Children, animals, and entertaining; I receive emails on these subjects often always with some version of the same complaint: The kids/dogs are wild and take too much effort when you are trying to entertain. Or, the baby is too young. The truth is that if you suspect the guests would be put out, you already know you need to head the issue off at the pass.
Problem 1: The pitter patter of little feet.
I can relate. When my Daughter was tiny, she slept and we could have anyone in at any time. Now that she is a toddler, she is a whirlwind. At the house in Florida, where we do not have Grandparents to visit, we can ask the sitter to come to sit while the guests are there. Generally, our Daughter eats at about 5:30 and is in bed by 7 pm but the guests do not eat until after cocktails at 7. At all costs, I try to keep to her toddler schedule and regardless of company (whom she visits with only until she is bored and needs to move on); she has her dinner on time usually before anyone arrives. When she is off to bed, her humidifier drowns out the guests’ noise for the most part. Now that we have two, this will be more challenging but I would not think of inviting unless the sitter agreed to work first.
By the same token, for parties including children, I still need the sitter to help play with the children and give Mom and Dad a few minutes to chat and enjoy the party. We set an easily visible and accessible room or the enclosed porch aside for them and pile tons of toys everywhere. A snack table is lovely for them, but the host must be attentive to allergies and hazards.
Problem 2: You avoid entertaining because your house is not clean enough or too cluttered.
First, declutter. There is no reason for it and it is okay to let go. You do not need stacks and piles and storage lockers. Just let it go. Don't let things rule what you can and cannot do in your home. If you cannot do this yourself, call a professional... often. Second, clean. But, you are exhausted, maybe? You work. You care for others. And so on. But cleanliness and order is important for you to enjoy your sanctuary and for hygienic reasons, never mind guests. If you cannot manage, call a professional... often.
Problem 3: The dogs are wild.
Either sequester them or take them to the kennel overnight.
Here is the truth about this entertaining thing: This nonsense about how it is only important that you enjoy the guests is just that.
Your job, as the host or hostess is to see to the details to insure they enjoy their visit. And the hard truth is, a guest who has nowhere to sit or is reeling from the filth around them is not going to enjoy themselves, be a great guest, or be back again; no matter how much they enjoy your company, okay? It is a lot of work and the less you can or choose to do yourself, the more costly it becomes. Know yourself, be prepared for this reality, and plan accordingly by (you guessed it) calling professionals if you cannot manage on your own.
In any event, I beg of you: Commit to getting it right, not to getting by. Be willing to deal with the myriad obligations entertaining creates. Or, call a professional.... and get someone to deal with them on your behalf. As a character of Michael Caine's once said, “‘Easy’ doesn't enter into adult lives."