I desire to be a great hostess. I want to meet all the needs of my guests and make it feel like a luxury to stay at our home. I want the food to taste great, and special, and for everything to be clean and tidy. June Cleaver, here I come! (Or maybe not).
None of this happens consistently in my real life, so why do I think this can happen when we have guests? Our visitors, who are typically our parents, never make such demands of me. They want to enter into our normal lives, and participate, and help. They often treat us to special meals and adventures, and even as I type this, my in-laws are out buying us a temporary YMCA pass so we can swim with them while they’re here, and then leave us to enjoy the pool for the next month.
My expectations are absurd, and the result is exhaustion, the inability to participate, and the loss of joy in the visit. For the last few months I’ve been practicing ways that I can be healthier in mind, body, and spirit. And so far, I can tell that the effects of time spent well and in ways that feed and nurture me are making for a healthy visit with our family.
One / I’m not throwing out my essentials because there are more people in the house. The details may change, the timeframe may change, but I’m still getting some alone time, writing, eating healthy food, drinking lots of water, and exercising.
Two / I’m still spending one-on-one time with my children. Because I am still taking time to refresh and create, I don’t need my houseguests to also be my babysitters. My in-laws are night owls, so they don’t rise as early as a 4 year old and 6 year old might. Instead of being tired “dealing with” my kids in the time that they anxiously wait the appearance of their grandparents, I’m taking advantage of the time that we can do normal stuff. On our first morning, we ate our oatmeal like always, and then sat on the couch to do morning prayer read some books. It was nice to connect, nourish their minds, and start the day with intention instead of impatient waiting. Today we walked to Common Grounds at 8 a.m. to get hot chocolate and read from Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. I can’t recommend these enough!
Three / Keep meals simple. I’m not a bad cook, really I’m not, but I’ve recently come to realize that cooking and baking just don’t give me a lot of joy. I still have to do it, so I try to make things that taste good and nourish our bodies, but the meals I make are uncomplicated and typically don’t take a lot of time or steps. We have chicken tacos once a week right now because it literally just requires that I put chicken in the slow cooker and have tortillas on hand. Sometimes we get some toppings out, but sometimes we eat it just like that, and you know what, it’s great. We’re keeping it low-key for our houseguests, too.
Four / Offer some of your guests preferences or routines. I’ve learned that I am way less stressed if I’m not worried about our guests feeling out of sorts in our kitchen. Like I’ve mentioned, our guests are usually our parents, and are really laid back, but we all have our routines. When you can do a few things to reflect the typical day of your houseguest, I think it adds a layer of understanding and smooth sailing. For this visit, we bought 2 boxes of cereal that my in-laws have at home, regular milk (we just use almond milk), and their blend of Folgers coffee. Nothing grand or earth shattering, but there is something relaxing about waking up to your normal routine. My mother-in-law tries to do the same for us when we visit.
Five / Be flexible, embrace discomfort, and laugh at your mistakes. Again, our houseguests are far from straining. We have awesome parents. But still, routines! When routines get ditched, even if to a small degree, things can get dicey. But who wants a break in routine to mean grumpy attitudes when you’re really just happy you have visitors. My husband and kids are great at embracing minor discomfort. I, however, am not so great at it. It’s a struggle that I am learning to conquer. Some discomfort is okay and can reveal our weaknesses. Discomfort and tension is just a part of life, and learning to do it well is essential.
I am embracing whatever unexpected bumps come my way, and allowing myself to enjoy the unusual days and happy houseguests we are so privileged to have under our roof.
An amazing thing happens when we let go of expectations and ideals and instead make a plan, brainstorm for ideas, understand what makes our families thrive, and then roll up our sleeves and sweat a little. Suddenly the reality is a lot more desirable than the ideas we had built up in our heads. Embrace your inner Lucy, with the messes and mishaps, personality, and barrels of laughs.
When our ideas are measured against our actions and our limitations, reality takes over, and health and relationships are maintained amidst the sometimes chaos and almost certain mess.