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Old 23.12.2010, 19:13
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Struggling with in-laws

Here it is, time for gift giving again and... m-i-l once again buys something for us to give to hubby's nephew.

This brings to the fore something that has been plaguing my heart and brain for the past few months:
I want to go home. This is not my home. I do not fit in here and apparently I never will.

The reason? I actually LIKE thinking for myself. I LIKE giving people my time and doing things for them and giving them things that came from MY heart, that took MY time and MY ideas to make or get.

The thing that triggered it though is sort-of long standing. My sis-in-law is pregnant, my m-i-l is overjoyed... why was it such a shameful thing when I was pregnant that my hubby couldn't even tell her and ask her for her help when I was having a miscarriage?

So, back to the present thing as it is the proverbial straw. M-i-l calls hubby to describe what she got for us to give. In the past 2 Christmases (and various birthdays) that I've been here, I've ALSO gotten something for my nephew and gotten something for hubby's brother and his wife. I asked if it causes a problem when I buy / make things to give them myself and he said YES. W T F!!! Hubby says that he and his brother have agreed that they'll not exchange presents. On one hand, I can understand that, on the other hand, the family is not large. MY family with 5 "kids," three of whom now have kids of their own... we do not exchange gifts as it got to the point of being actually expensive. With hubby's "tiny" family (he and his bro, each married, only the one next gen kid) though, it's really not that big a deal AND something small (inexpensive) that is thoughtful is good... hubby says no.

I don't even care if I don't get anything from them, I was brought up that if you are going to someone's home for any reason but particularly for Christmas (s-i-l is hosting Christmas dinner), you DO NOT show up empty handed. It simply isn't done.

So, on top of the baby stuff, now I've got this that makes me feel like it is somehow wrong to be myself. I feel like no matter what my family traditions and customs are, it doesn't matter... it's all about hubby's family and how they want things done.

I want to go home.
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Old 23.12.2010, 19:36
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Re: Struggling with in-laws

i hear you; that would make me feel the same. honestly; give your present and just say, i know how y'all feel about not exchanging, but you know me, i just love being able to pick out something for my favorite swiss nephew and i saw this and wanted to get it. blahblahblah. before throwing it all up and leaving, don't wait for them to allow you to do your thing, don't even tell them, just do it! and how can they be upset with your desire to give a gift to a child, but if they do, oh well. i think it's time you become yourself again and do as makes you happy, i'm sure they'll be appreciate in the long run that you are happy being involved in the family as such, or they if they aren't it is just too bad for them, at least you tried to show your spirit and generousity as you know how.
sending strength to you mama!!!
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Old 23.12.2010, 19:45
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Re: Struggling with in-laws

Hi Peg
Lot's of things here - will try to be relatively brief and not too flippant.
First of all, many of us feel we don't fit in here and wish for something or some place else - but going backwards isn't the answer -- must always look forwards. What we left, may not be quite as we remember.
The Swiss love to help -- it's in their genes -- they get off on this (they haven't worked out that "HELP" is a question: "Can I help you?/Can you help me?").
Look at it like this: Swiss boy scout must do his good deed for the day and sees the old man standing at the side of the busy road. Grabs his arm and despite the old man's protestations, helps him across the road. Boy scout walks away, pleased as punch; old man looks back from where he's come, and thinks ".. there goes my frigging bus.."
That's just how it is here - it's a land of paradoxes - they smile nicely and say "Guten tag", as they turn the knife slowly in your back. Unfortunately you seem to have it worse than most.
Christmas here seems to be predominantly for the kids (which IMO is right - I don't want people stressing out at the last minute, racing around, just to get me some tat that I don't want or need), so as a rule adult family members only exchange token gifts, if at all.
Wait until the new year, but you have to get this out in the open, and set some ground rules with the m-i-l. -- hard routine, and don't expect miracles, but hopefully you'll feel good (in the short term, at least). And kick your hubby up the jack-see, and get him on side -- he's already lived with his mother -- but he's living with you now.
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Old 23.12.2010, 20:02
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Re: Struggling with in-laws

Oh Peggy I'm sorry
You're completely right, you have the right to make/buy your own gifts.
Don't lose yourself in the meanders of somebody else's world.
Certainly your s-i-l will love your gift, especially if it comes just from you.
Hugs my dear
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Old 23.12.2010, 20:21
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Re: Struggling with in-laws

Don't get bogged down in all of this bollocks, the nephews are your relatives now by marriage & they, you can be sure, will appreciate the gesture, just do what you want.

I'm sure you also have to deal with MIL making most of the Christmas arrangements too so just let her get on with it, a lot of us who marry Swiss also have to take a back seat but in many cases without us, their lives just wouldn't be the same as we are the unsung heroes having to put up with adult childishness & pettyness.

Come the new year though, that man of yours needs to choose you or life without you, he can't have it both ways. She will never change but maybe he might if you should choose to have some time away from this ridiculous life you lead here. You are better than all this.
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Old 23.12.2010, 20:26
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Re: Struggling with in-laws

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Here it is, time for gift giving again and... m-i-l once again buys something for us to give to hubby's nephew.

This brings to the fore something that has been plaguing my heart and brain for the past few months:
I want to go home. This is not my home. I do not fit in here and apparently I never will.

The reason? I actually LIKE thinking for myself. I LIKE giving people my time and doing things for them and giving them things that came from MY heart, that took MY time and MY ideas to make or get.

The thing that triggered it though is sort-of long standing. My sis-in-law is pregnant, my m-i-l is overjoyed... why was it such a shameful thing when I was pregnant that my hubby couldn't even tell her and ask her for her help when I was having a miscarriage?

So, back to the present thing as it is the proverbial straw. M-i-l calls hubby to describe what she got for us to give. In the past 2 Christmases (and various birthdays) that I've been here, I've ALSO gotten something for my nephew and gotten something for hubby's brother and his wife. I asked if it causes a problem when I buy / make things to give them myself and he said YES. W T F!!! Hubby says that he and his brother have agreed that they'll not exchange presents. On one hand, I can understand that, on the other hand, the family is not large. MY family with 5 "kids," three of whom now have kids of their own... we do not exchange gifts as it got to the point of being actually expensive. With hubby's "tiny" family (he and his bro, each married, only the one next gen kid) though, it's really not that big a deal AND something small (inexpensive) that is thoughtful is good... hubby says no.

I don't even care if I don't get anything from them, I was brought up that if you are going to someone's home for any reason but particularly for Christmas (s-i-l is hosting Christmas dinner), you DO NOT show up empty handed. It simply isn't done.

So, on top of the baby stuff, now I've got this that makes me feel like it is somehow wrong to be myself. I feel like no matter what my family traditions and customs are, it doesn't matter... it's all about hubby's family and how they want things done.

I want to go home.
Tough situation. I would get each of the women one-on-one and tell them that you were brought up to bring some kind of small gift and that you feel awkward not doing so. Give them a small gift - only between the two of you. Tell them that they should in no way feel obligated to give you something, because they have already given you so much. Watch their body language closely and if they seem reticent, make sure you tell them that you wanted to do this just this once, and then go by their rules in future. Men are less interested in giving gifts and usually don't want to go through the effort of buying a risking that they buying the wrong thing.

My impression is that it isn't your husband's family that sets the rules - it is his wish not to diss his mother and somewhat your fear of doing the wrong thing. Relax.
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Old 23.12.2010, 20:37
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Re: Struggling with in-laws

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Tough situation. I would get each of the women one-on-one and tell them that you were brought up to bring some kind of small gift and that you feel awkward not doing so. Give them a small gift - only between the two of you. Tell them that they should in no way feel obligated to give you something, because they have already given you so much. Watch their body language closely and if they seem reticent, make sure you tell them that you wanted to do this just this once, and then go by their rules in future. Men are less interested in giving gifts and usually don't want to go through the effort of buying a risking that they buying the wrong thing.

My impression is that it isn't your husband's family that sets the rules - it is his wish not to diss his mother and somewhat your fear of doing the wrong thing. Relax.
Come on. If your landlord said to you: "OK, I have lots of rules but I'm not going to tell you what they are, you just have to live in my place & abide by them or your life will be hell" ..you would laugh, but that is how it can be if you marry into a Swiss family, she knows that. Better to try hard first to please them....then if you don't succeed, don't care at all.
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Old 23.12.2010, 21:18
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Re: Struggling with in-laws

Hi Peg,

I really hear what you're saying. Christmas can be a time of year when we so dearly miss our own homeland, traditions and family. My husband (who is Swiss) and I (and our 9 year old son) decided we'd spend alternate years in the UK and Switzerland for Christmas.

So when we are in the UK we do it in full English style - buy presents for all of the family over there - both my parents, my aunties, uncles, brother, sister, Brother in law, niece, nephew etc. We do Christmas on the 25th with a traditional English Christmas dinner and spend the evening playing games and watching Xmas TV with the family. It's a busy, hectic, full on but usually really great time.

When we are in CH (as we are this year) we do it "the Swiss way". And I have to really just drop all my expectations and comparisons. His mother, brother and step father (he has a small family) all live nearby. We have a child and live in a bigger place than they - but some years ago mum in law, said she didn't want to come to ours for Christmas eve because she has a dog.

So it's just the 3 of us and then on 25th we go to mum in laws. It's a very quiet holiday when we're in CH and that also has it's benefits.

In previous years I've missed my family and traditions so much that it's been really evident in my own mood and ended up spoiling Christmas for my hubby. We also don't buy presents when we're here (apart from for our son) - it's totally alien to my family in the UK - but it's how things are here with many families. My MIL is not controlling at all - she's almost the opposite, we never see her - and that can sometimes upset me, not least because I think it'd be nice for our son to see his grandmother more than a few times a year.

But because things are evenly balanced - we do the English way one year and the Swiss the next, I just have to drop my own expectations and go with how it is here. Just as my husband has to when he comes to the UK. This works well for us.

Anyway - the feeling you describe as being an outsider, you are not alone with that. See if you can maybe talk to hubby and agree to alternate your Christmas holidays between CH and your homeland??

Hugs to you,

Steph
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Old 23.12.2010, 21:44
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Re: Struggling with in-laws

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Better to try hard first to please them....then if you don't succeed, don't care at all.
This, right here.
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Old 23.12.2010, 23:17
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Re: Struggling with in-laws

Many, many Swiss have no gifts pacts for Christmas, other holidays and even birthdays, primarily because they don't want to get caught up and taken over by the world's worse consumer marketing exploitation ever, to which some Swiss's reaction can be extreme anathema. It may well be that their anathema and your upbringing now stand direct in opposition, so what can you do, either try to understand or stomp out.

It took me a long time to understand, but once I understood it was like a release from madness. It's not about rights or threats to your individuality, it just about respecting that different people, traditions, upbringing and societies are different.
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Old 23.12.2010, 23:30
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Re: Struggling with in-laws

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Many, many Swiss have no gifts pacts for Christmas, other holidays and even birthdays, primarily because they don't want to get caught up and taken over by the world's worse consumer marketing exploitation ever, to which some Swiss's reaction can be extreme anathema. It may well be that their anathema and your upbringing now stand direct in opposition, so what can you do, either try to understand or stomp out.

It took me a long time to understand, but once I understood it was like a release from madness. It's not about rights or threats to your individuality, it just about respecting that different people, traditions, upbringing and societies are different.
that may be true and i do like the anti commercial aspect of it, but a special little present for a child shouldn't be such a big deal, and why does the mil buy one for her? that's a bit controlling, i think. me, i let my mil deal with the cooking, thats her thang, but if there's something special, like a cake or a ritual that i like for a certain holiday, i still incorporate it. it's great to accept the different ways to celebrate and even that differs from family to family, but you don't have to give up the few things things that make a day special, it's your holiday too. it's hard to be the odd man out in a family like that, but just as you accept them and the way they do things, i really think they should do the same. or maybe it's time for your hubby to experience an xmas in the states
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Old 23.12.2010, 23:39
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Re: Struggling with in-laws

My heart goes out to you Peg, but unknowingly this is the life here with a Swiss partner, a bit like Cambodia half the country is magnificent, the other half is a minefield. Now I just say FUKM I do my thing, giving when and how I want, if they feel uncomfortable so be it. This christmas we have rented a room/hut for the family dinner, so none is really responsible for anything but my (tightassed) S I L has "organsised everything" so we bring desert and all the beer, wine and drinks, together with which wine, how much ect, I looked at the list and my wife and said "we haven't drunk that much in the last 3 christmases WTF" (very dry christmases I might add) but I do my thing I am generous with my friends and guest. If they feel uncomfortable with it FUCM.
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Old 23.12.2010, 23:53
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Re: Struggling with in-laws

Personally I think it's really quite sad to be faced with stress and worry about who should do what when and whether you're allowed to do xyz at Christmas time. It ought to be a time for fun and laughter and family. Poor you, it sounds miserable

I suppose I have it quite easy as my husband and I are both British so whether we are here or there we do things the English way with turkey and presents on Christmas Day and all. But I have to say since my sons have both been in Swiss school / daycare it's been harder to be different - because of course all their friends are talking about what they are going to get on Christmas Eve and he says he won't get anything.

I think when two cultures join together e.g. in marriage, then it ought to be a joining of the traditions where everyone brings their own parts. Surely there ought to be the possibility to compromise somewhere and add a few of your traditions into things at this time of year?

I don't know about the gifts thing - I've never heard of not buying people presents. To me it seems quite sad. We all get each other presents and I love to do it. And I would feel pretty upset if I had nothing to open on Christmas Day too!!

Wanting to go home is something you need to think carefully about obviously - I find even now after being here 15 years I still have bouts of home sickness when I feel like chucking it all in and going back to blighty. In some ways I know I'd be happier - a lot of things would be easier - but then there are many other depressing things about the UK too (traffic, yobs, litter, plumbing that doesn't work etc.) so I try to remind myself of what the UK is like really without the homesick rose tinted specs.

I don't know what to suggest but if you're that unhappy about it the only way is going to be to talk it through with your other half - he's the one who can help sort things out here I think.

Good luck - and Merry Christmas
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Old 23.12.2010, 23:58
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Re: Struggling with in-laws

Tell them to write all of their rules down so that you don't do anything wrong. Tell them no adding rules later. That ought to keep them busy.
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Old 24.12.2010, 00:09
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Re: Struggling with in-laws

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Many, many Swiss have no gifts pacts for Christmas, other holidays and even birthdays, primarily because they don't want to get caught up and taken over by the world's worse consumer marketing exploitation ever, to which some Swiss's reaction can be extreme anathema. It may well be that their anathema and your upbringing now stand direct in opposition, so what can you do, either try to understand or stomp out.

It took me a long time to understand, but once I understood it was like a release from madness. It's not about rights or threats to your individuality, it just about respecting that different people, traditions, upbringing and societies are different.
Good points to which I would add that respect for different people and traditions should be reciprocal. I consider it inconsiderate for the OPs family to expect her to fit into some rigid family rule structure regarding gift giving and how to partake in the festivities.

Putting myself in the nephew's shoes it would be far more interesting to have a happy 'foreign' auntie who did weird things such as bringing me a gift at Christmas than one who sat their miserable because she was told to obey a set of rules regarding Christmas which she wasn't comfortable with.

Perhaps explain to the family that you were brought up not to experience Christmas as a set of rules and rigid behaviour but as a time of celebration and joy and that part of this is to let one's hair down just a little!

I have had similar experiences e.g. wife's father who upon receiving a Christmas gift from us just after we were engaged explained to us that he wasn't buying Christmas presents anymore. I wouldn't sacrifice my own cultural instincts and we persisted in gifting regardless. Some years on and he has finally caught on to the joys of gift-giving again and a parcel arrived today with a selection of neat little items. Didn't cost much on either side but the thought was much appreciated.

I wish you a Merry Christmas!
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Old 24.12.2010, 00:10
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Re: Struggling with in-laws

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I do not fit in here and apparently I never will.

I feel like no matter what my family traditions and customs are, it doesn't matter... it's all about hubby's family and how they want things done.

I want to go home.
I am so sorry to hear you feel this way. Holidays should be a happy time and yet I think for many the family politics spoils everything. Been there, done it.

Perhaps in the future you should plan to spend the holidays with your family back home.
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Old 24.12.2010, 00:20
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Re: Struggling with in-laws

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My heart goes out to you Peg, but unknowingly this is the life here with a Swiss partner, a bit like Cambodia half the country is magnificent, the other half is a minefield. Now I just say FUKM I do my thing, giving when and how I want, if they feel uncomfortable so be it. This christmas we have rented a room/hut for the family dinner, so none is really responsible for anything but my (tightassed) S I L has "organsised everything" so we bring desert and all the beer, wine and drinks, together with which wine, how much ect, I looked at the list and my wife and said "we haven't drunk that much in the last 3 christmases WTF" (very dry christmases I might add) but I do my thing I am generous with my friends and guest. If they feel uncomfortable with it FUCM.
Exactly.

There are MIL's all over the world who cause problems for their extended family & you could excuse every situation but here it is unique. Why?

..because in many cases they are heartless.

The OP just hasn't enough negative aspects about her to counter the sheer nastiness a Swiss MIL like this one is able to rely on it seems.

At the end of the day nothing beats the feeling of giving a gift (especially at this time of year) to children because it means everything to them. If you have to justify why you bought them a gift simply tell them the truth "I like to, it makes me feel good"..
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Old 24.12.2010, 01:26
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Re: Struggling with in-laws

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Here it is, time for gift giving again and... m-i-l once again buys something for us to give to hubby's nephew.....
...
The thing that triggered it though is sort-of long standing. My sis-in-law is pregnant, my m-i-l is overjoyed... why was it such a shameful thing when I was pregnant that my hubby couldn't even tell her and ask her for her help when I was having a miscarriage?....

So, back to the present thing as it is the proverbial straw. M-i-l calls hubby to describe what she got for us to give. I want to go home.
I can understand your misery and frustration completely! I think the M in l is totally out of line to be buying presents for you to give to the nephew. That is your decision and choice, not hers. Next time, suggest that she adds it to what she is giving the child, because you have already boiught/made something that will be from you and your husband ( smile sweeeeeetly , whilst saying it.) Do this away from your husband so as to not compromise his position - he doesn't want to get in any conflict and have to take sides with you,(his new family) or with his old family ( I presume)

If there is a family agreement to not buy gifts for adult members, then I would go with that....except it is never out of order to take a gift for the hostess if you want - perhaps a great bunch of flowers of a Xmasy pot plant would be a suitable compromise, or something you have made.

The keeping quiet about pregnancy thing: Hhhhmmm, is that your M in L's fault? Or is it an issue that your husband has? If the latter, think about how that can be resolved and don't take the anger out on your m in l.

Wanting to go home: Homesick: Especially normal at festivitiy times. Are there others from your country , whom you can make contact with over Xmas? If so, is it possible to get together with them, have your own homelike celebration and get rid of some of the feelings by sharing the frustrations. Cry with them to, if you feel like it.

Best of luck, and best wishes.
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Old 24.12.2010, 10:12
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Re: Struggling with in-laws

In my opinion it's not fair to "blame" your MIL for everything. From your post I gather that your husband has no issues with her buying the gifts for your nephew. It seems to be the way they always did this, her buying the presents. Have you talked to him?

Is this your first Christmas together? I am Swiss and yes, many families don't want to buy presents for each other once their adults but many do. That's a decision the family takes together. You (and your SIL) are also part of that family now. She is also "new" to this family. Why don't you talk to her and see what she thinks of that rule?

Why don't you talk to your husband and tell him that you want to buy the presents yourself? Tell him that this is important to you. I can understand that he does not want to "upset" his mother as this has obviously been the way they have done things for years. Men often don't like to buy presents so the "not giving presents" idea might easily come from the two sons and not the MIL. She obviously likes to buy presents otherwise she wouldn't be the one to buy presents for your husband to give to others...

You need to talk to your husband and tell him that you understand that he does not want to upset his mother but that by doing so he's upsetting you. You will have married you for a reason, meaning he loves you. So he's always hurting someone he loves, either his mother or your. Therefore it's not an easy situation but I get the feeling that you're not really talking to him and explaining that this is important to you but "blame" it all on your MIL which I believe is wrong.

Every family has it own traditions for special days and whenever two traditions come together there will be differences regardless of the nationalities involved. Therefore you always have to find a compromise, always, even with two Swiss families. You just have to talk to your husband and decide what rules you two will follow. Afterwards you inform the others accordingly.

Don't do it this Christmas though, wait until it's over and do it as a "new years resolution". Sit down with your husband and tell him what you would like to change. Don't tell him it's "wrong" what or how he does things but that you would like to do some things differently in the future because you were used to other traditions / ways of doings things.

Not turning up empty handed when invited is also common in Switzerland. I like the idea of flowers for your SIL. If your BIL doesn't want a gift, don't give him one but give your SIL something just as a "thank you" for all the trouble she had with preparations etc.

Sorry for the long post but I felt a bit sorry for the MIL as I believe this situation is rather due to lack of communication between you and your family (especially your husband) than because of your MIL. You might not agree with me which is perfectly fine but I just wanted to light another aspect of the story....
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Old 24.12.2010, 10:44
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Re: Struggling with in-laws

My MIL does not even have the heart to buy a present for my little 9m old.

Silly. And no, I do not have the nerve to stand it out or to tolerate it. Not because of my child, but I really think it's the most stupid thing one can do. To separate oneself in old age from the younger generation. Sometimes it's really hard to see through a facade. I do not care and go on with my OWN X-Mas tradition. MIL is invited out of courtesy, but I will not bend to my feet to make her and her whims happy.
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