with a newborn can be stressful, and that's a million times truer when people show up unannounced. Mothers-in-law can help alleviate some of that stress by spreading the word that there are rules to follow for anyone interested in dropping by (see number 1), no matter how eager people may be to shower the baby with holiday gifts.
8. Focus On The Older Kids
The new baby is going to be the center of attention in your home, but if you've got older kids, you've still got to handle their needs, too. Baby Center noted that older siblings can regress when baby comes home, and vie for attention. It can be a great time for your mother-in-law to swoop in for some quality grandma time — maybe by making some holiday crafts?
9. Take Pictures
Moms are often the family photographer, which means they're the ones routinely missing from pics. A simple but meaningful gesture that any MIL with a smart phone can do is to take lots of pictures with the new mom front and center, to help her remember baby's first holiday.
10. Don't Overstay
Though it might seem harsh, mothers-in-law should keep in mind that visiting a newborn is a privilege, not a right. More and more couples are skipping visitors after birth altogether, according to Very Well Family, because it's important for the new family to have time to bond. And they may need some time to recover from the exhaustion of the holidays, too. MILs should be careful not to overstay their welcome, and take their cues from the new parents about when it's time to hit the road.
This first-time mom wants to have a home birth, but is she ready? Watch how a doula supports a military mom who's determined to have a home birth in Episode One of Romper's Doula Diaries, Season Two, below. Visit Bustle Digital Group's YouTube page for the next three episodes, launching Mondays in December.