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Joint birthday party

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LissaR1:
This is more of a "confirmation" than a real question- I just want to make sure I'm handling this right.

My husband and his father have birthdays three days apart.  They are also at the beginning of what I term "birthday season" at my in-laws' house.  From the beginning of August until Christmas, there are 11 birthdays.  One is no big deal (it's mine, and I'm a daughter-in-law so we don't celebrate it), but the other 10 are either their kids or the grandkids.  Plus, Christmas is at the end.  It's an expensive season, and my in-laws are very strapped for cash.  We know this because Hubby handles their finances.

For as long as hubby's older sister has been alive, my in-laws have done birthday parties.  They're not a big deal- it's the family getting together for dinner (the same menu every. single. time) and cake.  As far as the grandkids go, we've been able to convince my in-laws that it is the responsibility of the parents to throw the party, not their responsibility.  But when it comes to the adult children, we can't convince them of this easily.  The reason is that one of the guys is still single, and the daughter is married to a man that we all consider a waste of oxygen, who wouldn't lift a finger to celebrate his wife's birthday.  And then, the single brother has a brother that's a twin, so naturally they celebrate their birthdays on the same day, and hubby and father-in-law have birthdays three days apart, so we always combine those birthday celebrations.  These parties are family-only, and everyone's pretty much expected to show as long as it's feasible.

However, as a 32-year-old woman who's been married to her husband for almost 5 years, I feel awkward about my MIL throwing the birthday party, as you might guess.  I've offered to switch off years, but I think she feels just as awkward about me holding her husband's birthday party, which I can understand.  However, feeding 17 people is not easy on her budget, and she also isn't too keen on letting me help her with the cooking or anything.  Two parties is definitely a bad idea, because a.) hubby would prefer not to even bother with this, but knows he must, and b.) scheduling 1 party is hard enough.  In the past, I've bullied my way into bringing the cake.  I usually get an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen (although this year I'm going Cold Stone Creamery!), and everyone enjoys it.

I guess what I'd really like to know is does anyone have any other suggestions for things I could do to help my MIL out, and ways I could get her to listen?  My really big objection is that I do feel very awkward for not hosting my husband's own party, although I suppose it's not THAT big a deal since my BIL's wife is in the same position, and it's not like anyone hosts these little get togethers for our birthdays (which is FINE- trust me). 

caranfin:
Simply tell her that it's silly for her to be saddled with the parties every year, and you would really like to throw a birthday party for your husband, so this year *you* would like to be in charge of that one. As you said, her akwardness over you throwing a party for FIL is cancelled out by your feelings about never getting to throw a party for your husband.

shygirl:
Maybe you can show up early to help her with cleaning the house or decorating?  I would try to bully my way into bringing more of the food.

What would happen if you showed up to help her cook?  Would she refuse?

LissaR1:
I'm not sure how much I can help her cook.  The menu is always frozen meatballs heated in a slow cooker, rolls, chips, macaroni and potato salad which her husband helps her make the night before.   I have repeatedly- for every single family gathering- offered to make a pasta or potato salad (even following her recipe), and repeatedly been told no.  (Which is too bad, because she makes WAY too much and no one eats much of it.)  So, there's not much I can do to help cook.  Not much I can help do with the decorating, either, because she doesn't decorate. 

I could try to get her to let me bring the chips and rolls, at least- I'll try that avenue.  The thing is, my MIL is a very proud woman, and she takes my offers to help as affronts that she can't do it all, not as the simple courtesy that they're intended as.  I try to have her help when she comes to dinner at our house, but the truth is the biggest help she can be is keeping our son out from under my feet, and since she enjoys doing that she doesn't see it as helping.

I have only twice successfully gotten her to let me host- once for an Easter dinner, and last year for Thanksgiving.  We'd just moved into our house that Easter, so she let me have it to show off the house.  And last year I invited my parents down for Thanksgiving, so I had that leverage.  (And this year I'll be 9 months pregnant for Thanksgiving, so I'm not sure I can keep it going.  ::Sigh::)

It's very frustrating, because as I said, there are 17 of us when everyone gets together.  My in-laws live in a small duplex- it's not so bad in the summer, because the kids play outside, but it's very tight in the winter.  My SIL lives in a trailer that a.) is too small and b.) is SUCH a mess that I would never, EVER let my son in there and if it wouldn't cause so much trouble in the family, I would call CPS if I thought it would get her to clean it up.  (Seriously- nothing remotely against trailers, but hers really is that bad.)  My one BIL isn't married, and he lives with my other BIL, who lives in a larger house.  We also live in a nice large house with plenty of room for everyone.  Plus, my MIL is REALLY having trouble with mobility, and these gatherings are so much work for her.  And the worst part is on special days, when she hosts, she has NO time to spend with her grandkids, and she only realizes it at the end.  I always feel bad for her when she says, "Oh, Ducklet, I didn't even get to hold you on Christmas day!"  Plus, add in the financial aspect... ARGH!  I do understand that it's a pride and a love thing, but it's just such a frustrating situation, especially since I was raised totally differently.  My grandparents always came to us for holidays, and when I invited my Mom down for T-Day, she gleefully accepted and enjoyed her first T-Day in over 30 years where she didn't have to cook (although she did help me get the turkey ready).  So, very different family philosophies.

Whew!  Sorry about the vent!  This is one of those issues for me.

Minmom3:
Can you tell your MIL that you feel gypped that you don't get to host your husband's birthday party, and you want to alternate years with MIL?  I mean, you have some rights as her son's wife, right?  So, if you alternated, she could share the work and the 'feeling odd' about hosting somebody else's birthday party?   :-\

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