The holidays represent different things for different people. For many people, the holidays mean parties, entertaining and house guests, which means extra work and preparation. Can you be a good hostess and set boundaries for house guests? Absolutely. In fact, if you don’t set some expectations, you may wind up in your local hospital psych ward with HSD – Holiday Stress Disorder (term mine). Here is a list of expectations, boundaries and protocol for house guests.
Length of Visit- who decides? Obviously, you’ll agree together about how long the visit should last, but if there is any debate about staying extra time, the host gets final say. Don’t want to tell Aunt Petunia that she has over-stayed her welcome? I hereby empower you feel free to be honest. She may not like it, but your home is your private zone. You should not be expected to keep it open for guests any longer then you feel comfortable with.
Sleeping Arrangements: If you have a guest room, that’s great; but many of us must rearrange our homes and our lives to accommodate guests. Don’t feel obliged to give up your bedroom or force your children to vacate theirs. Ask your children how they feel about sharing their room. If they are uncomfortable, don’t make them feel guilty. Find another solution. If Uncle Lestoil doesn’t like sleeping on the floor or the couch, maybe he needs to check into a hotel.
Everyone pitches in: You are offering your home to your guests. You are saving them hundreds of dollars on hotel fees. You are not also their personal maid service, cook, chauffeur and general dogsbody. I was privileged to be a house guest recently. I just naturally started clearing up after meals and it worked out great. House guests should offer help with meals and clean up, pick up after themselves, do their own dishes (or place them in the dishwasher), keep their possessions and tidy up anything they use. If your guests bring children, the children should be expected to pitch in, too. I don’t provide maid service for my own children and I’m certainly not going to provide it for other peoples’ children. Don’t make extra work for your hostess.
Use of possessions: House guests should not rummage through your cupboards, pantry and possessions. If you want to extend privileges to house guests, tell them so. House guests should wait to be invited and ask for what they need. Respect your host and hostess’s possessions. Be careful with them. Don’t allow your children to touch or handle things without permission. I make it a habit not to touch peoples things and appreciate it when others do likewise. This issue is especially true for expensive digital equipment. A family computer contains private information and should not be used by outsiders. Entertainment devices are expensive and should not be used by guests.
Pets: You are being kind to allow your guests to stay. That invitation does not extend to pets unless you specifically invite them to bring their pets. House guests should not ask if they can bring their pets; it puts the hostess on the spot. Hotels charge extra for pets, if they allow them at all.
Respect the household schedule: Does the family turn in early? Then guests should do likewise. If you’re a night owl, read quietly in your room. Don’t turn the TV on when the family is asleep. Does the family stay up later? Don’t insist that everyone quiet down early just because you go to bed with the chickens. If you need many special considerations, you should not stay in other peoples’ homes. Rent a hotel room.
Stay out of personal matters: Your hosts should not argue in front of guests, but people are human. Sometimes just the stress of having company makes tempers flare. Stay out of it. Go for a walk. Give them space. Guests should not correct or scold children living in the home. Nor should guests tell you how to raise your children, run your marriage and relationships or keep your house. Guests should never interfere between parent and child.
Don’t make a nuisance of yourself: Demonstrate respect for your host and hostess. You’re staying in their home; be grateful and courteous. If you don’t like something that is served, don’t comment on it. If you think it’s time to eat and no one is making a move to start the meal, offer to start it, invite them out to eat, or bite your tongue. Don’t make excessive special requests. Pay for long distance phone calls you may make.
Paying for things: Offer to help with expenses. If you go to the store, offer to pick up items that may be needed. Don’t say you’ll pay and then ‘forget’. Come prepared with cash. When you go on vacation, you bring money for expenses or you do without. Use the same procedure as a house guest. If you know that paying for your visit may offend, bring a thoughtful hostess gift.
If you show the kind of courtesy to your host and hostess that you would expect to be shown to you, everyone will have a nice visit. If not, don’t plan on being invited back.