The other night, I plated my husband’s dinner neatly, and then (like many other nights) by the time I finished everything to be done in the kitchen, I’m carrying out my plate, half-eaten, to scarf the rest of my food before the children were done. But as I sat down to my dinner I thought: maybe it’s practices like this that lead to that nagging sense of not feeling like a person at the end of some days.
As a mother who shows hospitality to others—who welcomes them to new mornings and to their beds at night, who sets out their meals and lays out their clothes—I need to remember to also show hospitality to myself. With the urgent demands of children, I often find myself not extending to myself courtesies I would insist upon for any other human being.
I would never say to a friend:
“Oh just wipe their snot with your sleeve.”
“The two year old threw-up on the bed earlier but I just wiped it down a little instead of going to the Laundromat. It doesn’t smell does it?”
“Sorry you’re on the toilet but the four year old sounds like she just fell– would you mind running out to see if she’s okay?”
I would never welcome a guest for the night to an unmade bed, or present a meal to someone half eaten. There’s nothing wrong with making exceptions when life demands flexibility. But I have realized that consistently failing to show hospitality to myself contributes to that deflated spirit I sometimes have by the end of the day. That feeling of: “Am I a person?” “Am I a real human being? Can I put an outfit together that does not include a baby carrier?”
I think this angst can be softened through hospitality. Hospitality—caring for the needs of the body with attention and grace—is a powerful tool of validating and honoring people. This comes in so many forms: pressing juice for your morning mom’s group, sending good clothes to the family who’s apartment just burned down. Insisting on carrying the whole stroller up the stairs for another mother on that rare occasion you don’t have your own. Braiding your daughter’s hair.
All practices of caring for the body are intimate, but meal times are especially important. We often don’t think of eating being an intimate act. We eat in front of strangers, alone, on subways-whatever. But through most of history other cultures connected the table with the intimacy of relationship. To be seated and served, nourished and listened to was feeding the soul along with the body.
When my daughter is grown, I want her to be the kind of person who makes her bed and fresh coffee for herself, to insist on a run before her children wake up, on painting her nails along with her two year old’s. And I know she will learn to live a lifestyle of hospitality to herself both by how I care for her, and for how I model caring for myself. Because we can only love those around us as much as we have received love ourselves.
What small practices could you do to meaningfully extend more hospitality to yourself this week? I am going to insist that I sit when I eat. I am going to keep tissues in my living room to save my shirt sleeves. I am going to paint everyone’s toes today. I am going to show hospitality to myself.
- Do your nails
- Shower—at least 3 times a week
- Or treat yourself to a bath—without the kids
- Nap instead of cleaning every once in a while
- Garnish your meals every once in a while
- Make your bed
- Buy yourself flowers
- Put music on that you enjoy
- Remember to keep tissues on you
- Keep a stash of chocolate only you know about
What's your opinion?