It's that time of year again unfortunately, when your cooking will be criticised, your decor will be frowned upon and your choice of outfit will be the source of raised eyebrows.
Your mother-in-law is coming to visit.
But this year is the year to be prepared! Anticipate her every whim and you'll end up with a happy partner and an even happier mother-in-law. Have a drink ready for her before she's even asked, out cook her in the kitchen and make sure that your home is flawless. Nothing is more satisfactory than having the upper hand.
And no matter how often your mother-in-law reduces you to a stuttering child, it's important to remember that she is in your home and therefore she's in your territory.
The battle is on.
The first step in preparing for a visit from the mother-in-law is to ensure that the house is spotless. You don't want a speck of dust or a granule of a stain to find its way into your mother-in-law's line of vision. You'll never hear the end of it!
A deep clean is the best option, scrubbing the surfaces from head to toe. You may also want to get your carpets steamed and your windows cleaned by professionals. If you have pets, make sure that their hair hasn't shed anywhere in the house.
Use coasters and place mats to ensure that nothing sticky stains the surfaces of your tables and counter tops—you can't be too safe just before your mother-in-law arrives.
Keep a vacuum cleaner and a dustpan and broom in the kitchen cupboard, ready to sweep up any mess that comes your way. If you have kids, tell them that it's summer time so they have to play outside.
Avoid a mess at all costs.
It doesn't matter how unattractive that clock is that she got you for your anniversary or how terrible that bright pink vase looks in your living room, you have to put every single gift that your mother-in-law has ever bought you out on display as if they live there permanently.
Because if you admit that you don't like her taste or her gifts, you are disrespecting her and her style and she will never, ever forgive you. Consider yourself deleted from the family. Furthermore, you will always be considered the man or woman who married her child without her consent.
Avoid becoming the black sheep by pointing out the gifts that she has gotten you to guests in front of her, showing how much you love and appreciate her input. When she's safely back in her own town, you can put the gifts back in the cupboard to be stored safely away until the next visit.
Your mother-in-law most likely takes pride in her cooking and the fact that her children grew up with home-cooked meals, fresh milk and squeezed orange juice. However, this is no reason for her to learn that your kids sometimes get take-away pizza for dinner and that your idea of a healthy night is a glass or two of wine and a bowl of chips.
Throw away any evidence that you and your family don't live a completely organic and healthy lifestyle and get to work on stocking up on fresh fruits and vegetables, rolled oats, Chia seeds, rye bread, beetroot juice and any other groceries that your mother-in-law will approve of. Ideally, you want a kitchen that looks like this one from Marcello Gavioli.
And if you can't do without that glass of wine, opt for an organic bottle—it will be a great talking point with your mother-in-law and perhaps a glass or two will loosen her up.
Not only can you convince your mother-in-law that you're heading up a healthy home, it's a great excuse for you and the kids to have a bit of a health kick. So make sure you finish your vegetables!
One way to get on someone's good side from the get go is to feed them, spiking their blood sugar. It will also make them feel looked after and appreciated.
Find out what your mother-in-law's favourite drink and snack are and stock up. Then take it to the next level. If she likes lemonade, make a homemade version and chill it in the fridge in one of your most impressive jugs. If you're clueless when it comes to homemade lemonade, buy some from the shop and decant it into your own jug. No one has to know.
If she likes cheese and biscuits, get an array of choices from Halloumi to Camembert to Cheddar. You can never have enough cheese and you'd rather be over-prepared than under-prepared.
Add a little sweet treat for extra measure such as some expensive dark chocolate.
They key to a hospitable home is the bathroom. It should be clean, lavish and cosy.
Impress your mother-in-law by investing in some good, thick, quality towels. They don't have to be made from the most expensive material possible but they should be light, fluffy and big. Bath sheets are larger than bath towels and are a great option.
Quality towels also won't fade in the wash or become thin from constant use. So while they may be a bit expensive, in the long run they will last you much longer than any cheap towel. Opt for gorgeous, neutral colours that complement your bathroom.
Candles are the next must. Not only do candles add beautiful scents and smells to the bathroom, they create a wonderful, soft flickering light for when guests are in the bath or shower. Your mother-in-law will be impressed with your eye for detail and your sense of romance and ambiance.
The best way to knock your mother-in-law's socks off is to create a meal that she wouldn't be able to cook herself. Don't try to compete with her, cooking the dishes that she has mastered. Rather go for something she's never cooked and make it incredible.
Look back at your family heritage and choose a dish that shares with your family a little bit about you and where you come from. That way she won't see it as competition, but rather than you are trying to introduce her to your roots. If your family is from Durban, cook a beautiful, Indian curry. If you grew up speaking Xhosa, cook a Xhosa dish. Be adventurous, but just don't poison anyone.
Mothers-in-law are often difficult because they feel as if they are losing control, especially when they are in your home. They are no longer the matriarch or the glue holding the family together so it's important to not take any comments too personally. Instead, treat your mother-in-law like she's your own flesh and blood and you may find that you have a lot more in common than you think.
Enjoy being hospitable? Find out: How To Be A Great AirBnB Host.