1. Michelle

    My Motherinlaw is always running late and it drives me crazy because I’m a very prompt person. My husband and I always split holidays between my family and his and then time to ourselves, and it never fails, his mom will tell us dinner will be at 5 but really it’s ready at 8 because she’s running “behind”. On Friday, my husband wanted to have dinner for his Mom for her birthday. So after work I rushed around to THREE different stores to get her a gift, dinner ingridents and a cake. I rush home and we get to work. Dinner was set for 5:30. She gets off at 5 and works 15 mins away from our house. At 5:40 I asked my husband to call and make sure she was okay. She told him she ran home to freshen up and was on her way. (I already am annoyed because I think that’s rude to not call and let us know) but whatever. At 6:30 we wrapped up all the raw chicken that was diced and ready to fry in the pan away in the fridge so it wouldn’t be out for too long. I ended up making my hungry 11 and 5 year old Mac and cheese. At this point I’m really annoyed. At 7:30 I cut her cake and give my kids pieces because I can’t expect them to wait any longer. She ends up showing up at 8pm. She doesn’t apologize or anything. Acts like that’s okay behavior. At this point I’m FUMING mad so I pretend to have a headache and go lay down. The next day she text messages me and asks me what she did to make me mad. I decide its time to let her know how her tradiness makes me feel, and she responds with “I figured that is why you were mad, I don’t let time dictate my day like you do, it’s not worth it. I had other things come up and I came when I could. Just like Christmas, I tried very hard to make a nice dinner but you didn’t see that before getting mad that I was late. Oh well, we don’t see eye to eye on this. I’m just surprised you would ruin another holiday for me.” This made me so mad! I told her common manners to call someone when you’re running late so they have a heads up on what is going on. Now, of course, I want nothing to do with her holidays which puts my husband in a bad place too. My husband doesn’t like it either but won’t discuss any issues with his mom. What do I do now?

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      For starters, your husband should always act as a go-between in conflicts between you and his mother. If his mother is being unkind to you, one of his duties as husband is to make it clear that he will not accept anyone mistreating his wife. She was rude by effectively blaming you for her extreme lateness, but you should not have told her she was rude. (Granted it was very stupid of her to ask a question she didn’t want to hear the answer to.) Your husband needs to tell her that you are sorry for what you said but that she owes you an apology for ruining your carefully laid plans and then criticizing you. Secondly, your mother-in-law is clearly never going to change so don’t plan around her. If dinner is supposed to start at 5 and she’s not there, serve it at 5:30 whether she’s there or not. When she shows up you can heat up leftovers for her. In the case of going to her home, if you have someplace else to be tell her when you get there “we have to leave by 7 to go see my parents.” When 7 comes, leave regardless of whether or not dinner has been served.

      • Kendra

        I wonder at your strict adherence to the idea of husband/son as go between. I agree completely that he needs to step up and support his wife, but I do think the wife has a right to discuss things directly with any individual she chooses so long as its done in a respectful manner. It seems that for this to occur ” Your husband needs to tell her that you are sorry for what you said but that she owes you an apology for ruining your carefully laid plans and then criticizing you.” it just opens up the floodgates for more miscommunication, would it not?

        I think a reasonable and yet effective medicine might be to opt for restaurant endeavors for a bit. Holidays may be less doable and in which case yes just plan accordingly with all the facts you have and protect your boundaries and family. But for her next birthday, offer to take her out. I know you and your husband will certainly want to celebrate (at least a year from now you might be willing!) and a restaurant puts the premium on timely attendance. I foresee 3 options: she shows up, she’s late and you all eat without her, or she’s late and you’re not allowed to be seated without your full party in which case she will feel very badly for having at least inconvenienced her grandchildren. No matter the outcome I find behavior alters dramatically when made public. Taking it into the public sphere might help her to take responsibility and make the dynamic less of a shame-game between the two of you.
        You need a united front in your own home, working from that place you have the right to decide how your family is treated and what you will engage with. Best of luck, tough stuff!!

        • Winifred Rosenburg

          The reason I think her husband should apologize on her behalf in this case is this MIL seems to have a tendency towards picking fights. If Michelle says she’s sorry, her MIL may take that as an excuse to point out what she considers to be Michelle’s faults. Under those circumstances, many of us would have a hard time not arguing back, defeating the purpose of the apology. Often mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationships are complicated because DILs generally want to impress their MILs. Some MILs will abuse this desire and walk all over their DILs and fail to see where the line is of what is acceptable behavior, and unfortunately when DILs speak up MILs often decide DIL is wrong and just doesn’t understand how their family works. This is why it is important for the husband to step in and show his family where the line is and that they will have to answer to him if they cross it.

          • Michelle


            I completely agree with you. I wish my husband would intervene. I think it was completely inappropriate for her to text message me the way she did in the first place. My sweet husband is non-confrontational which makes situations like these worse. It will be difficult for me to move on from this without his intervention, especially because she said I “ruin” all her holidays because I cannot wait several extra hours for her!

    • Vanna Keiler

      I would like to weigh in on Michelle’s question: In my opinion, it is bad etiquette and bad courtesy, to not arrive on-time for ANY event to which one has been invited. In particular, those where meals have been prepared. MIL is attempting to turn the tables on everyone else except herself. Whether husband or Michelle point this out to MIL is irrelevant: MIL already knows this and is seemingly “ok” with keeping people waiting.

      The question now becomes: do you want to (1) keep the peace and let her continue to inconvenience you as part of her “package”, or (2) turn the tables on her, as others have suggested, and no longer wait for her, or (3) cut down on the get-togethers? Regardless, you are dealing with a person who is pushing her weight around, because she knows she is a meaningful and important part of your family. Perhaps a fourth option would be to point this out to her, tell her you wish all of you could spend more time together, but that sadly, it looks like due to scheduling issues it will be less likely in the future.

      • Michelle

        Thank you to everyone who has responded! This has been a tough experience for me. I agree what it is bad etiquette and bad courtesy, especially when you are the guest of honor!! I was raised to be on time, and to phone if I was running late. She never apologized to me (and come on, even if you’re not really sorry, pretend to care) and basically told me that she can’t let the clock run her life. Unfortunately for her, I am a very scheduled person, and I make several appointments/commitments between myself and my children that I cannot adjust my schedule for hours for her (little tummies can’t wait until 8pm for dinner) I think I will attempt to move on without her. I think since I know she is always late I will give her an additional 1/2 hour for each thing and then carry-on without her. If she isn’t willing to at lease try to be on time, I cannot let that affect my life.

    • Elizabeth

      I agree that you and your husband need to present a united front on this issue. The main problems is that you allow her to dictate your plans and your day, and you naturally become frustrated when she’s late. But she hasn’t suffered any consequences for her lateness, so she really has no incentive to change.

      In the future, don’t wait for her to eat, don’t wait for her before you leave to go to X event. When you issue the invitation, say, “Mom, we’d love to have you over for a Mother’s Day brunch. Brunch will start promptly at 12:30.” Then, she’ll either show up on time, or she’ll arrive at three to find brunch eaten and gone, and that she’s completely missed the party. Schedule something with the kids immediately afterwards, so that you’ll be out of the house (or just leaving) when she arrives. If she’s late for a restaurant dinner, by all means, start without her (whether she’s the guest of honor or not). After a couple of times of missing out, she’ll learn that the world does not wait for her.

      I don’t think you or your husband necessarily needs to confront her, just modify your policy for how you treat lateness. Don’t do it to teach her a lesson, do it because you’ll feel better, more sane, and back in control of your own schedule.

  2. Sonya

    This is a separate post from the one above.

    I am in a domestic relationship for 7 years. My partner has two children.

    The first child graduated two years ago and my daughter and I were not invited to the graduation nor party. At the time we were both very hurt and dissappointed – but eventually let it go.

    Now the second child is graduating, whom we are both closer too, and again neither one of us has been invited to the graduation nor after party. We are feeling a bit hurt again. I tried to bring it up with my partner – but he evades the topic as best as possible – it is a sore subject…

    A few months ago my partner suggested we take a trip together – but I refuse to book/pay for such a trip to celebrate since we are not included. Is this wrong? Is it horribly wrong to forgo any gift and what is the proper way to handle the days as they arrive without seeming super p.o.’d?

    • Kendra

      Where is your partner in all of this? “sore subject” is no excuse for any family member to be allowed to hurt others.
      What is the point of doing a family trip together when by the sounds of it some members don’t wish to mingle – Is he looking at the trip as a moment to come together, or glossing over the trouble?
      I think you have a right to be hurt and teach your own child about boundaries regarding how we let other people treat us. But I also believe you are the adult in the dynamic and must be careful to not come from a vindictive place with this all.
      It sounds like you’re all in need of some bracing communication. You with your partner, him with his children and if possible him with yours and you with his.
      This stuff is incredibly tricky — give people the benefit of a doubt (as a child of this dynamic trust me when I tell you there are more pressures placed on these children than you can conceive of) but also stand up for what’s right for you. It’s all a teaching moment when there’s kids involved and often with the grownups too.
      Good luck!!

    • Alicia

      Who is hosting the graduation party is it the other parent, your partner, or the kid? If the other parent well do not blame your partner this is likely the other parents refusal to acknowledge you. Likely the kid is being torn between their parents and needs your support. If your partner hosting that is totally different. I think instead of feeling bad about this you should forget about this party and host a second graduation party for the kid and a few of their friends. Something simple like pizza and cake would be lovely. Be the bigger person and teach your daughter and this teen to be the bigger person in life.

  3. Jody

    I can understand your frustration, but I can see room for “improvement” on both sides here. Your MIL should definitely have called if she knew she was running late (or knew she couldn’t make the stated time). On the other hand, if this has been a long-standing problem, your husband and you should have discussed it with her earlier. Hindsight is 20/20 and you need to look at what to do from now on, as you say at the end of your query.

    For dinners where you’re the host, continue to set the start time or dinner time. If your MIL is running late and hasn’t arrived by a reasonable time (say 20 minutes?) after the stated start time, go ahead and start without her. You know that she usually runs late; if she realizes that you’re not going to hold things up for her any longer she might make more of an effort to be on time. If she can’t be on time, maybe she’ll start saying “I can’t make X time but I can make Y time, will that work.”

    If the tardiness persists for dinners/events that she hosts, there’s not much you can do about it other than to eat something beforehand. If the dinner is on a school night, you can let her know when you accept the invitation that you need to leave at X time because of school (or other obligations) the next day.

    • Michelle

      Jody — I understand that, but she is a very confrontational person, so it makes having a “normal” conversation with her a little difficult. I am hoping that if anything “good” comes from this mess, it is that she will try harder to make it on time, and I will try harder to understand that she can’t make things on time. I think I will host a lot less for her, and I will definitely try telling her that we must leave at X time BEFORE we get there.

      Thanks for your help!

  4. Cyra

    Hi Michelle,

    I completely understand your frustration both as someone with an obsessive sense of time and as someone with family members with a “flexible” relationship with etiquette. I’m trying to learn to accept those I love for who they are while maintaining boundaries that keep me sane.

    In your situation I would suggest just trying to keep the peace, especially since you have children who should be able to develop their own relationships with their grandmother without being influenced by your frustrations. So if you’re going over to dinner at her house, just know that it’s going to be an all-night affair and plan accordingly. I would also suggest not inviting her to your own house for dinner again but coming up with others ways to celebrate her that will not cause you anger (and yes, I would also be furious in that situation!). “The kids made you a birthday present, will you be home Saturday afternoon for us to bring it to you?” That sort of thing.

    I hope this is helpful.

  5. Cyra

    I have a question of my own today!

    I sing with a semi-professional choir in my city and I’m wondering how best to invite people to my concerts. It’s pretty easy to post a “Hey! In you’re interested, our next concert is ….” on my Facebook wall, but is there a polite way to bring awareness to specific people? Or should I just keep my “invitations” general since I’m not planning on buying people’s tickets?

    • Chocobo

      If you aren’t purchasing the tickets, I would keep invitations informal and simply informative. You can invite specific people in person, but it would still be along the same lines as a Facebook invitation: “Hey Sally, I’m having a concert on Saturday with my group, feel free to come if you like!”

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      It’s fine to invite specific people. Just be clear by saying something like “I’m singing with XYZ Ensemble on Saturday at Lincoln Center. Tickets are $A if you’re interested, I would love it if you could come!” I’m a musician, and I invite people to concerts all the time with Facebook events and other means. People continue to request to be informed so I don’t think anyone minds.

  6. Haley

    Hi all-

    I am a bride-to-be and my Maid of Honor is hosting a bridal shower for me next month. We invited two of my future mother-in-law’s close friends (she calls them “sisters”) that I knew couldn’t attend because they live out-of-state, but I thought they would appreciate being included nonetheless.

    I didn’t think people typically sent gifts to a shower they couldn’t attend, but the two “sisters” immediately purchased gifts from the registry after receiving the invitation (which was very nice of them!). The items purchased are a bit more expensive than what I would expect for a shower, so I don’t know whether to consider them gifts for the shower or for the wedding. Wedding invitations have not gone out yet, though we sent Save-the-Dates several months ago, so I wouldn’t expect to receive wedding gifts yet.

    It only matters because it would somewhat dictate how I thank them. If the gift is for the shower, I want to mention that- that I missed seeing them, that everyone ooh-ed and ahh-ed when I opened the package, and that sending a gift was going above and beyond. But labeling it as shower gift might give the (wrong) impression that I’m also expecting a wedding gift later. Plus, shower gifts are ostensibly to the bride alone, while wedding gifts go to the groom as well. Since they are his mother’s friends, my fiance should jot something down on the thank-you notes too if they are meant for both of us. Also, waiting to send a note until after the shower means that about 6 weeks will have passed between the time the gift was received and when the thank-you note is sent. It’s not egregiously late, but not ideal if not meant for the shower.

    I know that the easy solution is to not mention the shower and just thank them for the gift generally. But I’m curious if you all have thoughts or would do it differently?

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      It sounds like it was intended to be a shower gift, considering it followed the shower invitation. If they decide not to give a wedding gift because they gave an expensive shower gift, that is their business, and you have no control over it. Your responsibility is just to thank them for the gift. Your fiancé does not need to jot something down on the thank-you note. Either of you can write the notes and just mention something about the other in the note, e.g. “John was so excited to see the coffeemaker, being the coffee lover that he is!” (This applies to wedding thank-you notes as well.) You can also mention in the note something like, “We were sorry you couldn’t make it to the shower, but hopefully we’ll see you at the wedding!”

    • Alicia

      Wedding or shower gift either way send the thank you note ASAP. In either case either you or your husband can write the notes and can mention the other in the notes. ie Oh what a lovely toaster this will be very useful for out mornings together spouse to be just loves bagels for breakfast.

      • Clara

        I’ve never understood why shower gifts are considered for the bride alone. I always address the card to the bride and groom–as I presume the groom will also be using whatever items have been purchased.

  7. Amie

    My daughteris turning 8 and she would like to ask her birthday party guests to bring a food. Donation for a local pantry and something small for the birthday girl. We have tried to explain that this may be in poor taste. Any suggestions on how to word the invite?

    • Alicia

      You know that it is in poor taste and still want to word the invitation to reflect this poor taste???
      Just invite the kids to the birthday party. If daughter wants to get involved in food bank then she should separate from her birthday party do say extra chores to earn money to donate to food bank or go volunteer at the food bank say sorting cans. Or since she is likely to be getting a bunch of new toys this may be a great time for her to go through her toys and figure out which ones she wants to donate to charity.
      But no mention of gifts is ever made on an invite and absolutely no asking for two gifts one for her and one for the food bank.

    • Elizabeth

      I agree. Leave any mention of gifts off of the invite, and think of other ways for your daughter to get involved with charity work.

    • jellybelly

      I think it is wonderful that your daughter wants to make a difference. I would not discourage this because of ‘poor taste’ – how is caring for other ‘poor taste’?
      However, I do not think you should put on the invitations to bring food AND a small gift. I would try wording like, ‘Jenny wants to help others while celebrating her big day! We will be collecting canned goods for the local food pantry in lieu of gifts.’

      • Alicia

        Caring for others is not poor taste but asking friends into donation is not caring for others. It is failing to care for friends and expecting others to care for poor not self. it is actually asking nothing of the 8 year old but too much of the other kids and their parents. It is great to help people but she should do it not ask others to do so. No gifts are never mentioned on an invite including gifts to charity. If she wants to give to food bank she should do so not ask her friends to do so. Perhaps skip party and spend money as donation to food bank. Volunteer or give of own items.

  8. My fiancee’s son dies a couple of years ago, we are having a small wedding ans a friend of his is representing him as the best man, would the progeam say: On ZBehalf of __________ ____…or how would we word it so we can include my fiancee’s son in the wedding program? Thank you for any help you can give me!

  9. Alicia

    How about something like the following at the end of the program. ” In loving memory of Jim Jones ( sons name), Sarah Jones ( other relative that has passed away, John Smith ( friend or relative that has passed away) and all other loved ones that we wish could have been here today”

  10. Cyra

    Hi Cristie,

    My condolences to your fiancee. I would suggest “In memory of…” or “In loving memory of….” To me, “On Behalf of” implies that the son was out of town or something of that nature and unable to attend.

    Best wishes for your marriage!

  11. Comaaz

    My brother called the other day, and before we started into the conversation, he declares “you sound tired.” I expressed that I thought it rude to say that as a conversation opener. He feels differently.
    Any thoughts? It seemed to me, similar to saying someone looks tired…

    • Elizabeth

      I think of ‘looking tired’ and ‘sounding tired’ as fairly different comments. It’s easy to understand ‘you look tired’ as equating to ‘you look bad’. But I think of ‘sounding sick’ or ‘tired’ or ‘hoarse’ as pretty objective and also something that doesn’t translate into anything insulting. (I don’t think it’s insulting to be correctly identified as tired or sick, though.) Usually if I sound tired or sick, it’s because I AM tired or sick. I think your brother mentioned it because he noticed it, and perhaps wanted to give you an ‘out’ of the conversation. You could have said, “Yes, actually I am. Do you mind if we talk tomorrow?” or “No, I’m feeling pretty energetic actually.” or “Yes, I’m a bit tired, but I really want to hear how your vacation went.” etc. I’m not sure what the perceived insult was for you…

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