“This video makes me so so happy. Welcoming parents for the first time in “nijer shongshar” (own home) is a different feeling in itself altogether”
A friend of mine left this kind comment on a reel I made, showcasing how I prepared my condo to welcome my parents. For those of us who were born and brought up in Bangladesh, who have lived all our lives with our parents and then later with our in-laws, it certainly is very special to be able to welcome our parents as house guests in our own home. The joy is three-folds if they are visiting us for the first time since we moved away to a different continent, at a time when we are about to insha’Allah grow as a family. Alhamdulliah.
I have entertained friends and family members in our homes in Toronto and it is something I enjoy very much. However, welcoming my parents who will be staying with us for an extended period of time, that too in a space I have just moved into a few months ago while very pregnant, is exhilarating and challenging, to say the least. So, in my true style, I put my planning hat on, compiled a Pinterest section and ventured out to get the essentials.
When I started browsing on what house guests need/prefer while visiting, I was caught up with the idea of preparing a gift basket for them- something that makes them feel welcome and special. I am big on making assorted gift baskets and I feel they make for a wonderful present. That derailed me for a while because I found myself more focused on finding items for the baskets instead of taking in the holistic picture. What I mean by that is, my parents will be staying with me for a couple of months and it’s more appropriate to have a space that is fully equipped to fulfill their needs. Gift baskets are a great idea, but I feel they are more appropriate for short-term guests. In addition, it’s their first visit to Toronto, that too in winter and I didn’t want to get gifts which might not appeal to them. With the idea of gift basket out of the way, I was able to pivot back to their living space.
Bedding & Sheets: The guestroom bed was beautifully made with clean sheets and comforters and extra sheets and blankets in the closet. Adding colourful and patterned cushions made my otherwise grey comforter pop. I also added a throw for more contrast.
Closet Space: A place to tuck in their suitcases, and to keep their clothes is a must. I made sure the closet was emptied out, had hangers for their use and also provided a hanging fabric organizer with compartments that they can use for easy access for their everyday essentials.
Bed Side Table: The bed side table top had a table clock, a carafe with a glass for water and a fresh bouquet of flowers in a vase. Nothing says welcome like fresh flowers! In addition, I put in the following inside the bedside table drawers:
- body moisturizer
- lip balms
- a few face masks
- sleep masks
- ear plugs
- chewing gums
- facial tissue box
- notepad and pens
- charger adapters
I made sure not to fill the up drawers so that there is space available for them to put in their daily essentials as they saw fit.
I also added a full length mirror in the bedroom-something I learned house guests prefer and made sure the space underneath the bed is cleared out.
Click here to access my Pinterest section Organize where I have saved a couple of articles that helped me!
When we moved, we were very intentional about not only having a second bedroom for guests but also a second full bathroom. That obviously meant a higher rent, but considering we are expecting inshAllah both set of our parents to visit us in the next year, we thought this was an vital to our new rental.
The second bathroom is smaller than the one attached to the primary bedroom and so I had to be smart about how I decorated the interior. There is also no natural source of light in that bathroom, which is why adding colours to otherwise beige bathroom was imperative. I selected a 3 piece bathroom set in teal and added a fake plant on the opposite end of the bathroom counter. It still seemed a little bare which led me to add a two piece framed painting of plants. It did take me three tries to find the painting that was complimentary to the bathroom but once the right paintings were hung, the space felt neat.
The bathroom was also fully stocked with the following:
- body wash
- floss, mouthwash and cotton swabs
- facial mosturizer
- additional toilet rolls in the cabinet
- fresh set of bath towels, hand towel and wash cloth
- plunger and bathroom cleaners
Food & Snacks
If food could be a love language, it is probably mine! I love cooking and feeding people I care about and of course was overzealous about what I planned for my parents initially. I made sure I had a fully stocked fridge and made a list of my popular dishes to keep it handy. Pregnancy has done wonders to my memory and so I can’t rely on my wits that much.
What I learned from my experience is, instead of preparing fancy dishes, its best to have simple comfort food planned for the first week. Toronto and Dhaka has a 12 hour time difference and jet lag hits hard in the first few days. Its helpful for people visiting from back home to eat dishes that they are comfortable and familiar with as they adjust to an unfamiliar environment.
Furthermore, because they will struggle to sleep at regular hours , they might find themselves up and hungry at odd hours. So keeping a well stocked fridge and pantry with juice, snacks and light meals is very helpful for them. We also made sure that they know where these are located so that they can help themselves out instead of waiting for us. House guests don’t like to be a nuisance and will shy away from asking what they might need if they are not readily available.
Welcome Message, Gifts & House Rules
Just because I decided against a gift basket doesn’t mean I wasn’t doing something special to mark my parents’ first visit to our place. I reused the decors and desserts from my surprise baby shower, wrote a welcome note for my parents in calligraphy and hung that in the middle of a wreath behind the dining area. As for gifts, I selected a few items that I thought would pick their interest and decided to purchase those after discussing with them.
I focused the first ten days on making my parents comfortable in their new living space. I could appreciate it was a huge adjustment for them- the time difference, the jet lag, the lifestyle and most importantly living with their daughter and son-in-law for the first time, that too for an extended period. It has taken us a few tries and stepping on each other toes but we are in the process of finding our rhythm and learning to be around each other. It has also started snowing here in Toronto now and the being around that kind of temperature drop also takes a bit of practice. Now we are working to make them feel at home so that they are able to navigate themselves independently when Mashrur and I are off to the hospital- which insha’Allah will be any day anytime now!
I have learned to be mindful of the fact that I run my household in a certain way and my mother is accustomed to doing things differently back home. They are both also understandably unfamiliar with appliances and unaccostomed to the lifestyle (read “kamla” lifestyle!) here. So the planner and organizer (read control freak!) in me had to bite the bullet and establish new house rules that works for the the four of us!