General Etiquette > Holidays

Breaking the News

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Yes, I know this is six months ahead of time, but my family starts planning holidays EARLY.

My mother is widowed and the highlight of her year, every year, is having all of her adult children come home for Christmas. However, this year I've decided not to make that trip for several reasons. Flying across the country and boarding a dog over the holidays takes up almost an entire month's salary for me (I'm a grad student). Also, I haven't seen my dad's family, including my last surviving grandparent, in several years and promised my grandmother I'd fly across the country to yet another state to visit her for Thanksgiving (my mother will not attend that), taking up a considerable amount of money and time as well. Finally, my laboratory research is very delicate and needs attention 7 days a week. I can ask for coverage but I hate to use up favors over Christmas, assuming anybody would even be in town to help me out.

So, how to I break the news to my mother that even if she offers to pay for my ticket, I just can't make it this year?

Probably best to let her know that you've already committed to traveling for Thanksgiving and that it will not be possible for you to travel at Christmas time.

If you want, you can choose to blame work (I won't be able to get the time off).

If she tries to argue that you should change your plans at Thanksgiving, stick with a firm "that will not be possible."

At some point, you might just have to switch to "no."

Honestly, I'd tell her now. That way she's not working herself up for six months about how excited she'll be to see you and then suddenly you can't make it. Don't even mention the costs of plane tickets and boarding your dog, explain that you and the rest of your lab team have split up the holidays, and that you'll only have Thanksgiving free and you've already made plans with your father's family. Set it in terms of work and explain that it cannot be changed for anything because everyone else has already made their arrangements for the holidays. Will it stop her asking again and again in the future? Probably not. But at least it will set up the expectation early that you won't be there and that won't change.

I think it depends on your mother. Some people would treat 6 months notice as 6 months to try to change your mind (my in-laws are like this), in which case telling her at the last possible moment might be better for you.

Your best course of action is to tell her once (CWM has the best way to), and then tell her the topic is no longer up for discussion. I wouldn't even bean dip if she brings it up in conversations. It's probably going to be something she is going to gnaw on until Christmas is over. Don't feed the drama coming from her (and quite possibly your siblings if she is the type to summon the Horde), and you should be fine.


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