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Unusual MiL problem

(23 Posts)
debjud Wed 19-Nov-14 09:37:23

My MiL is 87, fiercely independent but increasingly frail - often tripping up, balance problems, eyesight not good, memory not good. She has insisted on cooking the Xmas lunch every year, every bit of it. It's DH's family - just 5 of us altogether - Me and DH (late 50's, early 60's), BiL (late 50's) and DD (18).

We were getting increasingly worried and frankly uncomfortable about her doing all this cooking, also getting in quite a tizz by the time we got there.
So last year, we suggested that we all contributed to the meal - she insists on having it at her place - won't go anywhere else - about an hour's drive from us. BiL = soup, Us = turkey, gravy, potatoes, MiL = other veg, bought xmas pudding, made xmas cake, mince pies - so still plenty for her to do. I have to say, it was a great success (we thought) - the turkey survived the journey and everything was hot and good.

This year - she says it was awful last year - she wants to do everything - "do we think that she's not capable?" "Is her food no good? "(!). Her kitchen is v small, so I don't think that us all pitching in with the cooking there would work.

I don't know what to do now. I worry that if she has her way, at some point she will scald/burn herself or worse - her hands visibly shake when she lifts a pan or takes something out of the oven (low down near the floor). Every time we see her, she has a new cut or bruise from where she says she 'tripped over her feet' etc etc - and that's just the ones we know about. And in our 50's and 60's we are not happy about being 'served' in this way. But she also wants to do it and is v proud about it!!

Any suggestions? Especially from anyone who has experienced this situation?

makeitabetterplace Wed 19-Nov-14 09:42:07

Just insist but say you want to do it to treat her for all the times she's looked after you. Or buy it all from waitrose / cook etc and say someone won it.

tywysogesgymraeg Wed 19-Nov-14 09:44:04

I think I'd just let her get on with it, she obviously takes great pleasure from it.

Perhaps you could take the load off her by agreeing that she does the "roast dinner" part of the meal, and someone else supplies pudding?

We always have a veg peeling party on Christmas Eve, with mucho sherry and chocolates - could you do something like that to help perhaps, because after that it's just sticking the bird in the oven on the day, and boiling the veg, so not to much work for her.

tywysogesgymraeg Wed 19-Nov-14 09:45:12

Saying someone won it is a great idea! Or you could "win" a meal out in a nice restaurant - even simpler then!

dreamingofsun Wed 19-Nov-14 09:45:59

could you find some excuse to have christmas at your place? For example, daughter is planning to move out in next couple of years, and you would love to have a christmas at home before she does. really sorry, know its incovenient for her. and we wondered if she'd mind bringing her wonderful cake as yours just aren't any where near as good as hers......

not experienced this situation - my mother bowed out of christmas entirely

purpleroses Wed 19-Nov-14 09:49:06

Oh she sounds exactly like my MIL! But afraid I don't have the answer. She WILL NOT allow anyone else to help. She WILL NOT be taken out for a meal. She will not come to ours.... It's really hard work and actually ends up reducing the time we feel we can spend with her. She won't even let anyone help wash up (and sent SIL to bed like a naughty child when she pushed the issue)

I hope someone else comes and helps with a solution as sadly I don't have one.

GoringBit Wed 19-Nov-14 09:50:52

She sounds ungrateful, controlling and unwilling to compromise, but if she is so determined to do it, and as long as it doesn't spoil your Christmas, I'd be inclined to let her get on with it.

AmItheonlyonezenaroundhere Wed 19-Nov-14 09:51:18

Maybe you could tell her you've already ordered the turkey so you'll do that again this year as you didn't realise and then at least that's the heaviest thing out of the way.

fluffyraggies Wed 19-Nov-14 09:53:11

Gosh, so you've never done xmas lunch in your own home for your family OP? I couldn't have stood that this long.

I may sound harsh but i'd be saying what a poster up-thread said - your DD would like to have a family day at home this year for xmas. With granny invited of course.

Maybe you should do a bit of 'insisting'.

outofcontrol2014 Wed 19-Nov-14 09:53:38

I think this is classic denial behaviour - of the kind you see a lot in older people who (completely understandably) do not want to accept the ageing process. (You see it often with men and cars - driving around when they really shouldn't because it's not safe, but unwilling to stop). Clearly, this whole dinner is of great symbolic value to her, but it sounds as though it's simply not safe any longer.

Unfortunately, I think you need to have a direct conversation with her about it, in which you raise exactly what you have said here. And then be prepared to find a compromise, e.g. 'Well, you be the chef and I'll be the sous chef - you tell me what to do and I'll do it, but you're NOT allowed to handle the hot pans or the oven! Otherwise, we are not coming, because our idea of a great Christmas is not talking a badly scalded mother to A&E'. If you can find a way of injecting some humour into it, all the better.

throckenholt Wed 19-Nov-14 09:53:50

It sounds like she doesn't want to admit she is getting old and not up to it. Very difficult situation.
Can DH or BIL talk to their mum ? Without upsetting her by making her think she is too old to cope ?

Say we love all being together, we know you like doing it, we know you like the tradition of it, but we all feel uncomfortable when you do it all. Ask her to suggest ways that you can all do a bit, so that it makes you all feel happier about it. If you can make her realise that you don't enjoy the current situation, that might trigger her wanting to change things a bit so that you do enjoy it.

debjud Wed 19-Nov-14 09:53:51

Many thanks for so many swift replies - I'm going to discuss them all with DH this evening. I suppose the other thing to put into the mix is that she is the only one in the family to whom Christmas really means something - is religious and will be going to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. So I think she is also really tired by the next day.

ImperialBlether Wed 19-Nov-14 09:55:36

I know this might sound mean as she's an old lady, but people like this drive me mad! It's all about what she wants, isn't it? What about you wanting to spend Christmas in your own home, cooking Christmas lunch? What about your daughter wanting to spend the day in her own home? What about your BIL? He might want to host sometime.

What did you say when she said it was awful?

Have you really gone there every single year of your life?

debjud Wed 19-Nov-14 09:56:09

throckenholt - yes - it was DH that she said all of this to. And he has said exactly all of that to her. Her only answer is that she wants to do it all (and frankly doesn't seem to care about how happy or not we are!)

FelixTitling Wed 19-Nov-14 09:56:15

Can you be there while she cooks? Doing the peripherals, setting the table, sorting the drinks etc. keeping out of the way enough to let her get on with it, but nearby incase she falls or burns herself?

debjud Wed 19-Nov-14 09:57:23

imperial - exactly

FelixTitling Wed 19-Nov-14 09:59:11

Sorry, just caught your other posts.

It actually sounds like someone needs to be firm with her and say "sorry mum, we're doing xxx this year, and would love you to come"

And then stick to your guns.

dreamingofsun Wed 19-Nov-14 10:03:01

if you don't all want to go there anyway, then just say you all fancy a change this year. you shouldn't all have to compromise your own christmas for the sake of one person. if anyone takes priority it should be your daughter. i'd only go there if i wanted to - along with all the others. if she kicks off just ignore her - the old can be very selfish

throckenholt Wed 19-Nov-14 10:11:52

And he has said exactly all of that to her. Her only answer is that she wants to do it all (and frankly doesn't seem to care about how happy or not we are!)

In that case you have to decide if you are going to go along with it (and it is likely to be a decision to take each year until she dies - sorry to be blunt), or if you are going to say - nope - we think you are being selfish, and if you won't compromise so that we can all feel comfortable, then this year we will do our own thing, and come see you another day. I guess you have to decide who is bothered about who is going to be upset.

DD being 18 and likely to be moving on to her own life soon may be a good excuse to do things differently this year, as others have said.

Not easy - and sadly a similar situation for many families when you are confronted with a stubborn main character. We have a similar one where we all (6 or 7 or us) modify our behaviour to accommodate one (grumpy) person. It irritates me every time, but usually feels like the least worst option sad

Yackity Wed 19-Nov-14 10:11:56

Well if she doesn't seem to care whether any if you are happy i think you have the solution, stop caring so much!

You have just as much right to your own Christmas as she is.

Tell her you're having Christmas at home, and she's welcome to join you. If she's adamant about cooking a Christmas lunch she'll just have to cook for 1.

If you stand firm this year, she'll back down next year, you'll just have to get through the guilty feelings for this year. She won't have been abandoned, she'll just be acting like a spoilt child who will cut their nose off to spite their face - and she can suffer her own self imposed time out!

HappyAgainOneDay Wed 19-Nov-14 10:14:14

<sigh> I don't know if I'm older than all of you but.....

I no longer host Christmas at my house. Apart from the fact that my closest family all live too far away (120 miles; 300 miles; 6000 miles) and they have their own families, I'd love still to do all the cooking - goose/turkey. roast vegetables, bacon rolls, chipolatas etc - but it's just graduated to my going to one of their houses every year without my realising it.

As for being old, the older one becomes, the further away old age is. The brain still works effectively and there are body limitations of which we are aware. There will come a time when the OP's MIL realises for herself that she cannot do it all any more so I think that the best way forward is for the 'guests' to prepare parts of the meal so that the Christmas meal gradually becomes the responsibility of one of the guests - and then they can take turns.

Good luck OP flowers

girlywhirly Wed 19-Nov-14 10:15:26

My cousins had this with their mum, although she wasn't as old and frail. They said that they were grateful beyond measure for all the Christmas lunches she had made for everyone over the years, but now they felt they should return the favour and she and their dad would be waited on. They emphasised that the family was growing and there were more to cater for, that is was too much for her and dad and they felt that it was time for the DD and DIL with their respective partners to host Christmas lunch alternately at their homes.

Of course it was easy for them as they all lived in the same town. And yes their mum was a bit upset, but once she'd enjoyed one Christmas without all the work and preparation and shopping she enjoyed it.

I think the way to go is to say how much you've appreciated all the Christmasses, and you want to repay her by taking over the reins now so that she can relax and enjoy herself. Say that is her due as the matriarch of the family! She can still be proud of all those years.

I am afraid that if you can't sweet talk her you may have to be honest about all the accidents and that you are all afraid for her safety. Also that you have been deprived of the opportunity to do the Christmas meal for many of those years because she has always insisted on doing it, although that might be better coming from DH.

Idontseeanysontarans Wed 19-Nov-14 10:26:21

We had something similar a few of years ago with MIL, she's not particularly old but has some health problems which makes her incredibly tired later in in the day and she insisted on being the one to do Christmas dinner.
I'm afraid the only way we dealt with it successfully was to have a very frank talk with her and basically Tell her that we were doing something different this time: having Christmas dinner at home but having an open house from 4pm and we would love it if she could make something to bring - as in: 'MIL could you bring one of your cakes and some of that lovely stuffing you make please?'
I handled it because everyone else wimped out and really laid on the fact that she deserves a break from the stress. It worked and she confessed that it was much more relaxing for her smile

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