I was busy complaining to my girlfriend one morning about how I wished my husband would be more pro-active in planning get-togethers between his side of our family and our daughter. Somewhere between saying “I can’t believe he expects me to do one more thing,” and “I plan with my family, he should plan with his” she turned to me and said, “We’re the gatekeepers of our family. Our husbands may be the spiritual leaders, but we’re the leader of the family schedule“. [insert guilty stomach flop]. Of course we are. Why had I never thought of this before.
She recently attended a moms group at a local church where they discussed this very topic. It was such an eye-opening concept to me. On the ride home that afternoon, I started replaying in my mind the way I handle this subject and came to a really sad conclusion: I was doing it all wrong – I was keeping my daughter from half of her grandparents and then having the nerve to complain about it.
How many times did I plan an event around my family’s schedule before taking into account his? How many times do I plan our weekends home together around what I want? How many times have I said, “If they want to see her they just need to make plans with us,” or “If [my husband] wanted his parents to see our daughter then he should make plans with them”. But the reality is, I’m the stay at home mom, the one researching local festivals or signing her up for soccer while my husband tirelessly works upwards of 20 days in a row sometimes. It was my responsibility, and therefore my fault
Acceptance is half of the battle, right? So what was I to do now that I had realized the error of my ways?
I began to search my heart for the answers and here’s what I’ve come up with:
1. Remember they’re your family. When you entered into a union with your husband (or wife), you gained another whole family. Embrace the relationship, rely on them, and most importantly expect the best in and of them.
2. Don’t keep score. It’s impossible to always be fair. You could keep a checklist of the number of visits/activities/phone calls each half of the family has with your kids if you want, but that’s not fair to you (or your kids). Don’t force a relationship! Don’t be so hard on yourself that you force a situation, meeting, or visit when it isn’t the right time or doesn’t fit with your routine just for the sake of putting a big green “check” next to “visit with in-laws this week”. But do make sure you’re nurturing and fostering that relationship, even if it means an extra FaceTime this week because your house is a mess, your toddler’s a maniac, and you haven’t slept (or washed your hair for that matter) in 4 days.
3. Swap mamas. When questioning whether or not you should be inviting your in-laws to an activity, festival, or day at the beach, swap your own moms name with your mother in laws and see how you’d feel if your mom was the one not being invited. If you’d be offended, chances are your in-laws and your husband, will be too.
4. Just ask them. When in doubt, just ask them! You’re going to the beach but your in-laws don’t like the beach? Just ask them. If they don’t want to go, leave it up to them to choose. It’s better to be asked and given the opportunity to decline than it is to feel like you’re not wanted.
So the moment of truth: Does this work? They would have to be the one’s to let you know their feelings toward our reformed social calendar. But for me – the guilt has lessened with each date planned. It’s not a perfect system and most weeks my parents still see our daughter more frequently than my in laws do. But the scale has definitely tipped.
Having trouble putting these steps into action? Here are a few examples of what we’re trying:
Attending a family outing sans my husband, inviting ourselves along on a family trip to see out-of-town members of the family, and making sure the family know the times and dates for our mini’s first soccer season.
If all you can muster this week is a phone call, that’s still a step in the right direction. Remember Step 2 and don’t be too hard on yourself.
Comment below and tell me how you handle sharing your kids between family groups.
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