My husband and I just got married 3 months ago. We live in California, his family lives in Massachusetts. He is very close with his family, and every year since he was 25 or so (he's 42) he has gone "home" and stayed with them for a month, and then over his christmas break (he's a teacher), he goes and stays with them for 3 weeks) He has 6 nieces and nephews and 3 brothers and sisters, and his mom is widowed and needy. I am not close with my family at all, they live on the east coast too (but in florida) and I visit them maybe once a year for a couple days, just to see my mom.
This christmas we went and stayed with them for 2 weeks and by the end of the first week I was ready to go. It was freezing outside, snowing, we didn't have our own transportation so we were at the mercy of when his mom/sister would let us borrow her car to get out of the house and do stuff, and it's suburban massachusetts an hour from the city so ... it was horrible. Also- I do not celebrate christmas and really can't stand all the christmas propaganda... and I'm vegan... and we're just SO different, I was given hell about my food choices, bombarded with questions about my family (I essentially don't have one, had a horrible childhood) and had NO personal space for 2 weeks because the kids were constantly all over grandma's house (where we stayed) at once. BUT, it was deal-able with because we had just returned from a vacation in mexico and had gotten a lot of relaxation and sun... and I wasn't pregnant.
Now I'm pregnant and this is hellish. It's summer, so at least we can go outside, but it's 95 degrees and humid or raining most days and I'm pregnant and uncomfortable. The house is almost constantly bombarded and full of 6 kids and his brothers and sisters, and I have to retreat to the upstairs bedroom for any privacy, which is the hottest and most humid room in the house. We again don't have a car and have to borrow one, and when we do it can only be for quick errands... we're supposed to be here June 27th- July 16th. Just short of 3 weeks. It's only been 4 days now and I am READY to go home to California, where I have autonomy and can do the things I need and want to do when I need to do them... like seeing my girl friends and going to yoga and going to the health food store- and eating things I always eat and not being questioned about it or having people act like I'm being high maintenance if I won't eat dairy or meat... so annoying.
My husband just doesn't GET that QUALITY time is so much better than QUANTITY time. His family guilt trips him because he has chosen to live on the west coast (which is way more his style)... so he feels bad and tries to make up for it every year by spending a ridiculous amount of time here... but this is NOT how it's going to be in the future when we have our baby. His mom was already trying to GUILT me into bringing MY 5-6 week old NEWBORN baby on a plane over CHRISTMAS (WHICH OUR CHILD WILL HAVE NO PART OF) just so everyone can meet her. It's not fair- they need to come visit US and feel like aliens/foreigners to really realize what a huge inconvenience it is for ME to carve out 3 weeks of my summer being somewhere I don't want to be. There is no freaking way I'm bringing my newborn baby on a plane just so they can see her at christmas. and there is no way I am bringing my 6 month old for a freaking month to hot humid boring suburban massachusetts this time next year. We will come for a WEEK MAXIMUM.
Is it just me or is THREE WEEKS LIVING IN MIL's HOUSE INSANE???? in my husband's childhood bedroom too. AGH. survival tips please. My husband promised me he'd take me to yoga class almost every day (i've gone twice out of 4 days so far, so good) and take me to the health food store so I can eat edible food (we're stocked up on groceries I need, so far so good with that too)... only thing is I'm freaking bored and uncomfortable 98% of the time we're stuck in the house.
I'm from Massachusetts. I encourage you to find some zen about it. What do you need? Jogging trails, vegan restaurants, tourist attractions? A better winter coat and good boots for the winter trips? Bug repellant and a list of lake beaches? A motel room with a/c? A better yoga studio? Your DH's sentimental tour of makeout spots from his teens? Some internet friends in yoga class?
Anyway... no. It's not an unreasonable amount of time. It's what your husband is used to doing, and it's how he's managed his relationship with what seems to be a large and close-knit family. Trying to cut him back to shorter or less frequent visits is probably not going to have positive results. I'm feeling pretty sorry for your in-laws here. Their requests may be impossible for you, but they aren't unreasonable.
But - it doesn't work for you. You're going nuts. Questions:
- Is it financially unfeasible for you to rent a car while you visit?
- Can you arrange some kind of vacation rental not too far from them where you'd have more space and privacy?
- How would you feel about doing some East Coast day jaunting while your DH spends more intensive time with his family? Would you feel better if you got a weekend on your own in New York or Boston somewhere in there? Or if you did a yoga retreat in the Berkshires one week of the visit, and sold it to the in-laws as letting them have some solid one-on-one time with their son?
I wouldn't want to fly cross-country with a 6 week-old either, but by the time my kids were six months, three weeks in a house where other people would play with the baby while I showered sounded like a resort vacation. Maybe you want to play that one by ear a little.
There are two things I'm going to encourage you to lighten up on. The first is the thing with the house being constantly bombarded with kids. You might reframe this in your head a little. How WONDERFUL that your in-laws are such welcoming grandparents. This will make it possible, in future, for you to send your own children to visit, potentially without you. Imagine the business trips, and second honeymoons, and occasional weeks of sleeping in at home by yourself that this will make possible. It may seem unthinkable now that you'd want time away from your kids, but when they're old enough for an adventure by themselves, a visit to grandparents in Massachusetts could be like summer camp, but comparatively cheap. Plus - all those cousins? This is an awesome situation for a kid, even if it's not your cup of tea.
The second, please forgive me, is Christmas. Christmas vs. not can wind up being a stress that drives a huge wedge between couples once they are parents. There is no avoiding this holiday when you have children. Maybe if you homeschool and stop taking your kids to stores in October. If three carless weeks in the suburbs is making you stir crazy, I don't really imagine you'd enjoy that no-store stretch. IF you embrace another religion, you can put in a substitute, but you can't make your husband or your in-laws less nostalgic about this tradition, and you can't make your kids magically uninterested in this party everyone else will seem to them to be having.
I'm an atheist, raised Christian, I can celebrate Christmas, and I like that the whole family is conveniently gathered. DH is an atheist, raised Jewish, and really fundamentally opposed to Christmas because of its cutural dominance. Our kids? My six year-old will explain to strangers that he's an atheist Unitarian, and talk philosophically about what that means, but not only does he go to school with other kids, charity Santa gives out presents at the after-school program. My three year-old wants to be in the Christmas pageant because she wants to wear tinsel. I've had to ask DH to either present the tradition he was raised in, or suck it up.
To my parents, Christmas is a seasonal excuse to get together (almost everyone has the day off, after all), string some lights, bake extravagantly, and give gifts. To your eventual kid, opposing Christmas is going to look like opposition to sparkles, cookies and presents. To your in-laws, opposition to Christmas is going to look like opposition to the relationship they expect to have with their grandkid (they probably expect that relationship to look a lot like their relationship to their other grandkids).
If you really hate it, find an excuse to fly in by yourself in time for New Year.
If you want your in-laws to come to you, invite them, but unless you also invite the whole clan, don't expect it to be a substitute for long visits where your husband can renew his relationships with nieces and nephews.
I wouldn't fly with a baby under 1 year old, the pressure changes can damage the ears permanently. And I prefer visits with family to be 1 week long for everyone's sanity. I do love to visit with the closest ones about every 2 months, but not too long at a time. Even with my parents...no, especially with mine. Anyway, over time and with calm communication relationships improve to a point, you're new at getting along with them and so are they at getting along with you. And pregnant? You're going to be easily aggravated no doubt. You are allowed to complain. It'll be over before long.
Oh, and the weather here has been completely miserable. ATYPICALLY so, but I'll definitely grant you that.
First off, your husband sounds like a really sweet guy. Think of the example he is setting for your future children: he is making an effort to balance his wife's needs (yoga, food choices, etc) and his family of origin (long visit). Sounds like he is trying to please everyone. I hope and pray that if/when my son marries he will be so considerate of his wife and of his immediate family. Crazy to think that one day I could be someone's MIL!
When I think of my in-laws I try to keep in mind that these people are not just my husband's family but also my children's family. Sometimes it helps me to remind myself of that.
Your daughter is going to LOVE having 6 big cousins. It really doesn't get much better. To quote comedian Jim Gaffigan "cousins are celebrities for little kids." My kids only have one first cousin and you'd think that little 3 1/2 year old girl is some sort of real life princess or something the way my kids love her. I agree with a PP that when the kids get older you may really appreciate how comfortable they get with the extended family because it really does give you a break. We just went on a trip with my side of the family and I read two whole books in a week (something I never get to do at home) because the kids are so happy to be with fun family.
It sounds like you didn't get to experience this whole big family dynamic thing. Think how wonderful it is that your daughter will get to. You know what it is like to not have that and I gently assume that you want a different experience than you had.
As far as Christmas, I didn't grow up with it. But it is a HUGE deal to my MIL. After spending about 15 Christmas's now in the Midwest with them, I feel that the joy it brings my kids overrides my personal beliefs about consumerism/commercialism, but that's just me. Perhaps your beliefs run deeper than mine on that subject.
Good luck, mama. Santa Cruz isn't going anywhere and not to rub it in but the weather has been phenomenal!
Well, I like the responses from everyone. It does seem that your husband is a nice guy who wants to please both you and his family. His family seems nice too.
However, you sound a lot like me--staying 3 weeks with anybody would almost kill me lol! I have 2 kids, and although I love them dearly, I am not a "kid person"--meaning, being stuck in a house with 6 loud kids all day is not my idea of a good time. I NEED peace, quiet, and alone time! Also, I find it difficult to relax and unwind in someone else's home, so I don't know how on earth I would manage a 3 week vacation with the inlaws!
The hotel recommendation is a great idea. Or a rental car. Something, anything, to give you space when you need it most. I agree, you might change your mind after the baby is born, because you can kiss alone time goodbye for a looooong time! You might jump at the chance to spend time with the inlaws, since they would take the baby for a while and give you some free time to yourself!
But until then, I feel for you, and I hope you can find a way to get through this vacation in one piece!
"This is the sickest species the world has ever known."
Dr.John Bergman, speaking about the human species.
Your husband is a sweetie. I'm guessing you've communicated clearly to him how very stressful this extended time with his family is for you? Yes, you married him knowing he liked these extended family gatherings, but at the same time, marriage is about compromise and deferring to one another out of love. I know that I personally couldn't handle that long at my in-law's, but they couldn't stand us there that long either, so I'm safe! I wonder if your husband could consider a little more compromising than just the yoga and food stocks? Having a baby coming may be yet another reason for him to give you a bigger break. Hope so! Best of luck to you, and congratulations on your pregnancy!
A hotel, a rental car and a shorter period than three weeks.
My husband is amazing.... he's sweet and considerate and would do anything for me- I'm very grateful.
Glad to hear 3 weeks is ridic and other mommas would have difficulty with this too.
We had a long talk and he AGREED that 3 weeks/1 month is WAY TOO LONG. I rationalized with him that every time he comes to visit he always finds a way to "get away" for a couple days several times, to break up the trip- in the past he took the bus to new york to visit friends, rented a car and drove up to maine to stay at his family's time share ski resort alone, etc. I rationalized that it made way more sense to have QUALITY time uninterrupted, than stay on a guilt induced 3-4 week trip that you have to spend extra money to break up to make bearable. Especially because New England is where we both grew up and I personally have ZERO interest in day trips/little trips to maine/cape cod whatever... i'd so much rather be spending that time in my chosen home turf in california going down to big sur or to the city or to music festivals, etc... than alone with my husband trying to find stuff to do, spending money we dont have just to get away from in-laws for a couple days. Yesterday we took the train to boston and with the train/subway cost and meals, spent almost 100 being there the whole day. We don't have any extra money to be getting a hotel room or renting a car... although my husband said we would rent a car next week just for a couple days if we really needed to get away (which I think we will!!).
We talked about christmas too and it's kind of a non-negotiable for him... but I really think once the baby comes he will realize that it's not going to be several weeks in freezing barren new england every year like he thinks. I told him my ideal christmas experience was not celebrating it at all or even acknowledging it, because I don't want my child indoctrinated into that- its not my religion and I even started rejecting christmas when I was 13/14 years old--it's not his religion either- even though he was brought up catholic, he's been rebellious since he was a teenager and is more into the eastern philosophies like I am. I told him my compromise for xmas was that I would go for 4 days maximum not including flying days (fly in the 22/3rd, fly out the 27th), and we would not be doing gifts for each other or for our child, we would be donating to a charity and when our daughter is old enough letting her pick what charity she wants to give to. Gifts are for birthdays/graduations/accomplishments/etc. Visiting my family- he doesn't even consider for any holidays because I essentially don't have a family- we're not close and all my brothers/sisters are grown up and spread out around the country with their own families now... so my mom has to come to the west coast to visit us- but when I bring up his family visiting us, he balks at it. If we can get together our baby and fly 7 hours cross country, some of his family members can certainly fly with their 6-10 year olds to come stay with us occasionally in the future.
thanks for all the advice everyone :)
13 more days! going to a yoga class later today, 4th of freaking july tomorrow (ugh), beach day friday, yoga class saturday, family/wedding reception/celebration at his mom's house sunday with my mom coming up to visit too (drove from florida), and then next week we'll probably GTFO of here for 2-3 days and go stay somewhere up north by the ocean.