The Daily Dinner Struggle
By: Jenna Stewart
Dinnertime in our house has become a constant battle. It’s chaotic, messy, and usually results in tears – mostly from Riley, but I definitely join in on the waterworks from time to time.
As a mom of two, who works full-time, planning dinners is hard; ok that is the understatement of the century. Planning dinners and working full-time is like asking me to put together a 1,000-piece puzzle in 60 minutes. Probably not going to happen, and when it does, there is always at least one piece missing.
I grew up in a family where we always sat down for meals. It was a time for us to connect and hear about everyone’s day. I always loved it and I knew I would continue the tradition with my own family. That being said, I think I bit off more than I can chew trying to force the “dinner as a family” rule with a two-year old and a five-month old.
A normal evening in our house looks like this.
Phase 1: Preparation
We arrive home from work and daycare in a tornado of bags, car seats, jackets, and overtired children. Riley protests going upstairs for 10 minutes, while I stand behind her carrying Bode’s car seat, my work bag, computer bag, pump bag and daycare bag. I’m exhausted and frustrated before I even make it to the kitchen.
I search the cupboards and fridge for something that everyone will eat, while Riley is yelling, “I want cereal,” as she empties her bucket of legos all over the kitchen floor. By this time, Bode is screaming from his swing ready to have his own meal, which can only happen if I take five minutes to sit down and nurse him. Riley comes up behind me and asks for macaroni and cheese, because she “loves it so much,” and since Pat is working, and I will eat anything at this point, I agree.
Phase 2: Dinner’s Ready
I manage to get a meal of macaroni and cheese, chicken, and black beans (Riley’s other request) out on the table. Bode has been fed and is now asleep in his swing.
The battle begins.
Me: “Dinner’s ready”
Riley: “ No, I hate dinner”
Me: “ I made you mac and cheese”
Riley: “No I hate mac and cheese”
I carry her to the table and strap her into her seat where she howls like I am going to force feed her dirt (which she sometimes willingly puts in her mouth), instead of the meal that she so enthusiastically asked for just moments earlier.
In typical two-year-old fashion, she dramatically cries and puts her head on the table, because in her opinion, life is over.
I tell her she needs to take a few bites or we can go upstairs and start getting ready for bed. She throws her fork on the floor and says “No,” for the 100th time. She always gets one warning and this was it. I say, “you have two choices, you can eat and we can read stories or watch 10 minutes of a movie OR you can go straight to bed, it is your choice.”
She throws the beans on the floor (usually the time where I cry) and I scoop her up and go upstairs to put on PJs and brush teeth. She cries (mind you they are fake tears) through the whole thing and I contemplate letting her have a yogurt and come downstairs, but I stick to my guns and put her in the crib. I turn for the door and say, “ I love you, do you love Mommy?”
“No.” she says. It is soul crushing, but I know she will be fine in the morning.
Phase 3: Picking up the pieces
I head downstairs to pick up the pieces of my broken heart black beans from the floor. I put the food in Tupperware for her lunch tomorrow, thinking her teachers may have better luck getting her to eat it (ha!)… Wash bottles, empty the contents of Riley’s lunch box, load the dishwasher, play 52 pick-up with the scattered lego pieces, puzzles, and blocks that Riley emptied on the floor during phase one, and sink into the couch with my dinner—a glass of wine and Riley’s untouched mac and cheese. Bode takes his cue and starts to cry, as it is now time for his bedtime routine.
Tomorrow is a new day and Pat’s turn to make dinner. I make a mental note to recommend pizza or something that can’t splatter and take a big gulp of wine.
The score: Dinner- 1, Mom- 0.