What are people really looking for when they want to “go out” with friends? A great experience? Check. Good food? Check. Nice atmosphere? Check. But can’t we do without those things just as easily and still have a fabulous time together?
I’ve been researching “things to do” for our family of five (three kids aged 3 and under), and the more I look for places to go in Northern Virginia, the more I realize that what my kids really want to do it play with other kids. When I look for adult-only activities, I realize all I really want is to enjoy my friends and husband.
The cheapest “thing to do” is simply to invite people over. Sure, we have to go out and find friends first (we are recent transplants to the area) at the park, church, or my eldest’s preschool, but once we get past the “I’m just making sure you and your kids aren’t really annoying or psycho” stage, the easiest thing is just to go over to each other’s house. It’s great for me because I don’t have to worry about paying an entrance fee or for food and, domestic goddess that I am, it motivates me to actually deep-clean the house. It’s a win-win situation for everyone! Going over to friends’ houses or having them come over is probably a lot better for the environment, too. No need to pay for or use extra carbon-footprint increasing stuff like restaurant A/C and bathrooms. If you’re having take-out, the delivery guy won’t always drive a hybrid, but you can make your own meal/snack if you want to get greener.
This translates just as easily for us adults. I love celebrating birthdays. I love making a big to-do about things and making people the super-center of attention. Last week, for my husband’s birthday, I invited a couple of friends over. We ordered an awesome mix of Asian foods, and I made my husband’s favorite dessert. Between us all, we had four kids and no worries about a tantrum or potty/diaper incident in a restaurant. We were able to drink wine without getting evil glares from people without kids. It was great. The only part I pseudo-missed was getting dressed up, and that’s really over-rated when you’ve got a [cute] baby who should have been named Slimer.
Girls’ nights out at home just got popular, too. Check out http://www.thursdaynightdinner.org/. The ladies who came up with this site are all about getting together in the comfort of someone’s home. Book clubs are another popular at-home/have fun venture. Guys have been getting together for sports and cards forever, it seems, so maybe they can be credited with being the greener sex. Who cares? Just figure out something fun to do, invite some people over, and have at it!
Why go through all the trouble of buying a McMansion, or at least a home that you’re happy to live in if you’re not going to: a.) use it or b.) show it off. We’re surrounded by stuff that we don’t use or even really need for anything but decor. If you’ve got it, put it to some use! Let your friends see your eclectic collection of Star Wars stuff (junk, my family calls it, but I love it!) or your collection of crosses from around the globe. Pull out that espresso machine you swore would take Starbucks’ place three years ago and learn how to make capuccinos for a fraction of the cafe price. Throw a monthly crafting party so you can learn a new skill or get caught up on stuff you started before your kids were born (like my middle child’s baby book). Watch a great flick on your awesome, ginormous TV with its wall-shaking sound system with $4/box (not $4/bag) popcorn and not-allowed-in-the-theater wine. You liked it enough to spend your hard-earned money on it, so use it! (That being said, please don’t run off and buy something new to entertain your friends with-be creative and use something you already have, or ask someone if you guys can use their thing.)
As adults, we spend lots of money on toys we think will help us kick back or give us some self-perceived status. However, we rarely or never use them! Why the waste? We have lots of people who we consider friends but who we only see a few times outside of work/school/what have you. Get to know someone better! Reach out! In a land where very few of us live close to our blood relations, we have to seize every opportunity to make a “friend who loves at all times” (Prov 17:17). Take the challenge-find ways to play at home with people besides your family.
-Domestic Goddess out.