Quick! Your father-in-law just called your husband, who just called you, exasperated, mumbling something about their last-minute Christmas plans changing and a red-eye flight arriving tomorrow. Don't fret; you'll live to see 2013 (unless the Mayans are right, and in that case, the plane carrying your precious in-law cargo will vanish overhead and boom - problem solved). In the mean time, enjoy 5 rule for surviving The Annual In-Law House Crashing.
Rule #1: Summon a maid service
The Reason: You're too busy with baking cookies, wrapping gifts and attending kids' Christmas programs to tackle the guest bathroom. The Real Reason: When your mother-in-law inevitably sweeps a gloved finger over the mantel and finds a speck of dust, you get to casually fluff your hair and mention how the maid must have missed it during her last visit, combatting all future passive aggressive comments regarding your lack of cleaning know-how. Backfire Potential Scale: 3/5, as you are possibly inviting an unwanted conversation about how, in her day, your mother-in-law managed to cook, clean, raise 7 children and win the PTA election - all while donning pearls and an apron. Choose your own adventure.
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Rule #2: Hang exterior holiday lights
The Reason: Guests expect holiday cheer to greet them upon arrival. The Real Reason: Your in-laws are planning to stay through Jan. 3rd, and this grants you an entire day alone, outside, removing the Christmas lights you've so carefully planted on your home's exterior. Backfire Potential Scale: 2/5, unless your in-laws enjoy manual labor and cold weather. If this is the case, they'll likely offer to help, increasing the backfire potential scale (and decreasing your alone time) approximately 3 points for annoyance.
Rule #3: Stock up on their favorites
The Reason: It's a nice gesture. The Real Reason: Keeping the in-laws well fed is the key to staving off well-intended insults about (a) you, (b) your haircut, (c) your career choice, (d) your domestic abilities, (e) the behavioral habits of your children, or (f) the family dog. Backfire Potential Scale: 1/5, as your in-laws' favorite culinary treats might overlap with your husband's favorite culinary treats, resulting in a lower stockpile and higher chance of morsel feuding fueled by hangriness (hangriness = hunger + angriness, a formula you should avoid at all costs).
Rule #4: Buy plenty of firewood
The Reason: There's no cozier time to gather around a roaring fire than on a quiet Christmas night with family. The Real Reason: Your menopausal mother-in-law will politely excuse herself for bed after experiencing repeated heat flashes for the duration of the evening. Backfire Potential Scale: 2/5, as you'll likely experience a few moments of heat-induced crankiness before she finally throws in the towel.
Rule #5: Gift them an adventure
The Reason: Action-packed Christmas gifts are the gifts that keep on giving. The Real Reason: "Oops! Those afternoon matinee tickets are only good for our local theatre? Gosh, what a mix-up. But hey, now you get to enjoy a break from our crazy family!..." Backfire Potential Scale: 3/5, as they might need to borrow your car for said adventure, inviting additional criticism from your father-in-law after he spots the 3-week-old french fry in your glove compartment.
- By Erin Loechner
For 7 things NOT to discuss at holiday gatherings, visit Babble!
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Erin Loechner authors DesignForMankind.com, honored as one of London Time's top 50 design blogs in the world. A new mom, her most recent successful venture is Design for MiniKind, a sister site for moms craving a daily dose of design.
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