How to survive Christmas with your mother-in-law

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  • Do you struggle to get on with your mother-in-law, even at the best of times? You can bet it will be even more difficult at Christmas, when there are so many jobs to do and so much riding on it.

    The festive season is so awash with good cheer, it seems impossible that anyone would fall out – yet tempers do often boil over in spectacular fashion, causing long-lasting damage.

    Katy Rink’s book, Managing MIL, has some great suggestions for dealing with difficult mother-in-laws. We asked Katy to come up with a few pointers for keeping tensions at bay.

    1. Have it at home and don’t invite her
    Just kidding. You don’t get to do that, sorry.

    2. Roll out the red carpet
    Let her know she’s welcome. Don’t make her feel like the understudy; there only because your own mum couldn’t make it.

    3. Dust off the state rooms
    Give her the best bed; even if you have to sleep on a blow-up Lilo in the greenhouse, or squash in between great grandpa and the Great Dane.

    4. Housekeeping
    Clean sheets – need I say more? No turning them over and blowing off the short and curlies.

    5. Get your ducks in a row
    Print out Delia’s Christmas and learn it by heart. You don’t want to look like a rookie, now do you? Keep it downloaded in your pinny pocket for sneaking peaking.

    6. Seek advice but don’t hand over the reins

    She’ll need to feel she has an input but you should be the one in charge. You’re all grown-up now.

    7. Stick to your guns
    She’s slow-cooked the turkey at 50 degrees for forty years and no one died but don’t feel you have to follow suit. Tactfully defer to Delia and explain that you have it under control.

    8. Give her a job
    She’s driving you mad with a running commentary? Channel that enthusiasm into shelling sprouts.

    9. Don’t sweat the small stuff
    So your children choose to open stockings with her; they run into her room at 5am and not yours – that’s got to be a good thing, right?

    10. Cure with kindness
    Spoil her a little; tea in bed, thoughtful presents, lend her your scarf at the carol service – it all helps to keep the Christmas gremlin at bay.

    11. Chill in the air? Feign ignorance
    The tensionometer is well into the red by mid-morning? Quaff a swift glug of pudding brandy and remain resolutely oblivious.

    12. Call in reinforcements
    Aunty Mo is batty as a fruitcake but brilliantly time-consuming. Park MIL on the sofa with a sherry and an introduction…

    13. Dodge the bullets

    You are savvy enough to sniff a sticky topic a mile off; change the subject immediately. Don’t get into anything heavy; save it for Lent.

    14. Know your Alcohol Management Strategy (AMS)
    This could go one of two ways; she’s either drunk and emotional (hold the bottle) or sober and judgmental (top her up).

    15. Take time out
    MIL’s not so steady on her legs these days? Suggest a walk round the block. Or park her in front of Downton whilst you watch Sarah Millican on the kitchen telly. You could always go to bed early, with the Newberry Fruits.

    16. Don’t play the blame game
    It’s not MIL’s fault – everyone knows Christmas is no fun for grown-ups. You’re just differently wired, is all. At least the kids are having fun.

    Or, if you really must, then…

    17. Blame Santa
    For giving you unrealistic expectations.

    18. Blame your husband
    For getting you into this in the first place.

    19. Blame your parents
    For making childhood Christmases too darn good (admittedly, back then, you were happy with a blast on Hungry Hippos and a snifter of grandma’s snowball).

    20. If all else fails…
    Take it out on the turkey; stuff that old bird like a woman possessed, singing Ding Dong at the top of your voice and smiling like a loon.

    Managing MIL – You and your Mother-in-Law – for better, or for worse? were published by Peridot Press on November 18, available at

    This article was originally published on in December 2013

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