Thursday, June 25, 2009

Who Are You Trying To Impress?

Who are you trying to impress?
Are there visitors that get you in a frenzy, cleaning the house top to bottom, biting your nails hoping the children don't say anything untoward, bringing pretty but impractical or uncomfortable dresses up from the back of the closet, searching out complicated, impressive recipes?
Does an upcoming dinner party get you panicky, hoping everything comes together, praying that everything looks right, that the children don't spill or break anything?
Do you work harder preparing for a visit from a distant friend or seldom seen relative than for your own husband and children?
Do you throw toys in a basket and shut off rooms when your neighbor pops over but let your husband come home at the end of a long day to trip over toys and laundry not yet put away?
Do you refuse your friend's offer to help wash up the dishes only to later refuse the time to play a game with your children while you clean up on your own?
Who are you trying to impress?

It began to seem a little uncomfortable to me, some time ago, to put so much energy into trying to impress others. I mean, I like our friends, I want them to be happy and comfortable at our house, in our company, but if I had to choose, wouldn't I rather my family feel comfortable and happy at our house? If I only ever really clean the house when there's company coming, isn't that kind of dishonest? If I wear pajamas and spit-up shirts unless we leave the house or someone comes over, isn't that kind of weird? It began to feel important to me that I shouldn't be putting more effort into impressing others than I was putting into impressing my own family.

I don't mean to say my husband comes every evening to a freshly pressed wife with high heels and a lipstick smile. I'm no Stepford Wife, to be sure.

But I am mindful of the impression I am making on my family. Do I want my children to think that getting dressed is too hard a task to accomplish on a normal day? Do I want them to have the impression that the way we live and keep our house isn't good enough for others? Do I want my husband to think he has to work all day and then come home to more work? Do I want him to have the impression that I value him like a box of mac and cheese, but value a dinner guest like a crown roast?

I haven't got any of it really figured out. I'm still thinking about it.
Sometimes he comes home and trips on the fleet of toy cars, sometimes we have toast and cheese for supper. Sometimes I want my husband to know how hard it is, keeping a home and children, homeschooling and doing so much by hand. I almost always want him to come home and jump right in, because it never ends here at home, and while I don't want him to have the impression that he is responsible for EVERYTHING, I do want him to have the impression that he is important to us in everything we do. I don't want him to have the impression that the work I do isn't demanding, but neither do I want him to think that I don't feel grateful for the opportunity to be at home, to do this work.

Sometimes we have elaborate supper parties, sometimes I even clean up before hand. I love cooking and planning parties, and it is fun to share food and festivities with friends. I don't want our friends feeling uncomfortable, that everything is just so, that we've gone too far out of our way, that they can't make themselves at home or that the broken dish is a big deal, but at the same time I don't want them to have the impression that they're not special to us, that we don't value them the light they bring to our lives, that they aren't worth a little extra effort.

The last couple of supper parties we've had and the last couple of week+ long bouts of company that we've had have all been really fun, mellow and comfortable. I've tidied up, found recipes, cooked, but also shared the responsibility, and let our guests help, make themselves at home, and be comfortable and useful. It's gone really well, certainly for us, and I'm pretty sure for our guests as well. But still, there's the question, lingering around.

Who are you trying to impress?
How do you balance the whom and how and what of the impressions you're making?

1 comment:

TKSawyer said...

Yalisha, I totally love this post. I'm in the same exact spot. I used to really knock myself out with the housework, to the expense of my children. I heard myself say, "Just one more minute and I'll come play" one too many times. Now, my kitchen and bathrooms are clean -- not spotless, but clean enough nobody is going to get ill, kwim? The rest can keep. I have stepped up the cooking effort because I do want my kids to remember good food and happy mealtimes. That's more of a value for me than a clean house. I'd rather be comfortable and happy then stressed. And, please know, truthfully, we do not pay attention to the condition of your house. Ever!