Wow, what a loaded question! Everyone (pretty much) will tell you to get what they have...I have a Newport 30
Denise030 has a good point, sometimes that "tipped' over will put them off, small kids and moms on heeling sailboats don't always go together. However, I appreciate where your mother-in-law is coming from...
I think I have a somewhat unique perspective in that I have a wakeboard boat and
a sailboat. So I've a question...are you footing the bill??? This will limit what you're looking for.
So, if you're footing the bill, let me start the family wedge. Take your family and spend a bit of time while looking, all on the prospective boat.
If you don't all fit with comfort then "it ain't it". If you foot the entire bill, it will be your
boat. No matter how much you want it to be the family boat. Plus, if you're not racing, and it's just a fun for a day or two boat, do you really care how 'fast', what kind of rig, etc. she is/has? The big question really is WHAT DO YOU WANT OUT OF THE BOAT???
The Catalina 36 is a nice boat. My friends have one with a walk through transom and enough room 'inside' for 7-8 several people. Plus the cockpit is ok for up to 5-6 people.
I love my Newport 30 but it's too small for what you say you need. She sails with a big boat 'feel' and I love that. But inside and the cockpit is just too small...although, great for a couple!
Are you all
dying to sail? If not here's an off the wall for this forum suggestion. If you can do this (I could if I wanted) buy a small trailer sailor to run around in and enjoy sailing (I bought one for $5K and while a bit tender she was great)... and buy a patio boat for the family. Oh...I can hear the outrage from the hard core sailors!!!
If you get a good used patio boat it will have 1. a place out of the sun for everyone. 2. It should have cooking facilities, all be it small but great when kids are involved...you just can't believe how hungry they get on the water. 3. It should have a port-a-potty something near and dear to every Mom's heart! 4. You can 'raft up' a sailboat and maybe tow it as well. 5. In shifts, adults can escape the small kids. 6. It might have a slide for the older kids. 7. Games can be played while others are goofing off in the sailboat. 8. It might be more in keeping with what your mother-in-law is hoping for...family wise.
Ok, so if you can't do the above? Who's footing the bill??? Who ever that person is...it's their boat. Get what you/they want. Everyone else is a guest. They come when invited and deal with what's available. Yes, my family would love for me to have a 50 footer with at least two staterooms and heads...do I have that??? Nope!
Are they upset when I take them sailing? NOPE! No one complains about the galley when their mouths are full of food. Kids don't gripe because, gasp...I have a DVD player for them...and a dingy and a kayak, and a swim ladder and...and...and.....
You make the boat what you want and need. Shore/beaches are available and there are lots of options. Don't get in a hurry. Look at lots of different types and styles of boats. Get a survey! Take your time. Think about how you'll use the boat. Remember...there are lots of friends who'll want to go as well...X's how many family members?!?
Best of luck!
I got my boat (I boarded about 800 to find her) I hope you get yours! Take your time. Get a survey. Have fun. Good luck!