Toward a Culture of Hospitality: Including Singles in Family Life

I’d like to wrap up my series on hospitality with a challenge to offer hospitality to our unmarried friends as well as our married ones.  There is nothing wrong with having friends in the same ages and stages, but if we limit ourselves to hanging out with other young families, we’re missing out on an opportunity for blessing and being blessed.

As I mentioned last summer, it’s often been easier for me to get together with friends whose life is not regimented by naps and early bedtimes.  My single friends only have one person’s schedule to work around, rather than another whole family!  Practically speaking, I think friends in different life stages have a great opportunity to bless and encourage each other.  If we’re going to be purposeful about cultivating a culture of hospitality in our little part of the world, including singles in our family life is important for us, our kids, and our single friends.

I asked my (single) friend Eleanor to share some practical ways that we could do this, and she said,

Some single people are amazing with children and just want to be invited over, have an infant dumped in their lap and say goodbye to mom. My friend Esther called this kid therapy. I called it terror. I am personally very uncomfortable around children until I have a strong relationship with them. I want to be invited over for tea. I can run interference, bring scones, chat while you bake, or even (maybe) hold the baby while you change the toddler (although I live in fear that the instant I hold the baby it will start screaming and never stop), and provide winning conversation for mom.  If you are willing to put yourself out there and express that you place value on the person’s friendship, I think it will work for many people.  In my case (and for many people) as I get to know your children, I get more comfortable working with them.

While some of my single girlfriends are just itching to come play with my kids, it’s a good reminder that not everyone feels this way.  I love Eleanor’s idea of having someone come over to chat with me while I bake, help me wrangle the kids for a meal, and settle down to tea when the kids are down for quiet rest time.  She gets a peek into my life with kids; I get some real adult conversation.  She learns to be more comfortable with my crazy kiddos; I am challenged to see things from her perspective.  It’s a win-win!

The single guys we know tend to be pretty uncomfortable with babies, so I generally don’t ask them to hold the baby while I cook.  But my older kids can usually interest them in a game of soccer or a sword fight in the backyard or a duplo tower building contest in the living room.  My kids adore their bachelor uncle because he’s rough and silly with them.  My husband is a big sports fan, so it would be pretty natural to invite a single guy over to watch a football game and help grill out for dinner.

As Eleanor pointed out, hospitality doesn’t have to be about a big production like a holiday meal or a big planned activity.  It can be as casual and low-key as having tea or lunch with us.  One of my friends without kids of her own used to come over once every month or so and go grocery shopping, fold laundry, bake cookies, or do whatever we were doing that weekend.  I think it’s important to let our single friends see that life with kids is messy, so when I have friends over to hang out with us on a Saturday morning or a Sunday afternoon, I’ll make sure the house is welcoming, but I’m not too concerned with everything being immaculate.  If we were less worried about presenting a perfect image, would we be more willing to open our homes for hospitality?

If you’re married with kids, have you been able to include unmarried friends in your family life?  If you don’t have children, have you developed relationships with families with kids?

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4 Responses to Toward a Culture of Hospitality: Including Singles in Family Life

  1. Catherine says:

    My husband and I have developed friendships with several couples who have kids. One family, in particular, has been a tremendous model for us as we build our own family (launching in about 2 1/2 weeks!). We’ve found a balance of spending time alone together as couples, alone as wives and husbands, my husband and I alone with the kids (while babysitting) and all together, which has granted us a very well-rounded relationship with each of them.

    • Emily says:

      Catherine, that sounds like a great model! And I can’t believe you’re already this close to your duedate–although I’m sure you probably feel like it’s been plenty long already. =)

  2. Becky says:

    Totally agree that it’s easier to coordinate having single friends over! They can come last minute more often than my friends w/ kids can. We just had a single guy also in Robbie’s PhD program over last week for dinner. After we put Susie down for bed, he stayed and we got to play Settlers of Catan. 🙂

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