Saturday, February 7, 2015

Mother Does Not Want To Share Family With The In-Laws

Dear Tazi:

My father was the only child of only children, and both his parents and grandparents passed away before he and my Mom got married. Because of this, my mother never had any issues with her in-laws because she didn't have any! There were never any arguments over whose family to see for the holidays; obviously, we spent it with her side of the family because my father's side had all died off before she had even met Dad.

Now that I am an adult and am married with children, I do have in-laws to think about and want them to be included in special events and holiday celebrations. My mother, who has never had to "share" her holidays with in-laws, is taking great offense at my including my husband's side of the family whenever we have family get-togethers, insisting that she have "alone time" with just my side of the family - and, of course, my husband and children.

Tazi, my husband and children visit with Mom and Dad at least once a month, usually more. My parents are also invited to attend my children's sporting events and recitals, and even to stop by and visit us for no reason! It is not like they don't get to see us, but Mom insists that special occasions aren't special when she has to share me with "people who are not family". Tazi, my in-laws are MY family and I am hurt that she cannot accept them as a part of OUR family!

My elder daughter is turning sixteen this spring Mom is already talking about pulling out all the stops for her Sweet Sixteen party, which she has generously offered to host (with three children, money is tight and my husband and I cannot afford to throw a huge bash). Mom has told my daughter she can invite her friends, but to limit the total guest list to 100 people, including family. My daughter is quite popular, and wants to invite around 50 friends; my mother is insisting on inviting her cousins and aunts and uncles, which brings the total guests pretty close to 100 and leaving no room for most of my in-laws (just my parents-in-law).

I told my daughter she would need to cut some of her friends from the list, and she reacted badly. My mother got word of my demand and told me that it is my daughter's party and that she should be able to choose her guests. My daughter responded that she wanted her aunts and uncles and cousins there, and asked to trim my mother's end of the guest list, but Mom refused, saying that she is paying for the party so she should be able to invite who she wants.

If it wasn't for my daughter, I would tell my Mom to scrap the whole idea and have a simple backyard barbecue with burgers, hot dogs, and a much larger guest list. Can you think of any way to resolve this mess?

Mommy In The Middle

Dear Mommy In The Middle:

Have your in-laws done something to somehow offend your mother, or is their mere existence in your life enough to cause her dislike of their presence? Does she feel that you spend more time with them than with her and your father, or is she simply the possessive type that never learned to share because she never had to share?

From what my readers have told me, when it comes to married couples and holidays the husband's side of the family generally gets shafted while the wife's side of the family gets all of the attention. Just because this is the way it has always been does not mean that it is right. Since your eldest is turning 16, I am going to assume that this issue is a well-entrenched one which will make compromise difficult. Therefore, you may need to take an all-or-nothing approach.

Since it is your daughter's party, I suggest you talk to her first. Lay out all of her options - an expensive bash with a somewhat limited guest-list that is required to include your mother's guests, thus lowering the number of people she can personally invite, or a backyard barbecue with less elegance but more people and no need to leave anyone off of the guest list. At 16, she is capable of making such a decision. It will not be an easy one, but it will teach her how to stand up to people who try to bully her - which is what your mother is doing. By demanding that her guests remain on the list, while people your daughter would prefer to invite are left off, your mother is attaching strings to her generous offer of a Sweet Sixteen bash. Your daughter can either accept these strings or cut them, but the decision needs to be hers.

A possible compromise would be to hold two parties - a formal one and an informal one, with two separate guest lists (because nobody likes to feel like they are being hit up for presents twice for one birthday). You could limit the formal party to just family and make the informal party all-inclusive. This compromise, however, would result in only one party being held on your daughter's actual birthday, which may create another issue altogether. Regardless of how you choose to solve the issue, allow your daughter to be involved in the decision making. Hopefully this experience will help her navigate the waters when it is her time  to be a daughter-in-law.


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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