Holiday Hosting Duties and Overnight Guests?

Updated on October 19, 2014
L.H. asks from Forked River, NJ
22 answers

Because of the size of my extended family and the size of my home, I am the designated holiday host, for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. I have found myself dreading this time of year and feeling exhausted just thinking about it. Its pretty normal for me to retreat to the bedroom at some point during the events for a breather because I'm a bit worn out by the work that goes into hosting. I actually love having everyone over at my house during the holidays, the decorating, the baking and the excitement my daughter feels about seeing her relatives. My family is in general very gracious about the whole thing, helping with the food and washing dishes afterward. However, there are a few things that I don't enjoy, the biggest one being out of town in laws wanting to stay in the guest room for days at a time, in combination with my trying to get the house and menu and food and decorations in order for the big day. Its stressful having to look the other way when they make a mess, have their clutter throughout the house, planning daily meals that accommodate their needs, and also trying to be friendly and engaging when I have a million things that need to get done with the clock ticking away. They stay at our house because of distance but also because they want to spend time with my daughter. Is there a solution to this tricky stressful situation of mine?

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answers from New York on

Book a hotel for them and tell them that it's simply too much for you to handle. They will still be around all day, everyday but you won't have to worry about cleaning rooms and bathrooms and washing towels, etc.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

You could have it catered to take away some of the stress or at least ask everyone to bring a specific dish that you specify.

We have Christmas and New Years without the overnight guest so I understand how draining it is. My husband handles all food/drink and I do all the cleaning. Even that is exhausiting. I can't imagine doing it all.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Cleveland on

I would have my husband talk to them "without you knowing". I would have him say "Mom and Dad, you guys are great guests and I know you try to help and DD loves seeing you but I've noticed that it's too much for L.. She loves you guys so would never say anything but she's hosting everyone and it's a ton of work and it's gotten too stressful and tiring for her to also host you guys staying over. Could you stay in a hotel this time? I'll pay for it. Just pretend it's your idea." If they don't go for it, they're pretty selfish and stop worrying about their daily meals. Stop worrying about being friendly and engaging. Be pleasant of course but just stop being such a great hostess. Give yourself permission. No one else in the family hosts like you do. I was brought up with the perfect hostess mother so I know how it feels like things "should" be done but lots and lots of hostesses aren't so accommodating. Try that and if it doesn't really help, then maybe next year your husband has to say they just can't stay overnight. I host a big party every year and used to want everything so perfect and then I realized after the first couple of guests, things get messy so quickly no one notices how neat the house was before anyway. They never even know. And very few of them host such a big party every year so why should I care if they think I haven't done it perfectly? They don't do it at all! I've given myself permission to relax and it really helps. Unless you're competing with other relatives who host huge groups annually and have everything so nice and perfect, who are they to criticize?? And I bet they wouldn't. They're not doing 1/2 as much as you and likely realize it. If they don't, they're not so nice so who cares what they think?...

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

If it stresses you in the many ways you describe here, you are fooling yourself when you also say that you "love" this burden.

Others only "designate:" you as hostess, chef, maid, etc. because you LET them assume that you are fine with doing every single aspect of the holidays. They now assume that every Christmas is at your house, right? Even though they help out and are nice about it, that's not an assumption anyone should make.

If you are the type who will feel guilty if you say "We're having a nuclear family Christmas this year -- just us three!" (which is what I'd do every other year in your shoes), then....

Cater the food. Lots of places sell package deals with the entire meal included right down to sterno cans to keep the food hot for you. If you fear others will criticize you for not cooking every morsel: Cook the one thing you most LIKE to cook yourself and cater the rest. It's not even that pricey any more.

Simplify the decorating. If you go all-out, don't. Is the tree your must-have? Do that and a wreath on the door and leave it at that, if you're doing a lot beyond it.

Most of all: Hotels. Just because you have guest rooms does not mean you are obliged to have them filled with relatives. Guests are supposed to be a pleasure and not a source of stress. Say that you're fine with the meal and hosting gathering time, but "This year it doesn't work for us to have folks staying overnight but I'm e-mailing you a list of three local hotels that are great...."

If they complain about not seeing your daughter: They will still see a LOT of your child. They do not need to see her every second they are in town including right up until she's asleep in bed and while she's chomping on her cereal in the morning. Truly..

They mean well but you have let them get used to the idea that every single Christmas is at your house. I would frankly not even do the catering/hotel stuff above but would break the cycle with a year off. "We can't host this year" is not an admission of failure and will wake them up to the idea that it's not obligatory for you to host every single year forever. Someone will say "But....who will host?! No one else has a house big enough!" Suggest that everyone get together somewhere central for all of you sometime during the holidays. If everyone is SO far apart that they can't even do that, invite a few people at another time that's not Christmas for a visit. You and your husband and child can make some traditions for just you three, and yes, you then can host in other years, but not every single year.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I can't imagine trying to get ready for a big event AND hosting guests who are anything but helpful and who I don't care whether or not they see "the man behind the curtain." My house isn't big enough for guests but if it were, the only people I would have staying over while trying to ready for a big dinner would be my one sister who is messier than we are and would actually jump in and help, and my brother-in-law, who is a clueless slob who wouldn't be around anyway. For just about everyone else, I want to put out an image of effortless magic and you can't do that if people are hanging around for anything but the big show.

I also think it stinks that this imposition would get in the way of you doing things how you like them, if you actually enjoy the cooking and decorating (or would enjoy them if there weren't guests underfoot).

I like Pam R's suggestion of having your husband intervene and get your ILs out of your house. Then, if you don't already use FlyLady, check out her "Cruising Though the Holidays" schedule, which starts next week. It is really well planned and makes everything that much easier.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Since they are family and coming to stay before and after the holiday I say give them things to do to take some of the burden off yourself. Have them clean, cook, shop, etc to take some of the stuff off your to do list. I can understand that they want to see your daughter but you aren't a hotel and they can see that you are really busy trying to do something nice for everyone.

Another option is to let them come the day before the holiday and stay after so that they aren't underfoot the week before as you are trying to prepare.

I do all the major holidays because I have the biggest house so I understand the work that goes into everything. Personally I'd never try to do it and juggle house guests who weren't helping out.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Danville on

I agree with Theresa.

OR, perhaps, you could book a hotel room/extended stay suite for them? Then designate times that they can see your daughter, either on an outing or at 'their' place?

It may just be that they would appreciate a 'break' from you guys as well!


4 moms found this helpful


answers from Albany on

Of course, there's a solution. Either relax and enjoy it, or say No.


3 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

Some ideas:

1. Pick one holiday/year to host. Hosting both in back-to-back months is too much.

2. Buy the premade meals from a local grocery store or restaurant offering them. You can supplement with sides you and others make, but it takes a HUGE burden off of you planning the meal. I've done this before and the meals have always been winners (in fact, one time my husband said he liked the store's cranberry sauce better than my recipe!). You just have to reheat on the stove or in the oven, but it streamlines things a lot.

3. Keep it simple with other meals. I'm a big fan of things like "build-your-own-sandwich," where you set out items and people make their meals. Make some homemade spaghetti sauce in advance, freeze it and then have spaghetti one night. Simplify, simplify, simplify.

4. Hire a cleaning service to come in before the big day. Money well spent.

5. Ask for help. Get your husband and daughter more involved in helping. For instance, have your daughter make decorations and put them up. Have your husband keep watch on his parents' clutter and pick it up.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I would say sorry it won't work this year but here are a bunch of hotel numbers you can try. and they stay at your house because it is cheaper than a hotel lol. tell them that little suzy is hoping they stay at "x" because there is a pool there and then she could swim with them lol.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Salinas on

I could have written this myself about my brother and his family. Love them but don't love the trail of stuff they leave lying around my home. I am far from a neat freak but do like things in order especially during the holiday when decorations are out and people are visiting.

We have a guest house now so that was our solution. We rent it out as a vacation rental for part of the year and it's available for relatives and slumber parties at other times. It has just about paid for itself after only a few years.

A quick solution I see for you is to limit the time they stay. I know I can handle a night or two but more then that I get uptight and am not the best hostess. Why not ask them to stay in a hotel for part of their visit? Be honest that it's all too much for you but they are welcome to stay the night before the holiday and the night of. Maybe you can find a hotel deal nearby and they can feel like they are getting a little vacation in as well. Seattle is a great city.

Good luck, you are a saint for doing both Thanksgiving AND Christmas every year!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Just tell them that while you love hosting family get together s, it's just too much to have house guests at the same time.
Suggest they stay at a hotel and maybe your daughter can go there to visit a bit and use the pool with them (if it has one) every so often.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

•hand them chores, tasks, errands
•get help with cooking, cleaning, baking, decorating, shopping, wrapping, etc. there are MANY people/companies that do these things.
•Set clear time limits for guests that stay over

But, seriously? "Retreating to the bedroom during events"?
Really bad idea.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

You can say, "I know you've stayed here x days in the past, but this year could you stay with x some of the time or here is a lovely hotel suggestion that is nearby. I can host you for x time." Or similar. One of SD's friends stayed and stayed one Thanksgiving and we finally had to say "You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here". Actually, if the guests are your husband's parents, what about putting him in charge of them? The length of stay, catering to their meals, etc? Or can you put them to work? Maybe even just getting DD out of the house as needed? Get her from school, etc?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Wausau on

You are allowed to say No. Your ability to do so depends on the strength of your spine and depth of your self-awareness.

For example, I like to host a holiday meal. I enjoy the prep and the cooking, and I even prefer to do the cleanup alone. What I do not like is overnight out-of-town guests and I will not have them. Period.

I intentionally do not have a guest room for this reason. The rare occasion someone suggests sleeping on the couch or floor, I say No. Out of town guests stay in a hotel. Even my own parents and in-laws. (I suggest you repurpose your guest room to make it uninhabitable, at least for the holiday season.) I would rather cancel the whole holiday plan than give into someone on this.

For now, simply say something like, "We look forward to seeing you on Thanksgiving, but we're not having people stay overnight. Here are a few nearby hotels."

If they argue, repeat yourself, "No, that won't work for me." and if it comes down to saying they won't come, "Well I'm sorry we won't see you then." It is on their head, not yours.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

It sounds like they are coming too early in addition to staying longer than is comfortable . Can you have your husband ask them to come on Christmas Eve like everyone else ? Or just not so early in the week and for so long . Once the big day is over you won't feel as overwhelmed having them there . I hope it works out for you 😊

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

The days before a holiday are crazy! I wouldn't want any extra people in my house. Can you invite them for Christmas Day and the days after Christmas? You will be much less stressed, your daughter will be home from school and you will have plenty of extra food to share. I would simply say to them, "I want to enjoy our visit. This will work so much better for our family." The same for Thanksgiving: invite them for Thanksgiving Day & the days after. No guests before the holiday!

Enjoy the season!
T. Y

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Thanks for your candor. I had always been of the opinion, that if I were buying/ building a house, I would want an in-law suite (it doesn't have to be anything fancy, just a tiny kitchenette and bath). It makes playing hostess so much easier. I'd put it over the garage, or in the back garden. Now, I'm even more convinced.

F. B.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

Let me know if you find it. I worry and stress over the same issues when we have holiday guests.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Beaumont on

I would just explain the truth so they don't read more into it than need be. That is a lot of work to put on someone at the holidays...

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

We've had the same situation for years. I've hosted almost every Thanksgiving and Christmas for at least 12 years. I also have 1-3 overnight guests for at least 2 weeks during Christmas and 4-5 days for Thanksgiving. I guess I didn't realize you could say no. ;)

This year we'll have my family here for 3 weeks over Christmas. I hope I survive. Although I love having family visits, I get anxious and stressed about all the prep. Since I know we'll have our family here well before Christmas this year, I'm trying to plan ahead and get all my shopping and planning done up front. I'm hoping that takes some of the stress away, so I can relax a little more when they are here. I'm also hoping they want to help with the shopping, cooking and baking..or they will have a long wait on Christmas for dinner!

I know what you mean about the mess. I usually just tidy up their things and place in an out of the way spot, if the stuff is cluttering up the space. Or I ask if I can move it up to their room. They don't seem to mind.

I have the Flylady holiday schedule downloaded and will do my best to stick to it this year!



answers from Dallas on

I like Pam R's suggestion.

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