Druid in Progress: My Struggles with Hospitality

This post has been a long time coming.  It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot…

ADF Druids spend a lot of time examining things in light of the Nine Virtues, of which hospitality is one.  It’s always been a quality I struggled with.  Not that I don’t want to be hospitable.  It’s just difficult for me given my own idiosyncrasies, upbringing, and society.  Having a baby really got me reflecting on this challenge of mine because everyone I know wanted or wants to meet her.  As my pregnancy reached its conclusion and Bee entered the world, I was really stressed, uncomfortable, exhausted, and, well, grouchy!  I’m not ashamed to admit it.  I had a wonderfully ideal pregnancy right up until the last couple weeks.  The resulting cesarean immediately after moving into a new apartment only made me less interested in socializing.  I wanted my mother and father – that was it.  No doubt it was primal urge to be taken care of after having my abdomen sliced open.  I posted on FB about not wanting visitors.  Some may have viewed that as melodramatic at best or rude at worse*, but seriously – we all react to drastic life changes differently.  As I recovered and grew used to having an infant, my husband and I ventured out to visit people on our terms.  That meant we didn’t have to worry about cleaning, unpacking, or entertaining beyond our energy levels.  When we were tired, we headed home.

I reviewed my DP essay on hospitality to help me reflect.   Little has changed except that I now realize, in addition to my mother’s great hospitality, she has also been incredibly insecure about having people over.  As a result, we rarely had people over except for special occasions! The home was never clean enough for her and, upon entering, our guests were greeted by an apologetic hello, complete with instructions that they shouldn’t look around.  I feel that I’ve inherited this insecurity.  Indeed, I’ve caught myself saying those very things now!  With pets and now a baby, keeping the home “magazine clean” is harder than ever.  And yes, I know real homes are seldom kept that tidy, but it’s very difficult for me to shake my nagging worries that our home is never clean enough, that the pet smells we are so used to are overpowering to our guests, that the furniture is covered in too much cat hair, that the living room is too cluttered with art projects and supplies, that there are too many dishes in the sink, that there are too many wires on the living room floor, that there’s not enough room for people to sit, that the living room is too hot because we choose not to have an AC, etc, etc, etc…

The insecurities about my home are only compounded by my own social insecurities that I’m only just realizing.  My home is my safe place.  It’s where I can relax, let loose, and recharge.  It’s very difficult for me to let just anyone come in to begin with, let alone spend a day or two.  I have to really trust people and click with them.  I have to feel safe and free to be myself without fear of angst.  Most times, I have to mentally prepare myself for having people over.  I do not do well with unannounced visited at all.  It’s something that has always stressed me out.

There’s also a fear of strangers.  When I was younger, my parents put the fear of strangers into me.  There’s a definite positive side to that in that I’m alive and well, but it also nourished a real fear that persists, for better or worse.  Strangers could be thieves or could out my spiritual values to the wrong people!  Letting strangers into my home brings in unpredictability – and my home is not supposed to be that way!  It’s my safe place.

I both admire and tsk tsk groves, circles, and covens that welcome anyone into their homes.  While on the one hand, it is the easiest way to start a group, especially if you have land, but on the other hand, it just makes me nervous.  Most robberies are usually perpetrated by people you know, or so I’ve read somewhere.  I’m also a believer in psychic vampires – people who, knowingly or unknowingly, feed on energy.  I don’t want people who knowingly do that to others without consent entering my home either.  In my experience, they create drama and feed off it or wallow in it.  If people can’t keep their emotional shit together, I don’t want them in my home!  And, unfortunately, I’ve met a lot of people like that in the Pagan community!  It’s a big reason why Northern Rivers has membership levels.  We occasionally do things at members’ homes but nobody wants strangers over.  We keep our High Day rituals open to the community at the Kripalu Yoga and Wellness Center.  If, after getting to know you, we think you’re a decent, respectful person, we may eventually invite you over to a private gathering.

Having a baby has only made these issues come to the fore of my mind.  With regards to just having folks over, taking care of an infant is hard enough!  To entertain guests for a long time is, well… the thought is just exhausting right now!  Especially when it comes to feeding guests.  My husband and I live on such a tight budget and have so little time to prepare meals between feeding, changing, and entertaining Bee.  When more people are added to the equation and need breakfast, lunch, and dinner – it’s just too much for me to handle right now! And I have so little me-time to recharge.  Bee is the center of my universe.  I love her but I spend sooo much time nursing her and comforting her, especially at night after work.  I crave me-time more than ever**.

And in regards to having strange Pagans in the home with an infant?  No way.  You can bet I’m going to be even more selective of who can pass my threshold.  Again, people may think I’m being crazy or rude, but that’s fine.  The moment that baby came into my world was the moment my Mama Bear Mode was activated.

Yet the thing is, I so want to be hospitable!  I occasionally pour over Pinterest for party inspiration because I so adore throwing them!  I love to spend time with friends and I love making meals to share!  I enjoy having the Folk of Northern Rivers at my home for meetings, small rituals, and general chatting.   A couple years ago, I finally procured a lovely tea set that I enjoy taking out and I desperately want to have some of my lady friends over for regular tea parties!

What can I do to work through my insecurities?  How can I be more hospitable while still maintaining the boundaries I so need for my physical and emotional well-being?

I’d like to, ideally, put aside time one day per week to clean the home to my liking.  This will require equal dedication and help from those living with me, but it will making having visitors less of a stressful ordeal.  I need to plan ahead when having people over so I’m not freaked out about the state of the home.  I also need to just trust that my friends love me, understand that I’m a busy new mum, and won’t judge me harshly for some extra cat hair!  I also need to be firm when I have people over and admit that I just cannot afford to make a huge meal myself and either suggest a potluck or that everyone contribute towards ingredients and putting the meal together.  In fact, that could result in some wonderful parties!  Taco day, veggie sushi night, pizza parties, etc…

To any dear friends or family reading this: I pray that this entry doesn’t come across as mean-spirited.  Rather, I hope it shines some light on my hermit-crab tendencies.  As we get into a better routine with Bee (and thus I get more sleep), I will feel more up to having people over regularly.

To my readers: do you struggle with any virtues?

* Thankfully, many friends and family were very understanding of my desire for quiet and alone time with my little one.  Most who expressed this seemed to have gone through similar experiences or had a good sense of empathy!

** A big thank you to those who visited after Bee was born and brought me or made me food!  My mother was a saint and made several meals those first few days.  One of my girlfriends came over with homemade Indian food!  Oh, that was fantastic!  Another dear friend brought her special strawberry bread which was such a treat!  If you know a new mother and want to visit her or just do something nice – MAKE HER FOOD!  And do the dishes.  😉

Published by M. A. Phillips

An author and Druid living in Northern NY.

12 thoughts on “Druid in Progress: My Struggles with Hospitality

  1. Grey, we all have some of these insecurities when you are anything gen x or older. I find it is the Gen y’s and newer that aren’t being taught stranger danger or what not and that things on the news desensitize us to the real issues.

    I am the type that any time I stay somewhere I try to make myself useful, especially if my hosts are feeding me. Whether it is helping buy the groceries and or actually helping cook I try and keep the guest side of the ghosti* relationship to make sure it is as easy on my hosts as possible 🙂

    1. Yes! Reciprocity! I always try to pitch in when I’m a guest. I know I could be better, but trying counts, right?! Good for you and making yourself useful when visiting!

  2. Hospitality in the modern age is easily abused, one needs to be careful. Even in ancient times stories emerge of hosts offering anything to the guest who then asks an unreasonable thing leading to problems.

    I shall have to write a blog post on this subject at some point.

  3. Oh my Soul Sister!!!! You’re a new Momma and I COMPLETELY know and understand where you’re coming from, especially for being protective of Bee. I was and still am to an extent the same way. I really have to feel people and places out to make sure the vibes feel OK to let people around them or to bring them to places or gatherings as there are A LOT of weirdos out there and you don’t want to expose your children to any of that at such a young age and you most certainly don’t want to bring that energy into your home!

    “Some may have viewed that as melodramatic at best or rude at worse*” – clearly these people have never been through pregnancy and delivery. It sounds like we were raised by the same mothers (LOL) and I’ve discussed my same insecurities with you before. It feels like it is my duty to take care of and entertain everyone’s needs because they are guests in my home. I guess that’s why my Mom didn’t like having people over (even though the house was always clean – I mean OCD clean!) On my mom’s side of the family, it was always understood that you were to give notice to family to make sure it was OK to come over – it was considered most rude to just “pop in” just incase they weren’t up to having visitors or the home wasn’t presentable. It always felt uncomfortable, a lot of pressure, and you afraid to touch anything or make a mess.

    That attitude is still with me to this day (which I’ve consciously tried to alter but to no avail) and went into hyper-mode with my first pregnancy. I was to the point that before my daughter was born, the idea of having anyone over or in the delivery room was enough to throw me into a nervous breakdown! I didn’t want *anyone* in my house or in the delivery room (except for my husband of course). At 38 and 39 weeks pregnant, in an effort to be a good hostess, I tried to make sure the house was spotless and meals had been prepared in the freezer ahead of time for my mother-in-law to come up to AK. I prayed that my daughter would be born before her arrival so I wouldn’t have to go through the awkwardness of telling her I didn’t want her in delivery room. My husband I guess took care of that for me.

    While I was appreciative for the help when we came home, I still had this feeling like my space was being encroached upon and I needed to be up cleaning after everyone as it wasn’t being done to my “standard” and was really stressing me out. At times, I just wanted to lock myself in my room and lay on the bed with my newborn daughter and nurse. I resented every time my husband took her downstairs and/or someone wanted to hold her. Maybe it’s just a post-partum thing, who knows.

    My sister came up to AK for the birth of my son. I also went over my due date with my son so my sister was only able to stay for a day or two after I was home to help out. I was so stubborn in wanting to take care of things and clean after she left that I landed myself in the hospital for doing too much about a week after delivery.

    To this day, my house never seems “clean enough”. I still have this nagging feeling that “Oh my god – what if my mom or somebody saw my house like this?” There still are always dirty dishes in the sink, clean clothes scattered across the floor, papers piling up everywhere, toys EVERYWHERE, etc. After almost 5 years, and with another little one on the way, I’m still learning how to let go and not sweat the small stuff. But it’s SO HARD!!!!!!!

  4. I grew up with a lot of ‘drop in’ company- friends and family who show up uninvited. I suppose it was a different time because people don’t really do that anymore. Of course, drop-ins usually made their visits welcome- they brought presents, shared the bounty of their gardens, and they entertained us. Nobody expected us to drop everything and wait on them and most folks were gone well before meal time.

    Now I am as anti-social as possible. I don’t want people around. At all. Like you, my house is my safe place. I don’t want to share my comforts or my me time.

    As for keeping the house clean, the only sure fire solution is the formal room that is only used for guests. Of course, that doesn’t work in a small house. Not many people can afford to lay aside unused space. I try to at least keep the entrances as clean as possible because this will be the first thing people see.

    I like the party idea, especially if you get plenty of time to plan. I also think guests should bring things, either food, drinks, ice, or decorations so that all the work doesn’t fall on the hostess. I suppose what really puts me off is the idea of bad guests- people who are rude, greedy, messy, or more trouble than they’re worth.

    1. Thanks for commenting! Since moving into a slightly bigger place, I do have an area that I use as a dining room. I have a few boxes there that need to be packed away, but my plan is for that to be my nice entertaining area. 🙂

  5. Oh this is a great post! I bet you’d be surprised to learn that I am a total hermit who loves her alone time and only really likes planned visits and events at the house…not so much b/c of home cleanliness concerns but b/c this is MY private haven (and also b/c I’m known to be barely dressed/possibly naked when home)…these tendencies were only compounded by pregnancy hormones and my extreme tiredness after having to be “on” all day for work.

    I remember when Bee came early (thru a c-section no less!) and you very simply said on Facebook – “here’s the news, please respect our privacy at this time.” I was like – “roger!” I’m sorry I didn’t bring you food….I guess I could have made more of an effort to come by after a while…but I figured I would meet Bee eventually (on your schedule).

    I totally understand with not wanting people descending on you and baby immediately. I made it clear from the start that I was NOT interested in family in the delivery or recovery room, but as the due date approached, I realized I had to also address the “when can people visit after the birth” issue (since all our family has to travel, although only by car). I also made it clear that, despite our extra bedroom, that no one would be staying WITH us. I just knew that people breathing over me and Baby Boo 24 hours a day, not to mention taking up my 1 bathroom, would not work for me! As with the shower, I found a free place for people to stay elsewhere, but was still amazed that, as Butch was making phone calls the evening of the birth, that some family wanted to literally drive up that night! Seriously? Luckily Butch and I had discussed how we wanted alone time as a new family, for a few days, at hospital and HOME – so he explained that…but I’m sure some feelings were hurt. Too bad! What Mama wants, Mama gets – haha!

    Longest comment ever, I know, just wanted you to know I sympathize, both pre-preg, pre-birth and post-baby! Being of a solitude-loving personality does not mean you can’t be warm and hospitable…just on YOUR terms.

    1. You know, a big reason we don’t like unannounced company is also because we were notorious for running around with as little clothing as possible before my father moved in! Alas, “pantsless o’clock” has been put on hold for awhile. 😉

      And please, no need to apologize for not bringing me food! I’m grateful for those who did, but definitely don’t want to make anyone feel bad if they didn’t. We all have a ton of stuff going on – and you had your own pregnancy! *hug* I am glad you understood my need for space, though. I really didn’t want to hurt my friends’ feelings!

      I am so glad you and Butch were able to handle the visitation situation. Perhaps some people didn’t understand, but you have to do what you feel is best! Others really need to respect that. I understand how excited people are to see new family and just soak in the baby goodness, but new mamas are EXHAUSTED! And yes – those first few days are so precious. Not to mention, learning to breastfeed can be difficult. You don’t want your uncle or whoever popping in just as you’re popping out! LOL!

      Rest up, lady. I’ll visit you or meet you somewhere when you’re ready. 🙂

  6. I felt the same way after my son was born, and it wasn’t taken well, nor respected. I wanted space and privacy in those first few weeks. I didn’t get it. Our culture does not respect new mothers much. I recognise and empathise with much of what you’ve said. I think the most important thing is to be hospitable on your on terms, having figured those out. You do not owe anybody.

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