When your daughter-in-law has a baby of course you are delighted, ecstatic even. You want to keep that grandchild related glow going indefinitely. The problem is you may find it difficult as the exuberant mother-in-law not to spread the kind of vibes that can inadvertently upset the apple cart of family relationships. You won't mean to, you won't want to, you won't set out to but you still can hinder more than you help. So when your daughter-in-law has a baby it's time for every thinking mother-in-law to break out the common sense, care, support and patience that can help to keep family harmony afloat during what should be a wonderful family experience.
Let common sense boundaries rule the day. Having been the daughter-in-law and now being on the other end of things as the mother-in-law I have experienced how overpowering the presence of a brand new baby in the family can be. It strikes every chord of love you have in you. Moms and Dads can give every powerful sign of love and affection to their infants every minute of every day. They can hold them upside down, tickle them, kiss their feet, use endless baby talk, feed them more or less according to their own judgment. Those are things parents get to do.
When your daughter-in-law has a baby, even though you are "Grandma" you are not "Mommy" or "Daddy". To keep joy and peace alive as the mother-in-law you need to let common sense mark two clear sets of boundaries. First, it is seldom, except if the life of the child is somehow endangered, your position to make limiting or critical comments to your daughter-in-law about the way in which she is managing the baby. If asked, you can offer your best advice in a few well chosen and supportive words. The second boundary common sense will suggest is to really work to avoid acting the part of the mother. If your assistance is requested you will want to be as gracious as you can and to express your thanks for the opportunity to help with the baby. But the boundary needs to be clear in your mind, she is the mother and you are the grandmother. Knowing and sticking to this boundary will allow you to help with your grandchild without making your daughter-in-law nervous that she is incompetent or that she is being somehow replaced.
Perhaps most difficult is to remember that the actual mother of your daughter-in-law gets a little more leeway, but not much in terms of stepping over boundaries. A daughter and her Mom have their own long standing relationship and they will work out their boundaries in their own way. But when the baby's Mom is your daughter-in-law it is really helpful to everyone if you draw lines for yourself that keep you from even appearing to be intrusive, bossy, or judgmental. .
Besides loving and caring for the baby, make sure to love and care for the daughter in law. Again within boundaries you can do a lot to keep joy and peace present when your daughter-in-law has a baby if your loving and caring extends beyond the baby, directly to your daughter-in-law. This doesn't mean being effusive with lots of in your face hugging and kissing. It does mean watching for opportunities when you can demonstrate your love through kind acts meant to ease the "new baby" experience for your daughter-in-law.
Keep an eye out for small items that you can pick up during a normal shopping trip that might help here and there. Remember common sense boundaries. You don't need to buy some kind of gigantic present for your daughter in law, but her favorite nail polish, magazine, DVD, ice cream delivered in an understated way can help to make the point that you care very much about how she is managing and may help to get her through an otherwise trying day.
Offer reasonable long term support. When your daughter-in-law has a baby there may be some things that her mother will offer to do for her on a continuing basis. Perhaps her Mom will make dinner once a week, do the baby laundry, come in and clean up the kitchen or the bathroom regularly. Remembering your limits you won't want to get in the way of any of these arrangements or offer too much help and make anyone else feel guilty.
What you can do is take note of what is being done and make a short list of other things that you would feel comfortable doing for your daughter-in--law. Just give her the list and tell her to pick out something that you could do that would really be of assistance. In this way you show your willingness to do your part but you also let your daughter-in-law decide what she feels she most needs. Otherwise your offer might be taken as an insinuation that things are not getting done or are being done poorly. Letting your daughter-in-law make the choice reduces the likelihood that she will feel incompetent and increases the likelihood that harmony will prevail.
Recognize that this baby is here for a lifetime, be patient and wait your turn. Babies are very exciting little creatures and they do provoke us to all kinds of affectionate acts. But if there is one single thing you can do to help keep your family joyful and peaceful when your daughter-in-law has a baby it is to patiently wait your turn.
Whether it's the chance to hold the baby, feed the baby, rock the baby to sleep or buy the baby an outfit know that there will be many opportunities for you to bond with your grandchild. He or she is meant to be with you for a lifetime. Don't upset the tranquility and the joy that surrounds the presence of a new baby with your own emotional need to grab that baby. It may be the most natural inclination in the world, I'm not sure. What I do know is that waiting to be asked and letting others have a first turn is a sure way to help surround your baby with a family atmosphere of peace and joy.
Your daughter-in-law will need all kinds of help when she has that new baby. By keeping a few common sense boundaries in mind, loving and caring for your daughter-in-law, offering long term help and being patient in your over all participation with the baby you can deliver some of that important assistance, enjoy your new grandchild and make your son happy that he has such an accommodating and intelligent Mom.