Honest Opinions only

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-15-2005
Honest Opinions only
13
Wed, 03-06-2013 - 8:41am

We visit my in-laws EVERY holiday and they live about 10 hours away. With that said. I was wondering what you think. When we visit my mother in law who is in generally good health except for some arthritis and some not too serious knee problems, there is NEVER any food for us and especially for me as I am a vegetarian. She does attempt to make some boiled veggies about a cup full for 5 or 6 people and the same amount of mashed potatoes... and then proceeds to order pizza and then cuts each slice in half or simply makes a soup bowl full of salad and that's dinner. This, after a 10 hour drive. As for the holdiday meal. Her idea of having the family over is serving up some pre-ordered Kentucky Fried or some Chinese food as she does not care for cooking, nor has any desire to learn. When we confront her with the idea of ordering from a restaurant, she suggests that it may be too pricey (she is not poor, not wealthy, but not poor by any means, money in the bank, in her checking and often wins her fair share of $1,000 prizes at Bingo, probably every few weeks)....so, it's not like she can't splurge a few times a year. When we remind her that her grandchildren are not partial and will not eat Kentucky Fried or Chinese, her attitude is well, you can't please the kids all the time, and my brother and sister in laws simply go along and feed their kids before heading over to grandmas, where they simply sit in the living room and socialize amongst themselves.

She (my mother in law) is uncomfortable with the whole idea of shopping for a party. She says (and she's been married for 50 years) that she doesn't know what to get and doesn't have the patience to go with anyone to show her, yet she'll have her hair done before people come over because she doesn't want to look undone. However, even when she orders Chinese or Kentucky Fried, she serves it right out of the tin or bucket, she doesn't even own a platter or any serving utensils. He attitude is "it's just family, why should I go out of my way, they know that I'm a fairly simple woman), yet she REALLY enjoys it when one of us throws a party and has lots to choose from. In recent years she has given in to DH and I and agreed to order "real food" but instead call upon my sister in laws to either cook something for her, each gets a list of what to make (as if they don't have enough on their own plate) or asks them to pick up something pre-ordered for her. So, from the appetizers to the main course and wine, the sister in laws pay for and buy it all, she only provides the house and the oven to warm it in. I told DH that it's HER responsibility not there's and that she's just as capable of ordering as they are. So, we have since taken her to Costco and now we are helping out by picking up some preseasoned Easter items, meats and fish so all she has to do is provide the oven....but we are making her pitch in on the cost. Anyway, while she has "somewhat reluctantly" agreed she continued to press DH, insisiting that she doesn't understand the need for such a "fancy" meal....we are getting potroast and oven-roasted potaotes. She suggests that Chinese food should be good enough, why go through all the trouble since before OUR marriage (now almost 10 years) nobody seemed to have a problem with this, for EVERY holiday at her house.

I think her approach is FINE for a birthday of weekend get together or bbq but not so much for Thanksgiving, Christmas, 50th Anniversary, Easter, and such events. In fact, I see it as rather tacky. My husband, who doesn agree with me for the most part, also sides with his mother and her philosophy suggesting that there is no need to dress for special occassions, sweat pants and a sweater are fine and that there is little need for so much effort on decor, food and presentation...after all we are all family and we are there for the company and not the presentation of the home or food.

Any thoughts. How would you characterize this woman? Is she hopeless or should we keep trying and encouraging?

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iVillage Member
Registered: 02-14-2004
Thu, 03-07-2013 - 12:38am

My honest opinion is that your MIL isn't a "fancy" person and your husband is just fine with that no matter what you think.  I wouldn't go to EVERY holiday with them, but for the holidays at their house, I would bring food you and your family can eat and will enjoy.  My MIL used to serve us soup in empty Cool Whip containers and used empty yogurt containers for drinking glasses.  And, her every visit menu was off-brand canned tomato soup with grilled Velveeta sandwiches for lunch.  For dinner, it was always frozen Banquet Chicken and tater-tots and green Jello with home-canned spiced pears (which tasted like jelled Comet cleanser).  Oh, and chocolate "muffins" (aka cupcakes) for breakfast.  We learned to bring our own food and put it out on the table next to her food allowing people to choose what they wanted to eat. 

She had a real "thing" for buying a 5 gallon bucket of ice cream, taking it out of the freezer before dinner so it would be soft enough for her to serve.  Then, she would leave it sit out until after the dishes were done and would return basically thawed ice cream to the freezer to be served at the next "fancy meal" at her house.  When you served it, it was slimy and had ice crystals throughout.  UGH!

Your children and you deserve to have some "nice" holidays with a fancy table, a delicious meal and no stress if that's your desire.  It's a great education for children to learn table manners...and to get involved in the cooking and preparation of the table.  Pick 2 or 3 holidays to visit Grandma and bring your own food.  For some other holidays, enjoy the day with your family and friends at your home and if there are holidays left over, invite Grandma and the rest of the family to YOUR house and ask everybody to bring their holiday food specialty.  If your hubby doesn't like the new plan, let him go eat KFC with granny.

Avatar for elc11
Community Leader
Registered: 06-16-1998
Thu, 03-07-2013 - 1:29am

IMO your MIL is how she is, she's been doing things this way for years and if she wanted it any different she would have already tried to change. It sounds like she raised her son (your dh) to think its fine, and maybe her other kids as well...which kind of makes you into the odd one out in that group.

Do your SILs think this is fine or would they prefer the holiday meals to be nicer food and a more elegant presentation? If they will support you in a change then all of you can band together and tell MIL that you (the group) want to do something different and then organize it and carry it out yourselves, like you are planning for Easter. Maybe the get-togethers can be held in one of the SIL's homes, then MIL gets less say in how things are done.

If none of them care enough to press the point, then accept that you married into the Addams Family and try to let it go. Like the PP suggested, stay home for some holidays and have a more elegant or traditional meal. If your dh resists remind him that your kids need to learn table manners and other behavior appropriate to more formal gatherings.

Most inlaws come with their little issues. Mine tend to be more formal than casual but still do some weird stuff. At one party one of my SIL decided that the potted plants I used for centerpieces were party favors (they were not) and chose one for herself and started offering the other centerpieces to other guests.  Its always something. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-19-2008
Thu, 03-07-2013 - 3:46pm

This is a tough one.   I think there are points to both sides.  In your defense, I think she's just being lazy and the fact that she prioritizes in other ways like her hair etc. shows me she's a bit self absorbed or self centered.  But, she does in fact have the option to host how she feels she wants to. I think you are right to feel bothered a bit by her approach and the fact that she expects others to do everything and pick up the tab.  I liked your idea of picking up the food and helping prepare it but asking her to absorb some of the cost.  To me, that seems very fair solution to everyone - and while others might not be saying it, they are definitely thinking it.

Is there a reason you have some many events at her house?  Does she pretty much demand it?  Because if it were me and if I did get along with everyone, I think I'd host the holidays that were important to me at my home where I have control and then just go along with the chinese or the kfc when at her house.  As for the kids, if they don't like this or even if you don't like this food, why not bring something for yourselves?

Her dress and DH's dress - again, I very much see your point.  Sometimes it is important to celebrate a special event in the appropriate attire.  And, to teach your children this as well.  I mean, your DH wouldn't go to a job interview in his jeans and/overalls - would he?  I think having some rules like that for your family is a good idea. But, again, if mom doesn't want to abide or if no one else wants to - then what can you do?  It really is something you can enforce for yourself and your kids and explain why you think it is important.  DH should be on board just for that sake alone.

I think your final question - is it hopeless.  Yep, it pretty much is.  She'll never change but you can change to adapt to the situation.  Ultimately my views are this.  If you are not happy celebrating these holidays at her house and under her terms then don't.  You have the rights to set the traditions you want for yourself, your children and your family.  Perhaps if you try having an open discussion with your mil about it this way, she'll see.  I doubt it but you never know. :)

Community Leader
Registered: 01-03-2004
Thu, 03-07-2013 - 8:25pm

Hi,

I think the most important thing you can start doing is start setting boundaries with your husband. To that end, you don't spend every single holiday with his mother. When did that happen? Surely you can agree on some holidays and then I'd rotate: Thanksgiving and Easter, Christmas and Labor Day, etc. It's time you established your own family traditions!

Secondly, you've been down this road for 10 years. You aren't going to change your MIL. If she wants to wear sweats and eat salad: let her. You need to take care of yourself, i.e. bring or pick up the type of food and the quantity you want to eat.Why can't your SILs host a holiday meal and everyone meet at her house? Take some pressure of MIL. I assume they live closer to her? Then let them pick her up and take her home.

I have to wonder what your MILs childhood was like. Did she grow up in a family with little means, which is why she makes such small portions? Was any kind of "extras" as in extra effort, extra portions, extra money seen as sinful or "uppity?" If your MIL is over 70 it's very possible she's from that generation. 

Good luck.

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-23-2001
Fri, 03-08-2013 - 9:18am
She reminds me of the mom in the movie, The blind side, Lol. There's a Thanksgiving scene where she orders in take out. If you can celebrate with family and without tensions or negativity then that's the upside to her meal presentations.

 


 


iVillage Member
Registered: 12-15-2005
Mon, 03-11-2013 - 4:29pm

Thank you and I agree. It's just incredibly frustrating as she has become quite comfortable with dining in finer establishments (when I first met DH, his parents would consider Wendy's a night out and they never wanted to spend more than $10 a plate and we met only 10 years ago). In addition she now eagerly looks forward to vacations when in the beginning she noted that they were simple people who did not need vacations on get-togethers at the family cottage if that, and did not like fancy hotels (too intimidating)...you get the picture. Now they look forward to it ALL. Furthermore, when one of us hosts a party, MIL not only verbally tells us how much she enjoys coming over since we go "all out" but she actually puts in an "order" for some of her favourites on the menu. She then boasts about how great the house looks and how wonderful the meal makes and proceeds to even mock herself at her inability. Still when we offer to help or teach, she simply says she's not that smart, or talented or can't concentrate or has health issues, meaning her sore knee (nothing serious). She's like dealing with a spoiled two year old. She says that if WE want to buy to food or cook, she's okay with it, though she doesn't understand why KFC is not appropriate, but she says she has no desire or ability to get involoved, even if it's simply calling a restaurant, spending the same amount and ordering "real" food. She's definately a piece of work.

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-15-2005
Mon, 03-11-2013 - 4:30pm

Centerpiece story...too funny.

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-15-2005
Mon, 03-11-2013 - 4:30pm

Centerpiece story...too funny.

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-15-2005
Mon, 03-11-2013 - 4:41pm

We celebrate some holidays at her home because they are both getting older and FIL has some progressively worsening health issues and we live 8-10 hours away, so DH would like to spend time with his family and I agree and understand. What is troubleling, as I mentioned is that she has, since OUR influence, the other brothers don't really care and their wives don't say what, as you said, they are thinking, but they do mock her behind her back. In fact they look down on her and I can understand why. Still, they offer no help except to enable by doing things for her when she asks or simply going along with her KFC plan. Still, since "I" was raised somewhat differently, my pushing has allowed her to go on vacation, which she at first was reluctant about, but now enjoys, and to dine in "better" restaurants, not expensive, just "better"...better than Wendy's and KFC....though there's a place for that too. She is simply "lazy". She likes the fancy stuff and points it out at other's homes and comments on how exquisite and nice it is but always says that she is "poor"...and believe me, she is FAR from poor. Not rich, but certainly well off enough to afford a decent meal and a serving platter. She goes to bingo 6 out of 7 days a week and spends about 5 hours there but says she has no time to clean, cook or learn these things. When she's home she's planted on the couch with wine in one hand and a smoke in the other and when she does attempt to help, she does things like: washing one dish and cup then heading off for a smoke. Cutting half a loaf of bread and again heading out for a smoke.  She serves EVERYTHING on coffee cup saucers because she says big plates are not necessary since we all watch what we eat and don't put much on our plate. In additon, she feels they take more time and effort to wash. Seriously? And, yes...Seriously. She uses torn dish towels from 20 years ago as placemates though I've bought her more than one set. and covers her tables living room furniture with the placemats to protect them from the ashes. In fact when I first met her, well after I was engaged, she had a Nativity with three headless wisemen, but did not want to get rid of it because it was her first nativity. She hoards things and her house is cluttered but when WE offer to replace anything and she finally agrees, she points out the latest and greatest, as long as it's not HER wallet involved. Unreal, really.

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-14-2004
Mon, 03-11-2013 - 9:17pm

When you first posted, you were concerned that your MIL just isn't into cooking and setting a nice table.  Now, you seem to be badmouthing pretty much everything about her.  So what if she has a connection to her first (headless) nativity scene?  She doesn't demand you to feature a headless nativity scene in your home, so why do you care what she has in her home?   I'm likely near her age and most of my friends decorate their Christmas trees with old, worn-out ornaments, many of which came from family vacations or were things their now 40-something children made in grade school.  They have truly UGLY Christmas trees with all that junk on them...BUT it wouldn't be Christmas for them if they didn't have the old, familiar, family ornaments.  I don't see how it makes any difference to you if this makes her happy. 

I think you're making mountains out of molehills now. 

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