Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hospitality with Littles

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 ch
oosing 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!


Megan said...

Good Morning, Monica!

Having two small ones, I do my best to plan ahead. Frozen baked goods that can be easily poped in the oven (Choc. chip cookie balls) and some premade meals really help for those unexpected guests.
I try to pace my daily cleaning jobs ~ so, I'm not rushed. And if all else fails (and sometimes it does), I have a large empty Rubbermaid that last minute items get put in ...and then placed in the closet! Every once in awhile it's a must!
Have a great day... off to put on my sneakers and get ready for breakfast.

*carrie* said...

Great post, Monica. Love the chalkboard art! =)

Thanks for opening your beautiful home, and encouraging others to do the same.

Ann @TheAssetEdge said...

Great ideas for empowering little ones to help - I love it! Thanks for taking time to share. :)

I also find that making a yummy prep-ahead casserole like Gramma's Chicken Lasagna or Gramma's Chicken Enchilada Casserole leaves me less scattered just before the guests come. Then I can give more energy & attention to them, welcoming them into the home.

Lee said...

Thanks for those great ideas, Monica. Remembering the expectations I have for others puts my mind a little more to rest. The echo of laughter and love really is the lasting memory. Not those pesky dust bunnies.

You are a blessing. I can't wait to read more comments, too!

Tracey said...

I love the chalk board on the door.

Anonymous said...

These are great ideas -- you are fostering a positive outlook on hospitality with your littles by involving them in the preparations in a constructive way! I remember in the book "Open Heart, Open Home" the author wanted her children to think it was good news when they heard "company's coming!" -- I think your children will, too! Love you, Mom

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post Monica.
The Lord has brought me a LONG way in this area (I still have a LONG way to go :*))!. What it all boils down to is our heart. With our hearts attitude we can bless others. In truth, the state of our home is nothing compared to the state of our heart. If our motivation is to love and minister to the hearts of those who come to our home, the Lord will bless. We have so much to distract our real focus, it can make it hard to WANT to have people in our home. Focus on Jesus and loving others thru Him and the other stuff won't matter to your guest. tammyp

Barbie @ Mamaology said...

This is a great topic and oh so important to think through. As Christians we are called to be hospitable.

I love the book Open Heart, Open Home by Karen Mains. This is my favorite book on this subject. And one of the best lines is when someone shows up unexpectedly and your home is not "ready" for guests to asks yourself..."is your pride more important than your hospitality." How many times I've thought of that line and just welcomed someone into our messy home:)

And having a morning routine everyday where your home gets a general cleaning helps in keeping it guest ready (Flylady).

And I completely agree on involving your children. Now my 8 and 6 year olds LOVE to help prepare our home for guests. They can vacuum, pick-up, dust, and wipe down the bathrooms. But is all started very small:).

Thanks for addressing this topic Monica!:)

Anonymous said...

This is a very timely post for me, Monica, since we are having company for supper (we're not eating them, of course!; ) ) on Saturday. I hope I can involve my girls in some small way.

~katie~ said...

How inspiring Monica. Your home always looks so warm and inviting. Not only are the homespun touches so nice, but I think it's all the smiles that are posted!! I love the idea of giving the young ones jobs to do ~ they love it and it keeps them occupied! Fantastic! Since hubby comes and goes so much, I don't host a whole lot these days, but I endeavor to more.

Milehimama @ Mama Says said...

I've found that it is helpful to have the first floor bath clean and ready to go, and try to keep the foyer clear of clutter. Guests will overlook a cluttered countertop, but a filthy toilet is hard to ignore!

Amy said...

Oh, this is such a good post, Monica. You inspire me as a mother! I love the idea for having the kids do the drink order and helping to greet the guests in a special way.

I am really working on this and trying to get past my perfectionism so that I can enjoy our guests. It is a constant struggle in my mind, but I know how important this element of caring for others is.

Excellent post!!

Anna said...

Thank you for sharing! I am new to your blog and have enjoyed reading through your posts. We have been blessed to have moved into a home that lends itself to entertaining a little better. We have enjoyed opening our home to others. I love all your ideas. My oldest is four and I know that she would just love to take drink orders with a little clip board, she is always so eager to help and I am always looking for was to involve her.
Thank you, Anna

Elise said...

What a great post!! I was just telling my husband the other day that we needed to be more hospitable and he replied that we needed to keep the house cleaner, that he hated the rush to clean before company comes. Really its the clutter, not so much dirt. I do strive(hopefully) to keep it cleaner on a daily basis. Love your ideas!!

Susan said...

Great post! We usually have guests over for dinner. In Europe dinner is usually around 7:30 or 8pm. Consequently, JR's bedtime is 7:00pm. He is in bed. He is 16 months old. When he is bigger, we will involve him more with little hospitality stuff. I really enjoyed reading how you did this with your kids.

3boysmama said...

I am the same way as you. With kids I have definitely let the bar slide downhill when company comes over. I don't really care anymore. Probably a good thing. When I go over to other people's house I actually like to see a house that is "lived in" and not perfect.

Milissa said...

Hi Monica! I am a new reader to your blog...and I think this is a FABULOUS post. I just wanted to make a comment...I am approaching 30...the end of this month...I do not have any children but most of my friends do. And when I go to their homes, I never expect it to be perfect. Heck, I can't keep my home perfect and I don't have wee ones. I'm there to visit my friends...I care what's going on with them...and what the kiddos are into these days...and all that much that I don't have time to check for dust bunnies on the floor or the stacks on the counters. (and really, what kind of friend would I be if that was my concern?) So while I appreciate the efforts my friends make to keep their home clean and comfortable to live in...and the extra effort I know they make while entertaining...I want everyone with kiddos to know that I am (by no stretch of the imagination) focusing on how "perfect" the home is. (And this is a consistent consensus among my non-parent friends.) If my friends are there and in good's perfect. Oh, but I think the most fabulous tip you gave is to pay attention to the "sounds" your home makes. Who cares if it could be in the Beautiful Home Magazine if everyone is unhappy or too stressed to enjoy it? Anyways...just my 2 cents. Thanks for sharing.

Lylah Ledner said...

Very fantastic ideas - it's so important to have kids continually experience the opportunity to serve others - especially those from the Nations. We include our grandchildren every chance we get. and here and here I like to call it "building bridges."

Merrilee Stevenson said...

Just to bounce off of what I just read from Milissa, when we were first starting our family and had two little ones, we became good friends with a couple who had no children at the time. She and I would occasionally call each other on the phone and give an "inventory" of what we had on hand in the fridge or pantry. Between us, we'd come up with a "potluck" dinner of sorts, based on what we could put together between us. We would alternate whose house we'd go to, but it worked out great when they came to our house, because after dinner, our friends would help my hubby clear the table and wash the dishes and get the game board set up while I got the kids to bed. Then the grown ups would play a game or two (of Settlers of Cataan--great game). It was great.

We also decided to dedicate certain days of the week that we knew we could have company over. So when we said in conversation, "We should have you over for dinner sometime," we automatically knew which days work best for us, which makes actually scheduling it much easier.

Due to a few life adjustments, we've not done this as much as we've wanted to lately. Thanks for the reminder; I want to get back into the habit.