A wooden plaque hangs on my parents’ porch that reads, “May our home always be too small to hold all our friends.” That little verse summarizes my family’s view on hospitality: there is always an open door.
Our home was never the biggest on the block, nor was it always photo or company ready, but it was a place where everyone was welcome. As a child it was more common for us to have guests visiting than no extras in the house and I loved it that way.
Once I moved out of the home, got married, and had kids I was eager to throw our doors open to guests…but having just moved to a new town I didn’t know where to begin finding people to invite.
We moved six times in four years, and in every new place, opening our home to near strangers was the surest way to make friends. There’s something casual and non committal about meeting at a park or grabbing coffee with new friends, which is a great start. But opening your home takes friendship to a deeper level because it is literally inviting that person into your life, making room for and carving out intentional time to welcome them into your dwelling.
I started small by reaching out to some fellow moms I met at the park and at a local church. I invited them over for a casual day-time gathering before a committed “dinner with the whole family.” Playdates are a great way to test the waters of your friendship.
I made a quick batch of muffins and set them out with coffee & tea. Our time together was a gift to both my guests and myself, and it had nothing to do with what my home looked like or whether or not I had scrubbed the toilets (I hadn’t).
Since those early days of hosting, hospitality has now evolved into the lifestyle of our family, reminiscent of my own childhood.
If I had never reached out and made the first invitation, I would never have met many of my best friends who supported me during hard times and rejoiced with me during sweet times.
These types of friendships are crucial to feeling connected as moms, especially with so many relocations in my own early years of motherhood.
We can all think of many reasons why we shouldn’t host – our home isn’t big enough, the basement is unfinished, the wallpaper you meant to remove a year ago is still half-peeled, your bathrooms haven’t been cleaned since the last bath-time deluge… (Surely I can’t be the only one who considers the bath-time mop up “good enough”!)
Yet when it comes to welcoming a friend, none of these reasons matter. In “Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table”, Shauna Niequist writes,
“…Entertaining isn’t a sport or a competition. It’s an act of love, if you let it be. You can twist it and turn it into anything you want—a way to show off your house, a way to compete with your friends, a way to earn love and approval. Or you can decide that every time you open your door, it’s an act of love, not performance or competition or striving. You can decide that every time people gather around your table, your goal is nourishment, not neurotic proving. You can decide.”
Forget about the laundry you haven’t folded that is sitting in the corner – chances are, your new friend will be relieved to know she isn’t the only one. If baking a homemade coffee cake stresses you out, serve a bag of goldfish instead. If you’re hosting several families, don’t be afraid to ask them to bring a snack to share, too. Entertaining or hosting can be as complicated or as simple as you make it.
If you’re concerned about your home or your entertaining skills, you’re missing the heart of opening your door, which is friendship, community, and ultimately love. This kind of genuine hospitality is so rare these days, so be brave, start inviting, and watch your friendships grow!
During this season of hospitality, now is a perfect time to try your hand at hosting.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Pick your date & time.
- This one is obvious, but find a time that works for YOU! Stick with 1 ½-2 hours for playdates, keeping in mind general meal times. Carving out intentional time for someone else is such a GIFT – no one has time for anything that isn’t a priority. So make hospitality a personal priority, even if you’re busy.
- Pick your peeps.
- Scope out the playground for that mama who you seem to click with.
- Chat with the mom in the back of church who is also wrestling an inconsolable toddler. Introduce yourself to the quiet mom at the library who is cuddling her newborn. (Can we just pause and acknowledge how LONELY life is as a first-time-mom with a newborn?! Say hello and have her over; you are saving her sanity!)
- While a get together with one other mom is wonderful, sometimes having multiple moms takes the pressure off of having one-on-one, personal conversations right away. It is ultimately a personality preference, but experiment with small & larger gatherings to find what you enjoy most.
- Blurt it out.
- Getting the words out can often be challenging with new-to-you friends, but be bold and simply say, “I’d like to have you over for coffee. Does next week on such-and-such a day work for you?” Don’t make a generic statement like, “We should hang out” unless you want to remain strangers.
- Make it happen.
- Don’t stress about the house. Anytime I’m hosting my family from out of town my mom will call on her way and say in her serious tone, “DON’T CLEAN FOR US. We’re coming to see you, not your house.” We laugh about it because we both know I’m speed cleaning, but there’s freedom in knowing that people who truly care about you don’t care at all about the state of your home. Friends that are worth your time will feel the same.
- Set out some toys for the kids and some coffee and snacks for the mamas. Keep it simple and R-E-L-A-X.
- Sit back and enjoy your new friends.
- You and your kids will be so glad you were the awkward mom who went looking for friends.
- Remember, lonely mamas are everywhere in your day-to-day life. Slow down to notice them, seek them out, invite them in, and let the friendships begin!