Tuesday, May 8, 2012

how to [successfully] visit your family with young babies.

Welcome to the May 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting With or Without Extended Family
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how relatives help or hinder their parenting. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

My twin daughters were born while my husband was in grad school. It was a challenge: he was busy writing papers, lesson plans, and student teaching, and I was trying to adjust to my new life as a stay at home mom with two bitty babies.

There were days when I felt down and lonely, especially during the winter. Pacific Northwest winters, while usually mild in temperature, are wet and dreary!

We decided from early on that while Andy was teaching full time, I would spend one week out of the month with my parents, who live four and a half hours south of Portland. It would be a way for him to get some major work done and catch up on his sleep, and a way for me to get help, support, and pampering in the comfort of my home and presence of my family.

Every month, Andy would drive me halfway down, and my parents or his parents would drive up halfway, and we'd make the transfer. These trips started when the girls were three months old, and we continued until they were nine months old. Andy graduated this month, so it looks like my monthly sojourns are over for now. It's bittersweet; I love being with my family and a few blocks from his parents. I'll miss it.

Here's a few tips we've learned after six months of visits:

1) When the girls were very small and not going long without nursing, I would bring a bottle of expressed milk to feed them en-route. It would always seem like they were hungry an hour into the journey, regardless of when I had fed them. Having some milk ready for them meant we didn't have to stop multiple times and turn a five-hour drive into an eight-hour drive. It also meant I didn't have to keep taking them in and out of their seats to nurse while on the road (I confess to doing this occasionally).

  (enjoying some quality family time in California!)

2) I always brought my pump with me, even if I didn't know if I'd need it. There were a few times I was able to go out with friends unexpectedly, and being able to pump meant I could leave them with the grandparents. It also meant that my family could help out at night by taking charge and letting me sleep through a feeding. Even if I only did it once or twice, it helped.

3) When they are small and swaddled, if there is a big enough bed, plan to cosleep. When it was just me and the girls, we all slept in the guest bed. It meant less to pack (no pack n' play!) and with them swaddled it meant no rolling around. Plus, cosleeping when there is one of you and two of them makes night feeds much easier. They slept in the middle of the bed and I'd switch sides throughout the night.

4) If you're visiting family, you can plan on leaving most of your toys, teethers, and gadgets at home. Last time we visited my parents, the girls were riveted by the measuring cups, spoons, and spatulas. An iPhone or iPod can double as a white noise machine. There are great free apps, like WhiteNoise or Sleep Pillow.

5) Make room for your carriers! My parents or friends were more than happy to wear the girls when we didn't want to lug around the big double stroller. Even if they haven't done it before, it's a great way for them to bond with your child and become a babywearing advocate!

 (helping auntie with her homework)

6) Prep yourself for well-meaning relatives' questions about your parenting style and unsolicited advice. I am fortunate to have family members who are incredibly supportive. They offer their advice if I ask for it, but mostly they let me dictate how the girls are cared for. I know some people are not that lucky. Stand firm in your decisions, practice in front of the mirror beforehand if needed! At the same time, don't feel like you have to contradict everyone who gives you advice you know you're not going to follow. Smile, nod your head, and move on. Sometimes, though, you'll be given a gem of advice you never expected. For example, one particularly long night, my mom said, "why don't you just lay down and nurse?" and it changed my life. Thanks Mom!

7) Most of all, enjoy your family visits! Be the attentive and diligent mother you are but at the same time loosen your grip, accept help, and focus on creating good memories instead of getting hung up on the little things. 

(Ruthie enjoying Grammy's nose)

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon May 8 with all the carnival links.)
  • Dealing With Unsupportive Grandparents — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, The Pistachio Project tells what to do when your child's grandparents are less than thrilled about your parenting choices.
  • Parenting With Extended Family — Jenny at I'm a full-time mummy shares the pros and cons of parenting with extended family...
  • Parental Support for an AP Mama — Meegs at A New Day talks about the invaluable support of her parents in her journey to be an AP mama.
  • Priceless GrandparentsThat Mama Gretchen reflects on her relationship with her priceless Grammy while sharing ways to help children preserve memories of their own special grandparents.
  • Routines Are Meant To Be Broken — Olga at Around The Birthing Ball urges us to see Extended Family as a crucial and necessary link between what children are used to at home and the world at large.
  • It Helps To Have A Village – Even A Small One — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses how she has flourished as a mother due to the support of her parents.
  • The Orange Week — Erika at Cinco de Mommy lets go of some rules when her family finally visits extended family in San Diego.
  • One Size Doesn't Fit All — Kellie at Our Mindful Life realizes that when it comes to family, some like it bigger and some like it smaller.
  • It Takes a Family — Alicia at What's Next can't imagine raising a child without the help of her family.
  • A new foray into family — As someone who never experienced close extended family, Lauren at Hobo Mama wrestles with how to raise her kids — and herself — to restart that type of community.
  • My Mama Rocks! — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment is one lucky Mama to have the support and presence of her own awesome Mama.
  • Embracing Our Extended Family — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares 7 ideas for nurturing relationships with extended family members.
  • Doing Things Differently — Valerie at Momma in Progress shares how parenting her children far away from extended family improved her confidence in her choices.
  • Snapshots of love — Caroline at stoneageparent describes the joys of sharing her young son's life with her own parents.
  • Parenting with Relies – A mixed bagUrsula Ciller shares some of her viewpoints on the pros and cons of parenting with relatives and extended family.
  • Tante and Uncles — How a great adult sibling relationship begets a great relationship with aunt and uncles from Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy.
  • Tips for Traveling With Twins — Megan at the Boho Mama shares some tips for traveling with infant twins (or two or more babies!).
  • Parenting passed through the generations — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about the incredible parenting resource that is her found family, and how she hopes to continue the trend.
  • My Family and My Kids — Jorje of Momma Jorje ponders whether she distrusts her family or if she is simply a control freak.
  • Parenting with a Hero — Rachel at Lautaret Bohemiet reminisces about the relationship she shared with her younger brother, and how he now shares that closeness in a relationship with her son.
  • Text/ended Family — Kenna of A Million Tiny Things wishes her family was around for the Easter egg hunt... until she remembers what it's actually like having her family around.
  • Two Kinds of Families — Adrienne at Mommying My Way writes about how her extended family is just as valuable to her mommying as her church family.
  • My 'high-needs' child and 'strangers' — With a 'high-needs' daughter, aNonyMous at Radical Ramblings has had to manage without the help of family or friends, adapting to her daughter's extreme shyness and allowing her to socialise on her own terms.
  • Our Summer Tribe — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger shares a love of her family's summer reunion, her secret to getting the wisdom of the "village" even as she lives 1,000 miles away.
  • My Life Boat {Well, One of Them} — What good is a life boat if you don't get it? Grandparents are a life boat MomeeeZen loves!
  • Dear Children — In an open letter to her children, Laura at Pug in the Kitchen promises to support them as needed in her early days of parenting.
  • Yearning for Tribal Times — Ever had one of those days where everything seems to keep going wrong? Amy at Anktangle recounts one such day and how it inspired her to think about what life must've been like when we lived together in large family units.
  • I don't have a village — Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wishes she had family nearby but appreciates their support and respect.
  • Trouble With MILs-- Ourselves? — Jaye Anne at Wide Awake Half Asleep explains how her arguments with her mother-in-law may have something to do with herself.
  • A Family Apart — Melissa at Vibrant Wanderings writes about the challenges, and the benefits, of building a family apart from relatives.
  • First Do No Harm — Zoie at TouchstoneZ asks: How do you write about making different parenting choices than your own family experience without criticizing your parents?
  • Military Family SeparationAmy Willa shares her feelings about being separated from extended family during her military family journey.
  • Forging A Village In The Absence Of One — Luschka from Diary of a First Child writes about the importance of creating a support network, a village, when family isn't an option.
  • Respecting My Sister’s Parenting Decisions — Dionna at Code Name: Mama's sister is guest posting on the many roles she has as an aunt. The most important? She is the named guardian, and she takes that role seriously.
  • Multi-Generational Living: An Exercise in Love, Patience, and Co-Parenting — Boomerang Mama at The Other Baby Book shares her experience of moving back in with Mom and Dad for 7 months, and the unexpected connection that followed.
  • A Heartfelt Letter to Family: Yes, We're Weird, but Please Respect Us Anyway — Sheila of A Living Family sincerely expresses ways she would appreciate her extended family’s support for her and her children, despite their “weird” parenting choices.
  • The nuclear family is insane! — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle is grateful for family support, wishes her Mum lived closer, and feels an intentional community would be the ideal way to raise her children.


  1. Fantastic post.
    I think it will make a huge difference the older they get that you got out with them so young (you probably already notice it)
    And having a supportive family is so key!

  2. This is great! First of all, I love any tips to simplify travel and leave behind bulk. I also second the recommendation to persuade family members to give babywearing a whirl. I got my dad and my sister-in-law quite accustomed to our various wraps, and the babies like a new person to snuggle with. :)

  3. Hi Megan! Thank you for stopping by my blog and commenting. I just spent the last few minutes browsing through yours and had to pry myself away to write the comment I came here to write! :) Love your blog and your baby girls are beautiful! I can't wait to read more.

    Thanks again for your comment. I completely agree! I would hate for someone to not look into FPU because of some negative comments and viewpoints. We live in Nashville, so as you can imagine, everybody has an opinion about Dave and FPU. :)
    With that said, FPFG is one of my favorite bloggers ever. She's honest and does not shy away from hard topics and I love it.

    I just followed your blog, and can't wait to read more! Thank you again for your comment! Good luck in your journey toward debt-freedom!


  4. Love this!! What a great experience for you and your babies.

  5. thanks for sharing; I find your advice useful, especially about co-sleeping and swaddling (hadn't thought of swaddling but cosleeping is a lifesaver, especially when travelling), and about pumping, plus your Mums advice about lying down to feed is just what happened to me, it was something I'd not even thought wasp ossible until she suggested it, so at times their advice can be like gold dust!

    1. ...and my Mum's advice about lying down to nurse as well (I guess I was always so tired that I counldn't see the forest for the tree!!).

    2. Wasn't that advice lifesaving?! Seriously!

  6. What sweet pictures!! Kieran and I used to visit my parents quite a bit more than we do now (the guest bed is not conducive to cosleeping with a baby), and we eventually just got double personal care items and left a set there. So much easier than always hauling it back and forth!!

  7. Geat travelling ideas - all of them. My parents live 4 hours drive away and my car has become a road hog even more since baby was born 1 and a half years ago, as I love the relief on my motherly workload when I go there and poor hubby also got some unbroken sleep for a change (even though he always misses baby). I too have learned not to take all the toys and stroller (as I have only a sudan and don't own a removables truck!!). When my little one was tiny we always co-slept and this was much better then having to get up every time she was hungry (every 1-3 hours at night). Now that she's self weaned, I still like taking one precious item with me when I travel to the rellies and hubby has to work - my sister!! She helps feed my toddler while on the run, or fills the car up at the server while I give her a change if necessary :)

  8. What a blessing to have your family so accommodating and relatively close!

  9. #4 made me giggle, because not only are my kids fascinated by just about everything at my parents house, they also still have toys from when my siblings and I were little that my children (and their cousins) think are FANTASTIC. (I'm turning 40 soon, and I have a brother who just turned 50. Yes, they kept them THAT long.) Definitely no need to pack entertainment!

  10. Yes! ENJOY those family visits!!! Some of us would give almost anything for them. :)

    I adore that photo of Grammy's nose being chomped. Grrrreat capture!


I appreciate your comments and conversation - please leave your email address when commenting so I can respond! If you want a direct response, you can also email me at the.boho.mama.blog@gmail.com

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