iVillage Exclusive! 'Pregnant in Heels' Star Rosie Pope: How to Handle Overbearing Grandparents

Last night on Pregnant in Heels, Rosie Pope had the double duty of preparing first-time parents-to-be Corrie and Philip for the arrival of twins -- and for the arrival of a volunteer live-in baby nurse: Corrie's "overbearing" (her words) mom Lucie. A mom of three herself, Lucie knows her way around babies -- but had to learn to step back (and stay quiet) long enough to let Corrie learn the new-mom ropes herself. Corrie, meanwhile, had to learn to accept her mom's much-needed help with grace and gratitude. We asked Rosie how new moms can handle, ahem, hands-on grandparents. Here's what she had to say:

What are your top three tips for how new parents can assert themselves and make sure their parenting wishes are being followed?
You have to communicate with grandparents respectfully. Remember that they're parents, too, and while you may have different opinions on the parenting front, they can probably teach you a thing or two. So make sure you tell them how you want to parent -- but be open and tell them that you want to learn from them, too. Corrie felt that her mom was overbearing, but once she communicated that she needed space to parent and learn, she realized she needed her mom's help, too.

Don't be afraid to re-iterate your wishes. Often grandparents don't listen as much before the baby arrives, but as you become a parent and they see you blossom they respect what you have to say more and more.

You should communicate with your family and your partner should communicate with his. It's a complicated dynamic when you have to tell your mother-in-law that you don't like what she's doing… leave that to your hubby!

Corrie's mom has strong opinions -- how can Corrie stand up for herself without alienating her mom or refusing her help?
Having a neutral third party (a sister, your best friend) point things out to a mother like Corrie's can help. When it's your own mother it's easy to get very emotional about things and the conversation can get heated. Explain your point of view, but sprinkle in your share of compliments -- it will be better taken. For Corrie, it was important to say to her mother how much she needed her help and was lucky to have it, but she also needed the space to learn when her mother left. Not being so attacking and being more balanced allowed Corrie's mom to listen and absorb.

What's your best advice for dealing with meddlesome grandparents -- or anyone else who offers unwelcome parenting advice?
Brush it off. Everyone from grandparents to random people in the street will give you parenting advice. I can't tell you the number of times somebody in the park will make comments on my children's clothing. If it's hot they tell me they have too much on and if it's cold, not enough. The first few times this happened it was hard not to get emotional and want to hurl something in their direction, but that was because I was insecure -- were they right? You must have the confidence in your own parenting decisions to know you've made the best decision for your child. Also, be big enough to know when perhaps they're right and embrace their advice.

Lots of parenting advice has changed since our parents were raising babies. How can new parents best update grandparents and other caregivers on non-negotiable safety issues (like "back to sleep" and car seats) that may be different from what the grandparents did?
I encourage my clients to have their parents attend classes with them. Often they need to hear it from an expert -- not from their children, who they think are inexperienced. Corrie's mom learned so much from Twiniversity that she would otherwise probably have disputed. Know that most grandparents genuinely would love to help, just like Corrie's mom. It feels good to be needed, so don't be afraid to reach out!

 

Rosie Pope is a clothing designer, maternity concierge and the star of Bravo's 'Pregnant in Heels.' Read her Q&A with iVillage Parenting every Wednesday after the show. Follow her on Twitter: @RosiePope, or find her at rosiepope.com.

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