I grew up in a family of introverts who pretended to be extroverts for much of the week; after all, they pastored a small suburban church. My parents filled their days with church members seeking counseling, phone calls, drop-ins, and members simply wanting to chat. So at home, they needed time to recharge.
On evenings and Saturdays, my family returned to the natural order of the introvert: quiet and calm, with no excessive talking. They filled their free time with, well . . . nothing. I remember my childhood home as one of varying degrees of peace and quiet. For a bookish girl like myself, this fit me perfectly.
When my husband and I began dating, I entered into a family of extroverts of the intense variety. I never knew whom I might meet at their house. The phone rang every few minutes, the family held loud conversations through walls and closed doors, and people dropped in with alarming regularity.
My future mother-in-law maintained an open door policy, and many times I arrived at their home to find strangers hanging out in my mother-in-law’s kitchen while she was out shopping.
I had no frame of reference for this kind of behavior, and I felt like Alice in Wonderland after falling down the rabbit hole of extreme hospitality.
I enjoyed spending time in both places — my parent’s house felt like a retreat, an oasis to return to when the hustle and bustle of my fiance’s home became overwhelming. And while watching my mother-in-law from a safe distance, I learned more about the importance of making our homes a place of welcome and hospitality.
After marrying my husband, our expectations of what home would look like for us as a couple inevitably collided. I wanted quiet, he wanted chaos. Or in his words, “People over for dinner.” I wanted intimate gatherings, he wanted parties.
He once invited over the entire neighborhood, while I sat dumbfounded next to him. Needless to say, our extreme differences meant that meeting in the middle didn’t feel natural to either one of us. So we’ve spent the last nineteen years learning how to give and take, carving out a new version of what home means for us as a family.
Home doesn’t have to be an exclusive retreat, nor does it need to be a revolving door of party people.
We’ve learned to strike a balance, where home feels like a warm welcome — where it becomes whatever our friends and family need, as they need it. When people arrive at our front door, I want to think less of myself, and how I feel about my hosting abilities, and more about how we make others feel as our guests.
Above all, we want our home to feel safe for everyone who sits at our table, and for each of us who live here. We hold others words in confidence, we won’t judge, and we desire their company. We want them to know hospitality isn’t a competition. Crumbs will scatter the floor, the food will likely be takeout, and our kids will inevitably show visitors where we fail in parenting. It’s part of our (mostly) open-door policy.
Nineteen years, three kids, and six homes later, we’re finally learning how to lean into our strengths as a couple. I offer people rest, and my husband offers them a party. Either way, you’re welcome to join us.
Related: Hang this beautiful 8×10 print in your home to remember that “Life isn’t about having it all together — it’s about knowing together we have it all.”