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Dinner guilt

A while back I was privy to a conversation in which two of my shall-remain-nameless friends were discussing how disappointing and, well, they were just going to say it: ANNOYING! it is when they get home from work and their spouses do not have dinner ready. PERHAPS this conversation made me feel slightly guilty. PERHAPS I am thinking about this because 1) I did not have dinner ready when Phillip came home tonight and 2) I kind of stopped making dinner because I, uh, didn't feel like eating it. Oh and 3) PHILLIP took over dinner prep (although we still didn't make dinner. I think he just snacked on the roast chicken and then put it away.)

Full Disclosure! These aforementioned friends were one guy and one girl, their respective spouses do not work and neither couple has children. Make of that what you will.

EITHER WAY. I consider it part of my job to get dinner ready, though not the MOST important part of my job. Well, if I'm being totally honest, if I get Actual Dinner, like with hot food and vegetables and plates and napkins and everything, ready by the time Phillip walks in the door? That is a WIN, folks. That is an ACCOMPLISHMENT. Because really, Family Dinner is not much of a reality in our house. I mean, half the time the kids ate at five and are just eating all over again with us. Or they don't want to eat what we're eating. Or it's just too much hassle for whatever reason and you know what? I have stopped berating myself for Failed Family Dinners every time I read a blog post about how important it is to have Family Dinner. I have! Honest! I have given myself a big fat break. 

But sometimes I can pull it off! And it's awesome! And no matter what, Phillip and I still have to eat, right? So I write up menus and then I actually cook what's scheduled for that night (I DO!) and eventually it gets eaten. 

Just not tonight. I couldn't deal. Know why? It's hot. I know. Lamest excuse EVER. It's not even THAT HOT. But our kitchen just bakes and we're all sweaty and gross and food just doesn't sound good tonight. Well, certain kinds of food sound good. Like ice cream. Mmmm. 

Anyway. Do you feel like Dinner is part of your job? Like, enough so you feel slightly guilty when it doesn't happen? Maybe this is more of a question for the SAHMs in the crowd. I can't IMAGINE how you do dinner when both of you are working. Chicken nuggets for everyone!

Oh gosh, I just reread that paragraph and realized I make it sound like us SAHMs are sitting around reading People while the kids watch Elmo all day long. Like we aren't working too. BUT YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN, RIGHT? Oh gosh, I should just shut up while I'm ahead. 

In other news! Today I bought some construction paper and three kinds of sticker sheets. I drew extremely anal-retentive one-inch squares all over this piece of paper and labeled it JACK'S POTTY CHART. Then I taped it right next to the toilet in his bathroom. I informed him that we would no longer be gorging ourselves on marshmallows every five minutes - STICKERS are now the potty treat. 

And wouldn't you know, this actually WORKED! I mean, there was still a bit of whining for a potty treat and he still wants a PAAAHHHHTTY treat and he still gets to have a PAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWTTTTTTYYYY TREEEEEEEEEEEEEEET. But I was Firm and Unmoving and he really likes those stickers. There are 56 squares on that chart and I am not entirely clear on what we'll do when they're all filled up. However! I am not worried about it! We'll figure something out. And for now, the sticker is the treat. The end. 

(Also, he wakes up dry more often than not. And wears underpants during quiet time, which this week has meant honest to God napping. I KNOOOOOOOOW!)

And now is where I tell you that I have a thousand things to do tonight and none of them involve Writing Ridiculous Blog Posts. LATER.

Comments

C @ Kid Things

My husband used to do more cooking than me. Even when we had only 1 kid and I'd stay home while he worked, he'd come home and cook for us. But he's been working later and later and I like for us all to eat together, so if I didn't cook and have dinner ready, we wouldn't eat until like 10 at night. And that's not good. So it's almost a necessity that I cook in my house. I don't cook well and the meals usually aren't very balanced, but I cook dammit.

Carrie

I hate cooking. Hate it. That's why I'm not 100% upset when the sun shines and it's 90 degrees in the kitchen/living room at 6 PM, because then I have a reasonable excuse as to why I can't cook dinner. Thankfully we live within a stones-throw distance to two sushi restaurants and tons of other great place for takeout. But I do try to cook at least 5 nights per week, even if it's just microwaving something.

Dr. Maureen

Dude, I hear you with the dinner thing. With kids this age, sometimes family dinner just doesn't work, you know? It's hard to swing it if Dad comes home at 5:45 and the baby has to go to bed by 6:30. And has to eat and have a bath first. But when I do accomplish it I am a SUPERWOMAN. And on Sunday? When I totally made it up off the spur of the moment and then Jack said, "Mom, this pink fish is DELICIOUS!" I floated up into the air on the wings of angels. (Did he eat the leftover salmon last night? No. But whatever, he ate a farm tomato.)

Second: If you find you need an ultimate goal with the sticker chart, you can try drawing a picture of the prize in the last box. But you might not need to do that if he's happy with stickers. Why mess with that? Stickers are cheap!

Third: We started putting the "dry-all-night" sticker on the CALENDAR square. This is excellent for two reasons. First, in this case, for us, the sticker is its own reward, unlike the potty stickers were. Or the bink stickers. Or the "go to sleep on my own without Mom or Dad in the room" stickers. Second, it's awesome because you can quickly see how many nights in a row he was dry!

Dr. Maureen

Oh, oh! And the other thing about dinner is that you have to make it EVERY DAMN NIGHT. I mean, we just ATE dinner YESTERDAY. Why do I have to make a new dinner today?

Brittany

I feel the dinner guilt, too. when my husband was deployed I could get away with rice from the electric cooker with a fried egg on top, or scrambled eggs, and the kids were pleased as punch. Now he's back and we need more complete or satisfying dinners and sometimes it just makes my head hurt.

el-e-e

Chiming in on the both-parents-working sitch, and YES, Chicken Nuggets for Everyone! I also agree with Dr. Maureen, why does it have to be EVERY night?? Ha!

A'Dell

I am of the opinion that Family Dinner is highly overrated for the toddler set. It feels like more of a thing you do with kids who are in school since, like, THEY GO TO SCHOOL ALL DAY. So, I'm not going to even begin to think about that for a couple of years.

In the meantime, we are pimping what I like to call "Grown Up Dinner." It happens about 8pm, there is wine and there are no children.

It is marvelous.

Raven

Dinner is my job and I don't usually have it done when my husband gets home from work. Since he rides the bus, his arrival home can be unpredictable and there are times when he needs to do the yard after work so I usually start dinner when he walks in the door and can tell me what his schedule is for that evening.

I don't have young kiddos though so it's a bit easier for me, most days; migraine days are fix your own, however.

Angela Noelle

Maybe the reward for filling the sticker chart could be... a sticker! Ha. No, that's mean. Definitely at least a marshmallow.

I'm not working right now, so when Colby is actually home (rare) I feel like I should at least cook dinner. This occurs about 30% of the time, and the rest of the time I just accept the guilt.

Life of a Doctor's Wife

I work from home, but - like a SAHM - I WORK. Like, 8:00 to 6:00.

But yes, I still feel guilty if my husband comes home and dinner isn't on the table. Even though he doesn't expect it. And even though the days when I do make dinner without him? Are few and far between.

But oh the guilt...

Jessica

I'm the lucky spouse who works later. My husband leaves work at 5, picks up the toddler, gives her dinner (usually leftovers from the night before - she insists on eating immediately) , and makes dinner for us while she eats. I leave work at 6 and when I walk in the door the kid is fed and dinner is ready. Its awesome! This has turned me into a big fat slacker. I don't work Fridays and my husband still makes dinner when he gets home from work. I feel really guilty about this. But he's the dinner GUY.

jaimie

My husband and I both work full-time, but we think that family dinner is important. Generally, we cook dinner together as a family on Sundays. My 3 1/2 year old loves this-- we pick easy things that she can help with (she loves making chicken nuggets, easy for her to dip the chicken in the panko).

Then while one parent gets the kids ready for bed, the other parent cooks a meal with enough food for Monday and Tuesday. That food gets heated in the microwave when we get home, and dinner is on the table by 6pm those days. We mostly fit in another two-fer at some other point during the week, the kids eat their own stuff while the cooking is happening and we eat together after they've gone to bed.

The rest of the time we eat out or eat stuff like veggie burgers or scrambled eggs or pizza bagels. If you hate leftovers, this won't work for you, but honestly we just want food at a reasonable hour after work, and we are willing to sacrifice variety to get there. We get Cooking Light every month and get our recipes from there, usually the ones that take 30 minutes or less.

I think that if both parents are working, then family dinner is more crucial, because the kids are doing their own thing all day, and it's important to have time to catch up.

Christiana

We split the cooking in our house. On average. There are always weeks where I do most of the cooking and then weeks where he does most of it, but out of 100 times, we probably split it fairly evenly. But yes, I think of it as an accomplishment when he walks in the door and I can put food in front of him within 10 minutes. Especially if it's food I made. But with all the chaos of late, I am totally not interested in causing more mess in my kitchen, adding heat to the house by turning on the burners or oven (we have skipped the cookie dessert we bought for this week 2 nights in a row now even though we both wanted cookies, simply because we didn't want to turn on the oven. We are that hot). So I completely get what you're saying here.

(Am I missing something? When you get to the end of the 56 spaces for stickers, can't you just make another chart?)

Sheila

We both work: he's gone from 5am-6pm, Monday through Friday; I work a much more varied schedule, including second shift and weekends. I still feel a lot of Dinner Guilt, though. Along with Laundry Guilt and Dish Guilt. Not to mention Clean the Living Room Guilt.

I hate guilt.

Shannon

Since Konrad isn't teaching college anymore, he's home at a much more reasonable hour and is really enjoying coming home to dinner. Like is really enjoying it, so much so that he's told me that it's one of the best parts of his new job. So- I make dinner. :) But we do leftovers and crock pot things a lot. And breakfast for dinner at least once a week!

Sarah

I let a lot of other stuff go, but family dinners are my thing. Of course, I've got a husband who misses a good chunk of them which drives me crazy.

As far as the sticker chart goes, we had ours on the fridge door. That way eventually it got phased out. For the first several weeks, he got a sticker each time, but eventually we'd forget to add a sticker. Finally, he stopped asking, and we were good!

Elsha

I definitely feel like dinner is part of my job. That said, I don't usually have it on the table when my husband gets home. I feel successful if he comes home during dinner prep. Usually I plan it that way so he can help with kids or cooking while everything is needing the most attention.

Dinner used to drive me CRAZY when he stayed home with Kalena. He would wait until I was home from work (around 5:30) to ask me what I wanted for dinner. I was always ready to eat right when I got home, but instead we would end up discussing what we had ingredients for, how long it would take, and we ended up eating out most nights. I don't ask him. I just cook.

HereWeGoAJen

I feel terribly guilty when I don't make dinner. And go figure, I even feel guilty when my husband doesn't like the dinner that I do make, which I shouldn't feel guilty about. But I do and I make him a second dinner. And that sucks.

AsMommy

I do consider making dinner (or any meals for that matter) MY job. I also work full time, and I have a 2 year old. I only say this because I have chosen the food portion of our life as my job. You will not catch me anywhere near the bills or anything finance-related at our house. No, that is HIS job. :)

april

I work full time, and I do all the cooking in our family. I currently have Dinner Guilt because I have no drive whatsoever to cook dinner as I'm 9 months pregnant, but whining to get the hubby to cook doesn't really work either.

We do family dinner every night, however my 2 year old does not generally eat dinner - he's a huge breakfast, moderate lunch and then pick-at-dinner sort of kid, and I've never pushed the eating. So really it's "grown-up dinner", and he stops by for a couple bites of chicken or pasta if he feels like it.

I did much better with cooking every night when I menu planned, even if I didn't stick to the schedule (some days I mixed up the week) because I knew what I was making that night so I didn't worry about it so much and therefore I didn't dread it.

And now that I've read all the comments, I'm going to deal with my Laundry guilt by throwing a load in the washer.

lindsay

I have to go back and read the comments but cooking is the bane of my existence. I bought a radio for the kitchen and this made things better sort of. Tonight what I made was just gross. I researched, bought ingredients, and cooked... and then we were both like this is nasty, and had peanut butter and banana sandwiches and chewing gum for dinner. ARGGGH.

Shannon

I don't cook when it gets hot. I sit with my kid while she eats and some nights if we've got it together, we all eat at the same time. But, not usually. My husband works nights and usually our life plays out like this - he picks her up at daycare and brings her home. When I get home from work she's ready for dinner, but it's not made. He heads out the door for work. She gets scrambled eggs or pb&j unless there are leftovers because she usually can't wait even long enough for me to spread the jam. Then it's bath, story and bedtime. Then I make dinner. My husband eats dinner in the middle of the night when he gets home. The next night is much smoother because I TRY to make enough for at least one day of leftovers. We're more on it when it's winter and we use the slow cooker regularly.

But it's too hot these days. She's been eating pb&j and popsicles for dinner. I've been eating popsicles.

craftyashley

I am RIGHT NOW procrastinating the making of dinner because 1) I recently found out I need to stay out of the way of dairy- and dairy is in EVERYTHING and 2) It is SO HOT. I want to freeze the doughnuts on my counter and serve them as dinner- I hear it's delicious.

Grace @eatdinner

Great comments and discussion. Family dinner can be hard, but don't feel guilty about it. Just try to make it work, even a couple of nights a week. Don't set up unrealistic expectations. Dinner doesn't have to be ready when your spouse walks in the door, esp if both working outside the home! Geesh, talk about pressure. Give the kids a healthy snack to tide them over. Help each other with prep, or trade off nights. Family dinner is easier when both parents want to make it work.

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