Hosting a party sounds fabulous, but the reality is much different. Chef Ken explains why, and how you can change it.
Does this scenario sound familiar? You’re hosting a party at your house. You’re looking forward to seeing friends and family and showing off your newly-renovated gourmet kitchen. The guests arrive. You spend the entire party in the kitchen “in the weeds” cooking, refilling chip trays, refreshing drinks, and mopping up spills. Your guests say goodbye and there you are staring at a sink full of dirty dishes. In your exhaustion, it occurs to you that you didn’t sit down once all night or have one meaningful conversation with any of the people you love.
If that sounds anything like your last party, you’re not alone. A lot of my clients tell me they love their families and friends and that they love entertaining, but it is just so hard to do it all. A lot of my clients are perfectionists, striving to build successful businesses, working hard, trying to raise happy, healthy children. They truly want to celebrate the milestones in their lives by throwing parties that will become lasting memories.
As women, you give so much. In addition to all the time and effort you give to your employer, to your clients, and to your co-workers during the day, you want to give your best when you go home at night, too. When you decide to throw a party for your family or friends, your concern for their comfort and enjoyment often plays into the logistics of how you plan the event. You make sure not to have shrimp if you someone is allergic to shellfish. You buy that one brand of potato chips that your husband likes. You make sure there is a comfortable chair for your aunt who is recovering from hip surgery.
Your careful planning and execution is important to you, since you want everyone to enjoy the time they spend in your home. But what happens so often is that real life gets in the way. Meetings run longer than expected. Kids get sick. Husbands (dare I say it?) aren’t always helpful.
Over and over again, in both my personal life and with my clients, I see women who give and give. They give so much that they struggle to find happiness. And it makes me sad to watch the women I care about sacrifice so much of themselves in order to make others happy and keep that illusion of perfection afloat.
When it Unravels
I had a client last year who exemplified the perfect hostess. When I met her to plan her meal, I could tell that she wanted her in-home party to be a reflection of who she is—a polished and poised professional whose house looks like the cover of Better Homes and Gardens. And everything was rolling along perfectly. Then on the afternoon of her party, I arrived at her front door. with groceries and supplies to begin preparing her meal. When she answered, I saw that she was wearing old sweats, the babysitter was late to pick up her kids, and her gourmet kitchen looked like a tornado had hit it.
I could read the stress and desperation on her face as she apologized and explained, “It has just been one of those days.” So I spring into action. It’s no secret in my business that my clients become family from the day they hire me, so that night I did a lot more than just cook for her and her friends. I pitched in to watch her kids while she got a shower and get dressed. I helped her restore her normally beautiful home to its former state of glory and ready to receive company. By the time the first guests arrived, I could see that she was much more relaxed and ready to put the day’s events behind her and just have some fun.
What that party taught me is that even those people who we think seem to have it together all the time, they have bad days too. We’re all just struggling to get through life sometimes and the only way we get it all done is to rely on the help of one another.
The Parties You Thought You’d Have
If you’re like many of the women I know, you envisioned when you bought your current house that you’d have so many parties there. You made improvements to your home specifically with entertaining in mind. You poured time and money into renovating several smaller rooms to an open floor plan where friends and family could gather around food and drink.
An earlier version of you was so excited to throw parties. You were the first in the family to volunteer to hold Thanksgiving and were so excited for your home improvement show-style reveal of your new kitchen that you worked so hard to renovate and redecorate. So how did you get to this point where it all just seems like a hassle? What do you do when having a party doesn’t even sound appealing?
Getting Out Of the Rut
It certainly isn’t that you love your family or friends any less. It’s not that you dislike parties. You actually really enjoy entertaining when you’re not trying to juggle the drinks, the food, your guests’ individual needs, and a million other details that leave you frustrated and a little depressed by night’s end.
So maybe it means you make some changes to planning your next party. Maybe you talk to your husband about what he can do to help you more. Maybe your kids get a list of chores that includes tidying up the house before they go to the babysitter. And maybe (shameless plug), you hire a chef so that buying the food, cooking, feeding your guests, and cleaning your kitchen are things you no longer have to worry about that night.
One of the main tenets of my business is “Enjoy Life” because I feel like it’s something we need to be reminded to do every so often. Many of us get so wrapped up in trying to manufacture a life that looks good on social media. We forget to reach out and ask for help from our loved ones. We often don’t lean enough on the people in our lives who want to help (if you’ll just ask, and that often includes your husband). Just remember before you plan your next party, it’s okay to give yourself grace. And it’s okay to enjoy your life in the present moment just the way you are, imperfections and all.