Post # 1
Let me start by saying my future mother-in-law and I have a pretty good relationship. She has welcomed me into her home and her family and is never anything but sweet and loving to me. My fella has a very small family: mom, brother, moms sister and their family – that’s it. His father passed over 15 years ago and he doesn’t speak to anyone on his father’s side. She is very family centered and insists on splitting holidays on the day of, this obviously causes a problem as I would like to see my family too and can’t exactly split 1 day 3 ways without someone getting angry (my family, her family and then we have to schlep to her sister’s house for time with their family). Fella’s family is also incredibly hard to make plans with as since it’s always just been them, they come/go as they please. I am a planner, if I say I’ll be somewhere at noon, I’m there at noon. Over the years my fiancée and I joked that we’d love to spend a holiday alone, just the two of us. That conversation was something I banked away…until now.
Fella is turning the big 3-0 on November 17th. It’s a big deal and I wanted to do something very special for him. I was lucky enough to be able to afford a cruise to the Bahamas November 25th-29th which is Thanksgiving week (don’t worry, it’s NOT Carnival!). I picked this week for a number of reasons: the cruise line gave me a disgustingly low price (2 people, room with a balcony, $200 on board spending money for just around $950), I was able to use my saved Southwest points for the flight (making both flights FREE!) and we both only have to take off 3 days instead of 5. I booked the cruise back in February and will tell fella over dinner the night of his birthday that in a week we will be en route to Miami for an unforgettable Thanksgiving in the Bahamas. I couldn’t be more excited to give him such a fantastic gift and I know he will absolutely loose his mind with excitement.
I know I have to give his mom the heads up that we will NOT be in New York for Thanksgiving this year but I’m honestly dreading the conversation. I know I need to give her a fair amount of warning so she can make alternate plans but I don’t want to give her too much of a heads up so that she might accidentally spill the beans.
Post # 3
know how ya feel spliting holidays. Just tell her youve been planning this, and you and him needed time alone. You can come after and eat all the leftovers!! Dont wait to long to tell her tho.
Post # 4
My FIs family is similar. He’s an only child, we usually have to go to 2-4 places every holiday and if he misses a single family event the world ends (an they have big family events frequently, still do birthday dinners for every aunt, uncle, and cousin’s b-day). If it were me, I would sort of halfway spill the beans to FI. Tell him that I have something very special planned for that weekend out of town, but not tell him what it is. Then let him tell his parents.
If you are not so much of a chicken as I am you can tell FMIL directly. If she uses email regularly I would send a note saying that you’re out of town them for a special birthday trip, but you would love to set up a different time to celebrate with them. I opt for email because then she can’t instantly freak out or push back. It gives some time for it to sink in before she responds. Then when she does push back stay with short, sweet, firm answers. Maybe don’t give her too many details so she can’t tell FI about it.
Post # 5
Lay out all of the fantastic circumstances that converged to allow you to give your guy (her son!) such an amazing present for a milestone birthday. That way she won’t feel like you’re “blowing her off” for just any old reason. It’s to give your guy a well-deserved treat. She can’t begrudge him that, right??
And, since it sounds like you’d like a little more holiday independence in the future, don’t immediately offer to make it up to her (i.e., “and I know how much you’ll miss us, so we’ll come spend the next weekend with you!”). Just state that you won’t be visiting for Thanksgiving, because AWESOME REASON. She’ll probably pout, but if she starts getting fussy, just remind her that you’ll be there less than a month later for Christmas.
Let your trip test the waters for spending holidays apart in the future. If she survives Thanksgiving without you there, she might realize that she can relax a little bit. My FI and I take turns with Thanksgiving & Christmas; during odd years, we’re with his family for Thanksgiving and my family for Christmas. During even years it’s the other way around. Both families made the decision to celebrate Christmas (well, the gift-exchange part of Christmas) during the Thanksgiving celebrations, so we don’t really miss out on much. I can’t imagine having to split up the day between the two sides every year, although a lot of that has to do with our families living many hours apart. All of that running around sounds exhausting, and it means there are always things you won’t be able to do with one family or the other. Try telling your FMIL that you’d much rather spend ALL of Christmas with her every other year than have to worry about running around to different households. Go for quality, not quantity.
As for getting your FMIL to keep the trip a secret, can you tell her at the end of your last visit preceding Thanksgiving? So you and FI won’t see her again until you tell FI about the trip? How often does FMIL talk to FI on the phone or via email? Is she the type to keep a secret well? Maybe tell the aunt, and see if the aunt will “independently” arrange for all of the festivities to take place at her house instead of at FMIL’s, and then only tell FMIL once FI knows. Last-minute, yes, but she’ll already have plans to go to her sister’s house!
Post # 6
I wouldn’t tell her till just before…she sounds like she might accidentally/on purpose drop you in it….
Post # 7
Wow, knowing how his family is about holidays, I would have run it by him before booking over a major holiday. That being said, whats done is done. So you might as well let her know sometime this fall that you won’t be coming and that you have a (non-refundable) suprise planned for your FI.
ETA: I completely get how hard the holidays are (we both have divorced families and celebrate 6 different Christmases each year. We did claim Thanksgiving as our holiday at home- anyone is welcome to join us, but we don’t travel for it. And we try to host as many of the Christmases as we can so we aren’t carting out kids around the state for two weeks straight.)
Post # 8
My parents sound somewhat similar to your FI’s parents. They had issues when I moved an hour and a half away and couldn’t split families each holiday. If you were just staying home on the holiday to spend some alone time, I could see where she would be mad (not that you should be allowed to do so if you choose), but you’re going on a vacation together, and you’re both adults. I am sure that at some point your FMIL didn’t do stuff with her parents, and that she began to do things with her husband/the family she began to create. I’m not saying it will be a good conversation, and you should approach it however you feel comfortable, but I would be firm in saying, this is what we are doing, end of story. It doesn’t need to be blunt, and you can say it dripping with sweetness, but if she’s anything like my family, she will give you 1000 reasons how you could have the vacation but still make Thanksgiving, give you the guilt trip of a lifetime, etc. etc. You can be very nice and sweet and you can do it face to face or in an email, but she needs to understand that it’s happening, and if she wants to be mad about it, she can be mad all by herself. But like PP’s have said, you need to make sure she doesn’t ruin it “on accident” to get back at you if she’s angry. So if that means it needs to wait a little bit longer, so be it. Hope it all works out for you OP!
Post # 9
I would tell your FI sooner than the week before. It’s a great surprise, but has potential to go wrong (if he likes to spend holidays with family, she finds out, she tells him, etc.). Just not a fan of holiday surprises. Bonus then is he can tell her. 🙂
Post # 10
I should have included this:
Fella was previously engaged – he called it off about 2 weeks before the sham wedding (I call it sham because they were going to secretly elope because she was so much of a mess that she couldn’t pull herself together for a wedding and no one supported their union). His former had a terrible relationship with his momma bear. She has said 900+ times that she’s so happy he has someone like me and that she loves me and thinks we’re made for each other.
Also…I have a whole elaborate dinner scheme planned in which, at each course, the waiter puts a small plastic “tropical” themed toy on his plate (pineapple, dolphin, surf board) and he begins asking me what’s happening…finally leading up to my present which is a picture of us holding a sign at arm’s length and we’re kissing behind the sign – the sign reads “Happy 30th, Fella! We’re off to celebrate in the Bahamas in 7 days!”. I’ve already coordinated with my wedding photographer to pull the whole thing off while we take our engagement photos the week before his birthday.
@Kit_Kath: I don’t think I want him to have any idea about any part of the vacation though. I thought about hinting at a weekend away but I really want him to be 100% shocked.
@Laurengrapes: I don’t think she’d tell him on purpose, but accidently, yes! She really is a great person but she’s a bit of a scatterbrain at times. She is not a maniacal person by any stretch of the imagination.
@Phamnomenon: Fantastic advice! I know how important family is to her and I love that about her but I need her to understand that when babies come, things will change. Maybe this is a good way to ease her into the idea.
@ieatunicorns: Fella is MORE than excited to spend some holiday time alone – plus, I’m pretty sure the surprise would have been ruined if I asked him about any of it. I think once she wraps her head around it, she’ll be happy that her son has someone that loves him so much that they’d do something like this (not to pat myself on the back).
@SoccerBee86: We usually try to do dinner about once a month and I am slowly working up the courage to tell her face to face. She doesn’t email/facebook and I felt the conversation deserved a little more respect than a text saying “hey…86 us on T-day!”
Post # 11
Personally – I think this is a SUPER awesome idea and gift for you to give your man, and I would simply move forward with your plans to surprise the heck out of him as you explained. I would wait to tell MIL until closer to the ‘big reveal’ with the STRICT instruction that it is a surprise that he knows nothing about yet, and you want it kept that way (in a nice, polite way, of course). Start out by telling her you know how important the holidays are to her, and that it’s not your intention to make this a regular occurence, but given the incredible deal you got, coupled with the timing of his birthday, and the fact you are both already off work (if that’s the case), this was too good an opportunity to pass by, and really wanted to do something special for her son since he is so sweet & special to you. (Lay it on, girlfriend!)
I understand the whole holidays-are-important thing, but she needs to realize that her son (once married) will need to compromise and share holidays with your family in a reasonable, meaningful way that may not always result in him being there day long (e.g., if there is a couple hour drive in between, who wants to drive far after eating turkey!, etc.).
You also – as his wife – need to be able to make plans for you and your husband without having to check with mommy all the time, and without feeling guilty in doing so. That’s part of being a grown-up … making decisions, being responsible, and not requiring parental permission to do the things you want and work hard to be able to do.
And she needs to kinda cut the cord a bit … 🙂
Post # 12
I told her last night as we were all out to dinner (fella was in the mens room). She is THRILLED! She completely understands the need for doing it that week and is elated that he gets such a special present.