‘Tis the season to be jolly… and to be thrown together with your partner’s family like it is the most natural thing in the world.
Can we be real for a minute? Family gatherings with the in-laws are a bit awkward. If you are a guest in their home, you can never completely relax. Lying on the sofa in your pajamas in someone else’s house would just be a bit inappropriate.
And if the in-laws are a guest in your home, then the onus is on you to be a perfect host with an impossibly clean house and a bottomless pit for a refrigerator.
Anyone else feeling tense yet? Okay, let’s talk about handling these situations like the modern women we are. I have a few tips and reality checks to get you feeling ready and capable.
1. Give up trying to be perfect
Whether you are a guest in their house, or they are guests in your house, just remember this – they are probably feeling just the same as you!
We can all find the togetherness a little overwhelming at times. And we all feel the same pressures to present a perfect image, when in fact, nobody is perfect. We are all just doing the best we can.
2. Share the load
If you are the host, why not accept the offers of help in the kitchen from the family members? The chances are they are keen to make themselves useful. You could use a hand, you do not have eight arms. If you spread the workload a little it is better for everyone. Your in-laws will not feel awkward, and you will not be under so much pressure to perform.
If you are the guest in your in-laws house, it works both ways. You do not have to make a big speech out of offering to help. Just join your host in the kitchen and keep her company. Maybe pick up a dishcloth and start washing plates.
Read also – 8 Marvelously Delicious Christmas Treats
3. Divert the attention
If you do not see your in-laws very often then getting together with them can feel a little like an interrogation. Whether genuine curiosity about their son or daughter’s partner or a lack of conversation topics, you are bound to be the focus of the conversation for at least part of the day.
You might be okay with this. But the more introverted among us are not. So why not go in there prepared with a few topics of conversation to take the attention away from you. Ask them about themselves, or step outside the box and throw in a philosophical head-scratcher. That should keep them busy for a while.
4. Take a good book
I know this sounds simplistic but bear with me. The simplest answers are often the best ones. And something as simple as a good book or two might easily be overlooked. You are going to want a little escapism, trust me. And you might also need some entertainment or distraction.
Every family has their own traditions and routines. When I was growing up, it was all about the Christmas Day movies. But for other families in the UK, the Queen’s speech cannot be missed.
I can promise you if I were ever forced to sit through the Queen’s speech without a distraction my head would implode. I am far too much of a fidget. So the polite compromise would be to join everybody else in the living room but have something there to save your sanity while whatever unappealing tradition is happening around you.
5. Grab a little down time
Are there kids in the house? Whether you are a mother yourself, or the least maternal career-focused woman around, kids are a great company. They are non-judgmental, focused on having fun, and absolutely guaranteed not to talk about politics or ask you about your career for the hundredth time.
Go and have a game of hide and seek with the little ones. You will get a welcome break from being on your best behavior with your partner’s parents, and you will also earn some points for helping to keep the kids busy.
Is there a dog you could take for a walk? Even better! A dog gives you an excuse to get out of the house, and he definitely will not ask you about politics or your career.
In summary, it is really about balance. Show up, participate and you will get the most out of the experience. Just remember not to stress out trying to be perfect, and grab a little downtime whenever you can.