Do we have to have every Sunday lunch with them?

Dear Suzie, I am 33 and have a beautiful 9 month old baby with my partner of 2 years. When i bacame pregnant we have only been together 4months but since we both wanted a child and were happy together we decided that i should move into his home and live life as family.he is Italian and we live in Italy where his family live 50 km away and i’m from england and don’t have family here but many friends after living here 7 years. the problem is his life hasn’t changed as much as mine . He still has his hobbies , and complains when he doesn’t find time to carry them out and he insists on going every week to his parents for sunday lunch. Whilst i accept this I wish he would acccept that it isnt my custom to go every Sunday and maybe once in a while i’d like to cook at home or see friends on Sunday instead of having this obligation which i’m beginning to resent however nice his family are. When my mum comes out he complains we have no privacy but when we have time to do thing s together he tells me not to disturb him as he has a film to watch or a book to read. Sometime i feel overwhelmed by his family and feel he has had a child to satisfy his parents. It’s like she’s a doll to be paraded on Sundays. i would like to put my foot down and refuse to go on Sunday since we have been there twice already this week and the drive is tiring too, but i don’t want to argue for the sake of the baby. i feel down because my life hasn’t got any control and i have to do things to satisfy others except myself. any advice on how to handle this ??????????

The first few years, and especially the first few months, of parenthood are exhausting and in any family it tends to be a period of shakedown. Having a child throws so many things up into the air that we really should sit down soon after to thrash out what we want, what we like, what we don’t like and what we are going to do about it. But so often, we let the situation stagger on, getting more and more dissatisfied and more and more resentful. It sounds to me as if you and your husband really need to talk over what could become a major problem, if allowed to go on.

In a fair number of UK families, Sunday lunch is seen as family time when sons and daughters take their own kids and go home to their own parents. In an Italian family, it’s more than a tradition, it’s almost a sacred duty. And of course babies are paraded – it’s a culture that adores children. That’s not to say he loves her or you any less.

It feels to me you may find this easier to bear if it was part of a negotiated tit-for-tat (I give you a concession if you give me one) than if it was one of a series of assumed privileges. Be honest – if you could agree on other areas, wouldn’t it become a nice bit of R&R to know on Sunday lunchtime you’d be going across to be fed and feted and not to have to do the work (or fork out the cash!) for such a meal? What makes it so hard is having that as well as several other trips, and feeling he doesn’t give you any consideration other times.

So pick a time when both of you are relaxed and calm and he’s not got his head in a book or film, and ask for you to sit down and talk. But remember to offer as much as you ask – if you would like to entertain friends, do it on a Saturday, and make it something he would welcome as much as you rather than something to argue over by insisting it should be on a Sunday.

You need to work out exactly what you’re objecting to, and what you want and bring that to the table. You’d like him to show as much family feeling for your mother and to understand your and her wish for family visits as you do for his. You’d like him to take his share of baby care, not only so her daughter can enjoy his company and he hers but so you can also have the chance to do your hobbies and see your friends, as does he. You’d like him to spend some time with you rather than read a book or watch film. You both need to nurture your relationship and each other to make this family a happy place for you all to be in.

It sounds to me as if he’s feeling a little overwhelmed, by the transition from being lovers to being a couple with a child. I suspect he’s running away from spending quality time with you because it’s all come on a bit fast. You need to talk that over in order to meet it head on and do something about it, or you’ll gradually drift away and become mired down in tiredness, resentment and bitterness.

It might help to have a chat with Mamma. Italian mammas want their children, and grandchildren, to stay close but they also appreciate the need for sons to face up to their responsibilities to partner and child. If she realised you were struggling and wanted more time together but were keen to go on visiting on Sunday, she may be on your side to encourage him to be a better partner. Good luck!

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