How do you get past the fear of having a not quite perfect home (not picked up) with three littles and still welcoming drop in friends?
This comment was left on my recent post about hospitality. And, it is a great question! In a lot of ways, I think we have to get over wanting our house to be perfect when people come over. Our children are simply not going to keep every little thing put away!
I have come a long way in this area - maybe even too far to the other extreme now, where when a guest stops by I don't usually think about all the clutter on my counters or how many dust bunnies are on my kitchen floor.
If the guests drop in - there should be less expectations on our home. We did not know they were coming and our lives are lived in our homes. Do you have any suggestions to share on drop in company?
If I know we are having guests, obviously I will take some extra measures to present our home than when someone stops by unannounced. What comes to my mind is productively occupying our children so that once we've tidied the home for coming guests, they are not undoing it all!
Here are some ideas:
* Involve children in the welcoming of company: let them help in choosing who comes, color a welcoming picture or decorate a sign or chalkboard you've written on. If you have a sign welcoming them - this will draw their attention up rather than to dirt on the floor! And, will give them a big welcome and let them know you are glad they are there. You could also provide a sheet of paper and just ask your child to color on it. It could be cut into place cards which you add the names to!
* Set out the dishes and then have children help set the table while you are preparing the meal. How I often do this is to hand Emily one plate and say, "This one is for Daddy's place." When she comes back we repeat this for each plate, napkin, fork, knife, spoon, etc... it takes longer and she really can't handle multiple plates right now anyway!
* Write or print up a small drink order form and let your young children go around with a pen and take drink orders! They will feel very important and it will give them something productive to do! Click to enlarge and print the drink order form.
* Think of your home with your ears - I recently had a friend stop by with her fiancee who could not see. I thought of our home so differently as I "saw" it through my ears and the way he saw it. He did not see one speck of dust or clutter, he heard happy and chattering children, heard them play on the piano and sing songs, heard them talk about God. This made me feel a lot better about our home and the state of chaos it was in when they dropped by. Now, I know that most of us can see when we go into each others homes, but let's think about the important things!
* Be responsible for your own stuff - yes, kids are going to make a mess, but they don't make piles on the kitchen counter. This is our domain and we can take control of these areas. And, I am speaking to myself on this one!
* Let children play outside or color at the table to keep out of the toys. Let them watch a movie shortly before guests arrive if you need a few more minutes to prepare your home and heart.
* Think about what you'd expect visiting a friend with young children - chances are, she has similar expectations. Life is lived in our homes and we truly do not expect them to look magazine quality when we arrive. Wouldn't you wonder what life was really like at that home? It probably isn't as inviting as the one with signs of life nearby.
If you still aren't comfortable having guests over right now - try inviting some friends for a picnic and meet them at a nearby park - you can bring a pretty tablecloth or flowers for the table to pretty it up! There are lots of ways to be hospitable! But, our homes are the center of this.
I'd love to hear from you on how you manage hospitality with littles in your homes. Hospitality is something God desires for us to do, so I know it is possible to do it with our children helping alongside us. I can't wait to read your thoughts and ideas!