Being a good hostess is a noble calling. There are few things in life that minister better to a person then having a full belly and good fellowship. It takes a good sense of hospitality and generosity to pull it off. Like most things worthwhile, hostessing can be a blessing or a curse to yourself and everyone around you. There are a few basic rules that I have come up with for myself and thought I’d share them since they have made my experiences better when I apply them. Obviously, my list isn’t complete since I am always learning and these specifically address the pitfalls I am inclined to. Your input or added “rules” are welcomed.
- The number one cardinal rule of hostessing is Thou Shall Not Have a Bad Attitude. For me, this means not allowing myself to become stressed (with anything, including prep work and the condition of my home). I am rather prone to biting off more then I can chew in the hostessing department, leaving me with food that doesn’t taste just right and a home that isn’t clean enough. The hostess can set the tone for the whole experience. If she is stressed or tense or dissatisfied, it will radiate to everyone else. Children aren’t stupid, they know when something is up with mom. Any adult worth their salt is going to feel any negative vibes coming off their hostess and that will easily make what could have been an enjoyable evening miserable. If I can’t be relaxed and cheerful, then I need to put a hold on hostessing until I can be. It is better to have cheerful imperfection then sour perfection.
- Thou Shall Not Become a Cleaning Fiend. Of course, as a hostess, you’ll do your best to keep your home presentable, but especially if you have young children, don’t allow the condition of your home become more important then the people in it. Keep your home sanitary and smelling good. Try to find a place for everything and lend, store or giveaway the rest. But if there are toys laying about and some crayon marks on the wall*, don’t worry about it. You live there. Children live there. The fact that it shows is a blessing. One of the saddest things I’ve ever seen is suffocating cleanliness of a home without children (this might have something to do with the fact that I grew up in a big family, though. At the very least, your guests should not be afraid of ruining something through normal use.) Homes are meant to be lived in, not tiptoed through. Additionally, there is a big difference between a college student’s messy house and the messiness of a family home. There should never be dishes molding in the sink, but same day dirty dishes is not something to be ashamed of when you have happy children and a cheerful attitude. *Mr. Clean Magic Erasers work brilliantly on crayon marks, by the way.
- Thou Shall Not Allow Your Level of Domesticity or Finances Hinder Hostessing. Some women have a knack for the gourmet. They can whip out a delicious several course meal effortlessly and have a clean house to boot..and to these women I say, more power to them! But I can honestly say that some of my favorite memories of fellowshipping with friends was done over take out pizza and cheap wine in a home that was definitely being live in. Franzia can gladded our hearts just as well as Guigal La Turque Cote Rotie. Baked potatoes, chicken soup or mac & cheese can fill a belly just as easily as trout fillets with mint pipián. Serve yummy food and good fellowship. It doesn’t matter what that looks like or what the price tag is.
- Thou Shall Not Compare. Every now and then something will come up and Ben will ask incredulously, “Women really do that?!” Comparing domestic skills and domestic experiences are in that category. While it is unwise to compare anyone, it is especially unwise to compare and measure your domestic skills against the other women you know (or don’t know). We are all blessed with different gifts and some of us have to work harder then others at various tasks. No good can come from comparing. There are usually only two outcomes from any given personal comparison. 1) Discouragement or 2)Unseemly Pride. It is very rare that I ever find comparing uplifting and helpful. This is not to say that it never happens, it us just uncommon for me. Maybe I should work on that.
Other various tips I’ve picked up for the comfort of both hostess and guests:
- When having families over for dinner, serve food that isn’t time sensitive.
- Whenever especially busy, buy premade food or make food that can be prepared in advance.
- For the comfort of everyone, serve food that isn’t especially messy or gets stuck in your teeth…unless it’s a real causal meal (ribs, corn on the cob) and you plan on providing them with everything they need to clean up afterwards.
- During the summer months that aren’t unbearably hot, serve dinner outside. Using paper plates makes clean up so much easier!
- Don’t stress about the after meal clean up. Do it the next day or in spurts so no one feels the pressure to jump in and help unless they really want to.
- Provide children with space and toys where they can just go crazy without ruining anything.
- Remember that stuff is just stuff. If something gets broken, it shouldn’t be a big deal. If something is so valuable or special that it would be horrible to lose, put it somewhere safe.
- Don’t plan on inviting friends over if you are already stressed or having a busy week. There’s nothing wrong with practicing your hostessing skills on your family.
- Be flexible.