In my family, Thanksgiving is a big deal. So to host it is an enormous responsibility. When we were kids, Grandmother always hosted Thanksgiving and she made it a masterpiece. Grandmother always cooked everything. She wouldn’t have it any other way.
It was as if the Pilgrims themselves had Thanksgiving dinner at Grandmother’s house.
So when my mom “voluntold” me to host Thanksgiving, I knew I couldn’t say no, even though every fiber in my being wanted to run away screaming from a social event of such magnitude.
Yes, I’m an introvert. I don’t like being in large crowds for any amount of time. I don’t like making small talk. And I hate feeling like someone, family included, is invading my space. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy having people over from time to time. Yes, being an introvert makes large gatherings more difficult, but with proper management and self-care, introverts can host fabulous Thanksgivings.
Many of you will find yourselves hosting this Thanksgiving. And if you’re an introvert like me, that prospect can be terrifying. Lots of people at your house for hours on end? It’s enough to make me have a panic attack just thinking about it.
Luckily for me, between children’s birthday parties and smaller holiday events, I managed to hammer out what works for me and what doesn’t. Admittedly, I almost didn’t survive my first few events, but I learned to cope and even thrive when planning and hosting gatherings.
Here are a few things I do to help survive the day:
1. Prep as much as you can the day or night before. Come to think of it, this is good advice for anyone, introvert or not. It will save you time the morning of the event and help you keep track of what needs to be done when.
2. Make a checklist. Put things on it that seem obvious, like “turn the oven on before you put the turkey in” so you don’t have a frozen bird at dinner. (Trust me, it happened.)
3. It doesn’t have to be home-made. I don’t cook turkey. I buy a smoked turkey from charity fundraisers almost every year. And for whatever reason, my family thinks we have to cook our own turkey, so if I can get away with a pre-smoked gobbler, you can get away with a store-bought pie.
4. Pot-luck is ok. Yeah, Grandmother Elizabeth cooked all of her own food. She was also retired and didn’t have children or a husband at home. Let people bring their favorite dishes. You might even try something new that you didn’t know you liked.
5. Accept help. Whether pre-cooking or cleanup, allow others to help without feeling guilty. Not only is it taking some weight off of you, it’s allowing others to feel like they participated. Most people feel the need to help when they go to someone else’s house and eat their food, so let them.
6. Delegate. It’s ok to turn the kids over to the over-zealous cousin who wants to help with everything. And I mean everything. This does two things; it takes things off of your plate and it gives those who show up early something to do. Away from you. Keep the tasks that give you a reason to be away from others to yourself.
7. Give yourself a reason to be excused. You don’t have to be available every second as hostess. As an introvert that needs my space, this is very important for me. But I also feel guilty for not tending to my guests. If I have to go check on the dressing, however, it’s a little easier to disappear for a few minutes.
8. Set off-limits spaces. Your bedroom is a total mess? Fine. Close it off. Keep peering eyes that might have more than a little something to say about that mess out of that area. You don’t have to open every space in your home to scrutiny. Sorry, Aunt Hilda, that door doesn’t open. The dog is back there and she’s skittish. It may not feel right to only open part of your home, but it’s totally fine, even if Aunt Hilda doesn’t appreciate being barred from the children’s disaster area.
9. Realize that perfection isn’t realistic. Often we introverts are perfectionists and when ever twenty people eating around a table that normally seats four, things aren’t going to go off without a hitch. Accept less than perfect.
10. When you do have to be in conversation, make it matter. Contrary to popular belief, we aren’t bad conversationalists. We are just bad at small talk. Play to your strengths and don’t worry if that means certain people get less face time with you than others. There are plenty of people there to listen to Uncle Harry’s off-beat stories that you’ve heard eighteen times.
11. Allow yourself to decompress. When the day is over and there are piles of dishes and bags upon bags of trash, don’t jump right into cleaning. Allow yourself time after the end of the meal to just relax. Being around people is exhausting for introverts, so resting before tackling something else is important.
While you may wonder if such an endeavor is even worth the effort, consider that as introverts, many of us derive joy from serving others. Having family over for an intimate celebration fulfills our servant’s heart.
Always remember that not everyone understands introverts and that’s ok. It’s hard to be gracious when people wonder aloud why you’re always disappearing or why you’re so quiet, or ask if you’re ok because you aren’t exuberant and joyful every second of the day. Extroverts have as hard of a time relating to us as we do to them. Being genuine is the best way to deal with all sorts of people and while it may be hard for us to open up, in the end it’s worth it.