Every year, my husband and I go our separate ways to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas with our families. He goes his parents’ gathering in Missouri, and I go to mine in middle Tennessee. Yet every year, his mom gets upset that I don’t ditch my family for hers.
Here’s the thing — I’m an only child with a very small family. If I don’t show up for my family’s Thanksgiving, it’ll just be my mom, dad, grandma, and grandpa. My husband has a huge family, and if anything, I feel like he should be coming with me.
When I try to explain this to his mother, she always says she understands, but my husband has told me that she continues to complain to him at the dinner table. This annual issue has made me start to resent my mother-in-law this time of year. How can I make her understand how important it is for me to show up at my family’s celebration?
— The Only Child
Dear Only Child,
I’m also an only child, and I totally understand where you are coming from. My boyfriend has a larger family, and we sometimes go our separate ways for the holidays too. I will always, always, always go to my parents' house for the holidays. I’m not budging on that. My mom makes yummy vegan food for holiday meals, and I’m pretty sure his mom wouldn’t know how to cook a Tofurky if she tried. No offense to her, but she’s just not used to cooking for my special dietary needs.
His family tends to understand when I explain that I need to go to my mom and dad’s for Thanksgiving. But even if they didn’t, that wouldn’t stop me.
There’s not much you can do beyond explaining to your mother-in-law the importance of an only child attending a small family holiday meal. Since she has such a large family, she might not understand what it’s like. Have you considered inviting your small family to her large party? If it’s not too much of a drive, maybe that could be an option.
But if you’d rather stick with your mom’s sweet potato pie, politely apologize to your mother-in-law, and don’t let her nagging your husband bother you. That’s his problem to deal with. Maybe he should tell his mother that if she doesn’t stop whining about you not attending her dinner, then next year, he’ll go with you.
You may just have to accept that this is how things are and there’s nothing you can do to change it. But try not to harbor resentment for your mother-in-law. That won’t get you anywhere.