Setting Boundaries As a New Parent and Sticking to Them

You just got home from the hospital and all 30 cousins on your mother’s side want to meet the new baby. We’ve all been in situations where we’ve made ourselves uncomfortable because we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. And early parenthood is full of decisions like this. So today, we’re talking about boundaries – how to set boundaries that work for your family – and how to stick to them even when the in-laws or well-meaning grandmothers push back. We’re here to help you know you’re not alone and hopefully give you some encouragement along the way.

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Episode Transcript

Natalie Gross 0:07
You just got home from the hospital and all 30 cousins on your mother's side want to meet the new baby. You're not really comfortable with so many people around this early on. But you don't want to offend anyone by saying no. Okay, so maybe you don't have 30 cousins coming over. But we've all been in situations where we've made ourselves uncomfortable because we don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. And early parenthood is full of decisions like this. So today we're talking about boundaries, how to set boundaries that work for your family, and how to stick to them even when the in laws are well meaning grandmothers push back. We're here to help you know you're not alone and hopefully give you some encouragement along the way. This is Newbies!

Natalie Gross 0:51
Welcome to Newbies! Newbies is your online on the go support group guiding new mothers with their babies first year. I'm Natalie Gross, mom to a three year old boy and a girl on the way. We've got a great show today talking about setting boundaries as a new parent and navigating some tricky conversations that may come along with that. Now if you haven't already, be sure to visit our website at And subscribe to our weekly newsletter, which keeps you updated on all the episodes we release each week. Another great way to stay updated is to hit that subscribe button in your podcast app. And if you're looking for a way to get even more involved with our show, then check out our membership club. It's called Mighty Moms! That's where we chat more about the topics discussed here on our show. And it's also an easy way to learn about our recording so you can join us live. Now let's meet the parents joining our conversation today. I have Mary Goehler and CJ Monroe. Welcome to Newbies, guys!

CJ Monroe 2:09
Yeah, thank you for having me.

Mary Goehler 2:10
Thanks for having me.

Natalie Gross 2:12
Yeah. Well, to start off our discussion, tell us a little bit about you, your family and experience with today's topic. So CJ, do you want to kick us off?

CJ Monroe 2:21
Yeah, sure. So my name is CJ Monroe, and I am dad to a beautiful 14 month old girl. And we actually just found out that we are expecting a second one due in January.

Natalie Gross 2:35

CJ Monroe 2:37
Thank you. Thank you very much. Super excited about that. I love being a girl, dad and everything that goes along with that. And my family lives in Illinois. And my my side of the family is all across the United States. And so we're kind of far from my side of the family. But my wife's side of the family is pretty close. Less than 20 minutes away from where we live. And so they are they help watch Lila a couple of days a week for us to help with childcare. And so we we deal with the boundary issue quite a bit with us. So...

Natalie Gross 3:16
Yeah, more on that to come. Mary, what about you?

Mary Goehler 3:20
First of all, congratulations, CJ. That's so exciting. I also have a January baby girl because my daughter is five months old. All of our family lives in Oklahoma for the most part, we encounter this issue, mostly when they visited us. So yeah, I'm looking forward to digging in.

Natalie Gross 3:43
Today on Newbies, we're talking about setting boundaries as a new parent. Also joining us today is Carley Schweet, an author and founder of the blog and website where she's written on this topic of boundaries. Her work has also been featured in Bustle Forbes, Mind Body Green and more platforms. Carley, thanks for joining us, and welcome to Newbies!

Carley Schweet 4:02
Thank you so much for having me. I'm really excited to talk about this topic today. It feels very top of mind for me, and it sounds like CJ and Mary too!

Natalie Gross 4:12
Yeah, me too. So let's talk about the importance of boundaries, especially as new parents, how can they help?

Carley Schweet 4:21
Oh my gosh, I mean, boundaries are so important. You know, they really are the pivotal tool that can help us protect our energy, whether it's our physical energy, our emotional energy, our you know, our mental health. It can help preserve and improve relationships, you know, if they're used in a in a, you know, really proper and supportive way boundaries don't have to kind of be this all or nothing law. I mean, they kind of do but they don't need to be this like isolating thing. So I'm excited to share more.

Natalie Gross 5:00
Yeah, well, in your writing, you talk about boundaries being both internal and external. So can you explain how that works?

Carley Schweet 5:07
Yeah, absolutely. So, internal boundaries, these are the boundaries that we kind of hold an honor within ourselves. There's no one else involved, it's really just you. And the external boundaries, those are, you know, the limitations that we place on the behaviors of others, and how they interact with us and our, in ourselves, or, you know, our child. And an example, like an internal boundary example would be, okay, when baby's born, I, I'm telling myself, I am going to really work on sleeping, when I can, you know, making that a priority for me, and setting those boundaries to maybe stay off your phone or let the dishes wait or the laundry stay unfolded. And really honoring that internal boundary within yourself to preserve your mental health or your physical health. And then those external boundaries really look like telling Aunt Sally, no, you can't come over and kiss the new baby 10 minutes after we get home from the hospital.

Natalie Gross 6:18
So okay, here's the hard part, then how do you go about setting boundaries as a new parent? And is this something that you should communicate to people even before baby comes, so they kind of have time to prepare?

Carley Schweet 6:29
Absolutely, I was just having this conversation with a good friend of mine who is expecting and I told her, I believe the most important thing you can do to prepare for a new baby is to get these kind of this game plan in place like, what do visitors look like? What are visiting hours? How many people can you realistically interact with a day a week? How long can people stay? When do you even want to start accepting visitors? It's important to have those conversations before baby comes. And all the while knowing you can change your mind. Right, you can always change your mind. But chances are, you'll be too overwhelmed, too exhausted. And honestly, just not up for setting those boundaries. Once baby's there. Because you have a lot on your plate. It's important to establish those rules and limits beforehand, I believe.

Natalie Gross 7:30
Well, we know there's gonna be pushback, as it seems like everyone on this call has dealt with. So what are some tips for dealing with pushback, and a common one I'm hearing actually a lot lately is grandparents who keep begging for the baby to spend the night of their house in that first year. And they just don't take it well, when the parents keep saying no, I keep hearing this scenario. So I'm curious, like, how do you deal with people who just kind of aren't listening?

Carley Schweet 7:55
Yeah, it's, it's really tough. And I'm going to say this probably multiple times throughout this. setting boundaries is not easy. It's not fun. It's not something I look forward to doing. It's not supposed to be that way. But they are very important. You know, the push back will never end, right. So when you kind of release that expectation of, oh, well, no one's ever gonna push back there will always be pushed back in some form. I think number one is just accepting that there's going to be pushed back. And number two, you know, staying firm within your boundaries and say, you know, saying, Thank you so much. We love how supportive you know, you are as a grandparent, and we feel really grateful, right, we always got to butter them up a little bit first. But at this time, we're just not comfortable with sleepovers. And it's, that's, that's really just on us. And that's something we're working on. And you'll be the first to know when we're ready to take that step.

Natalie Gross 9:00
That's good. That compliment sandwich. I love it.

Carley Schweet 9:05
Exactly. And it's not that, oh, we don't trust your grandparenting skills, yada, yada, yada because people take boundaries. Personally, for the most part. They feel like they're not good enough, or if they've done something wrong, or, you know, they can't live up to your standards. So it's important to say upfront, this isn't anything you've done or haven't done unless, of course, obviously it is. But saying we'll let you know when we're ready. You'll be the first to know usually can buy you some more time.

Natalie Gross 9:39
Yeah. When we come back, we're gonna continue our conversation with Carley and our parents about setting and sticking to boundaries, especially in the early days of parenthood. Stay tuned.

Natalie Gross 9:57
We are continuing our discussion on boundaries today. So before the break, Carley Schweet, the founder of Hello Postpartum, was sharing about the importance of setting boundaries and how new parents can go about that. So now that we've set boundaries, Carley, let's shift now to talking about how we stick to them. So I'm curious if you have some examples in your own life as a mom of boundaries that you've set for your family, and how did you navigate conversations with family members or friends around that, because like we've talked about, you know, these conversations are not always easy.

Carley Schweet 10:26
They're not easy. They're not easy. And I do have a great story that actually just happened like three days ago. Speaking of grandparents, and my dad is recently remarried, and they're so lovely, amazing, amazing, supportive people. But we haven't seen them for a few months, because they were living out of state and they're now coming back to Washington State where I live. And so I just shot them a quick text message before they came over. And I flat out said, hey, it's, Hey, first of all, so excited to have you back in town, really looking forward to spending time with you wanted to catch you up to speed on a few things, because it's been a while since you've seen our kids. And we wanted to share what we've been working on. And then I went out to list, you know, three different main bullet points of here are the situations, here's how we've been handling it. And then at the end, I just said, Thank you so much. Again, we're so grateful and excited to hang out with you and really appreciate you, you know, Coop, not I didn't say cooperating but appreciate you respecting our boundaries on this. It really helps lower the stress levels for everyone involved. And my dad responded. And he said, sounds great. Thanks so much for the heads up. And I was like, wow, okay.

Natalie Gross 11:52
Yeah. That is cool. Good for you, Mary and CJ, I'd love to hear some examples of situations that you've had to navigate as well.

Mary Goehler 12:04
Yeah, first of all, I would just like to say, Carley, thank you so much for all of that. I mean, you're obviously an expert. And I really appreciate like, I've just learned a lot. Listen to you from for 10 minutes. So I'm excited to implement that when we have another kid. And especially when you said setting boundaries before the kid comes because I definitely resonated with you know, once the baby comes, you're you just don't have the energy to, to stand firm and something sometimes and I'm an extrovert. So when we had visitors like I enjoyed them in the moment, and I love talking with them and sharing my baby with them. But then I look back, and I just wish I had spent more time enjoying my baby. And it's just like, like you said, boundaries. People take them personally, but they're not personal against those people. It's just something I wish I would have done that I want to do in the future.

Natalie Gross 13:00
Have you had to navigate any like tricky situations with like family members or friends or anything where, you know, it's kind of been tough to kind of navigate. Push back on boundaries, Mary?

Mary Goehler 13:12
Yeah. So when my in laws visited, there was a lot of commentary on just my methods. I wouldn't, it wasn't necessarily overt, I would say was more passive aggressive, but I didn't necessarily directly communicate the things that were hurtful. But I eventually laid out this is our method, and this is what we expect you to do. But I definitely had to practice like, the inner confidence that I knew that what I was doing for my baby was what's best for them because I'm their mom, I'm her mom. And you know, I can't let critique affect my confidence.

Natalie Gross 13:51
CJ, what about you?

CJ Monroe 13:53
Yeah, so I'm, I'm actually kind of the opposite of Mary, I'm, I'm more of an introverted stay at home kind of guy. And I can do people and be around people and, but it tends to drain my energy pretty quick. And I also am aware that like, my, my child will need to be around their grandparents and my wife is very extroverted, and her her parents are very extroverted as well. And so there was a lot of that learning of, while CJ is a little different than the rest of us kind of thing. And so in bouncing that whenever where you're spending family time with, with her parents, whether that's lunch on Sunday, or family events or things like that, and just being aware of each other with that, but our person's parents watch Lila two days a week when we're both working. Thankfully, our schedules work out to where I have two days off, that are opposite from my wife's two days off and so we really only need additional childcare for two days, which has been an incredible blessing that I know not a lot of people get. But on those two days, person's parents end up watching her, our daughter a lot. And for a long portion of the day, basically from when she gets dropped off after waking up through past dinnertime almost to bedtime on those two days. And so one of the boundaries that we've run into recently has been, we switched from when she was first born, like cuddling her and letting her nap in our arms, because it was cute and sweet. And she really just napped a long time, while we were holding her to, hey, it's actually better. And she'll sleep better if we lay her down, and let her soothe herself to sleep and go through that process. And we've talked with them several times about letting her cry like it's okay, if she's crying, you don't have to go and rescue her every single time she starts crying. At home, she'll cry for a couple of minutes. And then she goes to sleep. And then sometimes she'll wake up in the middle of her normal nap schedule, and cry and plus a little bit. But like if you leave her alone, she'll go back to sleep. And that's totally natural. And in the moment, they seem like they're on board. But several times, just over the last couple of weeks, there have been reports that I'm getting from my wife of well, she decided to that she only needed to net 20 minutes today. And isn't that funny, haha. And it's like, oh, that's, that's not great, what happened. And we find out that yeah, she started crying after 20 minutes. And so they apparently can't deal with her crying. And so they go and get her and she might nap on pop, pop, or she might just get up and play and then she's completely tanked whenever we pick her up. And so we don't even get to hang out with our daughter, after we both get off of work on those days. Because she's instantly going to bed at like 637 o'clock at night because she didn't get her nap. And so that's been kind of a rough situation of like, I would like to go over there and like, be like, Hey, if you're watching her, this is something that you have to partner with us on. But also just being aware that this is my wife's parents and like, they might not take it as well from me as they might take it from their own daughter and trying to let my wife handle that with her parents and knowing how best that they will respond to that and helping set those boundaries with them.

Natalie Gross 17:41
Yeah, that does get tricky. And you know, when we're talking about grandparents, one thing that comes to mind, when I think about boundary is because I've run into, you know, these same issues with my parents and my in laws that you guys are talking about, with the sleep thing, we were very, you know, strict on sleep schedule, or things like that when my son was little, but, you know, there's these differences with generations, and you know, our parents or in laws or maybe leaning on how they were raised. And in many cases, we see millennial parents trying to do the opposite. So that can be you know, they can have comments on everything from like how we feed the baby, or the choices we make about discipline, when that baby gets a little older. How would you say the generation gap has maybe played into the situations that you guys have encountered? And, Carley? I don't know, I know, you speak to a lot of parents in your line of work, too. So I don't know if you have any comments, or thoughts on that, as well as what you're seeing, like trends wise.

Carley Schweet 18:37
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I can even speak speak from this from my personal level too. You know, it's every every generation that we go through, we learn something new, right? And I always tell myself, well, what are they going to say, you know, and 20 years old, those parents back in 2020 Do what were they thinking, you know, and we're all just learning and doing the best that we can and I think when it when it comes to boundaries, just had someone comments and a well intentioned, older woman comments on something that I did, and I just said, Yeah, isn't it interesting how, you know, parenting styles can change, and this is what works for us now. And then another favorite comment, or, you know, response is just like, Why do you ask? Yes, it just kind of ends the conversation. You know, people are like, oh, goodness, why did I ask?

Natalie Gross 19:32
Mary or CJ? Any thoughts on kind of the generation gap and how that's played into some of these situations?

Mary Goehler 19:38
Yeah, something that one of my in laws commented on. When they were here after I explained our methods, they said, I don't remember there being so many rules. And my husbandm he said, Well, I think there were rules but you didn't call them rules and they were different. And so to us like to you what we what are methods are look like rules, when in reality, they're just our methods and they're different from yours.

CJ Monroe 20:04
Yeah, I know, my, my brother. He's got five kids, and they're actually fostering another one. And the parenting style that they had when it was just their natural born children had to change drastically whenever they started fostering because there's different rules and things that they have to follow from the foster agency and from the, from that program and just you know, different abuse situations and things that happen with with foster children that are different from your own children who have grown up in a healthy natural environment. And so things that had to change my dad was very strict military guy and, and he was very quick on the on the corporal punishment when we were growing up lots of lots of spankings, and things like that. And then he got really creative when we got too old for spankings. And he got real creative with the punishments where we actually kind of craved being spanked because that was way easier and quicker. Got it out of the way. But with my brother and his kids, it's been very interesting to just watch, my brother kind of walked that, that line of hey, this is this is the way that you used to do things. And here's the way that we have to do things because of our foster child or because this is the way that we parent, and they do a kind of a gentle style parenting where they kind of talk with their kids about why things are happening, or why they are getting in trouble, or do you understand why that's not appropriate behavior. And my dad growing up, sometimes it was, this is the way that I do things, because I said so. And there wasn't a whole lot of back and forth conversation. It was, I'm the parent, you're the child, you're going to listen to me. So having those conversations with my dad has really helped grow him as a, as a grandparent, and I think he's been surprisingly receptive to that I thought he was going to be more. Nope, this is the way I've always done things. And this is, this is how it's gonna happen. But he's been really great at helping kind of co-parent, as a grandparent whenever the grandkids are all over at their house. And so it's been really interesting to watch that growth and flexibility from a very strict military father.

Natalie Gross 22:24
I also had a military dad. And it's kind of sounds like exactly the transformation that I've experienced, too. So I'm, that's, that's interesting. I'm grateful for that as well. Well, looking back parents, are there any boundaries that you wish you would have set as a new parent? Or Are there cases where you bended on boundaries that you wish you would have stuck to?

Carley Schweet 22:45
I can share, you know, personally, not so many around parenting, because I really prepped and prepared for that the most surprising boundaries I wish that I had set as a new parent, were those with my care provider, and better self advocacy for myself, in my birth process, specifically. And just learning what what limits and boundaries I am capable of setting as a patient in the health care field. And I learned that for my second birth, but for my first it was, it was a big learning curve.

Natalie Gross 23:26
Hmm, yeah, so those boundaries start even before baby's born. That's a great point,

Mary Goehler 23:31
What I would change is how Carley mentioned, you know, setting boundaries with people and limits on how many people can visit during those first few weeks before the baby comes so that you actually have the energy to do so. That's something I would do different just so I can enjoy my baby more and not be worried about entertaining people.

CJ Monroe 23:53
I know for for us, I'm a youth pastor. And so we're up at the church all the time with our child, and lots of people kind of watch her and hold her and everybody loves our child. And it's awesome. And I think that we kind of expected that everybody would kind of be aware of what's okay to feed a child and what's not okay to feed a child and we were just kind of watching and not not that we're like anti sugar or anything like that. But we just, we were trying to slowly introduce foods. She had just turned six or seven months and so we were slowly introducing solid foods into her feeding thing. And so we were we were at the church and hanging out and one of the youth workers that was holding our daughter and has held her and watched her numerous times before and as a parent of four or five kids herself. We come around the corner and and see that she is feeding our daughter icing off of one of those Walmart cookies. And she goes she really wanted it and it was like a ha ha ha and like, in the moment, we didn't really say anything, we were just like, oh, okay, that's alright, that's fine. And like, we didn't realize that like, telling people like, Hey, make sure that we're not feeding our child's things or like without us without asking us, we didn't realize that that was something that needed to be said, we kind of, I guess, maybe took that for granted. And early on in that process of just, I don't I don't know why I wouldn't I would never feed another kid a cookie or dessert or anything without checking with the parents first. And so I guess I kind of assumed that others would think that way too. And so no need to set a boundary there.

Natalie Gross 25:38
Yeah, that's a great point. Well, is there anything else, any other thoughts that you guys want to share?

Carley Schweet 25:45
I think ultimately, you know, the biggest piece of advice I could, you know, kind of leave you all with is to really harnessed your confidence in parenting. And also, if you have a partner, get them on board with these boundaries ahead of time, explain why they're important to you, what they will help protect, and ultimately, you know, how these boundaries can strengthen not only your relationship with your baby, but your relationship with your partner as well. Because as many of us know, a baby really, really impacts a relationship and boundaries, when they're, they're properly executed. They, they really can help, you know, add that strength back to the relationship. And that goes for all relationships, honestly.

Mary Goehler 26:34
I have a question for Carley, do you have any advice on how to respond to criticism if that? Whether it's for me or my husband? Since in laws are involved?

Carley Schweet 26:44
Yeah, I mean, criticism is definitely tough. And it's never good to hear. Right. And for me, personally, and professionally, I just, I remind myself, first of all, the criticism usually isn't about me, right? Like this, their criticism is coming from a place that, you know, maybe an insecurity of theirs, or something that they wish they did, or who really knows. So first, I always remind myself, this isn't about me, Carley, this is probably, you know, being projected on me by somewhere. And then just and really harnessing that, that parenting confidence, like I said, and saying, you know, thanks for your feedback. But this is how we're doing it. Or actually, this is what works for us. I'm not looking for any other feedback right now. Thank you.

Mary Goehler 27:36
That was really helpful.

Carley Schweet 27:37
Oh, good, good. I'm glad.

CJ Monroe 27:39
And I also had just kind of a question for Carley as well, knowing our struggle with my in laws about naptimes not being followed and things that has me slightly worried about the future as my daughter becomes more of herself and just very assertive and things and sticking along the lines of the discipline and following the rules that we have at our house. And I want to respect their relationship as a grandparent, and their ability to be grandma and grandpa, but at the same time, not allowing, not allowing others to dictate what they are doing, or letting my child run, you know, wild around their house and just cause mess and mayhem, you know, and allowing them to, if they are watching her in a full time capacity on those those two days, I want them to help discipline the child as as is necessary. But if the rules for naptime aren't being followed, I'm kind of worried about if discipline rules will also be followed as well.

Carley Schweet 28:45
That's a great question. I'm glad you brought it up. Because I, I found myself, you know, thinking about how would I handle this? What would I say? And I think, you know, first of all, tell the grandparents how grateful you are and all those great things. And really approach it as and reframe it as this is for the well being of of our child, right your grandchild. So we want to make sure that we're all on the same page, because ultimately, this is for her well being these rules, this structure, her sleep schedule. Specifically, when it comes to that sleep schedule, I think it's important to call out so the grandparents, were teaching her a lifelong skill here in these naptimes this matters, her sleep schedule matters. This is a skill she will carry for the rest of her life. And we need your help to be on our team to really really stick to that. And if that feels challenging for you, or maybe her crying is triggering for you. Let us know let's talk about it and come up with a plan together. Because we are not willing to you know bend and negotiate on this. This is literally how I talk to my toddler but it's the same thing. And then you can also say, once kind of the dust has settled over the sleep schedule. These are other non negotiables. When it comes to discipline, you know, maybe it's her safety, maybe it's the food that she can or can't eat. We need you as her grandparents to honor these with us to help send a cohesive message to our daughter, and you know, set her up for success. And then obviously, say like, here's where you guys can have all the control that you want. But these are kind of our foundational boundaries we need you to stick to hopefully that helps.

CJ Monroe 30:37
Yeah, that's really good. Thank you.

Carley Schweet 30:39
Yeah, for sure.

Natalie Gross 30:41
Thank you so much, Carley for coming on, and being our expert today on this topic of setting boundaries. And thank you to our parents, Mary and CJ who joined us for this episode. Be sure to check out Carley's website at https:/ Also check out where we have all of our podcast episodes plus videos and more.

Natalie Gross 31:10
That wraps up our show for today. We appreciate you listening to Newbies. Don't forget to check out our sister shows Preggie Pals for expecting parents, Parents Savers for moms and dads with toddlers, The Boob Group for moms who get breast milk to their babies, and Twin Talks for parents of multiples. Thanks for listening to Newbies- your go-to source for new moms and new babies!

Disclaimer 31:35
This is a New Mommy Media production. Information and material contained in this episode are presented for educational purposes only. Statements and opinions expressed in this episode are not necessarily those of New Mommy Media and should not be considered facts. While such information and materials are believed to be accurate. It is not intended to replace or substitute for professional medical advice or care and should not be used for diagnosing or treating healthcare problem or disease or prescribing any medication. If you have questions or concerns regarding your physical or mental health, or the health of your baby, please seek assistance from a qualified health care provider.

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