My husband Paul and I have got a lot in common, especially when it comes to our mothers. There's no way to put this politely as the honest truth is that they're demanding, overbearing and experts at emotional blackmail.
Unfortunately when we got married that just added competitive to the mix as they tussled over us like two dogs with a bone and Christmas became a nightmare of unreasonable demands. Both our dads had the sense to stay out of it, but our mothers expected us to spend Christmas Day with them and paid no attention to our plaintive pleas to try and have a peaceful Christmas.
"I need my family round me on Christmas Day. I don't ask for much but that's all it takes to make me happy," announced my mother.
Meanwhile, Paul's was weeping down the phone to him, claiming inexplicably that for all anyone knew, this could be her last Christmas and "Is it too much to ask my only son to make the effort?"
We should really have stood up to them but that first Christmas we decided to make the effort, telling his family that we'd be with them for Christmas lunch and my family that we'd reach them for Christmas dinner.
Despite the two-hour drive needed for each visit it would have been just manageable had either mother recognised the effort we put in, but in the event his mother moaned that we didn't spend long enough with them and mine went on about us eating so much lunch we didn't do justice to her lovely dinner.
Fed up, totally hot and bothered and feeling that Christmas was a dead loss, we started our third two-hour drive of the day feeling completely disgruntled.
By the time we got back to our own house we were shattered and grumpy Christmas was hell. This went on for three years, with neither of us plucking up enough courage to stand up to our mothers, but by the fourth Christmas we were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
I was eight months pregnant and we promised each other that next Christmas would be in our own home with our baby. On Christmas Eve I started feeling more and more unwell and Paul took me to the hospital, where I was firmly told to put my feet up for the next few days as I was going nowhere.
It was very hot, my blood pressure was up and my feet and legs were swelling badly so the last thing I needed was hours travelling in the car.
Paul rushed out to buy some food and I phoned both mothers to tell them what the doctor had said. Their reactions were almost identical and equally unbelievable. "Never mind me then," said Paul's mother and my own was even more dramatic, saying "I can't believe my only daughter won't even make the effort for me on Christmas Day."
I knew they were both being totally unreasonable but awash with pregnancy hormones I spent the whole of Christmas Day in tears and Paul reached the end of his tether, swearing that from now on Christmas would only be on our terms, something we felt even more strongly about when Carrie was born a month later.
The following year we took a week's holiday just before Christmas, renting a little holiday home 300km away and telling our families we would be back on Christmas Eve.
Instead, we packed the car with all the food and drink needed for a fabulous week including Christmas dinner and all the presents for Carrie's first Christmas and headed off.
When we got there we phoned our mothers from the local pub and said that there was no mobile signal but we wanted them to know we had arrived safely and were having a wonderful time.
On Christmas Eve we put Carrie in the pram, strolled down to the pub and phoned both mothers to tell them that the car had broken down and we couldn't get rescue services till the 27th, but not to worry as we'd managed to get food from the village shop so we were just going to relax and make the most of it.
We were stifling giggles as we said it was such a shame about missing Christmas Day with everyone and of course there was no way we'd let anyone drive that distance to get us, see you all soon, have a lovely time.
Safe in the knowledge that no-one knew exactly where we were we ambled back to the little house and had the most peaceful, blissful Christmas, no-one telling us what to do or making a fuss over nothing.
Ever since then we've had Christmas by ourselves at home with Carrie and now with her little brother Conor though anyone who wants to join us on Boxing Day is very welcome.
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