As divorced moms, more than ever, we need friends and support structures. And that can mean reconnecting with, or making sure we stay connected to, people we love. Whether a few miles away or in another country, having friends means that we aren’t lonely and that we have all kinds of social options for keeping the blues at bay.
I’ve never taken my friends and family for granted. And once I got sick and split from my abusive husband, those ties became more important than ever. In the throws of illness, sadness and chaos, I began to fully realize how many people loved and supported me. There were times that I was seriously blown away by the outpouring of love and support I received from others. I became almost obsessed with becoming the best friend, daughter, sister or neighbor I could be. I wanted to make sure that I gave back that love.
I also reconnected with those I had lost touch with. One such example was my former colleague, Stephanie. We worked together some 15 years ago. We reconnected on Facebook and weeks later, she sent me a message announcing that her employer was relocating her to Buenos Aires and she could tell from my posts that I loved to travel. She invited me to visit. Really? Days later, my fiancé and I purchased plane tickets and the next thing you know, Stephanie and I were catching up in person in South America. On that same trip, we took the ferry to Montevideo, Uruguay and stayed with my aunt and uncle for several days. We just got back from Florida where my future sister and brother-in-law hosted us in their beautiful home in Jacksonville. And then there was Seattle hanging with Cristina and Ryan… I could give more examples, but you get the point.
I love having friends spread out around the globe and when I get invites to visit, I rarely say no. Not only do I get to save money on our travels, but I love reconnecting with people I love. One of my favorite trips ever was a week in Paris just blocks from the Yves St Laurent flagship store and a personal tour guide.
And then there are the invites to barbecues, pool parties, and dinners. Getting out and being social is the best pick-me-up I could ever fathom.
In my recent experiences (and there have been many), I have noticed some universal traits of really great hosts, which I try to emulate when I have visitors in my own home. Becoming a great host is an art form and it takes practice. It means making your guests feel comfortable, welcomed, and well taken care of. Anticipating their needs and even incorporating great conversation skills are essential.
As I get ready to host some big gatherings over the next few months, I’ve started running through what my hosts have done to make me feel so welcomed. Here they are:
- Give your overnight guests a private (and clean) space of their own
Even if you must relocate your children to a shared bedroom for a few days, or the basement, give your guests a quiet, clean, private space to call their own. Put fresh linens on the bed and pillows, and straighten up. If possible, and if your guests are staying for more than a night or two, try and clear up closet and drawer space for them so they can unpack.
- Stock up the bathroom
Make sure there is shampoo and hair conditioner, and fresh soap in the shower. Put out fresh soap (or fill the soap decanter) at the bathroom sink. Put out clean towels and washcloths for them to use. It also makes sense to keep extra toothbrushes, toothpaste and other bathroom necessities in case they forget theirs. These don’t need to cost a lot of money—go to the Dollar Store and pick up a pack of four toothbrushes for (you guessed it) under a dollar for the set. Always make sure there is extra toilet paper that is easy to find and bathroom air freshener.
- Stock the fridge
I don’t think it’s necessary to spend a ton of money but it is important to have some basics, like coffee and cream, fresh fruit and cereal, and snack items. When your guests arrive, show them the fridge and make them feel comfortable helping themselves.
- Cook for them (or take them out to dinner)
Unless there are extenuating circumstances, I think it is important that you cook at least a meal or two for them. Ask if they have food restrictions and be mindful of them. If you don’t cook, consider ordering takeout or going somewhere local and fun. Be prepared to pay for the meal.
- Spend time with your guests
If possible, take some time off of work or clear your weekend schedule to play tour guide. If you simply can’t, going out after work or at least leaving out a list of places they should go is an acceptable alternative.
- Talk to your guests
Conversation skills are essential. If this doesn’t come naturally to you, pull out a board game, go out to a movie, or do something fun, like golfing or visiting a local museum. Few things feel worse than feeling unwanted and ignored in someone else’s home.
- Bake or serve drinks upon arrival
I love it when I’ve showed up at someone’s home and they have cookies or muffins, or even a bottle of wine ready. It’s a great way to say “Welcome” and start the flow of conversation. When we arrived at my friend Stephanie’s home in Buenos Aires, we stayed up late sitting on her deck overlooking the sprawling city, sharing a bottle of wine and local cheeses and breads, and reminiscing.
- Leave the lights on and give them a key
If your guests arrive late, make sure the outside lights are on and they have a way to get into your home easily. Also leave some interior lights on for them. It’s not easy finding your way in unfamiliar surroundings.
- Don’t expect your guests to work
If your guests don’t pitch in to clean up, let it go. Keep your expectations low, smile a lot, and know that even ungracious guests will leave eventually.
Now that you’ve (hopefully) been a gracious host, your guests will likely reciprocate with an invitation to their home. Karma is fabulous in this case. And I’ll bet you’ll find you have more, and better, friends than ever.