And because I want to model gracious hospitality to my littles–and invite them into the process as much as possible at ages 2 & 3–I want to prepare for guests with a joyful heart, not with a heart full of frustration that the floor I just cleaned up is now covered with Play-Dough crumbs and why can’t they just obey mommy and stop fighting so I can freaking cook the potatoes?
There’s just something a little off about opening the door with a smile when I’ve just yelled at my kids.
Heck, even when I didn’t have kids, the standards I set for myself as a hostess could stress me out to the point that Hubs would gentle ask if maybe I shouldn’t host so much after all. To which I would gently reply, “NO! I’m fine!”
So, while I continue in my recovery from perfectionism, I try to set myself up for success. Knowing how to avoid prep stress makes it a lot easier to show my babies patience.
And if I’m strategic, I can not only avoid the crazy-mommy trap, but also find fun ways to include my sweet babies in hosting.
Tips for Hosting with Littles
Drastically Lower Your Standards
And then lower them some more.
You may say “I cannot do it all,” but do you really live that way? I know I often don’t.
I’ll catch myself thinking that hospitality means having a spotless house, serving an amazing meal and dessert, cooking everything myself, and having beautiful decorations.
But in this season of life, if I’m going to practice hospitality, it has to be simple. I remind myself of everything hospitality isn’t and self-talk my way into forgetting about the imperfections of my home.
Maximize Nap & Nighttime
Even with lower standards, there is work to be done. I prefer the house to be somewhat clean and tidy and the meal to be fully (or at least mostly) cooked when company arrives.
Thus, I try to get as much done while my babies are sleeping (or happily occupied) as I can. This often looks like doing a little food prep or cleaning the night before or while they’re engaged in a favorite activity.
Nap-time the day of is usually spent finishing the cooking, tossing some candles and mason jar decor on the table, and doing last-minute tidying.
I’ve learned not to vacuum/mop until the last possible moment because a clean floor evidently cries out to be covered with junk by my toddler.
Put Those Babies to Work
My kids love to “help” clean. So when we’re tidying up for company, I give them spray bottles of water and Norwex cloths and put them to work. The broom and dust pan also illicit much excitement. And ironically, more mess.
It’s never perfect and things often need a bit more cleaning, but they enjoy the process. And when my three year old asks why we clean up for company, I get to share a bit of the heart of hospitality: “because we want to bless our guests, sweetie.”
Let Them Be the Hosts, Too
My oldest is three and enjoys helping me greet and and see out guests. She’s practiced saying “Thank you for coming to our home” so much that she often greets me that way. Thanks, Bun. I feel super welcome now.
She could also reasonably help set the table, engage our friends’ babies, and invite other kids to play with her toys while the adults chat before eating. I imagine we’ll be able to delegate more to her as she gets older.
I know if you’re knee-deep in diapers and melt-downs hosting can seem overwhelming. But in my experience, with a little intentionality and some lowered expectations, a enjoyable evening can be had by all.
What do you find helpful in practicing hospitality with little ones? Or, if you’re in another season of life, have you found ways to overcome other hosting challenges?