Just because you have children doesn't mean you can't have incredible parties.
I've always been a bit of an entertainer. Hostessing parties comes naturally to me and, from the time I've had my own address, I've been inviting people over to celebrate something or other. My first big dinner party was for Christmas the year I was 19.
It had a gourmet spread that cost me a college kid fortune and a guest list of 20, and it concluded with a game of baseball played with the leg from my laboriously brined turkey as the bat and my homemade yeast rolls as the ball. It was a blast.
Another favorite? A Sex in the City finale party… the night the show wrapped up its run on HBO, I hosted a ladies-only party that had a strictly stiletto dress code and featured a New York City skyline gracing the walls of my apartment. The drink? Cosmopolitans, natch.
My parties are fun, and I'm not exaggerating when I say that people talk about them years later.
When I had children, there was the fleeting fear that my days of throwing fabulous parties had come to a finale of their own. I ushered this thought right out the door the second it turned up uninvited, and reaffirmed my commitment to throwing memory-making soirees.
Sure, the bottles of white I serve are as likely to hold white grape juice as Chardonnay, but that doesn't make my parties any less fabulous. Here's what I've learned about entertaining after becoming a mom.
1. First and foremost, hire a babysitter.
A lot of my non-parent friends shudder at the idea of having kids. I think that they picture them as more of a ball and chain than the proverbial ball and chain, but y'all, that’s what babysitters are for!
The realization that you can still have a social life once you're a parent has been one of the biggest relief to me as a mom. I don't get a sitter every week, but sometimes it's nice knowing that someone else you trust is on the job so you can enjoy a quiet dinner out.
Babysitters aren't just for going out, either. I love hiring someone to help with the kids so I can prep for a party. And for the going rate of $8-$10 an hour, having an extra set of hands and eyes on my kids is worth the investment.
2. Utilize your resources (AKA the grandparents).
Babysitters are awesome, but I'm lucky enough to live close to my parents, and they jump at the chance to watch the kids. Every once in awhile, they even ask if they can keep them overnight. Um, yeah you can! Party on! Plus? Grandparents are free.
3. Set a strict bedtime for your kids.
Throwing parties can be pricey, and sometimes the sitter just isn't in the budget. And there are definitely times when the last thing I want to do after the guests leave is drive across town to get my kids at my parents' house.
This is when the benefits of a strict bedtime come into play. My kids are scheduled like clockwork, with my oldest being in bed by 8 p.m., lights out by 8:30. With careful coordination, I can do my entertaining once they're asleep. I have a two-story house, with the kids' rooms upstairs, so I can have small dinner parties or friends over to play board games (which is always way more fun than it sounds) without disrupting their routines.
Sometimes, I have a party and the kids never have a clue it happened… sure, we can't get too raucous but... let's face it… I'm 30. Even if I didn't have the world's cutest alarm clocks to make me think twice about drinking myself into a hangover, the kind of parties that have the cops called just aren't my idea of fun.
4. Provide entertainment for kids at your parties, too.
I love hosting parties for the whole family … the kids all have a blast and we get to hang out with the parents while creating special family memories. Win, win, win. Plus, there's nothing that compares with kids having a great time.
Get a bunch of kids you adore belly laughing, and I guarantee that you can't help but have fun, no matter how old you are. Sure, family-friendly parties are easiest during warmer months when the guests can spill into the backyard, but even a smaller guest list and specific holiday-centered events like cookie decorating can be fun during the holidays.
I used to be able to gauge how successful a party was by the mess I had to clean up. The more empty wine bottles to recycle, the more fun was usually had by all.
5. Everything doesn't have to be perfect.
Having children has forced me to lighten up, something that makes entertaining a lot easier on my blood pressure. It used to be that I would stress about getting everything just right before a party, but now I just do the best I can and get things as close to awesome as possible given my time, money and energy.
And then I just let go. If things get off schedule, or if I end up having to order pizza because I burned the entree? I've just learned to go with the flow and have fun anyway.
When you have kids, nobody expects a spotless house. (At least that's what I tell myself). My beautiful living room is decorated in Fisher Price from the knees down, and chances are good that something is going to have small fingerprints on it when you come to my house. And I'm totally okay with that.
6. Remember that bedtimes aren't just for babies.
Now that I have kids, my parties wrap up earlier. Sure, every once in awhile there's a late night where a good-looking Hispanic guy is dancing the salsa on my ottoman at 2 in the morning (not that my friend Julio has done that or anything), but those late nights are the exception and, generally speaking, I've learned how to have a great time and wrap it up by 11 so I can catch my beauty rest.
Because as a mom, my new favorite part of entertaining is being able to think back on it fondly over a cup of coffee the next morning while still being able to tackle the new day with the energy my kids deserve — thus proving, I think, that at age 30, I really am older and wiser. And truly? This kind of entertaining is just wiser, kids or not.
How about you, readers? How has your party style evolved post-children?