Good wives and mothers have perfectly kept homes, right?
Their children never act out, and definitely never in public. They never argue, are never disrespectful to the adults around them. They are perfectly obedient. Right?
Good wives and mothers prepare fully nutritious, perfectly balanced hot meals three times a day, and never repeat a meal in a single month.
Their homes are always perfectly ready for a Pinterest or Instagram photoshoot, and so are their families.
The children are never dirty, even when they have spent an afternoon playing in the dirt and mud. Somehow, that just magically slides off their designer clothing (bought on deep clearance from a super-secret online warehouse!) like the little darlings were made of Teflon or maybe Scotch-guard.
Good moms never raise their voices, certainly not in public, because their children would never dream of misbehaving!
What on earth does this have to do with hospitality?! I’m so glad you asked! This mental image of “good wife and mother” affected every area of my life as a young homemaker. That’s the image I desperately wanted to convey. Especially when we had company. When our children were little, we seldom invited people over. When we did, WonderMom would come crashing down on our little family. I cleaned for HOURS like a madwoman. But not just me, even our small children were expected to carry their own weight! I cooked and cleaned. But I wasn’t content to leave it there. I yelled and used biting sarcasm to get my point across. With preschoolers. And my husband.
By the time our guests arrived, I was worn out, irritated, and feeling that “why do I have to do everything around here?!” feeling (even though I had clearly NOT done everything). Which is the worst place in the world for an introvert to be when people are ringing the doorbell.
Which begs the question: Why am I, of all people, writing a blog post about hospitality?! Because God has changed my heart toward hospitality and the expectations I put on myself. As time has passed, I have changed much in this regard. Pretty much done a complete turn-around. Praise God! You see, WonderMom is gone.
What false ideal is keeping you from having people over, or making “hospitality” feel more like “hostility” within your home?
So what changed? A few things, really. First, I realized that WonderMom is just AngryMom in lipstick and high heels. And AngryMom is just ScaredMom being loud. I was scared that I was failing. I had some pretty serious things going on, health-wise. I also had three very small daughters, ranging from 8 month to 4 years. Our extended family was far away. And I was home alone with no friends physically close enough for me to visit easily. And I was tired. So tired. But like a wounded cat, I didn’t want anyone to know how I was struggling.
Second, I realized that the White Glove Brigade wasn’t actually coming to my house. My fears were unfounded. Having small children is a uniquely exhausting season for a lot of people. The small ones take so much time, energy, and effort. They just do. The house can wait. For many, it does! It waits while the littles “help clean” as mama trains them for future chores. It waits while mama hoses off muddy little bodies in the back yard. It waits while mama is up in the middle of the night with night feedings, teething, colic, fevers, stomach flu, and nightmares. Mama does what she can, when she can, and the rest just goes undone. That is normal. And it is perfectly fine.
So, how do we “do” hospitality, now that ScaredMom is no longer running the show?
Four basic things, I think…
We have routines that keep the house mostly under control:
The children are older, and “helping” has become chores that they are quite adept at doing without my direct supervision. BUT, I do NOT clean like a madwoman any more. I run the vacuum, spot mop or do a full mop if it’s been particularly muddy outside, and make sure the kitchen is clean enough. The children take care of their chores, and we call it “good enough”. Generally, our house looks a little bit better than “everyday” but not a lot.
We declare certain areas “off limits”:
Our dog is HUGE and intimidating to some children. He’s also not the most welcoming host. So, he gets locked up and that part of the house is off limits. Also, as our girls are entering the teenage years, we declare the upstairs “off limits” when we have mixed company that includes similar-aged boys. Our upstairs is pretty much only bedrooms and bathrooms. That’s just inviting temptation.
We try not to kill or maim any visitors:
This is where I DO stress a bit. Food allergies and curious toddlers. Food allergies are real and can be deadly. I take them seriously. In fact, I have been known to text a picture of the ingredients list to the mom while I am in the grocery store. Better safe than sorry. Curiosity is normal in toddlers. My hobbies include some sharp and pointy objects. (Which for some reason are generally also brightly colored.) I put my scissors, knitting needles, crochet hooks and such out of reach when I know small children will be in my home.
We stick to the budget:
Our resources are finite. Our time, our energy, our money, even our relationships are all limited. We must steward those well. We try to be mindful of what else may be going on that week and how that affects our resources. We then plan accordingly. Maybe it means inviting someone over a week later, or changing the menu, or altering when chores happen. This one is probably the one where we still have the farthest to go, particularly from the time and energy management aspects. I still have ongoing health issues and cannot be sure how I will be energy-level-wise at any given time. We do our best, but it’s often an inexact science.
What has been the result of this new, more relaxed hospitality? Well, we have people over more often! I am kinder to my family. I enjoy the time with people more. Our friendships are more genuine. I can help other struggling moms as I have been open about my own struggles. I am less isolated. One benefit that I never saw coming – we’re invited into other people’s homes more! Even spur of the moment. Other moms are less worried that I’m going to “judge” them for the state of their home – after all, they have seen that I have no room to judge!
What does this have to do with you? WonderMom was my challenge. Maybe she’s yours, too. Maybe not.
What false ideal is keeping you from having people over, or making “hospitality” feel more like “hostility” within your home? Does that ideal actually carry water? Or is it just the enemy’s way of keeping you from obeying the Lord’s call to open your home?
Know this – we all long for genuine friendships, ones where our secrets are known and safe, where we are loved in spite of (and sometimes even because of) our struggles. We cannot be genuine friends when one of us is presenting an ideal as reality. My challenge to you is this – let others see your family as you truly live. It can be scary, but oh, it’s worth it!
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