Q: Now Halloween and Bonfire Night are over, everyone seems to be focusing on Christmas. My mother-in-law has commandeered our previous Christmas dinners and admittedly it has been lovely, but now we have two small children who get bored easily and want to be back home playing with their new toys. Also I’d like to have our own family Christmas where I can show off my culinary skills to my husband, then just relax. It’s so frantic before the big day and I’d like to set up our own traditions. Am I being unfair to my mother-in-law asking for our own space this year?
A: You haven’t mentioned what your husband’s view is, if your parents ever get involved, or if there are other siblings and their families to consider, so I’ll go with the simple route. I don’t think that you’re being unfair in making your own traditions but you do need to manage this carefully. As much as you will enjoy feeding your family and see them gleefully ripping presents open, so would your mother-in-law.
Is it feasible to invite the whole family round to your house? or would you rather have your own space? Have you considered suggesting a Christmas Part 2, on Boxing Day for instance, where she could reign supreme in her own home?
You can have the Christmas Day that you want and she can still enjoy the kids and fussing over everyone.When there has been a long-time tradition, it can be difficult to change people’s ideas.
Why not explain that she has presented you with an amazing role model of how a matriarch can be and you would like to either return the favour and invite everyone over, or say you are aspiring to look after your own brood like she has done previously.
It may be that you can agree to alternate each year. Let her know how much you have enjoyed her hospitality and warmth, maybe even ask her for her recipe for one of her specialities. Be firm but loving, after all your husband was once her little boy.
The festive season is an ideal time for families to bond and reminisce, but things don’t always go as smoothly as advertisers portray. Be realistic in your expectations - not everyone has a loving family with whom to share this festival. The latest must-have toy may have gone out of favour by the time your kids open it. Arguments erupt. Sibling rivalries re-emerge. The roasties sometimes burn. Family isn’t necessarily blood related, it comes in all shapes, sizes, genders, blended through different relationships and generations. Be thankful of what you do have.