Wednesday, November 6, 2013

My Hostessing Compulsion

This is not the post I intended to put up today; in fact, I have a truly fabulous post (complete with giveaway!) about Sarai and surrogacy that is this close to being finished, if I could only remember my second point (time to go back and re-read the source material). Instead, here I am, writing about my compulsion to host and have everything be perfectly perfect. 

Please note that I am not talking about hosting the way the Rockefellers' host or even Martha Stewart hosts. However, my standards are pretty high; the house should be truly clean, not just stashing stuff away where no one can see the mess; there should be an overabundance of good food, no one should leave hungry; the decorations should be tasteful, elegant, and not destroyed by the end of the day, and everyone should have a wonderful time. I don't ask much, do I? Especially when the gatherings can include up to 20, ranging in age from 3 to 13 for the kids, and adults from 30 to 70. Somehow I expect to be able to feed and entertain them all while not leaving a mountain of dishes for the next day. (Who me? Type A? Perfectionistic? Never.) 

On top of it, my wonderful MIL (who I would call S - except there are way too many S's in our combined families, so I guess I'll just call her MIL for now) managed to raise her 4 children in what is admittedly a tiny house. To say that it is a tight squeeze when we gather there is an understatement, which is probably why she so loves it when we host. To top it off, only one of my darling husband's siblings, his sister, ever hosts any family gatherings, and she hosts once or twice a year. My in laws all live in the Pittsburgh area, so we end up gathering frequently. If you average it out, it ends up being around once a month. We host my in laws three or four times a year, and I still end up feeling guilty for not doing more. (Am I nuts? Maybe. On the other hand, that does still leave my MIL with 5 or 6 gatherings, and she is starting to get up in years.) 

One of Husbandido's brothers is off the hosting hook; he's single and lives in a one bedroom apartment. His other, oldest brother, though... Well, I've never seen the inside of their house, and we've been married five years; according to Husbandido, that SIL is something of a hoarder, and there isn't really room to move in their house. That branch of the family is also the most likely to flake out and cancel or not show up at the last minute. In addition to oldest brother and SIL, there are their two boys, a daughter from SIL's previous marriage, her two kids, and sometime's SIL's sister and her daughter, so that can easily halve my expected attendance. If I'm expecting 20, suddenly only having 10 means a lot of leftovers (and a cranky me). 

As usual, we hosted the October/November birthday party at the end of October, celebrating Husbandido, his sister, oldest brother's wife, and MIL. Yup, my gift giving insanity starts in October. We're again hosting my family's holiday gathering, too. My family is spread out, with my parents Scottsdale snowbirds and my brother's family in Michigan, so we gather less frequently. Until my niece was born we all went out and spent Thanksgiving or Christmas in the Arizona warmth and sunshine. Since then we've hosted; I don't blame my brother for not wanting to fly that far with an infant/toddler. Hosting my family is both easier and harder. It's easier because there are fewer people (7 including us, and counting our toddler niece as a full person), which means fewer dishes and fewer insanely picky eaters. It's harder because it lasts longer; instead of being over in hours, it lasts days (usually 4 or 5, which is a lot longer to keep everyone entertained and from annoying one another). So roughly a month after hosting a giant party, I am hosting an extended house party, featuring Thanksgiving, end of year birthday celebration (my mom and my brother's wife), and Christmas. And yet somehow I feel guilty because we haven't offered to host Christmas for my in laws. (Husbandido's sis and her family are going to her husband's family for Thanksgiving, so MIL is currently scheduled to host Thanksgiving [albeit with a greatly reduced crowd] and Christmas.)

And so here I am, obsessing about finding just the right Christmas and birthday gifts for everyone, wondering how I am going to have everything clean and our cat re-trained for a different feeding station in time. Why am I so obsessive about getting just the right gift and being the perfect hostess? I think there's a semi-reasonable rationale hiding in there: I don't have the fabulous career I once expected, and neither do I have the adorable children I planned for. Sometimes it seems like giving great gifts and hosting great gatherings are my only opportunities to shine. When put it out there like that, in black and white, it looks a little sad, but it's true.


  1. I think it's a beautiful thing to put that much thought and effort into being a hostess. Of course, like anything, you have to do the best you can and then not obsess over might haves and could haves and should haves (so easy to say, but so hard to let them go, whatever the situation). And maybe I'm out of line here, but I'm thinking that if you are using these times to prove your worth, you don't need to. Having a certain job or being a mother is not what gives you worth. Being you is what gives you worth. On the other hand, if all of this time and energy goes into it as being the time that you can give of yourself to the people in your life, then that's just beautiful!

    Looking forward to reading the other post that you're working on as well!

    1. What a great insight! I think my problem is twofold: first, I really do obsess far more than is healthy, and second, my reasons for doing are a mixture of wanting to do what I can for friends and family, a bit of obligation (we do have the space, and I have the time), and trying both to prove my worth and feel like I'm using my talents for something. Just being is not something I'm very good at.