We love to host a party or have people over for dinner now and then. For years I was usually the one dashing around in preparation--stirring things, spiffing up the bathroom, getting things all set. Occasionally someone would cruise through the kitchen and vaguely offer help but more often than not I foolishly waved them off, preferring a bit of martyr-flavored control even while the tidewater of resentment rose within me.
A few years ago I wised up and looked around me. There were four able-bodied people around, now old enough to be perfectly capable and at least semi-willing to dive into the preparations! The epiphany was obvious and overdue: it was time to share the load.
Eventually we devised a simple system that's worked for us. First I brainstorm all of the prep tasks that are crazily swimming around in my brain and put each one on a post-it note (sometimes color coded for longer tasks and quicker ones); they are then stuck to the door or the cupboard.
I let everyone know the jobs are out and let them know how many to choose. We all--G and I and the kids--come in and initial the jobs that we'll do (sometimes you might want to put a deadline on some time-sensitive ones). Since the early bird usually gets the best selections, I usually don't have a hard time convincing everyone to come and sign off. As we complete each job, we take the corresponding note off the wall. It's worked like a charm every time. Even early helpful guests can join in if there are still some lingering post-its.
If you're stuck in party-martyr* mode, I beseech you. Involve the whole crew in getting ready. It's no fun for anyone if you are harried and sweaty and grumpy by the time people arrive, angrily banging around pans and feeling unsupported and Little-Red-Hen-like, alone in prepping the party. Not that that's ever been a behavior I have indulged in, mind you.
* "Party martyr," fun to spell and say! Come to think of it, Party Martyr would be an excellent name for an all-mom punk band. Any takers?