Monday 25 September 2017

Ask Majella: Majella O'Donnell solves your problems

How can I help my son and his wife with their first baby?

Majella O'Donnell
Majella O'Donnell

Advice on how a grandmother can help out with a new grandchild without intruding and what to do when you haven't met a good friend's boyfriend.

Dear Majella

My son and his wife have recently welcomed their first baby into the world. It's our first grandchild and obviously a very exciting time for all of the family. The only problem is that I do not feel like I can be there for them as much as I'd like to be. My son works quite a lot over weekends so we don't get to see the baby as often as I'd like and I'm worried my daughter-in-law might be struggling alone. But every time I offer help or try to call around I get the impression she doesn't want me there. When I try to offer help or advice she generally seems irritated. How can I help them?

Mary, Sligo

Majella replies: Firstly, I would like to congratulate you on becoming a grandparent! I have been told many times that it is a wonderful experience. I can totally understand that you want to help out as much as you can and to be involved with your grandchild.

You said that every time you offer to help or advice your daughter-in-law she seems irritated. I remember being a mum for the first time and finding it all very overwhelming but at the same time I didn't want people to think that I couldn't cope. I wanted to learn for myself and I didn't want other people telling me what I should be doing.

Maybe you could cast your mind back to when you had your son. You feel very responsible for your baby and you think you know what's best for them. That's only natural, and perhaps that's how nature intended it to be. None of us ever had a manual telling us how to parent but we all still managed!

Maybe she thinks you are criticising her and that you think she can't cope. Having a new baby, especially your first, is a very difficult time with hormones racing all over the place and very little sleep.

Have you spoken to your son to see if he would like you to help in anyway?

I think the best thing you can do is to offer your support and leave it at that. Let them come to you when they are ready. Let them know that you are there for them and that if they need your help, all they have to do is ask.

They may just need to get on with things themselves for now. It might be better not to give advice unless you are asked for it.

New parents have to learn for themselves. That's all part of being a family together.

As they become more settled into parenthood, they will become more relaxed and will probably be very pleased to have your support.

Until then, let them know that you are there for them but leave them to it. That way they will feel that you believe in them and their capabilities, and they will be more inclined to reach out should they need you.

Why haven't I met my friend's boyfriend yet?

Dear Majella

One of my closest friends has been seeing her boyfriend for the last nine months. They met online and things seem to be going really well for them. The thing is, though, none of her friends have met him. There are four of us girls, all in our 30s, who see each other regularly and we often bring our husbands and partners along on nights out. Every time we've invited this guy he's said he was busy or made some last-minute excuse to not show up. Sometimes my friend looks embarrassed when he cancels and other times she just shrugs it off. The other day I bumped into her sister and she said that none of the family have met him either, and that they think it's strange. I've heard through a mutual friend that the boyfriend is a nice guy and very sociable with his own friends, which make it seem all the more odd that he doesn't want to meet us. It's making me worry for my friend that there's something off about the relationship - should I say something to her or leave well enough alone?

Ali

Majella replies: I think you should definitely leave well enough alone. Your friend is the one in this relationship and she has to decide what's right or wrong for her. You said that she is one of your closest friends so surely she would talk to you if she felt that her boyfriend was upsetting her by not mixing with her friends. Maybe it doesn't bother her that he doesn't meet up with you all.

You seem to be getting very involved by talking to her sister and mutual friends, but my advice would be to stay out of it and let her get on with her own life. If it really bothers you that much why don't you ask her directly why you haven't met him yet instead of talking to other people and imagining all sorts of scenarios? I understand that you care for her, and that is very admirable, but it doesn't mean that you should be judging her relationships. She made the choice to go out with this man and until she tells you she is not happy or she asks for your advice, then just be a good friend and stop worrying about things that you can do nothing about.

There may be reasons why you haven't met him that you are not aware of so don't read too much into things. Your friend is an adult and she has to make her own decisions and live with the outcomes.

As a good friend, you can only let her know that you always care about her and that if she ever needs you or your advice, then all she has to do is ask.

Irish Independent

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