B.L. asks from Portland, OR on September 10, 2008
Dinner Time Stresses Me Out!!!
I hate dinnertime! My mom was a total "Betty Crocker." She put 4 course meals on the table every night for our family of six, and I can barely pull it off for three. I have been married for 7 years, and I have a 3 year-old and a 5 week-old. I used to enjoy the challenge of getting dinner on the table, that is for the first year of marriage. Then it started to frazzle me. I hate cooking for an ungrateful toddler, or having to make something separate for her. I hate trying to finish up a meal as my husband is coming in the door and having twelve things go wrong at the last minute. I hate the mess of preparation and cleanup. I cleanup all day long, and dinner is just one more mess.
Last night my husband came home, and I had made a very simple chicken dish, chocolate cake for my daughter's birthday, and also cooked a casserole I froze a while back before I had my baby. I was feeling pretty proud considering how my day had gone... until my daughter pulled all her dressup clothes into the kitchen, my husband gave me a grizzly kiss and headed for the bathroom, and my son started bawling and wanted to nurse. Dinner got cold before we could finally pray for it, which is when I realized I couldn't eat any of it (because I'm off dairy this week because my son has a weird rash) and THEN my husband got up to get something else out of the fridge to add to the salad and my daughter wanted something else too and I JUST TOTALLY LOST IT!!! "What's wrong with what I made? Why can't all of you just eat what I made? Is my work not enough?" My husband quickly put his stuff back in the fridge, and mumbled his apologies, but I was too ramped up.
I HATE DINNERTIME! I want it to be this peaceful bonding time of laughter and sharing about our day, but by the time we get to the table, I feel like a failure. I keep things VERY SIMPLE. I am the queen of crock pots and casseroles. I usually make my daughter eat what we're having unless it's too spicy or weird which is rare. My meals always look paltry and piddly, and I'd rather serve pre-made meals by Costco, but then I feel guilty for not cooking from scratch!
When people brought us meals for three weeks after my son was born, I was so happy! I enjoy cooking for friends, but the everyday mess of cooking for my family drives me nuts, and I want to change that! I need suggestions for making dinnertime more pleasant. If one of you will tell me to just hire a private cook, I'll be your best friend :) I need some perspective, an attitude adjustment, and some more simple recipe ideas, because I'm tired of mine and I CAN'T EAT CHEESE RIGHT NOW! I LOVE CHEESE!!!
... Thanks for listening :)
So What Happened?™
I wrote in recently about how "Dinnertime Stresses Me Out!" I got some really great advice and encouragement from many wonderful moms who know what it is to be in my shoes: trying to juggle housework and meal preparation with raising a 3 year old and a 6 weak old. Lots of you gals suggested Dream Dinners or places like that where I could go and make a bunch of meals at once, but I cannot afford that type of convenience. The main message from all of was that I need to keep things simple, which I swear I'm doing, but you gave me ideas to simplify even further, which I so appreciate! Based on your advice, I sat down and drew up a little calendar that showed which nights we usually go out or eat dinner at church. I wrote "pizza night" on a couple days, and "new recipe" on another day. Then I got out my cookbooks and filled the blank days on my calendar with the titles of all my favorite recipes that I have confidence to cook/prepare easily. I came up with more than enough for a month. I got excited realizing that I could provide that much variety. Then I made a list of all the ingredients on one paper, putting hash marks next to items that showed up more than once, so I'd know how many to buy. Then I went shopping for the stuff I didn't have! And I'm good for a whole month of dinners that I know are simple and that I can make with little difficulty. If I try one or two new recipes each month for a year, then by this time next year, I'll have 12-24 new meal ideas already under my belt. My husband was fine with this, and he is already a huge help. I am a lucky lady, because my guy isn't the typical male. He's always eager to help. He's never demanded that I have dinner on the table right when he gets home. It's just what my mom did, so I've done it that way. Right away he saw the logic in having me wait to get things on the table until he gets home and can play with the munchkins while I finish. So... thanks, ladies, for helping me get a grip on things...at least for now :)
D.S. answers from Portland on September 11, 2008
Oh B., I feel your pain honey! I have the exact same experience...My Mother is the 'Mother' of all mothers! She would cook, clean, iron during the day, have dinner on the table for us all at 4:30pm, then go to work at 5:30pm and work until midnight. In the morning, she would get up and do it all again...all the while NEVER losing her cool...HOW!?! I still have NO idea...she is my role model, and I felt like a schmuck not living up to her standards! HA I've since gotten over it (my first advice to you!) and started looking for ways to make life a little easier on myself!
I few months ago (June?) I discovered Dream Dinners...SAVED my friggin' life girl! You order what you want online, make an appt at the location you want, go in for 1.5-2hrs for ONE day, and make all your meals...FRESH ingredients!! You take them all home (as many as you wanted to make) put them in your freezer...and RELAX! ;-) On Sunday, you pull out 3 of them, and for 3 days in the week you have a stress free meal...all you have to do is cook the darn thing!! The meals are a TINY bit more than if you bought all the ingredients at the store, and did it yourself, however the TIME SAVINGS is WAY more than this extra expense! I no longer have to try and cook/plan/etc. these meals while trying to keep my sons from strangling each other, changing diapers in the middle of everything, and wondering what my spouse will think of the meal! As I said, on Sunday, I take three meals out of the freezer, then give my spouse the choice of which of the 3 he wants me to make that night! SO EASY!
I still feed my children first (cheese, crackers, meat, grapes, green beans, pudding) and then have my dinner after that...just easier for me! We've tried the 'sit together for a meal' several times and we are SO not there...it just becomes WAY too frustrating for everyone...I figure we'll get there, just not today!
For the other times in the week (non-Dream Dinner days) I either fix something in the crockpot, a hearty soup or frozen pizza on Fridays! I keep it SUPER simple on the 'off' days, knowing that for at least 3 days a week we will have a really good, put-together meal! The Dream Dinners I go to is on Sunnyside Rd, in Clackamas...they are GREAT, I'm telling you!
Hope this helps in some way, and gives you some additional coping ideas!
I totally understand where you are coming from...and just try to breath and take it one dinner at a time!! Hang Tough!!
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K.S. answers from Portland on September 10, 2008
B., I don't have any practical advice, but your post made me want to write you anyway. You made me laugh out loud because all that you said is so honest and so much like how I feel some nights. Honestly, isn't half the annoyance that you are magically expected to come up with an idea for dinner every night, without end? The answer I dread most of all is "I don't know. Anything you want to make sounds good to me." Okay, tacos it is.
Don't let your mom's example set a standard that makes you unhappy. She may never admit it, but I bet there were days when she wanted to lose it.
Actually, I do have some practical advice. My fallback easy dinner is a roast chicken from the grocery store plus a salad. I always follow the rule a friend gave me for salad: throw in something red, something sweet and something fatty (cheese, avocado). I add nuts and beans whenever possible. It is amazing how many different combinations you can come up with for a salad with that formula. Here's to you and here's to cheese!!!
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S.L. answers from Portland on September 11, 2008
Hah! I know how you feel sometimes. And btw my niece has the same ureter thing--strange. Here's what me and my husband do: We make pretty much the same meals every week and they have to be eeee-zeee; unless I feel really ambitious, I wait until my husband gets home before I start to cook so he can watch the kids (and they've missed him while he was gone). It's still pretty chaotic--I don't know if there's any getting around it--but we're done by about 6:30 when we move on from dinner to the bath, books and bed routine. So even after a rough dinner time I know it's going to be sleepytime soon and my hubby and I will get a little quiet-time. Hang in there...
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L.D. answers from Portland on September 11, 2008
Ok, if it helps at all, I feel your pain. My hubby and I both work full time, and I have a 7 yo with Celiac Disease (no wheat, rye, barley or gluten), a 9 yo picky eater who "hates" everything and a 17 yo who does not eat red meat, fish or pork.
Things that help me not beat them with a wooden kitchen spoon are:
* crockpot meals of chicken and rice, served with a salad and fruit.
*"cold plate" meals - just put out everything you have in the house in cute plates (sliced meats, vegies, fruit, olives, crackers, jello, peanuts, whatever .. people snack their way through the meal. Sometimes I make fruit/yogurt smoothies with this meal for a little extra nutrition.
* personalized pizzas - I get some frozen pizzas, then set out olives, mushrooms, sliced tomatoes & pineapple. People decorate their own slices.
Two tips - Don't try to get people to sit down to dinner on your timetable. They'll play, go to the bathroom, wander about, ignore. Get dinner on the table when they are ready to eat. It's much more pleasant than trying to get them to the table when you are ready to serve.
Our rule if something is too spicy, "yucky" ,or you just don't want it: Get a bowl of cereal with milk and sit down with us and chat.
Cereal can be healthy and is fortified, whole milk has lots of nutrients and calories, and it is a perfectly fine food with no arguing about the dinner that has already been made.
Remember - it's not about home cooked gourmet meals, it's about family fun and bonding time. Hang in there!
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A.M. answers from Portland on September 11, 2008
First things first - come to peace with the fact that you and your mother are separate people. Ironically enough, most of our mothers didn't teach us the skills in the kitchen like they were - mostly because of women's liberation and modern conveniences like pre-made meals by Costco.
You are not a failure. You are perfect just as you are. So now that your fear is dealt with, try working within your own skill set and desires. I once read that if one person is soley responsible for the care and feeding of the family, it begins to feel like slavery and, in essence, your feelings of resentment begin. I understand that you are a SAHM, but that doens't mean your partner can't be part of the process.
Have you tried going to Dinner's Ready or Dream Dinners? It's a life saver and was founded on just about every single principle you wrote up above.
I wish you luck and a solution that works for you.
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B.B. answers from Portland on September 11, 2008
I have to say your post brought a smile to my face, not because I was laughing at you but because I can totally relate. I work full time outside the home but we try to have a sit at the table dinner every night so I have to plan like crazy to make that happen.
Each weekend I make a menu so I know how to plan groceries and prep for each day. Also when I plan for a casserole or another dish that freezes easily, I make 2 or 3 of the same dish and freeze them in the cheap aluminum casserole pans. I have found it is just as easy to make 1 casserole as it is to make 3. So when I have a late day I can use one of my frozen meals instead of cooking something from scratch. I also sometimes plan for a day where I cook all day. My husband takes our son for the day and I cook and prepare food to freeze for easy meals. It is a lot of work for one day but makes the rest of the month easy.
Since both my husband and I work outside the home we usually follow the rule - one cooks, one cleans. The same can apply with your situation because you work all day too! You have a 24 hour a day job, your husband only has and 8 hr job. He should help you the minute he comes in, take the kids or cook the meal or clean up, anything is better than nothing. He can get his down time when the kids are in bed.
Oh, one other thing. We expect our son to eat what we eat. I only allow for other things if what I am making is too spicy. If you set that expectation your children will learn to eat what is given to them.
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R.L. answers from Portland on September 11, 2008
We have gotten several meals from Dream Dinners and have found that they are easy to cook and usually require very little clean-up. I don't have a kid eating regular food (yet) but the dinners seem to be pretty kid-friendly. I really like that I do not have to think about what to make, or waste the extra food that I would have bought to prepare each dinner. Some of the Dream Dinner meals include dairy, but since you select the meals from their menu and prepare them yourself, you could always choose ones that are dairy free, or just skip the dairy on some that may just have a little. It just takes 2 hours to make 24 dinners.
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K.M. answers from Portland on September 11, 2008
I feel your pain!! I totally hate dinner time too! And I am super impressed that you even make casseroles and things ahead of time. I never get that far... My 4yr old is a good eater, but my 2 yr old is super selective too and she will only eat certain things and if you try something new, she won't eat it. So we do a lot of pasta wheels and red sauce (no cheese needed!) I just cook the pasta and drain then throw in canned spag sauce- stir, you're done. Super easy. Frzn peas, canned green beans, or steamed broccoli are typical. My 2yr old amazingly loves Rice-a roni, pizza, chicken nuggets and ravioli- all easy things. Don't feel guilty about not cooking home cooked 4 course meals! It's not worth the effort! Oh, and if you find a private cook, let me know- I would so love one too!! I hope some of this helps!
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