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Relatives at Christmas

(30 Posts)
HislittlePoppet Wed 21-Dec-16 07:51:43

Hi everyone,
I don't normally post on here but I'm always interested in what others have to say and what worries you all have as they often reflect mine. Anyway, this morning I feel a need to unload just to make me feel better as much as anything.
My problem is relatives at Christmas.
I have a problem with both mothers every year. So let's start with mine.
Loathe though I am to say this my Mum is a sour-faced, miserable old woman who hardly ever smiles. She picks fault with everything, especially me, yet I am the only one who invites her on Christmas Day. My sister has washed her hands of pretty much all of us (she is a narcissist and impossible to get on with) and my brother is often expected to work during this period so he is out of the equation. It's not his fault.
Every year since I was a child my mother has seen Christmas and actually any special occasion as a time to unload all her misery on everyone else. This is done by moaning, shouting at people, picking fights and generally crying for no reason. The misery she inflicted upon her family every year was immeasurable and the sense of dread that stays with me in the run-up to every Christmas remains palpable even now, when I have my own child and family and am grown up. I spoke to her about this earlier in the year and told her I am not prepared for her to continue terrorising us in this way every year. I asked her to see her doctor before Christmas and explain her symptoms so he can given her something to calm her. She reacted as if she didn't know what I was talking about, even though I spelled it out clearly with specific examples of her behaviour from previous years. Clearly, she hasn't been to the doctor as she picked a terrible fight with another relative yesterday, literally over nothing, and this is someone who is visiting from abroad.
Dealing with her in this situation is the closest I get to panic attacks. Yesterday when my relative rang me in floods of tears those feelings of panic, anxiety and dread overcame me to the point I thought I wasn't going to be able to drive my daughter home from our shopping trip.
It has reached the point where I can't stand the sight of my own mother for much of the time, yet I feel trapped into "doing the right thing" every year, and always in the hope and expectation she will behave.
I wondered if anyone else had a relative who felt the need to ruin everyone's Christmas in this way, and how you deal with it? I know the answer is not to see her but this would be difficult.
The other is my MiL. She is the opposite to my mother and is friendly, smiley and loud. She is nice to have around as she raises the mood, but there is another side to her that I find unpalatable at this time of year and that is her sheer laziness.
She starts to talk about Christmas around August time every year and sneaks it into conversation, despite knowing that I have issues with Christmas (because of my own mother) and anyway at that point there are still several family birthdays to come before we can think about anything else.
The reason she mentions it is to secure an invitation as early as possible so that she doesn't have to invite anyone or do anything. In the 12 years I've been with my partner, we have had Christmas there 2-3 times and every time we've had to invite ourselves. One year it was for logistical reasons as they live close to my parents and my father was dying and I wanted to be nearby.
She and my FiL think if they pay for some of the food this is sufficient and they can sit back and relax while they're waited upon hand and foot for several days. It drives me nuts.
I know it is laziness on her part as my FiL has quipped in the past that if they're invited out she doesn't have to cook.
I am reaching the end of my tether with both mothers frankly. Like most of you, I am rushing around, tidying up, shopping, wrapping etc with a child in tow. At the very least they could have had our daughter over for a day or two to let me get on with things.
Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas especially now I have a child and I love cooking and entertaining and making sure everyone is having a good time. I want to create happy memories for my child. But the behaviour of others, whom I'd expect to be helping and supporting just leaves me in a simmering rage and I have to force myself to snap out of it.
Thanks for reading and I wish you all a happy and healthy Christmas and New Year x

Fishface77 Wed 21-Dec-16 07:56:22

It's too late to do anything this year isn't it? But make a point of saying on Christmas Day and various times throughout the year that you will not be doing Christmas next year.
Send your mum a text and advise her that bad behaviour will not be tolerated and she needn't bother coming if she is going to behave like a child.
On the day itself keep calling/sending your mother in law to the kitchen.
TBH I would feign norovirus and fuck em of all together.

Footinmouthasusual Wed 21-Dec-16 07:59:54

What fishface says exactly.

Notagainmun Wed 21-Dec-16 08:01:37

I think you need to be vocal in telling your mother to stop spoiling Christmas and do it in front of all the guests and insisting everyone pitch in with the work as it is your Christmas too. It might be tough but you have got to end this and if they don't change tell them next year you asked for peace and help none was given so from then on it will be just you DO and DC.

sooperdooper Wed 21-Dec-16 08:04:20

I'd be giving your mil & Fil specific jobs to do, just because they're at yours they don't get waited on hand and foot!

With your mum I'd tell her again that her behaviour is unacceptable and if there are any outbursts over Christmas she won't be invited again, and stick to it

humblesims Wed 21-Dec-16 08:04:48

Next year dont invite either of them. You are not obliged to ruin your own Christmas by having miserable lazy ungrateful people around even if they are your mothers. This year, put up with no shit. When your mother kicks off call her on it and if possible send her home. Get your MIL working - lots of little jobs. Set the table, hand out drinks, stir the gravy etc. And from this day forth tolerate no more shit.

GinIsIn Wed 21-Dec-16 08:14:20

Your DM sounds so difficult. Can you remind her of your talk with her about it beforehand and then every time she starts on her behaviour, say "that's enough - we've spoken about this", with no other rise to her behaviour? If she doesn't get the reaction she will eventually stop bothering.

Are you TELLING the PILs you'd like help, or are you just rushing around with a fixed smile saying you are fine, and everything's under control? (Which is totally what I do!) Give them things to do - specific tasks - and don't wait for them to offer!

Yoarchie Wed 21-Dec-16 08:20:43

In your position I would start saving for a holiday next Christmas.

abbsisspartacus Wed 21-Dec-16 08:28:13

Get noro cancel there fun? What does your husband say about his mom?

ilovesooty Wed 21-Dec-16 08:36:08

Presumably your father in law isn't incapacited in some way? If you invite them make it clear you expect support. Ask for what you need and get your husband to make it clear too.
Give your mother a warning beforehand and tell her that if she kicks off she's going home.

Fluffyears Wed 21-Dec-16 08:49:00

Put your mother on notice, first sign of starting her shit she is out the door. Tell PIL you need some help and put things up n their hands, 'here take these and lay the table' then 'can you open the Buck's Fizz please and pour the glasses?'

pklme Wed 21-Dec-16 08:51:31

Uninvite DM. She has been warned. It's her problem.

Give FIL and MiL specific jobs. FIL you can peel on Christmas Eve. MiL you can bring pudding.

Make a plan, writing down everything which needs to be done, then allocate jobs- who needs to lay the table at what time. Who is going to prep veg at what time.

Do they think that they are keeping an eye on DC so you are free to skivvy in peace?

JenniferYellowHat1980 Wed 21-Dec-16 08:58:34

It isn't too late. OP has been categorically plain about her mother's behaviour but her mother is acting up as usual. I would uninvite her and cut ties when if she becomes angry about it.

As for the ILs (and where is your DH in all the preparations?) I would be as plain as you have been with your DM that they will need to pull their weight - both of them, I see no indication that your FIL is helpful either - or there will be no further invitations.

yorkshapudding Wed 21-Dec-16 09:10:15

In your position I would do two things differently this year

1.) I would tell DM today (so she has advanced warning) that any inappropriate behaviour (shouting, goading, criticising etc) on Christmas day will result in her not being invited for Christmas again. Then make sure you follow through with it. You don't have to subject yourself (not to mention your DC) to that sort of manipulative behaviour. That feeling of dread you get every year in the run up to Christmas, do you want your DC to grow up experiencing that too? It sounds like she's had more than enough chances.

2.) As for PIL, have you actually asked for thier help? If not, then start. Do it ever so casually and with a smile "oh MIL/FIL, could you just set the table/peel some potatos/refresh everyone's drinks for me? Thanks!" Then disappear off to do the next task before they have time to protest. They may have a grumble or shoot you some funny looks but everyone will survive.

Then once it's all over I would resolve to have christmas just you, DH and DC. Tell everyone early in the year that that's what you're doing so that they can get all their (completely unjustified) outrage out of their systems. By the time Christmas comes around hopefully everyone will have come to terms with the fact that they'll have to be grown ups and fend for themselves! And if they haven't, fuck em.

toomuchtooold Wed 21-Dec-16 09:14:43

I second abbis' norovirus idea. In the normal run of things I'd say it's basic good manners to follow through on an invitation once you've made it but this isn't the normal run of things - both the mum and MIL are taking the piss in their own way. How does your OH feel about all this?

Also can I invite you along to Stately Homes? It's a thread on Relationships for people with parents like your mother. I'm on there, I'm NC with my mother but there are plenty of people on there who are managing Christmases with difficult parents so might have some advice.

FrancesNiadova Wed 21-Dec-16 09:54:12

Poppet, do you think that your Mum might have depression? Could you get her an emergency appointment with her GP, because if she's started with the mood swings already she's clearly not in a good mental state at the moment. Could you go with her and say what a negative effect her mood swings are having on your health?
This action might get her back up in the short term, but longer term it will show her that she is unwell, needs support and the effects that it's having on those whom she's supposed to love.
Good Luck flowers

HislittlePoppet Thu 22-Dec-16 08:16:13

Yes, I believe she does, but she knows this and does nothing about it. I have asked her to go and see her doctor. But she also thinks her behaviour is normal.

HislittlePoppet Thu 22-Dec-16 08:16:54

Thank you - I'll check out Stately Homes.

HislittlePoppet Thu 22-Dec-16 08:20:35

Thank you all for your message and advice. They are much appreciated. There is a lot I didn't mention - like having MiL in the kitchen is a nightmare as she literally can't cook and asks for advice on how to do everything. So it's almost easier to just get on with it myself.
I really appreciate all of your comments.
Have a Happy Christmas everyone and hopefully it will be peaceful for all of us.

VivienneWestwoodsKnickers Thu 22-Dec-16 08:29:18

So rather than cooking tasks, get MIL and FIL to help your family set the table, clear it, wash up, dish up pudding, hold the bin bag for wrapping paper etc. Give them jobs to do, but include the whole family in it.

And uninvite your mother.

TrickyD Thu 22-Dec-16 08:35:07

You sound lovely and much put-upon. It is probably too late to stop them coming this year, but in the interests of giving your child happy Christmas memories, if things are difficult this year, get it straight with the relatives that this is the last time you will be hosting.
Good luck and best wishes for a happy and peaceful Christmas

mumontherun14 Thu 22-Dec-16 08:46:47

Would you consider going out for a meal next year on Christmas Day? I always find people behave better when they are out in public and then you could limit the time you are all together it would give you a break from running around after them all. We've done that a few years as we had 14 and it was too many for the one house and we have a few elderly relatives and it was a bit of a treat getting dinner cooked for me although I did feel strangely guilty at points I wasn't cooking. This year I am doing it in my house and like you I have a good few relatives that won't pitch in and my mum is long term ill which means she needs a lot of TLC and she would have helped if she could. But my DH is very good and my kids are older now and they will both help set the table, clear up etc. I think you have done well up to now by inviting and including them but I agree with the others - it's your house and you are the host and it's perfectly acceptable not to tolerate that kind of behaviour from your mum or inflict it on your own children. I have a FIL who can be a pest like that -too much to drink and shouts out and annoys the kids so I just limit contact very carefully. Deeps breaths hope you have a lovely day -remember its acceptable to drink wine at lunchime lol xxx

mirokarikovo Thu 22-Dec-16 09:06:26

It's too late for this year though yes make sure everyone pitches in. Deliberate incompetence to avoid having to lift a finger can be guarded against by planning in advance what jobs can be delegated and make sure you rein back your own perfectionism so that it doesn't matter if it's done badly.

And yes be away on holiday next Christmas and make sure everyone knows it. The Christmas after, invite no one. It is OK to have a restful Christmas. In 2019 consider inviting people again but phrase the invitations to make it clear that the "everyone pitching in and no-one sits down to relax until everyone can sit down to relax" is the permanent new rule.

Glittermakeseverythingbetter Thu 22-Dec-16 09:47:53

Personally I think you still have enough time to say you are not doing Christmas this year, they still have time to get food - we don't get ours till Friday. You are a grown woman, you do not have to put up with this shit. I've cut my parents off completely, Christmas is just me, Dh and 2 kids on the day, and friends we like, over the holidays.
How about coming down with a terrible sickness bug so they can't possibly come?

Fairenuff Thu 22-Dec-16 09:53:18

I would cancel the invites. They can buy their own food and cook their own dinner in their own homes. Ask the inlaws to come over in the afternoon/early evening just for drinks/snacks if you want to see them.

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