Putting Up with Friends When You are Putting Them Up

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Hosting friends can be nothing short of awesome. Hours of conversation give way to movies and ice cream or hitting the hottest night spots together. But when what used to be a mini-vacation turns into something you now might avoid, it is time to apply a new perspective and a few ground rules.
For many women, hosting friends seems more like a burden than a holiday. Schedules get thrown off. Your spouse and/or children take a back seat for the duration of the visit. Just thinking about all the preparation and lost time brings you down. It's extremely common to conclude that the pre- and post-visit cleanup, the extra cooking, playing tour guide and the obligatory hours-long conversations just don't fit into your already-packed schedule, and your friend will have to find a good hotel.
It's easy to let friendships slide or put off a visit in favor of convenience. If you find yourself repeatedly wanting to say no just to save your sanity, a bit of cognitive and strategic readjustment may be in order.
·      Set ground rules. Visits frequently go wrong due to lack of communication. If you're a mother, your childless friends may not understand why dinner is at five and the TV goes off for good at nine. Be up front with your friend about your daily routine and with yourself about which parts you're willing to be flexible. The more you stick to your existing schedule, the less post-visit “recovery” time you'll need.
·      Live your life. Make it clear to your friend which days and times during her visit you will be available for socializing so she can plan accordingly. Provide her with a list of nearby grocery stores, malls and other essentials and a city map. Include her in happy hour with your coworkers.  If you made plans pre-visit, don't skip out on them, but do include your friend if possible.
·      Ask for help. No, you shouldn't make her do the dishes (though she may offer), but you should expect your friend to treat your home with respect. It is perfectly reasonable to ask that she put dirty towels in the hamper or bring empty glasses to the kitchen. If your friend is a falling short of acceptably tidy, a simple, “Sorry to be a neat freak, but could you wipe down the counter after cooking? It would be a huge help.” You're a hostess, not a maid.
·      Make it easy. If your schedule is too crazy to predict, be clear about it from the beginning. Tell your friend you have no when or even whether you'll have any spare time during her visit, but you are happy to play hostess and want her to enjoy her stay. Then give her a key and let her come and go as she pleases. If you find yourself unexpectedly free, you can enjoy spending time with her without feeling pressured or guilty.
·      Invite her in. Unless your friend has been living under a rock, she knows you have other commitments and priorities. Integrate them and her. She may not have kids, but ask her to tag along on your kids' Sunday-afternoon playdate anyway. She might not be a dog lover, but she might agree to accompany you while you volunteer at the local Humane Society after work. Just want to chat, woman to woman? Invite her along for company during your Saturday-morning errands.
The most important way to deal with hsoting friends? Be honest. It's always okay to say “No” if it is really and truly a bad time for visitors.
Women frequently fall into the trap of thinking they must plan for and preside over every moment of a friend's visit. And often, this leads to tension. Instead of shifting your life around during a friend's visit, leave it as is. Your friend will understand and join in, relishing her time just being with you and your family. Or, if this scenario doesn’t fit with her goals, she’ll find other accommodations, and again, simply be grateful for the chance to reconnect when she is in town.

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