In-Law Dread {Holiday Edition}


A woman fighting with her mother-in-law.The holidays always bring about this feeling deep in my gut.

It is a feeling of dread.

It is the feeling of wanting to make the season magical for my kids but wondering when the conversation will be brought up – the one topic that brings about the most marital angst – the in-laws. Have they asked to see the kids? Send gifts? Or have they continued, for almost ten years now, to only reach out when it fits into their agenda?

The relationship with my in-laws has never been sunshine and rainbows, even in the dating years before we got married. It was not always as non-existent as it is today, but it started off just okay. I don’t exactly know what the moment was that it all burst into flames.

My husband never had an extremely close relationship with his parents, so going for long periods and not seeing his parents wasn’t out of the norm. It wasn’t until we got married and had kids that the wedge was driven deeper and deeper between us and them.

Just mentioning their names or a possible visit sends a pang of concern to my gut, and my mind starts reeling. 

We have never needed my in-laws, which is a big source of our discomfort and awkwardness. My mother-in-law likes to be needed and wants to insert herself into situations to be the fixer and the one who can save the day.

That is not how I operate. I have a handle on my life and family’s needs, and when I do need it, it is those that I am closest to who I will lean on for support and ask for help. My husband is much the same. He and I make a great team, and I think that is something my mother-in-law has some resentment towards.

Back to the wedding planning days, we had our ideas and put things in motion quickly. It was an easy process that happened quickly, so there was no need for help from many others, let alone my in-laws.

As we welcomed our children, my mama bear mode only increased our distance. I am very protective of my kids and do not need to apologize for that. Visits with the in-laws bring about so much unnecessary stress and anxiety because their words and actions are inconsistent and insincere.

It is easier to keep my wall up and avoid contact altogether. Visiting my in-laws is also potentially unsafe for my kids. They do not need to be in an environment with potential risks due to a lack of cleanliness or drinking habits. My job as a mother is to keep my kids safe and to look out for their well-being, and sometimes that means not seeing family. 

The in-law relationship has been the only point of contention in my marriage.

I know my husband wishes there was a closer relationship, but he is also realistic enough to see my concerns. He is torn, and that is very hard for us to manage, especially as the holidays are near, and it is more expected to see family during the celebratory season. As my kids get older, they ask questions about people in our family and notice that we see others very often and others far less. It is a hard process to navigate as parents because they are too little to understand why we don’t see them.

I continually reiterate to my kids that they have many people who love and care for them. They are very fortunate to have people in their lives, both family and friends, who love them like grandchildren, so they are not missing out. 

As the holidays near, my anxious stomach starts. The calendar is filling up with Christmas events and endless fun, so I am just waiting with bated breath to see if a dreaded visit with the in-laws will make its way into my future. 


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