Family Picnic

Family holidays

Tracey Columns

Dear Tracey,

Every year at Mother’s Day I face an awkward situation. Perhaps you can help me.

Ten years ago I married into a wonderful family. They are quite warm and welcoming. They are also from, as my mother likes to say, “the right side of the tracks.” Yes, they are extremely comfortable financially but they are also humble, gracious, and generous. 

Every holiday, my in-laws host some kind of celebration. Usually, but not always, both of their kids and their families attend. It’s been this way for as long as I’ve known them. Since all of my siblings live out-of-town, we take my mother to the parties but she’s never happy about it. 

My mother grew up in a poor family. She also raised four children all by herself. (It’s true that we scraped by but I really appreciate my childhood and the values she instilled in us.) This discrepancy between our two families has always made my mother very uncomfortable,

She tries to enjoy herself, mostly for the sake of the grandchildren but I know these parties are torture for her. She feels so out-of-place. My mother-in-law always makes an effort to include her but my mother is shy and happier staying in the background. 

My mom and I had a fight about all of this, about Mother’s Day in particular and she blurted out, “why don’t I ever get the kind of Mother’s Day I want?” I asked her what she wanted and she said it would be nice to have me, my husband and “the grandkids” over at her house “for once.” 

She has a point but how do I ever explain this to my husband and his mother?

What to do?

Dear Reader,

I’m sorry you and your mother fought over this issue. It must be taxing for everyone concerned. 

I feel for your mother – all of these events throughout the years and still, she feels out-of-place. That can’t be easy for her, anymore than it is easy for you. 

It’s not surprising this pattern was established; your in-laws had the ability, the inclination and space to throw large parties. It must feel perfectly natural to them, as perfectly unnatural as it is for your mother.

Most families have to figure out how to split up the holidays. I suppose because your of your in-laws situation, this was simply never an issue. They assumed hosting responsibilities, in part because they could and perhaps because no one ever asked for anything different. Now, your mother has.

I’m sorry it took an argument but I believe it’s better to finally have this issue out into the open. It’s time to try something different.

How do you explain this to your husband and your mother-in-law? Keep it simple and be clear. No apologies, no long winded explanations. Just tell them that after ten years,  you thought it would be nice to celebrate Mother’s Day with your mother at her house. Be gracious and let them know that the many parties at your in-laws have been wonderful but that you’d like to honor your mother in her own home.

Thank your mother-in-law for the invitation. Be aware that she may or may not understand this change. She’s had things her way for a very long time and change can be difficult. But make no assumptions! Simply do your best to make your husband and his mother understand that sometimes it’s just good to mix things up a bit. Hopefully, if your mother-in-law is as sensitive as you say, she will see the value in this.

No matter how difficult this proves to be, know that you are headed in the right direction. Keep in mind that your goal is for all of the mothers in your family enjoy themselves on Mother’s Day!

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