Bringing Families Together at Thanksgiving

November 19, 2005

A woman holding a turkey for her family at Thanksgiving.I don't know if this is a tip for us to save or for the others to save. For several years, my family has had Thanksgiving dinner on the Sunday after the holiday. I figured the married kids would go to the in-laws for dinner on Thursday. This year we are doing it different. First we are having it on Thursday, as it should be. It is a potluck dinner, each one brings a part of the dinner.


I live in senior low income apartment building that has 36 apartments. This year I asked my family to make a little extra of their item(s) because I posted a note inviting any tenants that are not going out to dinner with their family or friends to eat with us.

That way they can have a big holiday dinner too and take leftovers home for another meal or two. I also said if they have a good friend they spend a lot of time with, that person can come too. One lady is bringing her brother who lives in another senior building. One is bringing a friend that helps her a lot because she is handicapped. So far counting the brother and friend we have six signed up. I expect a few more.

When the apartment manager heard my plans, she offered a ham to go with our turkey. Because of limited cooking space and time, because of handicaps, she is going to cook it for us. I would like your readers to invite a friend or two to your dinner, too. Maybe an elderly person who has no place to go.

By Linda from Bloomington, IL

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Here are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community.

November 12, 2009

We are currently having a problem with my mother-in-law and Thanksgiving. My husband and I invited both of our families over this year at our place. His mother has a problem with this because she is allergic to our two cats. She also smokes two packs of cigarettes a day, and has heart problems. She says it takes her 3 days to recuperate, when she has come over in the past. I had the cats before I met my husband who loves them, too.

We can't have a combined Thanksgiving at my mom's house, because she has more cats than we do, so that leaves the mother-in-law's house. My mom doesn't like his mom very much. My mom has come in the past to Thanksgiving dinner at my husband's grandpa and aunt's house. This year the aunt is having Thanksgiving at her son's house.


A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned to my mom that we wanted to have it at our place this year with everyone invited. She said it sounded good. But now because of my mother in law, we are at the point of either doing it at her house, or doing it separate with my husband spending the day with his family, and me with mine. I don't want to do that because this is our first Thanksgiving as a married couple.

My mother-in-law can be difficult and told my husband in the past that she loves fighting and getting her way. Are there any suggestions you can give because this is driving me crazy? I'm so worried about having to deal with this for all the holidays, when we have kids in the future. Please help us with advice of what you would do for the holidays in this situation.


P.S. - I forgot to add that our families live on opposite ends of town (one hour drive from one family to the other), and we live in the middle so our place is convenient for both families.

By Dana Hull


November 12, 20090 found this helpful

My suggestion to you would be to stick with what your idea was. And that is to have Thanksgiving at your own home. It is important that you and your husband begin your own family traditions. It seems as if you both are not only concerned about what is more convenient for you but also for both extended families. I do feel bad that your mother in law is difficult to deal with. She clearly is having some issues if she admitted that she likes to fight and get her way.


Also, it seems to me that the "allergic to cats" line is no worse a condition than smoking two packs a day! One thing to remember is... You can't please everyone. Family or not. As a young married couple, you have to do what is the best for your new family, you and your husband. I know it sounds harsh, but my own daughter deals with difficult in laws as well. And don't forget... Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

November 12, 20090 found this helpful

I think that either you continue with Thanksgiving as planned, or everyone meet at a restaurant. If you go the restaurant route, perhaps anyone who cares to could go to your house afterward to have some dessert. So, if anyone has a legitimate reason not to come (allergic to cats), they've still shared the meal with you, but can politely decline dessert.


As drjungblut pointed out, you cannot please everyone all the time. You've said that this is your first Thanksgiving together. I see no need for the two of you to eat at different places. Everyone should realize that you are newlyweds. He is your new family, and you are his. We did plenty of running around early in our marriage, but after we had our daughter, I had to speak up about what we would and would not do. What good is running around, all frazzled, trying to please everyone? At the end of the day, have you actually enjoyed any quality time with anyone?

And your mother in law has her own issues (likes to fight). If she becomes too belligerent, I suspect there will come a point where you and your husband will have to tell her that you simply won't participate in such behavior. HE should be the one to step up on that one, since it's his mom (and you back him up).

I hope that you come up with acceptable arrangements for Thanksgiving. And then you have Christmas to look forward to. :-) Best of luck, and happy holidays!

November 12, 20090 found this helpful

Tell the mother in law that dinner will be at your house. Every one is going to help make it an enjoyable event. You will lock the cats in the basement, and she has to smoke out on the Porch! Let her choose what she wants to do-smoke out side or stay home alone.


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November 12, 20090 found this helpful

This might sound harsh, but if your mother-in-law is allergic to cats, maybe she shouldn't be smoking either. Also you shouldn't have to put the cats in the basement. She is going to have to learn to adapt to the cats. I know a woman who has two cats, and one of her daughter in laws has asthema and when she visits she goes through more medication than normal, but she grins and bears it.

November 12, 20090 found this helpful

I think your Mother-in law not only likes to fight, she is also very controlling. If she manages to separate you and your husband on this holiday, she will try to do the same thing on every holiday in the future. You and he need to stick to your guns now and have Thanksgiving dinner at your house as you planned.

November 12, 20090 found this helpful

My husband is allergic to cats and it was a miserable day for him when we went to his aunts. If it was a child allergic to the cats would you make him go into that environment? NO. I would suggest putting the cats in the basement away from the furnace, and cleaning the house really well, or meeting at a restaurant. Mother-in-laws can be a pain but if the cats bother allergies that is not her fault. I love cats but can't have them due to husband and child. I had to get rid of one I loved. One day of the cat being in the basement will not hurt them. Good luck, let us know what you do. Restaurants are easy clean up.

November 12, 20090 found this helpful

My daughter is allergic to cats. It is really a problem for her when we go to my MIL's for Thanksgiving or when she stays over night at a friends house where there are cats. We found just taking a non drowsy antihistamine does the trick. Perhaps it will work for your MIL too, but she is probably the type that no matter what solution you come up with she will find a reason to say it won't work. The restaurant idea could be a solution until children come along. My sister and BIL would alternate holidays with our family and his. Every other year for each of the holidays, with an alternate day selected to celebrate with which ever family they didn't get to visit with on the actual holiday.

November 12, 20090 found this helpful

Ain't life grand? LOL. Since this is your first Thanksgiving as a married couple at your house, then you and your husband decide what the rules are going to be and stick to what you both agree on, no matter who's toes you may step on. Surviving family dinners can be done if planned ahead very carefully and with much thought! Best of luck to you this Thanksgiving. Hope it is a nice one.


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November 12, 20090 found this helpful

Boy, you struck a nerve here didn't you!? So many responses!

I'd give her the benefit of the doubt with the cats. Maybe she's making mountains out of mole hills but just be a good and gracious hostess and put the cats away for the day, even if they have to go to a kennel. Your husband will greatly appreciate your effort to placate his mother and you'll feel like the "bigger" person.

Just be terribly thankful you don't have to live with her if she's just liking to fight and DO NOT be away from your husband on holidays! Tell her you've taken care of the cat problem and then it's up to her if she wants to come or not but you and your husband are now a family and must be together. Neither one of you is a kid who HAS to go home for Thanksgiving so stick to your plans and stick together. A combined 36 years of marriage has taught me that much!

November 13, 20090 found this helpful

I really do not have anything much to add. however, I do agree with redhatterb and patty. It is your home and your guests should make accommodations. I have know people who said they were allergic to particular things but I did not see that they were. Good luck, carla


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November 13, 20090 found this helpful

I think I would tell every body you have called it off. You & hubby go out of town. Enjoy your day together or stay home, good luck.

November 13, 20090 found this helpful

You have three options:
1. Go ahead with the plans of a joint thanksgiving, buy benadryl. Put the kitties in the bedroom. Under NO circumstances take them out of the home to a sitter or kennel. Your kitties are part of your family. If MIL gets sick; that's her own problem. She knew ahead of time.

Regarding the smoking have your husband suggest that MIL go outside for the smokes. By the way; your husband can mention that he's had cold symptoms and the smoke makes it work. His mother, his problem; keep your mouth shut. paste a smile on your face. Head for the kitchen and play annoying music in there. Annoying music tends to repel unwanted "help" in the kitchen.

Results: MIL and mom are sort of miserable and less likely to suggest joint visits.
Imperative that you do not allow any precedents to be set; it's your first Thanksgiving. Don't make any special accommodations or arrangements.

Tell yourself "it's only 4 hours", spend lots of time in the kitchen; garage; laundry; outside (you can put up lights); bathroom etc. If drama happens don't get involved, and do not, under any circumstances serve alcohol, of any kind. You can have cocktails AFTER they go home.

2. The restaurant thing: You received a gift card from your friend (go buy one), and that your friend already made reservations (you do that). No alcohol, sit in the non smoking area.
3. Let your husband make the decisions.

Although you are a fully-grown independent wife; you must look good natured and sweet when around MIL. Keep mouth shut; smile a lot and cook; do the dishes. drag each task out so you can spend as much time as possible busy and away.

Plan to have the meal finished about 2 hours from the time they arrive. That gives you 2 hours of peace and quiet away from everyone. Put the annoying music on in there. Spend about an hour cleaning up. now; you have given yourself 3 hours away from the drama. have friends call you on the house phone and speak to them at great length. there is even a website that will call your phone at a specified time to interrupt meetings and stuff.

Good luck. Keep mouth shut; don't compromise. Let hubby deal with it.

November 15, 20090 found this helpful

And a man and wife should leave their mother and father, and cleave one to another, isn't that what God says? I think I would trust his judgment in the matter. You are your husband's family now,and Mom may choose to be a guest when invited, or not. That is her option. If she chooses to be a guest, be as accommodating as possible and attempt to make her comfortable in your home. That is your duty as hostess.

Her duty as a guest is to be as flexible as possible in adapting to the household she is a guest in, and avoid being disruptive. Therefore, put the cats away where they can still stay warm and dry, and have non-drowsy antihistamines available for your guest who may still have a problem (Better yet, give her the sedating Benadryl- things will probably be a lot more peaceful ! Wink!).


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November 16, 20090 found this helpful

I agree with mrs.story. All go to a restaurant and back to your place after. Announce it as a great idea. Be sweet and agreeable but stick to your guns. You and your husband have Thanksgiving together. Wonder if you could talk to your husbands aunt- perhaps she's had enough of trying to please everyone! Seriously, good luck and God help you.
Marg from England.


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November 16, 20090 found this helpful

Wow! Well, first and foremost you and your hubby are now your own family and you both need to put your foot down now or you both will be miserable at every holiday! Either cancel the dinner and tell both families you've decided to have your first marriage Thanksgiving alone together or shrug your shoulders if one or both sets of parents choose not to show up! Once you get through this holiday I suggest this for all future holidays is 'Rotate'! One holiday at one parents home, the next holiday at the other parents home and the next holiday at your home. If they choose not to come to your home so be it! The most important advice to both you and your hubby, "United you stand, divided you fall!" Under no circumstances should you spend holidays apart to appease anyone and that includes moms and dads!

November 16, 20090 found this helpful

All I can say is good luck and God bless you! Unless you both stand up to his mother etc. you will pay forever!

November 16, 20090 found this helpful

Been there, done that, got the tshirt! Your house, your rules (smoke outside only) but keep cats put away in guest room, enlist mil to "help" with predetermined chores (preparing salad, etc), limit time you entertain to 3 hours if possible. My mil responds to requests for advice and help marvelously - even if you don't take it she will feel loved. You can offer your mom a treat like lunch together on Black Friday to decompress! Good luck! (One year we did beg off and go away alone for thanksgiving weekend...)


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November 16, 20090 found this helpful

One thing I've learned is that if its possible, always keep your cool and the childish unattractive behavior will always be from her and not from you. so you will be the one that always looks good. Why don't you ask - with your husband present - what your mil wants to do? If its unreasonable, then its up to your husband to sort out his mum. If she can come up with a good idea, then go for it. You could always spend thanksgiving with your mil and mention that it would be only fair that Christmas will be with your mum but she is welcome if she want s to join you, but discuss all this with your husband first before hand and see if he is ok with it. Just my humble opinion.


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November 16, 20090 found this helpful

I know Thanksgiving is supposed to be about family, but there is something to be said for the quiet holiday alone! A couple of years my husband and I had our holiday by ourselves and they were the best we've had. It was like a gift of a free day given to us and it was so peaceful. I miss them. Now we deal with the mob scene at another relavtive's and I can't wait to get back home!

November 16, 20090 found this helpful

I didn't have time to read all the responses so I don't know if this was already suggested, but I would tell the MIL that you are having Thanksgiving. It is up to her to come or not. If she chooses not to, tell her your family will come to visit her the next day. Good Luck.

November 16, 20090 found this helpful

It sounds like you have more suggestions than you can shake a stick at. The most important thing is to start the way you plan to continue. If you are a doormat and let everyone else have their way this season, this time, this occasion, it will happen again, and again. You and your husband need to make some "rules" that you agree not to deviate from, then go forward with whatever plans the two of you decide. I can tell you, after many years of trying to please too many people, it boils down to you two together when everyone else is too old, too busy, or too something else, to take their time to even go to your house. So develop YOUR deep family ties, then you can weather it all.


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November 16, 20090 found this helpful

Your certainly have gotten a lot of feedback. Just realize that most of us have been in your shoes. When I was younger I'd try to please everyone. As I've gotten older I refuse to put up with all the drama. Tell everyone dinner is served at such a such time and everyone is welcome. Set you own rules and don't back down. You need to set the ground or you will have this problem every holiday, birthday, birth of a child and God knows what else. When you set your own rules and stand by them, they may not like it but they will respect you in the long run.

I used to go all out and everyone would wait up for dinner until my sister and her family showed up hours later. This same sister has burned numerous holes in my carpet with her smoking. I finally told her we're eating at a certain time and when her family finally got there the rest of us were on desert. She pouted for years when I finally told her and her hubby they'd have to smoke outside. But I'm no longer seen as someone's doormat.

Please don't let this fester. For years my holidays were dreaded and I was a basket case trying to please everyone and his brother. You cannot please both your Mother and your Mother-In-Law. Invite them both and whether they enjoy and get along or not is there problem not yours. And I have learned that holidays with extended families and in-laws are not all they're cracked up to be. The best times will be with your hubby and your future children so don't let anyone spoil that for you.


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November 16, 20090 found this helpful

I say have all parties meet at a restaurant and each person/s then pay for their own dinner/s.

Do not give into the MIL who admits to being a bully... stand your ground b/c IF you give in this time you will hate yourself and end up resenting your husband for not "handling his mother" for you...How do you ask and I will reply "Been there, done that for 37 years" of course, both sets of older parents are now deceased, but I still have the bad memories to contend with. Good Luck to you and let us know how you turn out!

November 17, 20090 found this helpful

Well, I agree with about 98% of the responses and they all really say the same thing. Make your plans invite who you want and leave the ball in their court. It sounds like your MIL would not agree with anything anyway so please take the advice given here and start your holidays off right, once they see you are serious and not playing those attention getter games and letting some one else control your life things will run smother with less stress.

November 18, 20090 found this helpful

This is the person having the problems with family from the original post. We decided to have Thanksgiving at our house. The MIL grumbled about it and asked my husband why my mom couldn't come over to her place. My husband just responded with we were going to have it at our place this year and she responded with "Whatever" in a rude tone. I will post later and let you know how things go with Thanksgiving. I'm sure I will be giving thanks that I don't live with the mother in law. :)


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November 18, 20090 found this helpful

Thank you so much, Frustrated, for sharing with us what you and your hubby decided and how you handled it! Not many people let us know the outcome of the advice they ask for so it was very kind of you to share :-) I am looking forward to reading about how Thanksgiving Day unfolded ;-)

November 19, 20090 found this helpful

Not a problem at all. :)

November 19, 20090 found this helpful

Just remember that no matter what happens with the extended family you and your husband are on the same team. Always communicate your feelings and don't fight about how the other feels. Try to be understanding and make a compromise if you disagree. You are sharing your family and love with them (your guests), not trying to sell it. Best of wishes to you. Rose

November 30, 20090 found this helpful

Hope your Thanksgiving went well! At one point I was a little annoyed by a relative and thought of you. :-)

November 30, 20090 found this helpful

Everything did go well with everyone. She didn't take anything and sounded fine the next day. She also didn't mention anything about being sick either. The only thing that we did differently was we did a better job vacuuming and vacuumed the couch. I think that must have been the couch because we didn't do that last time. I worked myself up so much that I made myself sick too. That was the only problem for the day. :) Thank you for all your advice and well wishes. Now I get to look forward to Christmas, well maybe. :)


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November 30, 20090 found this helpful

I am so happy that all went well for you and your hubby on Thanksgiving :-) Congratulations! Hey, and now that a good precedent has been set the future holidays should be a breeze :-) Thanks for letting us know :-)

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