Top tips for handling the mother-in-law this Christmas

Entertaining guests at home is stressful at the best of times, but at Christmas (which is of course made even more tense by the heightened expectations of all who participate) the stakes are even higher.

If you forget to defrost the quiche starters for your average dinner party, then everyone can have a bit of a laugh about ‘ordering a Chinese’ instead.  But overcook or undercook the Christmas turkey and, well, it’s still a hanging offence in some counties isn’t it?

And Christmas stress can take on a whole new kind of level when your mother-in-law turns up.  In fact, in a poll recently commissioned by QualitySolicitors, almost half of people (45%) said that visiting members of the extended family are likely to cause significant tensions in their relationships, with ‘the mother-in-law’ topping the list of potential culprits.

Let’s be clear, here.  Some mothers-in-law are angels and we wouldn’t be without them.  But if your mother-in-law is the type that turns up in a grey cloud and spends Christmas arching a well-practised critical eyebrow over your jar of instant gravy granules, then you’ll probably appreciate some ‘M-i-L Management’ top tips. 

1. Dust off the red carpet

Go out of your way to make sure she feels especially welcome.  Naturally you’re a great host or hostess to all your guests, but ask your partner if their mum is the type that would rather be the first to arrive at your family get together (so she can perhaps help with preparation for other guests) or be the last to arrive (so she doesn’t feel she has to help with preparation for other guests).

2. Bite your tongue

Shouldn’t that fat be bubbling before you pour in the Yorkshire pud mixture?  You’re rubbing the pork roast with olive oil as well as salt?  You mean you don’t cut little crosses into the stalks of all those Brussels sprouts?  Mums-in-law often like to pitch for kitchen superiority, but is this really a battle you want to fight?  She’s entitled to her opinions, so swallow hard and save your strength.  At least look upon her ‘interest’ as an opportunity to politely offer to give the old buzzard something to do her way instead of watching you like a hawk.

3. Cheat sheets are a good thing

Sit down in advance of the big day and make a list of all the things you need to do.  And if Christmas dinner is coming courtesy of Jamie or Delia then make sure you’ve tagged all the pages you need to refer to just in case you do run into trouble; the last thing you want to come out of your oven is black smoke.  An added benefit of a cheat sheet is that you can identify small but manageable jobs that you could give to Her Majesty if she takes too much of an interest in what you’re up to.

4. Ask your partner to help/advise

Well, they know your mother-in-law best after all.  Why should you keep second-guessing her all the time when there’s somebody by your side who’s known her all their life?  Note that there’s a difference between asking your partner for help and advice, and asking your partner to take sides.

5. Remember this: she will leave sometime

This mantra will keep you going better than any other advice out there.  If you’ve behaved with kindness and grace, tiptoed round any digs and re-channelled all temptation to argue, then pour yourself a big congratulatory glass of whatever you fancy...and tell your partner to hurry up finishing the dishes because you’re well overdue a shoulder massage.

If tensions caused by visitors this Christmas stretch your relationship to breaking point, then of course we’re here to provide you with sympathetic expert legal help if divorce feels like your only option left.  But our suggestions above might just help you to manage relationship stress before you get that far.

Have a great Christmas, from all of us at QualitySolicitors!

Posted in: family law

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