Guest Envy

08/18/2012 09:30 am ET | Updated Oct 18, 2012

I think I may need some hostess coaching. When my husband and I bought our vacation home and invited guests for overnights we were excited to have quality time with friends and family. We anticipated balancing the meals, activities and socializing with the same ease we brought to our parties.

It's now mid-summer, and I am here to report we are both completely wiped out and are struggling to keep the coolers filled with wine and soda, and the fridge full with breakfast foods. Our bedroom is a mess: we haven't been able to get the laundry folded or put away, and we collapse into bed each night completely spent.

My hostess-skills learning curve remains quite steep. But I'm not talking about the one-off dinner party. It's never been a big deal for me to set a table and throw together a meal for six (or 20). I am happy to have friends stir my pots and add their own spices to my recipes. I love entertaining with a full crew surrounding the creations, and I even added a "group cook" center island to my kitchen ten years ago. What makes everything even easier is that my husband is an amazing host. He makes extreme desserts, and prides himself on his carrot cakes and feathery angel food extravaganzas drizzled with dark chocolate. He is happy to keep the wine flowing and won't go to bed until the counters are wiped clean.

However, I suffer from guest envy. I fantasize about being the guest in my own house -- not having to get anyone a meal, not going grocery shopping, just hanging with my husband, and not thinking about anyone else's needs but our own. I envy the guests not necessarily because I take such wonderful care of them, but because they don't need to worry about keeping the coolers stocked or the fridge full or making the plans for the day. I am not looking to go to an inn and hire staff to wait on me. I just want to stay home and not be "on." Is this even realistic? What would it take to make this happen?

Perhaps an inventory of what the current issues are could move us closer to learning how to be guests in our home.

Current Issues:

  1. We always say, "Yes," because we believe our family must come first. Mother-in-law, mother, children, children's friends, siblings, nieces and nephews. It always seems best to be generous and inclusive; 30 percent of our summer has been with family. (The downside is we have little time left for our friends and ourselves.)
  2. We love our summer neighbors, but we can't even make it down the driveway to their dinners because we just don't want to show up with guests in tow.
  3. We prefer to make dinner vs. reservations as we like our cooking best and besides, the restaurants are too crowded mid-summer. (That means more work for us.)
  4. We don't feel comfortable taking off on our own to bike or play tennis without inviting our guests along, as that seems rude--so we either don't go or agree to invite them along. (But then I'm grumpy when they bike too slowly or can't hit the tennis ball, so it's hard to know what's worse.)
  5. Friends love to drop by, that means coolers need to be stocked. (You never know when your guest may need a 4 a.m. wine fix.)
  6. We wash two loads of towels every other day and often have to throw them out due to permanent make-up stains. (I get that you want to look fabulous, but my towels do not.)
  7. Mi fridge es su fridge is our philosophy. (The downside is that we can't find our favorite Fage yogurt and the almond butter jar is empty.)
  8. We can't seem to get dinner on the table until 10 p.m. and then don't get to bed til 1 a.m. (So we are sleep deprived, and the guests are up by 7 ready to power walk and needing hard boiled eggs to recharge.)
  9. We like to keep the TV off in our family room and play music instead, but inevitably the TV is ramped up too loud. (I'm all for Aly Raisman, but could you take her downstairs and hush up?)
  10. People want us to show them our lovely little village and the special fun shops. (The downside: We have shopped the shops -- all of them. They are no longer fun for us; we are done. )
  11. We want our blended family of boys to feel at home here so we always say "yes" to them coming even with a good-size posse of friends. (That means it's back to the Stop and Shop once again.)
What's a hostess to do? Banish the guest envy - But how?

I love my friends, and I truly relish the après-dinner-late-night-scrabble games, followed by morning walks to the local café for breakfast. The whole sleepover piece of the puzzle is what moves my friendships from catch-up marathons to actually being in each other's lives.

So maybe with our next house guests we'll role play: We'll be the guests and bring a case of wine or two, or three for our wonderful hosts. We'll just lounge and dine, and not plan a thing. And we'll see what happens. Ahhhhh.

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