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Messy hospitality – is there such a thing? How can moms make peace with an imperfect home?
Growing up, I loved to play Barbies and create picture perfect scenarios of life. Sure, I created drama in their story lines, but everything else was perfect. Without even realizing it, I started to associate motherhood with perfection. This naturally became a big problem as I started to have kids of my own, because we all know that motherhood is messy.
As I continued to strive for perfection, I continued to get more stressed out. Nothing ever seemed to go as planned. Somehow the perfect world I strived for wasn’t happening. This especially played out in the area of hospitality.
Showing hospitality to others has always been something I loved and craved. I always knew I wanted to have a home where I could invite others over for dinner and play dates. However, somehow the concept of true hospitality became foggy as I entered into motherhood.
Messy hospitality and the perfectionist
I recall one time in particular where my desire to show hospitality was held captive by my perfectionist tendencies. I had thirty minutes before our friends came for dinner.
Naturally, I ran around frantically cleaning every little spot. I tossed toys back into containers, ran the vacuum, and shoved unfolded laundry into our bedroom as I attempted to create an illusion of perfection.
My frustration level was at an all time high as I seemed to be the only one cleaning. I turned on the TV in efforts to keep my kids from making messes. I shouted at my husband to get up and help me because we must have everything ready! Messy hospitality was not a phrase in my dictionary.
Perfect house/family turmoil?
Of course, when our friends arrived we greeted them with a spotless house – but plastered on smiles.
Naturally within less than twenty minutes, our house was strewn with toys, dishes, and so on.
Throughout the entire evening, I struggled to be fully present. My mind was constantly spinning with thoughts of whether the kids were behaving, when should I bring dessert out, and that I needed to clean up the dishes.
I wondered if they noticed the worn couch or the stained carpet. Should I mention the dent in the wall where my son had punched it or act like it isn’t there? My inner monologue was holding me hostage from community. Instead of being present, I spent the majority of the evening distracted and distant.
Without really thinking deeply about it, I assumed hospitality meant I needed to have the perfect, spotless house. My kids needed to be on their absolute best behavior. Everything had to be perfect.
Perfection was my unspoken and unacknowledged goal as a mom. However, while perfection in a Barbie house may be easy to achieve, perfection in our own homes is never attained.
A lesson in true hospitality
Then one day, we were at a friend’s house after church for brunch and I caught a glimpse of true, messy hospitality.
With our families combined we had six little kids running around. It was in all ways, managed chaos. They had prepared an amazing brunch and we all sat, ate, and talked while the kids ran around. After brunch, I quickly offered to help clean up. My friend, calmly said, “Cleaning can wait until you all leave. Now is the time to relax and talk.” It was so simple and yet life changing.
In that moment, I saw that hospitality is not a perfect meal, well behaved kids, or a spotless house. True hospitality is being fully present with those you are hosting.
In a sense, it’s messy hospitality.
The truth of letting the messy side show
From that day on, I have noticed more instances of hospitality in those around me and I have slowly been working on letting go of the need for perfection. I am learning that in order to have true, real friendships we need to let the messy side show.
When my friends let their imperfections shine, I am able to let my guard down and be real. The same goes when I let my imperfections shine.
When we let down our walls of striving for perfection, others can come in. Connection happens as we realize there are similar struggles and challenges. It is a beautiful thing to do life together. Mamas, we need to let down these walls and let true community transform us.
Life is lonely when we are spending it constantly striving for perfection. Reality is, our kids will always be kids. Our homes will always need just one more project finished. Nothing is going to be perfect and that is okay because there is beauty in our messes.
I continue to work on letting go of perfection. I would be lying if I said I never struggle with it, it is a constant thing I work on. However, it is easier. The more I am around authentic people, being real and honest, the more I am able to do the same.
Now before company comes over, I still clean up the house, but without striving for perfection. I understand how my focus needs to be on the people not the surroundings. I am growing deeper friendships because of allowing others into my mess.
Today, I want to encourage you to let go of striving and choose honest motherhood. Motherhood is a beautiful mess and as we share our messes together, we are then able to grow and connett like never before.
Who can you let into your mess? Invite them over and do not stress about how everything looks. While they are over, be present. Wait to clean up and just be in the moment.
Keri lives in Charleston, SC with her husband and three kids. She is passionate about encouraging moms to thrive in whatever season they are in. She shares on her family lifestyle blog regular encouragement and practical tips.