Q: After my mother-in-law passed away a year ago, my sister-in-law elected herself head of the family. She plans all holiday meals (every one of which takes place at her house) and organizes family get-togethers every Sunday. My husband won't tell her she's gone overboard because he doesn't want to create conflict. While the other siblings might admit she's overbearing, they're not terribly bothered by her behavior. But I don't think I can take it anymore. It's way too much family time and she's making me miserable.
A: Maybe your sister-in-law thinks it's her responsibility to hold the family together in memory of her mom -- a sensitive subject for all. If your husband already knows how much his sister's behavior bothers you, and he still isn't up for a discussion with her, I wouldn't press him.
Instead, you'd be better off taking steps to make the situation better for yourself rather than trying to change the family dynamic. Perhaps you don't have to spend every holiday with his family -- after all, it seems like your family is getting shortchanged. And instead of standing on the sidelines griping that all the events take place at her house, pick up the phone (or ask your husband to make the call) and cheerfully tell her you're dying to host the next holiday.
Is there any reason why you must attend all of these Sunday get-togethers? Tell your hubby that he can take the kids to the next one, but that you are staying home to catch up with a good book or tackling a home project. You'll get some time to yourself, the children can have fun with their cousins -- and maybe some breathing room will put you in a better mood for the next family event.
Julie Mazer, a mother of three, lives in Short Hills, New Jersey.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, August 2004.
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