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michelle15650's avatar

How do I Manage my mother in-law demands she hosts holidays?

Asked by michelle15650 (64points) November 29th, 2016

I asked a previous question about my mother in-law who insists on bringing food to my home when I host holidays. This year, I invited everyone for Thanksgiving as my oldest son would be coming home from college, and want to stay home. So, three weeks before the holiday, she starts plotting to take it away and host it herself. She insists that I will be tired because I work, that it’ll be easier if she do it, etc. Husband, supported mom, again. She hosted the meal, and it was horrible. Help…

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33 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

If I understand correctly, the meal wound up at your MIL’s house, is that right?

My feeling is probably stop trying to compete with her for hosting. She’s older and obviously really wants to do it. Can you do a different holiday?

What was horrible about her dinner? Do you mean the food, or something else about it? Is it just your nuclear family at the dinner and you MIL? Or, is it also other cousins, aunts, and uncles?

If your son wants to stay home you can stay with him, and not go to your MIL’s. You can tell your kid to suck it up, he’s part of a family, and it’s just a few hours. Or, you can let him stay home and you and your husband go to the dinner.

chyna's avatar

I’m not sure where @jleslie got that your son didn’t want to go and that he needed to suck it up. I did not read that in your question at all.
I feel this is a power struggle between you and your mother in law. At this point in your life, I think you should start having your own traditions at your house. Your children seem to be growing up and will want to come to your house for the holidays. Husband needs to be on your side. Just make sure you invite your MIL but tell her in no uncertain terms that the holiday dinner will be at your house.

Pandora's avatar

Next time tell her that your son insisted that you cook because he misses your cooking. I think that is something that most moms will understand. And let her know that she can bring the desserts. Ask her to bring a particular dish that you really like and tell her so. And insist that you really want her to be able to relax and enjoy her time with the family.

Also let her know you are taking the day off before the holiday so that you can prepare all your sons favorites. Grandma’s usually go with what the grand kids want. Is there a particular dessert that your son likes from Grandma, or a dish or even your husband? This will go a long way to making her feel loved and appreciated without feeling offended for you to make all your sons favorites. Like in my family, everyone knows not to bother to make my son’s pumpkin pie or cheese cake or flan.

He will only happily eat mine. So when my MIL wants to bring some dessert or something, I make a list of our favorite foods from her. This way she doesn’t learn that we really don’t like her flan, or cheese cake, or pumpkin pie. She makes this dessert that is a combo of cake and fruits and cool whip that is really soft and yummy. So I ask her for that. She also does fish patties that we enjoy, and some other cultural dishes that I do not make. So I may request one of those. Then I tell her not to bring anything more than I requested because it will go to waste since I already have a large menu planned and other people are bringing stuff.

cazzie's avatar

I detest pushy people who continue to get their way by sheer force of personality. Unwilling to listen or compromise gets my hackles right up. Next time, Ignore her if she fails to listen. Be insistent but polite and if she keeps defying and trying to contradict you, Tell don’t Ask. Do your plans with your family. She can join or not. This is a form of abusive control when she doesn’t listen to you. Don’t be a door mat. It took me 40 years to learn this.

jca's avatar

I think it’s a power struggle between you and the MIL. I’d talk to my hubby about it. Ask him why he doesn’t support you and your son’s request to stay home. I’d also say the MIL did it last time, now it’s our turn. Enlist his help. Maybe he doesn’t want to butt heads with his mom but if he doesn’t back you up, you’re going to be the evil one in the family. Not that you would be, but she’d make you out to be. Maybe you don’t care maybe you do. It seems worth the effort to have the discussion with hubby about the issues and how it can be resolved amicably.

janbb's avatar

You need to get your husband to step up to the plate. My sons are the ones who deal with me when I am distressing their wives. Establish far in advance which holidays are at your house and let him deal with any attempts at an end run.

JLeslie's avatar

@chyna Maybe I interpreted it wrong. The OP wrote: This year, I invited everyone for Thanksgiving as my oldest son would be coming home from college, and want to stay home. I thought that meant the son didn’t want Togo to grandmas for thanksgiving dinner. Although, in all fairness to the son, OP doesn’t want to go either.

My point is it’s probably better not to turn it into a power struggle and just let her do the dinner. Maybe every few years just don’t go to Thanksgiving for a break.

I think this might be the same OP as a question a while back that asked about her MIL bringing food to parties when it’s not wanted, and I empathized with that position, because sometimes when you host you want it to be your menu, but it’s not worth the fight with something like this. Especially a family event. It’s different if it’s involving friends and work people also, then you might want it feel the need for more control.

zenvelo's avatar

I will echo @janbb. This is about the husband not supporting the wife.

If this were to happen in my family, I would have said to the MIL, “I hope you enjoy Thanksgiving, we will be eating at home, because junior is coming home from college. everyone is welcome to join us, especially you, but if it is too much for you to come, we understand.”

BellaB's avatar

This is something you need to sort out with your husband. He needs to be backing you up on this.

I like @zenvelo ‘s approach, but I think it would be best if your husband said it.

If he can’t stand up to his mother , he will need to stay out of it entirely, and let you deal with his mother.


A husband with children of college age who doesn’t understand that his primary affiliation needs to be with his wife – that’s simply dreadful. My maternal grandmother taught her children that primary affiliations had to be with their spouses – everyone else was somewhere down the line. Seemed odd to me when I was in my teens. I learned to understand and appreciate her wisdom.

JLeslie's avatar

Is the MIL’s house far away? Why is it such a big deal for the kid home from college to spend three hours for Thanksgiving at his grandma’s?

Don’t get me wrong, I think if the OP wants to have Thanksgiving at home that’s just fine, but I’m not sure I understand why it’s a big deal for a kid/adult home from college to go to his grandmothers for a holiday for a few hours if the house isn’t far away.

I really think this is more about the OP than her son.

I agree it’s up to the husband to run interference. The question is where does the husband stand in his own mind. No matter what I think he should “support” his wife, but maybe he thinks let’s just go to my mom’s. We don’t know

janbb's avatar

@JLeslie You’re missing the comma in her post. It indicates that she – the mother – wants it at home. She wants to have the holiday at home with her son who is coming home from college. There is nothing wrong with that.

In my own experience, there is a fairly natural evolution toward the focus being on the DIL’s home during the holidays since that is where the children are.

A nice gesture that might ease things would be to think of some special foods that your MIL makes and ask her to bring them.

jca's avatar

One thing in thinking about the perspectives above, and having just had Facebook offer me a photo “memory” from two years ago of Thanksgiving at my parents’ house, I am thinking of the other side. My mom just passed away at the end of September. I would give anything to have Thanksgiving or Christmas with her again. My grandmother died when I was 14. My sister never knew her. I would give anything to have another holiday dinner with my grandmother at her big Victorian house on the river.

I am not sure what the OP or her son’s relationship is with the MIL/Grandmother but if it becomes a power struggle and there’s hard feelings on both sides, sometimes it’s not really worth it when you think about life being short and how we should appreciate the family that we have.

Every year since my mom was diagnosed with cancer, on Thanksgiving when we went around the table and talked about what we were grateful for, many of use would say we were grateful that we were all together.

chyna's avatar

I have a coworker who has a MIL that pays no attention to the grand kids unless it benefits her or makes her look good. She has never been to any of their games or school functions. The kids don’t want to go there for thanksgiving. Why should they? Maybe this MIL is similar. And my coworker’s MILis very healthy and goes on trips all the time.

JLeslie's avatar

@janbb I completely agree. There is nothing wrong with them just doing a Thanksgiving at home.

Does the OP want to “host” Thanksgiving at her house, or just have a simple Thanksgiving with her own nuclear family?

Edit: To clarify I said in my first answer they can stay home, or go to the Thanksgiving, they can do whatever they want. This year I stayed home, a girlfriend drive up and we are at a restaurant. Some years I go to my inlaws. Some years my parents come to my house.

The OP should do what she wants. It sounds to me that she wanted to host “everyone” at her own house, and that turns out to be extremely difficult with her MIL around. I’m sure that’s frustrating.

jca's avatar

My stepfather’s mother was one that sat in the chair with a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other. She was a nice person but not particularly warm. She didn’t cook so when she did have Thanksgiving at her house, it was turkey and pearl onions and that was it. No dessert, no nothing. If we didn’t bring a pie there would have been no dessert.

That’s why I asked what the OP and her son’s relationship is with the MIL/grandmother.

JLeslie's avatar

Ugh. Sorry for typos. Couldn’t go back and edit.

I think if this MIL is obsessed with hosting holidays and you want to host a dinner pick something else. Do a birthday, or a spring party, fall fiesta, make your own tradition.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I agree with those who have described this as a power play. Obviously your mother-in-law needs to feel in control. Given how your husband acquiesces to her demands, she was most likely a very controlling parent. That doesn’t resolve your problem.

The answer lies with your husband, who in my opinion is being weak and needs to grow up. You are his wife. You would like to have thanksgiving and Christmas in your own home. Perfectly fair enough. He needs to step up and speak to his mother about her behaviour. If he won’t, could you boycott her event? Does it matter enough to you to cause a stink? Stay home and do your own Thanksgiving meal for you and your son. It will mean that your relationship with your MiL will be even more strained, but it sounds like it’s in a bad place anyway. She’s a bully who gives your needs (and rights) no consideration.

BellaB's avatar

I was reflecting on this question over the day.

I finally realized that I found it quite odd that people with children are going to in-laws for any holiday meal. I’m used to young families having their own holiday meals as soon as they start having kids – and the grandparents doing the travelling (if they are invited and want to attend). The thought of travelling with kids to in-laws would never even occur to me.

Annual family reunions hosted by grands, that’s usually where the in-laws fit in here.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@janbb “In my own experience, there is a fairly natural evolution toward the focus being on the DIL’s home during the holidays since that is where the children are.”

Interesting – this is the opposite of the way it was in my family, where the grown children wanted to have it at our parents’ house, because (a) it meant the older parents didn’t have to travel for the holiday and (b) they wanted to share the holiday as they remembered it with their children. My parents were happy to host (their children brought much of the food anyway), but I think my siblings drove the tradition.

That has always seemed like the norm to me, though now I wonder if I’ve been assuming because it happened naturally that way in my family.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I think how people organise such events is a family rather than a societal tradition. I don’t know how the tradition would have unfolded in my family since I moved to another country soon after marrying. My older siblings were either unmarried or also didn’t live close to our parents. We (the single children close by) had all gravitated to my parent’s house for Christmas lunch and spent the day with them.

My children are not married and so they come here and we share the day together. At some point, I’m sure they will marry and then we will see how things pan out. I think it would be unreasonable of me to expect things to continue as they have been so far. Daughter-in-laws will have their own families and my experience is daughters tend to want to spend time with their families rather than their husband’s family. So I expect at least one of my children will want to do something other than come here.

chyna's avatar

One of my brothers lived 5 hours away and my mom expected him and his family to pack up and come in every Thanksgiving or Christmas. He never told her, but he told me that he resented having to pack them all up and come see us. It would have been much easier for me and my mom to go see them.

janbb's avatar

@dappled_leaves My experience may be skewed since my boys moved so far away and then their Dad moved out. With my family of origin, we went to my Mom’s house for the Jewish holidays and then they came to me for part of the day on Christmas. My Ex’s family was English so we were very rarely with them for the holidays. I think my sons wouldn’t rush to come home for holidays because it would bring up too many memories.

JLeslie's avatar

I hope the OP comes back to answer some if the questions so we can find out how her husband feels about the whole thing, and if she wants to host the party or would be fine just staying home with just her husband and kid.

I think it varies so much in each family. When adult children get married, it often changes the dynamic of holidays in families. Then they start having their own kids and there is another change. My family is Jewish and my husband Catholic, so those holidays weren’t a problem in who to spend the holiday with.

A lot of people I know do Christmas Eve dinner with one set of family members and Christmas Day or Christmas Day dinner with the other set. This worked easily in a lot of families I know, because many of them are culturally mixed so the Italians and Latin Americans do Christmas Eve dinner, and the people who are English/Scottish/Irish decent tend to do Christmas Day.

As a kid we always went to my maternal grandparents for holidays, if we were going to celebrate with family. I think my mother wouldn’t have wanted to deal with the cooking and clean up. She has little kids to deal with. The grandparents often have less daily stress then the parents, especially if they are retired they have more time. I realize a lot of grandparents aren’t retired.

Feel free to skip over my personal story here: When we moved to Maryland (I was 9) we went to Thanksgiving back in New York a couple of times. Thanksgiving is the heaviest traffic days of the year statistically the drive was horrible. The first time it was snowy going up there and it took almost 7 hours for the 5 hour trip. The second year it was a icy on the way home. Over 8 hours. We spent over a half an hour at a complete stop on the interstate, because a little sports car had skidded “under” the huge truck in front of it and the two people in the car were decapitated. We never went to Thanksgiving again at my grandmothers. We went for Passover. It was more practical.

This whole obligation of the holidays often is expensive, inconvenient, and stressful. Defeats the purpose.

@chyna Do you think your mom would have been ok going to his house if he had just spoken up?

chyna's avatar

Yes she would have. As a matter of fact, he had told me that a few years before she died, so I made the suggestion and she was glad to have a road trip.
But, @Jleslie, you family story shows how different each family is. We all have to do what we can to get along and be good to our familys.

JLeslie's avatar

@chyna I agree about each family being different.

Your story shows that sometimes just speaking up can could have or can easily solve a situation where there was some resentment. Maybe all along your mom thought she was doing this really wonderful thing hosting everyone? Probably, the last thing she wanted was for her son to dread it. I wonder if the OP’s mom is only seeking control (it seems that way in the surface) or if she also believes she is being helpful.

michelle15650's avatar

Unfortunately, my husband doesn’t feel that “it’s worth the fight” in upsetting his mother. So it’s clear he is choosing her happiness over mine and the rest of his family. MY MIL has always “called Thanksgiving” which in their family meant it was a mandate to attend. I grew up with family members being “invited” to attend as we accommodated other families, travel restrictions etc. Luckily or not…my husband and I have all four parents within 15 mins, so the holidays have always been more of a challenge to coordinate than a place of relaxed gatherings. I just get so jealous when I hear friends and sisters tell me of their wonderful plans for a great day of cooking, food, music, laughter, etc and I know i’ll be stuck in the kitchen at a cramped table eating a bad meal and listening to passive aggressive remarks from my MIL.

I have since learned that my MIL was never allowed to host and that “her MIL” called holidays, so she said “since I was punished, you can’t host either”. It’s twisted, I can hear you all now.

I have proclaimed to my husband, that we will do what we want from this point forward; whether it means the nuclear family stays home and hosts, or we travel for the holiday.

It just saddens me that people live their lives with such negative energy, such restricted boundaries where you can’t move with the ebb and flow of life.

I have always felt this was insane, but needed to hear from the larger community. I am in a mixed marriage and wasn’t sure if this was from his ethnic / cultural (Chicago Polish) background.

Thank you for the advice, and I’ll be sure to check in next year with great tales from “My Thanksgiving”.

janbb's avatar

@michelle15650 What a shame! maybe one way to deal with it is to go to her house on Thanksgiving but have a second Thanksgiving at your house on Friday with just your nuclear family and everything the way you want it?

JLeslie's avatar

@michelle15650 So, if I have this right, you have talked to your MIL about you wanting to host and she told you tough crap she went through years of wanting to host and it’s finally her turn. Is that right? She won’t consider any sort of compromise.

I understand that you cannot get what you really want. You want to host the extended family for Thanksgiving. You have to figure out a compromise that will make you happy. Does your side of the family also attend the meal your MIL hosts? If not, why not host a Thanksgiving for your side? Or, do a Saturday meal for the entire family, including the inlaws. You could do a very nice brunch, or something unique. Or, dinner or whatever. Maybe add in some party games. You can start a new tradition in your family for Thanksgiving weekend.

Or, how about the suggestion of hosting a different holiday? New Years, Christmas, Halloween, Independence Day, or even a non holiday day marking the change of season.

Don’t try to take that holiday away from her, she’s too stubborn it seems, just do something different that you can make yours. If you don’t feel like going to Thanksgiving at her house next year don’t go. If you’re nervous about fallout you could plan a trip over the weekend. Just be out of town.

JLeslie's avatar

@janbb I just read your answer. I interpreted the OP as wanting to host the extended family. If you’re right then I agree she has the whole weekend to eat with her husband and son alone, why be resentful about one dinner at her MIL’s? It can’t be that simple. Can it? I do know people who are very fixated about doing what they want specifically on the holiday day. Christmas celebrated on the 23rd “just isn’t the same.” Maybe that’s at play here?

jca's avatar

I would plan a trip for next Thanksgiving. It’s a great four day weekend and you can easily take a long weekend somewhere. I have relatives in Las Vegas and since my mom passed away this autumn, I said to my family that maybe next Thanksgiving we can all take a trip to Las Vegas to get with those relatives. Why not?

chyna's avatar

Why should she have to dread the holiday? Why can’t she just have the Thanksgiving she wants, invite who she wants and have the enjoyable day she longs for?
MIL sounds like a tool that doesn’t care if everyone is miserable, she by gawd is going to have a dinner at her house.
Edited to add: this is all making me angry. I feel bad for anyone having to bow down to anyone else’s idea of a family dinner just to keep the peace.

JLeslie's avatar

@chyna I guess it’s difficult because she will then be directly competing with the MIL. She will be asking family members to choose between the two dinners if they are done on the same day. I guess they can do it at different times, but then it’s a burden in family to be going two different places maybe. If the MIL lets (I debated about using the word let’s) the OP host Thanksgiving, the MIL will show up with food, which will ruin it for the OP from what I can surmise.

I do think that taking a stand and just doing Thanksgiving and telling the MIL in a very nice way, “please bring your stuffing, I know it will be missed if it’s not on the table” might work. Some sort of compliment that doesn’t completely block her out. I just think any type of direct competition will be tricky.

I’m so glad I rarely deal with this sort of thing. I do sometimes get annoyed with family holiday things, but overall I go if I feel like it, don’t if I don’t, and host now and then depending on the circumstances.

JLeslie's avatar

Lets not let’s.

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