It had been ten short days since the birth of my third child. Prior to my pregnancy, we had planned a vacation for just four weeks after our daughter’s birth date, leaving my husband with a significantly shorter paternity leave in comparison to my first two children. I was in what you might call a “delicate state”, so, when a sweet family offered to drop off a meal, we immediately took them up on their offer. Out of consideration for my sleep-deprived state, they had coordinated entirely with my husband and, since we had always loved hospitality and having people in our home, he encouraged them to stay and enjoy the meal with us.
About an hour and a half before their scheduled arrival, I began my postpartum shuffle around the house, awkwardly kicking toys into a large enough pile to justify sitting down to clean it up (“where two or more are gathered” is my mantra for bending over for toys). My phone buzzed from the pocket of my over-sized gym shorts.
Got off work a little early! Be by with dinner by five. Hope that’s okay! Can’t wait to see you!
My stomach dropped. Wait, they were… showing up early? I was wearing gym shorts. And my hair was… yep. There was oatmeal in it.
“Boys! Clean the living room! I need to clean the bathrooms! Now! Go!” I slipped my newborn into the Moby wrap, doling out orders with the harshest of tones through gritted teeth as I clumsily stumbled through my home, gravely conscious of the litany of ways my house had been neglected for weeks. I watched my sweet children, faces fallen and hearts crushed, rushing to obey, neglecting their half-colored “thank you” cards they had been preparing for our dear friends. When the meal arrived, the house was spotless, but our guests weren’t exactly received with gratitude or warm welcomes.
A Dose of Truth
My head rested heavy on my pillow that night as I recounted the day’s events to my husband… how the family’s AUDACITY to arrive early had completely thrown off my plans and caused (yes, I went there) me to be brusque with my children.
“But why did you feel the need to impress them? You have a ten-day-old baby and two toddlers.” (My husband likes to be, what’s the word? Logical).
“I wasn’t trying to impress them!” But, per usual, I found myself mulling over his words for next several days before coming to the conclusion that, yep. I was totally trying to impress them.
A Change in Perspective
As my stomach swelled with my first pregnancy, my husband and I insisted to each other we would continue to be hospitable. Prior to Mom Life, I made it a goal to have friends or neighbors over twice a week to my home, where I could show my love through a beautiful meal, complete with a perfectly curated playlist, candles, and a clean home.
In my arrogance, I spouted off strong feelings on creating a home that people felt able to drop by unannounced. But, this home was without the presence of multiple toddlers. The biggest hurdle in pursuing my former habit: Me. I wasn’t being hospitable. I was entertaining. And, although the two look very similar, they are drastically different.
Entertaining is, as my husband so eloquently put it, all about me. All about entertaining others, hoping they think well of my cute house with its unique decorations and my home-cooked meal. Not a thing out of place because I can do it all. My guests need not know that I was a slave-driver the entire day. My guests need only see that I am Super Woman. My children are clean and well-dressed. My home is tidy. My meal is Pinterest-worthy.
Hospitality? Well, hospitality is all about the guest. The relationship. The camaraderie. Paper plates and breakfast-for-dinner are always acceptable. My kids might be covered in glitter glue, but they are delighted to see you. Come as you are because we will receive you as we are. Hospitality is necessary for encouraging relationships, especially between moms. We need truth– no mom is really “doing it all.” And no mom is Super Woman because of her impeccably clean house and boutique-clad children… a mom is Super Woman because she tirelessly loves her children.
So, I’ve let go of entertaining in favor of hospitality. Entertaining will always put off having people over because the kitchen is in desperate need of help by JoJo Gaines, or the carpets are stained, or the potty-training boys have made the bathroom one giant stink bomb. We maybe haven’t gotten around to decorating any of the rooms and it’s possible all of the flowers in our front yard are dead (#NOTaplantlady). But we have a table, a smile, and a warm meal. And doing life with other mamas who just need someone to hear them is far more important than waiting for the opportunity to impress.
So, is entertaining keeping you from being hospitable?