Ask Sassy: Torn between two mothers on Thanksgiving

In Holidays & Parties, Kids by Guest Writer8 Comments

woman holding holiday turkey

Dear Sassy:

I am married and a mom to two young boys. Both sides of our families live in the same area.  It’s great to have all this support, however, it sometimes can become very difficult during the holidays as to which family we are spending time with. For example, my mother-in-law recently asked me if we would be eating Thanksgiving dinner with them since we were with “my family” last year. Of course, you can imagine that it was said in a tone to make me feel guilty. After talking about all of our holiday plans, my husband and I decided to eat dinner with my family again on Thanksgiving, but we would then go to his parents house for dessert to spend time with them. I informed my own mother of these plans and she questioned our decision to have to leave their house to go to my in-laws for dessert. My family is much smaller so my mother always adds “They won’t miss you” because there are so many people at my in- laws. Once again, I was feeling guilty and just can’t seem to win with either side of our family. It puts me in a difficult situation and we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Do you have any suggestions as to how to handle the pressures that our families put on us? We are doing the best we can do.


Dear Torn:

First of all, I just want to point out what a nice problem you have. I am jealous, actually. My husband and I are raising our kids far away from both extended families, so we don’t have this headache, but we don’t have the support, either.

Isn’t it nice to feel so loved?

I know it’s tough to get off the Guilt Trip Express when Mama lays it on thick, especially if she helps you out a lot with your kids throughout the year. The least you can do is throw her a bone on holidays right? But that would only work perfectly in a vacuum, and you have Planet Mother-in-Law to contend with.

What’s the worst that could happen if you stand firm on your decision and tell your mother this is just the way it’s going to go down this Thanksgiving? Will she fly into a rage? Disown you? Drive her car through the hedges in your front yard? Probably not. Maybe she’ll be miffed, but you can remind her that she raised you right.

I grew up in the same town as both sets of my grandparents, and I remember shuttling back and forth from one holiday gathering to another, and being really tired at the end of the day. And, vaguely, getting sick from eating too much of the delicious meals at both houses!

Do you want to make your children sick, Torn?

Of course you don’t. My point is, throw those children under the bus. Use them as your excuse. This year you’ve got to stick to the decision that you and your husband made together – you need to stand up for him as much as he needs to stand up for you – and hightail it out of your mom’s house as the turkey plates are being cleared. She will have to get over it. And if there’s leftover dessert at her house because your little family is such a large percentage of the diners there, well, there’s always Black Friday. Now that retailers have basically ruined the shopping tradition, it might as well be set aside for enjoying leftovers.

In the future, I say go to one family celebration and forget all this party-hopping. You also host Thanksgiving at your house and invite your families to come for a potluck – you make the turkey, for example, and have your extended family members bring all the sides. Anyone who wants to come shows up, and people who don’t, well, you won’t hold that against them. The bottom line is that your mother loves you, and wants you near on a special occasion.

We can’t please everyone all the time, but you can at least address her feelings by thanking her for being so concerned. Turn the emotions in a positive direction. After all, it’s silly to make the holidays more stressful with all these hurt feelings when the point is to be thankful that you all have each other close by when it really counts: all the time.

Send in your problem for Sassy to solve, whether it’s a parenting question, relationship dilemma or a snafu with social etiquette and it may get answered in a future column. Sassy is here to help! Submit your question for Ask Sassy here! (Or just email me, darling. We can keep it between us. You can also follow me on Twitter where I share pro tips on life every week.

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  1. Good response, Sassy! I agree- it’s the best dilemma to have, in my opinion! My husband and I do the “party-hopping” and just have two Thanksgivings, basically. This year I’m pregnant, so I’m happy about it, but years past it’s been more of a burden and a food-overhaul! I love the idea of hosting at your own house and having a potluck! When Baby comes, I may have to steal that, for next year! 🙂


  2. Oh, I completely understand this, Sassy! I have the same problem…plus one more family, because MY parents are divorced!

  3. My mom invites my in-laws to our Thanksgiving, because my husband is an only child and they didn’t really do much with extended family for Thanksgiving before my mom’s invitation. I am not necessarily endorsing this solution, *wink*.

  4. potluck at her house. Genius. I would consider no other option and then if they bitch and moan, tell them to come up with a solution.

  5. In my family, we’ve always blended all sides of the family.
    We take turns hosting the various holidays and, of course, we always pot luck it.

  6. This just stressed me out and we don’t even have to deal with any in-law issues! Great advice, Sassy.

  7. My in laws live up north, so we’ve never had to do the split, but it looks so hard when my sister has to do it!

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