Here’s how to survive  Christmas at the in-laws’ when you’re trying to conceive. Beware! Fail to plan for this important festive schedule and you risk a nightmare Noël!

breaking point

How to survive Christmas with the in-laws

Things didn’t change much for Ciara and Sean after the wedding until …the festive season rolled round.  “The rules changed now we were officially a family. We had to show up together at events. Before, he went to his folks and I went home to mine,” Ciara explains,” Don’t get me wrong, his mum’s a darling and I get on great with her, but I love Christmas at home. I s’pose I just feel a bit of an outsider.”

Marriage is type of merger. It takes time. You’ve got to get to know people as individuals, and learn this tribe’s traditions, tastes and perspectives on life. Remember these people are your dearly beloved’s kin. They’ll be your children’s blood relatives. It makes sense to develop good relationships.

Love your in-laws

The bitch queen stereotype mother-in-law is more a comedy staple than a reality. I do hear a lot of my clients describe their feelings of not being quite good enough for their mil’s  son, and how he’s treated like royalty on visits home. He’s centre stage and she gets sidelined during festivities, a willing helper who always manages to get it wrong. “My mother-in-law acts like I’ve kidnapped her son and starved him in an attic. He’s a great guy, but believe me, he’s not the perfect angel she makes him out to be,” adds Ciara. “We laugh about it but he’s still her little boy when he’s there any length of time.”

Returning home makes us to revert to childhood. Watching your other half take on the role of mammy’s boy may be a bit much to take over Christmas.

The good and the bad

Chances are you only met the in-laws when you grew up – so there’s no embarrassing memories to replay. Meeting you as the fully-formed, sophisticated adult you’ve grown into, gives them a nice edge. They don’t treat you as a child because they’ve never known you as a kid. This can go both ways. With a bit of luck they’ll view you as the chosen mate of their offspring, deserving of respect and affection, rather than as a threat. However well you fit in though, the shared history is missing,  that comfortable familiarity and of course, the old shorthand banter and family jokes.

Christmas present

Here are my top tips for successfully navigating the nativity when you’re trying to conceive:

Sound bites –  Plan how much you divulge, and to whom, about your fertility status. People will notice if you avoid the pâte and stick to fruit juice. What will you say? More importantly, how will he handle it?

Stick to it – nothing worse than bitterly regretting a verbal diarrhoea over sherry, fostered in the intimacy and nostalgia of Christmas present. Or maybe there is… watching your other half sing like a canary, in the waterboarding of auntie’s razor-sharp courtroom questioning.

Spread it out – Festive lunches, leisurely brunches or frosty country walks in the lead-up to Christmas are a great way of spending time with family. There’s plenty of time before New Year to enjoy stress-free fun and fit in time with everyone.

Split it – His folks in the morning, your’s for the dinner – and change-about next year!

Switch it – If distance is an issue then you may negotiate an ‘every other year or two’ deal.

Separate – You’re not actually joined at the hip when you sign a marriage contract. Christmas is a marvellous stress-test for a relationship, so if you want to stay together, splitting up’s an option. He goes home and you chill with your family.

Set boundaries – Hang on! Where is home? Do you live together? That’s home for you both now. Why not gather the clans at yours? Or not.

Shrink exposure – guest appearances are, by their nature, brief. Visit, enjoy and leave. Cite other engagements, real or otherwise. Risk of inquisition is reduced and nobody can moan that you’ve snubbed them!

Slink away – if the thought of unsolicited helpful fertility advice and over-excited juniors is too much to contemplate this year, simply head away for the duration. A winter sun, a ski holiday or if funds are tight, consider house-sitting options abroad. At least you’ll have a tan to warm the cold shoulder welcome home.

Salute yourselves – Maybe your baby hasn’t arrived this year, and you’ve survived and enjoyed Christmas in spite of numerous baby announcements and side-eye. Take time for yourselves as a couple. Kick back, and make your own traditions.

Schedule treatment – it’s tough doing IVF over the holidays so maybe take a break and get started in the New Year.

Every Christmas is different and hopefully, you’ll have your small Santa stocking to fill next year.