32 answers

Tired of Extended Family Birthday Parties...am I Wrong?

Ok, here is another in-law question for all you mommies out there. My husband's extended family gets together about once every two months to celebrate birthdays. This includes aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. We are expected to bring gifts, and there are usually 3-4 birthdays each time. For one, we cannot afford this and especially since my son has been born, our finances are even tighter now.

Also, we are sent a very specific menu, and we are to sign up for what we want to bring. Sometimes my MIL even emails the recipe she wants us to make. UGH! It varies on who's house it will be at...but about half the time it is an hour's drive (one way) for us. It takes most of the day...and my son gets his routine all messed up and usually is fussy without his regular nap. So I spend half the time in a back bedroom trying to soothe him and I can't enjoy myself at all. Another thing is that my husband and I get so little time together, that we both hate to give up a whole day of traveling and comforting a crabby child, when we could just hang out together at home. I just don't know what to do. My hubby thinks it's all ridiculous too, and other family members do as well. But no one will say anything. Any advice? Thanks in advance for your help and time :)

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Once again, you ladies have helped me see a different perspective!! To be honest, I guess I was taking all of these gatherings for granted...and I know that if I didn't have them, I would miss them! We may not attend all of them, and we may have to scale back on gifts, but I will try to have a better attitude about them. (My hubby did talk to his Mom about all the gift-buying getting out of hand...so we will see if something changes there) Thanks to all of you for taking the time to help me with this, and set me straight! My attitude has been adjusted :)

Featured Answers

If someone is going to say something negative about it, it should be someone that is blood related to the event. It should NOT be from you. Otherwise you will come out looking like the "evil daughter-in-law". If you husband feels the same way that you do, then he should be the one to decline the invitation. He was born into the family and they have to like him :-)

3 moms found this helpful

I know you've had a lot of responses already, but here's my thoughts:

Just don't do them anymore...maybe go to only 1 or 2. Tell them life has changed.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers

Well, I live with my family fairly close by (within an hour.) Between us there are 12 adults and 10 children...and that is only the ones that live close by:) I understand your frustration, believe me I do, but I also think that you (like me:) may have to relax a few things a little. As far as the driving goes, for my husband and I, 2 hours of uninterrupted drive time is such a blessing,so maybe try to look at that as spending time with each other. It sounds like you may have a routine driven child, which while it is nice sometimes, it does not work well for this, so maybe you could work on that on your own, before heading to the dinner. I have 4 kids and honestly, from the first one to the last, they all have to sleep where they are. No lie, my 2 year old and my 1 year old sleep in a stroller at the pool,so that I can still engage my oldest ones. And, the best thing we ever did was to start doing a birthday jar. For whomever we were going to honor (which for us is only the kids) everyone puts an annonymous amount of cash into a jar. The only rule was decide your amount for the year, and give each person that same amount, so that some kids did not get more or less than others. We only do $10, but my brother, who is a college student, does $5. Alone, a $5-10 gift is not much, but add it with everyone's contribution, and you can get something nice. WE have loved it so much, maybe you could suggest somehting like that?! As for the meals, I would be thrilled if someone told me what to make, sometimes the pressure of coming up with something is too much, so honestly I might let that one go. If there is something you really want to take, bring it up in a different conversation. Tell MIL you just tried the best recipe for... and maybe you should make it for the next gathering. Now, finally, for the cranky baby, your husband, and even others in the family, need to step up here, Even with my family, my husband gets to relaxing and chatting, and it is like he forgets we have 4 kids or something. So, now, on our long drives, we discuss what needs each of us will meet, and a code word or phrase that tells the other one of two things...a)I need you to relieve me of duty with this child, cuz I am gonna lose my patience or b) we need to find a way out soon!! I am sorry to go on, but I really do feel like I know just where you are coming from. But, when I see all of my kids playing with their cousins, and my parents happy, the tedious, even frustrating details go away. They wont be around to enjoy this forever, I would hate for my bad attitude to ruin the moments....even if I am right. Again, sorry to ramble, I hope that i was able to help a little. Good luck ~A.~

3 moms found this helpful

If someone is going to say something negative about it, it should be someone that is blood related to the event. It should NOT be from you. Otherwise you will come out looking like the "evil daughter-in-law". If you husband feels the same way that you do, then he should be the one to decline the invitation. He was born into the family and they have to like him :-)

3 moms found this helpful

I think you will regret giving up these family gatherings, but you won't regret it until years down the road when it is too late to make up lost time.

Yes, it is a pain, but we are talking SIX TIMES a year. The gift giving that is expensive is easy...start making each birthday recipient a big batch of cookies. Wrap it all fancy and when your boy gets older, have him help and draw love letters to go along. This isn't you being cheap, this is a labor of time and love and WILL be appreciated.

These gatherings, as crazy as it seems, strengthen and cement relationships. Everyone has hard times, and it is these relationships that get us through those tough times. Your boy will grow up knowing and loving his grandparents, his aunts, uncles, and cousins. He will learn that FAMILY IS IMPORTANT and worthy of a time investment. And you know what else he will learn? That his own mother is worth visiting when he is an adult.

Your husband, who probably enjoys these gatherings, will give them up for you because you are so miserable and complaining about them all the time. So you are also taking from him when you put a stop to these visits. His mother will miss him and resent you.

So put a smile on. Make some cookies. Tell your husband you are so glad that he has a family that loves him and wants to spend time with him. Make extra cookies for your husband and feed them to him. Offer to host one of these gatherings at your place one of the months. And when your MIL emails the menu, simply call her (don't email her) and ask her if you could please bring XXX because it is your 'specialty' and you already have the ingredients.

Just keep in mind that you are talking about SIX TIMES a year. And everyone who comes is inconvenienced, not just you with a young baby. And everyone has to make an effort to be there and make things, and bring gifts. And they do it because they love each other and want to know each other and be aware of what is going on with each other's lives. This is part of being a family.

So I say buck up and go with the attitude that you are going to enjoy it NO MATTER WHAT and your whole family will benefit from it. The thing is, you have this incredible power that should not be overlooked. Wives and mothers set the entire tone of every family outing, every event, and of their entire household. So set the tone and go. It will pay dividends later.

V. S

3 moms found this helpful

If she is using email to send something to you about the party, simply hit reply and explain very briefly that you are unable to attend. If she asks for details, I'd almost make something up.

I think it is very unrealistic that she should ask you to attend a party so frequently for extended family. It is more realistic to simply hold a family reunion in the summer (away from Christmas) and NOT expect gifts to be exchanged. If your husband is not wanting to go either, then HE should be the one to let them know because HIS mother will forgive him more easily and you won't look like the bad guy.

It took me a LONG time to collectively (with my husband) realize that we were now adults and not subject to our parents every wish. If you do not set the boundaries NOW, they may be dictating for a LONG time.

Good luck.

P. <><

2 moms found this helpful

I know all you other younger moms probably won't agree, but I'd like to give an older mom (mid 40's) who's been there's perspective. I HATED going to these things when I was younger and my kids were litte. It seemed like such a chore! Now that my kids are grown and family members have passed on so the get togethers stopped I can see how beneficial they were. Believe it or not, some day you'll look back fondly at those get togethers.

I do understand about the money! We finally started drawing names for the kiddos and didn't buy for adults anymore. Another option is each female bring an inexpensive gift ($10 or under) for female and males for males (something from the dollar store maybe). Just because you have to bring food doesn't mean you can't save time by gettng something storebought and "fix" it up a little (add some spices or garnish) to make it your own

2 moms found this helpful

Well, you are never WRONG for feeling like you do, BUT I think you are not looking at this is the right light. My extended family does the same thing only every 3 months. All 50+ of us. We however do things a little differently. We rotate houses, so that if you have to drive far this time next time you don't. We have family from Houston, Waco, Stephenville, and DFW, so the drives can get hairy. We no longer do the gifts except for the kids. And we do 1 adult gift for Christmas. The kids love them and get to see their cousins. My 8 year old is email palling with 2 of his cousins, so he loves when he gets to play with them. My DH loves the guys trips to the "tractor" store. And I get help with the kids, and get to enjoy the "girl" time.
My DH and I love the drive time. When we stay home with the intent to talk, we rarely do; we do what we need to get done around the house. But when we drive, we talk for hours. Some of our best conversations are in the car. The kids enjoy the talks as well. My 3 year old asked when we were going on "KaShun, so we can talk" the other day. The road trips are a huge part of our family culture.
A routine is important for your baby, but he does need to learn to at least function when he is out of it as well. And these trips may be the perfect way for that to happen. Pass him around. That is what family is for. Heck I know there were plenty of times when I couldn't get one of my children calmed down, and an aunt or grandma would take him and have him laughing in no time.
Try to go with the flow, but in your own way. Call and say "Hey, I really want to fix this instead of that, I'm not really good at blank" Do homemade gifts instead of spending the money. If you truly want to make some changes, I would suggest that your DH recommend them or you will be ostracized for a while.
Just a thought.

2 moms found this helpful

you are not wrong. I would encourage your husband to talk with his mom about this. Help her to understand that while you enjoy the family time it is impacting you financially and it is hard on your child. I would stick to those two issues and not worry about anything else. If she gives you a menu just consider it a blessing that you didn't have to think about what to bring. If there is something you really want to make, just make that also and take it along. It might become something your mom in law requests again

I do think that your child will benefit by having a large extended family, you and your husband just need to be in charge of when you attend.

2 moms found this helpful

My in-laws also have unrealistic expectations for us as well. Thankfully, they live far enough away that this is not an issue like yours, but after MANY long and drawn out conversations with my husband, we have politely declined invitations to particular family events. I can't say that they understand, but we decided that we have to do what is best for OUR family. We always let them know that our doors are always open and that they are free to visit us anytime, but frequent trips to visit are just no longer possible. We have not made a trip to visit my in-laws in a year. They have only been here to see us twice in a year and we visited with everyone at my BIL's wedding a couple of months ago (but without the kids). I finally realized that we were more stressed out during our "family down time" than we were during a normal week...so what was the point. Sometimes I think we feel like we can't say no to family, when truly, saying no to family should be easier because they should know us and our situation better than anyone. I would just politely decline and enjoy your time with your family! Good luck!

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