Splitsville: My Ex’s Mother Calls And Begs For More Holiday Visitation

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Welcome to Splitsville. This weekly column will focus on parenting after a divorce, break-up or one-night stand that didn’t end like a Katherine Heigl movie.

And so it begins. Once the Santas and snowmen start hitting the stores, it’s time for separated parents everywhere to discuss the holiday calendar. Two adults, both with their own priorities and goals, begging and pleading for as much time as possible to fit in every holiday tradition with their kids. Those negotiations are intense and emotional, but hopefully you’ll come out with a workable plan that keeps both parents content and the kids excited about their busy schedule.

After all the deliberations and concessions, that’s when my ex’s mother, we’ll call her Sue, wants to get involved. By get involved, I mean she wants to call me and beg for her own special addendum’s to our ironclad contract.

Sue has been divorced. She knows the ins and outs of holiday calendars. She remembers this awkward dance of dates from when her son, now the father of my child, was a little boy. And she’s still bitter about having to share her family with the man she divorced decades ago. So every minute that my ex spends with his father, Sue wants to make up. Instead of arguing with her son, she figures it’s easier to call and guilt me into giving up a couple evenings or maybe a weekend morning.

In our personal situation, my daughter lives with me full-time. She sees her father very sporadically. She sees his parents even less so. So when it comes to the holidays, my ex’s extended family think it should be their turn to visit with my daughter. After all, my parents and grand-parents get to see her on a weekly basis. It’s only fair that we give up a little time in December to even things out, right?

Not if you ask my mother. On the other side of this argument, the side that calls me on a day-to-day basis, my daughter is extremely close to her relatives on my side. For them, it wouldn’t feel like a holiday without our little one there. And my daughter would be extremely upset to learn that she missed a special occasion with people who begs to see every night as we leave daycare. (Honestly, I can’t pull out of the drive-way without hearing, “Can we stop and see Mimi tonight?”)

Let me reiterate, this entire tug-of-war goes on after I’ve already worked through the same arguments with my ex. He and I try very hard to split holidays down the middle. We each try to take a weekend for tree trimming and holiday baking. We both need a morning to open presents. And then there’s always a day for side of extended family. If there’s more time available, then we can discuss the ways to share it. Over all, our focus has to be on giving both parents a chance to have an enjoyable holiday with our beautiful daughter.

Unfortunately, outside of our agreed-upon set-up, the negotiation turns into a have’s vs. have-not’s. It’s a battle for time, where one family loses and the other wins. We’ve had to make a very, very firm rule that each parent is in charge of keeping their own troops in line. Phone calls from my ex’s mother can never end well. They’ll either infuriate her or frustrate me. Or probably both. And just because my family is used to unlimited access to my daughter, it doesn’t mean that they are allowed to usurp anyone else’s time.

Sharing the holidays are not easy, and the more people involved, the more difficult it gets. If at all possible, try to keep the negotiations limited to the two parents directly responsible for ensuring that their child has a happy holiday. Then let each parent deal with their respective families as they see fit. That’s our plan. How do you deal with in-laws while planning your child’s holiday calendar?