I realized today that we are making progress. Only one year ago, this is how our family dinner went down:
Family Dinner, 2014
5:45 pm: Nate is in his room-he was punished for calling me a poopy-head and hitting Mack in the bath. Mack is crying because he’s hungry.
6 pm: Michael gets home.
6:15 pm: we sit down for dinner but the chicken isn’t ready yet and Nate refuses to even try the cauliflower with cheese sauce or humous and carrots. He asks for ketchup. Mack eats everything but wants what everybody else is eating, even though it’s the same thing that’s on his plate. He cries and begs with no words throughout dinner making conversation very difficult.
6:18 pm: Nate eats four strands of pasta and asks to be excused. We say no and he slides off his chair onto the floor, then tries to stick forks in water bottles. We tell Nate to join us; he cries. Mack cries and begs to be let down from his chair even though he’s still eating. Nate goes to his room while Mack cries. We let Mack down and quickly finish the boys’ dinner.
6:25pm : I clean up a million dishes.
When I talk to the many amazing, smart, accomplished women I know who lament the fact that they have to make dinner for their family, I get it, and for the first time in a long time, I think I can be useful. Since leaving the professional world six years ago, I've had a hard time feeling adequate but the one area I've mastered is cooking for my family. So until I return to the office or publish a bestseller, I'd like to offer some tips, strategies and recipes—along with humor and empathy— for my mom friends who are out doing the hard stuff of working, parenting, being a woman in this world. Dads, of course, welcome too.
6:00 pm sucks. It is the most stressful part of the day--parents are exhausted from work (or taking care of kids); kids are tired and hungry and whining or fighting. It's hard to come up with creative meals that will feed everyone and not repeat the same thing every night. It's hard to know what to do in advance or what should be saved for later. It's hard to make something healthy and simple with minimal cleanup.
Let's start from the beginning: Kids are hungry. Dinner is not ready. What to do? Put some cut up veggies in a bowl. Next open a single serving bowl of plain greek yogurt and mix in some seasoned salt (or onion salt). Add a tablespoon of milk and stir. Announce your creation and set it out on the table. Pour the wine.