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was this the right thing to do re SIL and Christmas?

(48 Posts)
arthriticToes Mon 17-Nov-14 20:10:41

NC'd regular in case SIL reads this...

Background - DH and I live in a different country from our families, and have done for the last 15 years, since we each went away to uni. DH and i are academic types and are regarded as somewhat useless, socially and domestically, by our families - with some justification. We have never been any good at cooking for guests (we eat healthily, but not glamourously), entertaining (except our own friends) or polite smalltalk (except the sort we'd happily do with our own friends and colleagues).

DH's parents prefer eating out in very expensive restaurants, to home cooking; so on the extremely rare occasions I've had the opportunity to cook for them, they haven't liked it much (though they were very polite at the time). They regard DH having learnt to cook as a very amusing foible of his and seem to think it's because I won't let him eat out more often.

SIL is more down to earth about cooking vs eating out and nutrition vs. perfect entertaining; but she is herself a very good cook indeed, as well as a general domestic goddess type hostess, perfect modern mother of lovely children, has good career, is always wise and considered in her statements, groomed and polished, etc etc. In comparison I am a useless scruffy gobby ill-considered non-achiever in life, as is DH.

SIL has hosted Christmas with help from BIL, MIL and FIL and her FIL, every year since I have been on the scene. DH and I have always been banned from the kitchen, with a slight feeling that we're too useless to contribute anything. FIL contributes the carefully-chosen, exorbitantly-priced wine and always makes comments about the fact I don't drink and that DH doesn't drink more than a glass any more. SIL's FIL contributes expensive ingredients and makes comments about the fact we wouldn't be able to get stuff like caviar, quail's eggs, and gold leaf, on our salaries/where we live... We're also ushered out of the way re playing with the kids, also with the feeling that PIL and SIL and BIL all agree that we're likely to get it wrong so they should band together to prevent us messing everything up.

This year, SIL is hosting Christmas while being 39.5 weeks pregnant, with her 3 other kids aged 4 (twins) and 6. The envisaged Christmas is much as usual. To me this seems absolutely bonkers and masochistic for SIL.

I emailed her, ccing DH, to ask if she'd like us to do more generally, cook for her, shop for her, do WHATEVER to give her a bit of a break as (while of course we don't know from personal experience) she seems likely to actually want to put her feet up, by that stage of pregnancy.

However, there's been no answer, and I'm now worried that actually she will see this as me assuaging my own conscience by making empty offers that are so weak that she can't accept due to the likely outcome of terrible food/ lowered standards. sad

What do you all wish your useless relatives would do to make your Christmases easier? (I don't think "not turn up in the country" is an acceptable option).

2minsofyourtime Mon 17-Nov-14 20:16:32

Have you been invited?

MrsHathaway Mon 17-Nov-14 20:17:33

Why. The. Fuck. Is. She. Hosting?

Tell me you're staying in a hotel or with PIL and not with SIL.

We don't have useless relatives but I'm sad for SIL that she feels she has to be supermum all the time. I think you may need to force the issue if you genuinely want to help. More like"I'll wash up" than "anything I can do?".

flapjackattack Mon 17-Nov-14 20:17:56

It is crackers (ha) and short-sighted. Plenty of women don't see 39.5 weeks pregnant. If she reads anything more into it than you've offered it says a lot about raging insecurities/ control issues. As for feeling inferior this is very much their lack of social skills, rather than an objective skills comparison!

arthriticToes Mon 17-Nov-14 20:18:20

Yes. It's a given that we are coming to the country specifically to visit them for Christmas, and this was in response to an email telling DH about the plans for Christmas day.

LineRunner Mon 17-Nov-14 20:21:09

Where are you staying?

arthriticToes Mon 17-Nov-14 20:21:59

MrsHathaway - we're staying with my family (who do Christmas at a different time). I've tried the "righto, our turn in the kitchen, you prepared, we wash up" every year when visiting (not just Christmas dinner), and been politely turned away every time.

Flapjackattack - yes that's what i thought. It has also crossed my mind that we will be sticking out as even more bloody useless if she doesn't get to 39.5 weeks, everyone goes ahead in her absence (MIL cooking, FIL on wine, other FIL on being a posturing twat, BIL on the kids) and we are the only adults not allowed to do anything.

Medibeagle Mon 17-Nov-14 20:26:15

I'd take a book unhelpful

arthriticToes Mon 17-Nov-14 20:28:12

medibeagle grin very tempted

Deemail Mon 17-Nov-14 20:28:13

I think it's time to say to them you've had enough of this nonsense, you manage your lives all year around without their help and you will no longer partake in a christmas where you don't pull your own weight. Enough with been treated like kids, you're adults apparently happy with your lot, learn to bring this across with confidence and authority.

I'm wondering if you and dh been academic undermines them all and this is their way of dealing with this?

arthriticToes Mon 17-Nov-14 20:31:35

Deemail - i doubt they'd feel undermined... in the grand hierarchy of country-running type power they're all senior to any academics; except SIL, who may well be overcompensating by being supermum/ trophy wife/perfect daughter etc.

Perhaps need to get DH to talk to his parents. Though they're unlikely to listen to him, or me. Maybe DH can phone SIL on the weekend. Sigh.

Liara Mon 17-Nov-14 20:33:15

She may be fussy about other people in her kitchen.

I know I would be uncomfortable having someone else taking over in my kitchen, and would expect to do all the preparation/hosting if it was in my own house.

I am sure she will appreciate the offer, even if she turns it down. It is always nice not to feel taken for granted.

Don't take it too personally as well, you are likely suffering from being treated the same way as your dh is. If he has always been the can't-do-anyting in the family while she has been the must-do-everything-perfectly it is likely that she just slips into those roles without even thinking about it when she is with the family. Doesn't necessarily mean she thinks you are useless or anything.

Scholes34 Mon 17-Nov-14 20:33:25

She's given birth twice before and should have a pretty good idea of how she'll be feeling at 39.5 weeks. If it's a singleton, then probably bit better than she was when she was expecting the twins.

If she's not given birth, I'm sure everything will run smoothly and all will be as in any other year.

If she's already given birth, goes into labour or simply finds she doesn't have the energy, then someone, possibly you and DH will step in to help and everyone will eat and someone will wash up. Trying to anticipate what might happen is just a waste of everyone's energy, and anything could or could not or may or may not happen. Just roll with it once Christmas arrives.

arthriticToes Mon 17-Nov-14 20:36:19

Perhaps relevant other piece of background is that we normally provide 1-2 courses of Christmas dinner and washing up for my family, and it is always appreciated. Likewise, when we stay with my parents, we buy food for them and cook dinner for them, most nights; and we take them out to dinner. They're always appreciative. So we're not totally useless there, at least.

MrsHathaway Mon 17-Nov-14 20:36:47

That's bizarre confused - do they hear "academic" and think "student"?

Actually, I'm now paranoid amused because my academic DB and SIL are staying with us and I have false supermum reputation.Just no stellar career grin I make DB bring cake and entertain DC though.

maddening Mon 17-Nov-14 20:37:12

could you offer to do christmas crafts with the dc to enable bil to cook?

ps being a perfect hostess means not making your guests feel awkward.

TheRealMaryMillington Mon 17-Nov-14 20:38:23

I would let them do it the way they like it

And enjoy being guests, and play with the kids

In fact if I were SIL and playing host to parents and inlaws (not inc. you) with exacting standards, having someone play with the kids and keep them out from under my feet and let me get one with it would be the most helpful things you could do

Perhaps your DH could try to give his sister one last get out clause and let her know the offer is sincere.

Roseformeplease Mon 17-Nov-14 20:39:25

Can you take over something like all the nibbles, snacks, starter etc? Just tell them you WILL be doing it and won't take no for an answer.

BlinkAndMiss Mon 17-Nov-14 20:41:08

To be honest I'd be very offended at the way they treat you, so much so that I either wouldn't go or I wouldn't care how they thought of me if SIL was grafting away at 39.5 weeks pregnant and I was branded as 'too useless to help out'. You're completely in a catch 22 situation - you're either going to stress SIL out by being rubbish or you're going to put her out by doing nothing.

I'd just think that she's choosing to be the martyr, you sound lovely and I don't think you deserve to be treated that way at all.

arthriticToes Mon 17-Nov-14 20:42:27

MrsHathaway grin I'd bring cake and play with the kids if they let me!
I actually think they year "academic" and think "those bloody people droning on on select committees, wasting our time"... which comes to the same thing!

TheRealMaryMillington, and Roseformeplease, those are good suggestions. Will get DH to phone, and will ask if we can PLEASE take over just one thing to not feel quite so much like duffers...

TheRealMaryMillington Mon 17-Nov-14 20:48:05

Some people on here seem to take the huff super easily.

Perhaps SIL is a kitchen or christmas control freak? Nothing so far suggests martyrdom - does she complain? Chances are she just likes doing it, and likes doing it her way.

ovaltine Mon 17-Nov-14 20:49:06

Some people just like to do things like that, I'd take a book, settle down and enjoy being waited on smile it's their issues and tradition, dont feel like you aren't doing enough. It just turn up with a dessert or something unannounced and say "I thought I should contribute something even though I know you don't like me too" then teach the kids some swear words :D

"What people think of me is none of my business" is my motto. If you both are happy with your lives then great!! Don't feel belittled by them

arthriticToes Mon 17-Nov-14 20:52:18

I thinnk control is a big thing for SIL - not in a bad way - but that it provides her with the sense of purpose to get through what must be rather busy days...

I wouldn't take the huff as I don't think this is really conscious. It's more likely to be the traditional-family-role-taking, as suggested above.

We'll try to rock the boat a bit more to give SIL the break she probably needs, andif she really doesnt want it, then we'll step in when she goes into labour.

Good thing for everyone that they're not ever likely to visit us for Christmas! grin

arthriticToes Mon 17-Nov-14 20:53:39

ovaltine that sounds awesome.

Maybe we should give the kids some Roald Dahl for Christmas... not quite swear words but very close... grin

ovaltine Mon 17-Nov-14 21:01:35

Yes do it!!! I like to teach my cousins/nephews to stick out their tongue at my dad as he hated me doing it when I was younger. Revolting Rhymes would be a good one to start with smile

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