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It’s that time of year...sort of OT

strugglingSM's picture

Ah, the holidays....every stepparent’s favorite time of year. DH’s family is already off to a great start at ruining them for me again.

Fortunatley, we are going to my family’s house for Thanksgiving. It is technically SKids Thanksgiving with their mother, but, as she has in the past, MIL will probably try to get SKids to attend the Thanksgiving dinner at her house, despite DH’s absence because she knows that BM “doesn’t really do anything” for Thanksgiving. Really, BM prefers to go away for the long weekend with her SO, so that’s not exactly not doing anything, it’s just not doing anything with SKids. MIL fails to see how it might be perceived as bad if SKids were with her while DH and I were with my family. My family lives 2500 miles away, so taking SKids with us is not an option.

Then Christmas. BM insisted - and DH allowed - in their parenting plan that she has SKids every Christmas Eve and Christmas morning until 10am. Despite knowing this, DH’s family also often decides to celebrate the holiday on Christmas Eve, meaning we have to drive all over on Christmas Day to make sure that SKids see everyone. One year, we went down to BIL and Silent SIL’s house only to be hustled out the door after about 30 minutes so as to not interrupt their Christmas dinner with Silent SIL’s family. If you have read my previous blogs, you know that in the four years I have been together with DH, Silent SIL has talked to me one time. 

Recently, MIL sends and email to me and Silent SIL saying that she was talking to Silent SIL’s mom and they decided that MIL would host Thanksgiving and SIL’s mom would host Christmas, but MIL wasn’t sure if she meant Eve or Day. MIL also added in the email that she knew DH and I would be around on Christmas Eve because SKids were with BM (um, doesn’t mean we’ll be around, but ok). MIL wanted to know what SIL and I thought about that plan. At first I said, DH and I would be gone at Thanksgiving, MIL replied to me and said something about missing us. Silent SIL replied to MIL and said she was fine with the plan. I told DH and he said he wanted to host Christmas. I don’t really want to host these people, but having things at my house means I can be “busy” doing things and avoid being around DH’s family during the holiday. Also, I have control over when people come and leave. DH said something to his mother about this, but of course, she didn’t give him a response. So then I decide that I’ll respond to the group. I say “DH would like to host Christmas at our house this year. That would be Christmas Day because the boys are not with us on Christmas Eve.” It’s been two days and I’ve gotten zero response...and I know MIL checks her email daily. 

A few more things to note - SIL has hosted Christmas for two years running. Her mother lives around the corner. They live 90 minutes away from MIL and an hour away from us. I’m not interested in driving down there again only to be ignored again. Also, why is MIL making plans with SIL’s family, before even consulting us. I know why, but SIL’s family is not my family and we weren’t invited to their family dinner two years ago, so why now. 

Regardless, I think I might have to enjoy Christmas in my own this year.


STaround's picture

You cannot make other people do what you want. 

As to MIL hosting Thanksgiving, what are any other options?  You cannot make BM stay home and host, you and DH do not want to host. 

As to Xmas, If you have to do with DH and stepkids, so be it. 

strugglingSM's picture

For Thanksgiving, BM wouldn’t go. MIL would just invite SKids who would then wonder why daddy was spending Thanksgiving with me and not them. MIL has tried to do that at other holidays, but DH put his foot down and miraculously, she listened.

Siemprematahari's picture

The holidays can get pretty annoying when you have all these factors coming in to play. All I can say is that make sure you enjoy the holidays and don't allow anyone to steal your joy. It's sad the BS we deal with especially during this time of year.

Enjoy darling and wishing you many more happy holidays!

Iamwoman's picture

I totally get the holiday stress strugglingSM!

I usually start having panic attacks in November just because of the stupid step-family holiday drama/stress/scheduling.

Every Christmas, we try to give equal presents to all three of our kids (OSS, YSS, and DD). Despite our efforts, and our usual tradition of taking turns opening presents, Skids tear through their gifts as fast as possible. Once they are done opening THEIR gifts, they rummage under the tree, acting dramatic and disappointed that ALL of the other gifts are not for them as well. They then sit there being envious brats while everyone else finishes opening their gifts. This happens even if skids have MORE gifts than anyone else - it is because they rush and then don't want anyone else to have gifts at all. Ugh.

So THIS year (I don't know why we didn't do this sooner - maybe because we thought everyone's attitudes would improve over time... ha!!) - this year, DH and I sat down and decided how WE want to do Christmas:

We decided that we will let the skids open their gifts Christmas Eve, and let DD open maybe oen or two. We will then return skids to BM Christmas Eve. We will also invite over MIL for Christmas Eve. This accomplishes several goals for us: skids don't see what everyone else is getting, and aren't around to ruin Christmas morning; MIL gets to "watch kids open gifts" which is always her reason for holding her own boring, uncomfortable family gathering either waaaay before or waaay after the holidays - dragging out the horror of it all; we don't have to spend $ on stocking stuffers because skids will open stockings at BM, skids won't get to say stupid things over my Christmas Day Supper such as "my mom makes this too" (which is bull because their mom's version of cooking is opening cans and heating things); and we won't have to deal with Christmas day envy and meltdowns.

DH and I decided that if others dont' like our plan, we will do it anyway, because we are tired of everyone stressing us out throughout the entire winter. My folks will be invited for Christmas because they know how to be drama-free and civil, but that's it.

And I totally get the desire to have a solo Christmas. Mine and DH's best Christmas ever was when all of our kids were at their other parents' homes. We were hiking the Appalachian Trail ON Christmas day (we had been out there for several days and came back after Christmas), and it resembled a winter wonderland. We enjoyed the quiet, the lack of drama, the snow, the beautiful icy trees, and had our freeze-dried food for Christmas dinner. There was no whining, no envy, no forced "holiday fun," no family demands... it was glorious.

justmakingthebest's picture

We make piles of presents for each person, then we goe in a circle and opens them one at a time. We all Ooohhh and Aaaahhh over eachother's stuff. Hugs and thank you's. Then the next person. It takes a long time, but it isn't a crazy free for all with wrapping paper flying and no time to process what was received. 

Iamwoman's picture

Yes, that is how I was raised, and how I raised DD. We tried that once with skids and because they weren't raised this way by BM, it made the pouting and envious glares and comments even worse!

Instead of a general envy, they got the chance to be a-holes EVERY time anyone else openend a gift. They were even envious when I opened a pair of purple suede women's boots from my DH to me. This is why the panic attacks - the wierdness is always just too much.

I hope OP can find a similar solution.

ndc's picture

That's what we did growing up.  I liked it.  It made the fun and the suspense last longer, and I enjoyed watching my siblings open their gifts.

theoldredhen's picture

Yup, makingthebest!

Reading about your Christmas gift practices made me smile with recognition, as it’s exactly the way that my family has performed yon enjoyable ritual for decades. Luckily for me, my DH's family, skids included, have the same customs.

Mind you, my Christmas experience was back in ‘the olden days’ when children received one ‘major’ gift and a few small items such as (for girls), Life Savers ‘Sweet Storybook’, barrettes, coloring books and cut-out dolls.

There were 8 of us children in my family whereas nowadays, families generally include 2 or 3 kiddies. The children of today’s more affluent parents are given so much that the joy and appreciation we expressed as youngsters seems to have been replaced by greed and entitlement.

Or, maybe I’m one of those oldsters who can’t stop griping about the kids of today?

justmakingthebest's picture

I am right there with you! I posted a blog on here about my mother and her need to give extravagant gifts and I am really struggling with it. I just want my kids to have different values. 

Siemprematahari's picture

Lawoman that sounds like a wonderful plan that you and H set up. I hope you enjoy your holidays to the fullest and no more stress and feeling anxious. You made a plan and all should go accordingly.

Iamwoman's picture

You too Siempre!

Maybe OP can glean some ideas from this... it sure took us long enough to realize this is what we need at our home!

strugglingSM's picture

...create our own Christmas tradition. Ideally, we would travel someplace ourselves without any family obligations. The biggest challenge to that is he gets SKids every Christmas Day (starting at 10am) and both SKids and DH’s family expect to see one another, so I can’t change that “tradition” on my own without a little more buy-in from DH. He’s passive with his family and also very nostalgic for Christmases with his grandparents (which from the sound of it are nothing like current Christmases, except for the part about the overly formal Christmas dinner).

I’ve considered traveling on my own and may start doing that next year. I would start this year, but DH and I are going on a trip in early January and I can’t afford another one. If I could find a cheap ticket to my parents, I might do that, but they are usually $500-$750 for Christmastime. It may come down to the fact that I spend every Christmas with my family and DH spends it with his. He’s currently opposed to that and says he’ll just tell BM he wants to take the kids to see my family, so they’ll have to alternate. She would never go for that for a variety of reasons and it’s cost prohibitive, so currently, he and I are at a bit of an impasse.

Iamwoman's picture

He is opposed to that??

Well, he can't just invite himself and his spawn to your parents home for Christmas. That is rude of him to think he would just follow you to their home with his troupe.

Listen, being married doesn't mean your husband has to approve your every move and your every decision. If you want to go to your folks home for Christmas without him, just go! If he says he is coming, tell him "I am happy to have you come along, but skids are not invited. This is MY Christmas without drama."

Goodluck's picture

iamwoman....LOLOLOLOLOL you got me laughing outloud about the stocking stuffers .

Being on the Appilation Trail for Christmas sound wonderful and picturesque. The Hiking part not so much but the truely breathtaking isnt it.

GREAT ideas about pre-Christmas Christmas. Totally agree.

The hardest part for most people is taking the first step to say "HEY this is what we are doing'. Deer in headlights feeling. Worth the jump though isnt it !!

justmakingthebest's picture

I had to put my foot down a couple of years ago with Christmas. I will do whatever the family wants for Christmas Eve. I will have the kids present and accounted for at whatever time in whatever house, dressed however they want me to have them dressed. 

Christmas day- MY HOUSE. Come, don't come. Eat, don't eat. I don't care. I am not leaving my house with my kids to drag them all over the world to see people. If they want us out and about- do it Christmas Eve. 

My kids dad is Jewish, so I don't have to share Christmas. He gets them the day after until New Years every year. It works. 

If you want to keep your sanity, just do Christmas at your house. Tell them to come on by if they want, just give you a heads up if they will be staying for dinner. Dinner will be served at 5 pm. Tell them that this year you aren't doing the run around, but you would love to see everyone if they can come over. 

Merry's picture

We'll have Thanksgiving with DH's family. SIL, who has hosted many, many holidays, is selling her house. So it will be nostalgic and emotionally charged. Fine. I will insist that we stay in a hotel. Plans are up to DH. So far, nada. I am hoping that he waits too long and we can't get the dogs boarded--one is diabetic so I am persnickety about where we take them. Then he can either stay home with me, or go see his family. Either way ok with me as his lack of planning is not my crisis to fix. A few days watching junk tv, drinking wine, and cuddling pets sounds like heaven to me anyway.

We also most always go to Skidville for Christmas.Some years I just can't face it (not how I want to spend all my vacation days) and DH and I have taken a trip just the two of us. We did that recently, so won't do that this year. I am not in charge of logistics when planning the Skidville adventure.

momjeans's picture

DH’s family is already off to a great start at ruining them for me again.

Same, strugglingSM, same.

But, then again they’re perpetually on my sh*t list, because I’m generally still reeling from their shenanigans from summer visitation. 

We live in the same county,state as the inlaws. Skid is the one that does the traveling.

I do Thanksgiving and Christmas at our home, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It keeps me from having to travel, it’s my comfort zone/safe place, and I can put and end to unwanted BS at any moment, giving DH’s highly manipulative, passive-aggressive parents the boot out the door.

I realize my situation is quite different than a lot of others, but I caught on early that I would be steamrolled if I didn’t speak up and stand up, when it came to the holidays.

I am secretly hoping that MIL and FIL will travel one state over to spend it with drunk BIL and his child. Knowing them, this would be a power trip, one uppish move, because they would take skid with them, without asking DH how he felt about it first, but it would be a total WIN for me. 

In the past years, we’ve had the inlaws over late Christmas Day, for gift exchange and Chinese take-out (it’s our holiday tradition). I REFUSE to entertain DH’s toxic clan Christmas morning. 

lieutenant_dad's picture

I used to worry about all of this, but starting last year, I just didn't. This year, I haven't even consulted DH to consult with BM. I'm hosting Thanksgiving when it's convenient for ME. My family will host Christmas when it is convenient for THEM. We will host Christmas with DH's family when it is convenient for US.

There are just too many factors and people involved, so it's just easier to plan, tell people (BM included) when things are, and let the chips fall where they may. This is especially true with BM and the boys. I'm not interested in working with her to figure out when he family is hosting everything. If the boys miss something to be with her family, then at least they are with family. If she wants to be spiteful and not send them despite nothing else going on, she can explain to her kids why (or, in OSS's case, he'll draw his own conclusions). I've checked out of the holiday drama.

I think you all are well within your rights on Christmas to say that people can come visit you if they want to, or that you'll all be at X location for the day. No need to drag the kids to a million people's houses who don't seemingly want you there so that they get to feel good about "seeing family".

Lemon65's picture

I long for the days that I could just enjoy the holidays, stress-free! The main source of my stress is SO's mother. She always wants to plan the holidays way in advance, before I've even gotten a chance to discuss it with my family. My BIL is a surgeon, so it's really difficult to plan around his schedule. Not to mention, SO's parents live 4 hours away and every year they want us to travel there to celebrate. Well, we have SD's schedule to work around and can never go the same time as SO's sister, BIL and niece. Why wouldn't you celebrate when/where everyone can be together? 

Thankfully, this year SO's parents will be coming here because their house is in the middle of being renovated and we will be celebrating "Thanksmas" at SO's sister's house.  However, SO's mother sent an e-mail the week of Halloween, wanting to know who would be hosting which really bothered me. I lost my father to a car accident in May, so I am not going to feel like hosting ANYONE for the holidays. I think she realized her mistake because she told SO that if she was in my shoes, she would say no.

BM never lets us have SD Christmas Eve or Day, so we don't even ask anymore. If she gets to be there to celebrate with SO's family, great. If not, that's just too bad. We will save her gifts and let her open them when we get to see her.

I am hoping not to have any plans Christmas Eve/Day, so I can just enjoy it at home with SO and the cat. 

Goodluck's picture

Since everyone posted their experiences and they are mostly the same. I wont bore your with my dhs.

The solution was dh finally had to let go of the holiday rope. "BM" you can have Thanksgiving, you can have ALL of Christmas Vacation and that includes New Years eve (she always wanted to give US New Years---how giving) , you have spring break, you have Fathers day you take MLK Columbus take birthdays and you take all summers take it all.

Wait wait wait YOU CANT DO THAT BUDDY!!! me. And dh did.

Sure we celebrated Christmas and Birthdays but on our terms.

Best decision ever.

Oh and one more thing when they were little we finally had to stop telling BM what dh was going to buy them for Christmas. So not to double buy. When we did she bought the same gifts for the kids for her house that DH said he was buying for our home. Since the kids had to be with BM for Christmas Eve and waking up to the toys,, when they arrived and  opened up our santa toys all we heard was "Ohhhh I got this at moms, we got this too at moms, i got this too at moms, I got this at maternal grandmas....'The sadness on DH face was awful.

Those times were so hard for us, we were barely putting food on the table. BM made sure to ruin Christmas at our house  by buying the same gifts. We returned the toys and got refunds.

It took a few years to realize what the hell was going on. Our goal was to have open communication, be thoughtful and work together for the sake of the kids well being. NOT our bm's but of course I would imagine she would say it was allllll a mistake and misunderstanding "mmmmm,,,uhhhhh, i thought you wanted ME to get everything on the list for the kids for my house".

*A  Judge once said "there are no coincidences"




strugglingSM's picture

...DH to tell what he was buying, so they wouldn’t duplicate, but really she was just looking for ideas. 

I thought about telling DH’s family that we’d have Christmas the weekend before when SKids were around, so that then DH and I could have Christmas Eve and day by ourselves, but MIL beat me to the punch with her non-planning.

Exjuliemccoy's picture

We haven't celebrated Christmas with any of DH's kids or family since we hosted in 2010. 

Everyone was invited, including BM1 and her H. 

It was supposed to be potluck, but most of the horde showed up empty handed or with a bag of chips or soda.

We spent a fortune on presents for the nieces, nephews, grandkids and stepgrandkids. Adults had previously drawn names for a gift exchange with a $50 dollar limit. OSD and her H, who had drawn us,  stiffed DH and I. Between them and their brood of six, they ate and drank and received more than anyone else, while contributing the least. I worked my butt off, spent a small fortune, all for what? Something in me snapped.

The following year, we spent Xmas with extended relatives out of state, but by then I'd started my disengagement journey and realized that I had to stop overfunctioning for DH and his people. Now, we spend it at home. We donate to charities, give each other one or two small gifts, and avoid the greed and entitlement.

Goodluck's picture

Exjulie---That disgusts me about 'free loaders"...

  I have a 1st cousin who is married. I will call them the waisthuggers... "for real" they put their arms around each other (around hips)  where ever they go, even IF Your standing talking with them they do would think they are 60 something Siamese twins. They have 3 grown sons. All 3  Are married with a few kids in elementary school... They free load everywhere.

Its not that they are broke.

IF my Cousin and his wife names are the only ones on an invitation/or invite by telephone the 12 show up. 

They are of course are ones who mail out the dreaded Christmas LETTER Singed Jesus is the reason for the season".   All the while they are mooching everywhere with 12 people in tow.

My family doesn't invite them anymore. It's ridiculous.

Last time I saw my cousin was at a funeral and of course all 12 showed up for the food.



disrestep's picture

Oh, the best time of the year - only when it's crazy in law and skid free. 

I would just stick to my plan about hosting Christmas at your house and if they never respond, that's great. So, you won't have to deal with them. That's a good point, if you have it at your house you can at least be at peace there and decide when everyone needs to go home.