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The Hostess with the Mostest… Hip Pain

The Hostess with the Mostest… Hip Pain

I bustle around the kitchen prepping food. It’s my daughter’s birthday, and we’ve invited several families over for a backyard barbecue to celebrate. The guest list was made and invites sent out weeks ago. My husband and I spent the weekend prior sprucing up the yard. I carefully made the shopping list, and in trips to three different stores I crossed all the items off of it. The favor bags have been filled, the decorations are up, and the cupcakes are ready to be gobbled up by happy children. The weather is gorgeous, and everything seems to be lining up perfectly. All that remains is to prep the food, tidy a few areas of the house, and put the drinks and snacks out just before the guests arrive. Standing at the counter chopping vegetables, I’m feeling very on top of things . . . until my hip seizes up. I am gripped in pain that shoots tension through my entire body. Releasing the knife, I lean over the counter and take some deep breaths, and then begin trying to swing my leg in small arcs until my hip will move freely again. Slowly, movement returns to my hip, but the pain is still searing. Suddenly, I have no idea how I am going to pull this party off.

Me as a hostess, pre RA

I used to love throwing parties. Back in high school I opted for theme parties complete with costumes and thematic food and drink over the backyard keg parties most teenagers preferred. Once I moved out in college, I frequently hosted all kinds of soirees. On my first date with my now-husband, he asked me what I liked to do in my free time, and one of the things I listed was hosting get-togethers. Now that I’m a working mom with rheumatoid arthritis in my late thirties, my relationship with parties has changed. Whereas the idea of them is still appealing, the thoughts of all the work involved quickly flood in. I have to balance my extroverted need to socialize with my arthritic need to not overdo it. In college I would have done all the shopping in the morning, cleaned the house before lunchtime, then launched straight into food preparation before showering and putting on makeup and a cocktail dress. By the time guests arrived, I would have been on my feet the entire day.

RA changed how I host parties now

Ever since my RA went into full force, I have not been able to pull off party-prep in a day. Instead, I start cleaning a week ahead of time, spreading the chores over a few days, and I always shop at least a day or two before a party, as I am all too familiar with the ramifications of doing all that lifting, bending, pushing, and carrying for hours on end. Unlike my college days, I wouldn’t dream of hosting anything but the smallest of get-togethers solo. My ever-helpful husband is so used to the drill that now early on the day of an event he will ask, “Where’s the list?” in reference to the tasks I assign him. If I try to do it all alone, it simply won’t get done because I’ll start hurting too much to get through. Cooking is the hardest part, because not everything can be made ahead of time. Although we don’t have an island or bar seating, I still have a stool in my kitchen so that I can perch there while I peel and chop. However, that only reduces the strain a little, as I always have to get down from the stool to go to the fridge, sink, cabinets, or oven, and getting on and off the stool multiple times offsets the strain-reduction of sitting part of the time. Also, my knees ache from the awkward way I have to sit on the stool in order to be close enough to the cutting board. Usually by the time I’m finished cooking, it is nearly time for guests to arrive and I only have time to change clothes, foregoing makeup or a shower; I no longer look fabulous at the events I host.

I’ve also drastically changed the menus I serve. Before RA, my primary concern was with what food would best complement the other components of the party. Now when deciding on an event menu, most of my consideration goes into how much prep time each dish will require. Simple recipes that feature veggies I can buy prewashed and precut have become my party staples. And that’s when I cook at all. We host our extended family for Christmas Eve each year, and I physically can’t handle a day on my feet cooking after the hectic weeks of shopping, wrapping, crafts, Christmas parties, and children’s events. Instead, I’ve started ordering catered food from stores or restaurants. While it is more expensive than cooking at home, the savings in pain and exhaustion is worth it. After all, I want to spend Christmas morning with my children with a smile on my face, not a grimace.

Reducing my hosting expectations

Hosting now, like most aspects of living with RA, requires a reduction in my expectations, which is a challenge for my perfectionist tendencies. In addition to no longer cooking elaborate meals or wearing cocktail dresses, I no longer use decorations that will involve lots of reaching to put up and take down, I often shove things in closets or the garage at the last minute rather than cleaning properly, and I avoid hosting on Sundays, as I feel wrecked the day after hosting an event and usually need to spend some or most of it in bed. All of that being said, while I’m keenly aware of all the finishing touches that I’m no longer putting on my parties, I can’t say that my friends and family ever notice a difference. While I may feel awful the following day, spending time with people I love still feels worth it. After all, it should be the laughs shared with our loved ones, and not the flourishes, that make a party truly memorable.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Eaglesfan64
    1 year ago

    Hi Tamara,
    I also enjoyed cooking and elaborate dinner parties at my house especially for the holidays its my favorite time of year to cook for everyone.
    However my RA does not allow to do the things that i once did. Its extremely depressing. I know that my family would be happy no matter what i made but i feel less than adequate now that i cant accomplish everything on my own and depend on others to help. Seeing your post helped me realize that assigning chores to my husband and kids is going to be the new norm this year. Thank you for reminding me that its not the party but the people that make the event.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi Eaglesfan64,

    Thanks for sharing what you’ve gone through. I’m glad the article was helpful, because it is so easy to be hard on ourselves. Sometimes I wonder if RA/RD is forcing me to see some truths that I might not have seen – such as that it is indeed the people and not the presentation that matter at a party, that it can be a different way form of special to share these duties with our spouses and children, and that we are no less valuable for not being able to do it all alone. It is really hard to shift our way of thinking, but I’m trying to change the expectations I have for myself because honestly, they just haven’t been healthy for me. Now when I have people over my house isn’t spotless, I take guests up on the offer to help (and even invite a close friend or two to come over early and help me), and I enjoy myself just as much. But before the party starts I have to do a lot of self talk to override the messages of “it should be this way” that still flood my brain.

    We need to be kind to ourselves. This is a hard disease to live with, and we all deserve to give ourselves kudos for making it through each day and grace for not being superhuman.

    I send you all the best and wishes for new holiday traditions that are more manageable.

    Thanks for being in our community!

    Gentle hugs,

  • Lily
    5 years ago

    Hello Tamara, that sounds very familiar with me. I try to do the cooking preparation sitting down. I got a chopper that I use to cut and shred most of the vegetables. If I want to have a family gathering, I ask them to bring each something to share so I don’t do all the cooking. Fortunately, my husband is always willing to help me. Thanks for sharing your stories.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    5 years ago

    Thanks for sharing your tips and experiences, Lily!

  • Linda
    5 years ago

    Hi, Tamara. I’ve been reading your posts for quite a while but hadn’t quite summed up the courage to respond to a post or write an article myself. We have a ton in common. I’m a psychologist and the same age. I have felt that your posts have spoken to me in such a profound way. Sometimes it feels like you or others on this website can read my mind!

    I really like your idea of using a stool in the kitchen. I wanted to share something else that helps me. I also love to entertain guests and have had to modify my process. I have found that sitting at my kitchen table to chop veggies has worked really well for me. It’s the right height for chopping and even stirring. I’ll set out all of the veggies, spices, chopping board, and paper towels, and sit to do most of my chopping. Of course throughout the cooking process there are times when you’re having to get up constantly to get things or stir a pot and there’s no getting around some of that but sitting at the table for a good portion of it helps me tremendously. Anyway, thanks so much for your posts. I really appreciate them. Wishing you a day that holds less pain, Linda

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    5 years ago

    Hi Linda, It is so wonderful to hear that you have enjoyed reading my articles. Thank you so much for sharing your comments and your tip about chopping at the table. That seems so obvious now that you say it, but as the table is a distance from my stove I honestly hadn’t thought of it. I love having this community where we can all learn how to live as fully as possible with this awful disease through sharing with one another. Thank you so much for your contribution.

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