Hands down, the thing I am dreading the most about the coming school year is packing lunch for my son. I mean, getting my kids out the door by 8 a.m. is no picnic either — someone always ends up in tears before we get out the door (usually me). And the afterschool “hangry” meltdowns have me texting my husband begging him to come home early or chastising him for getting me into this parenting thing in the first place. Homework also reserves a special place in hell for me. It takes 45 minutes of nagging for my son to do 10 minutes of homework, which is equally infuriating and mind-boggling.
But packing lunch? My son’s Pokémon lunchbox and I are enemies. Just knowing that I will have to open it at some point in the afternoon and face its horror makes me want to cry. But it’s every single aspect of packing lunch that I abhor. (And yes, I know that cafeteria food is an option for some kids, but my vegetarian, super-picky eater would do even worse with cafeteria food.)
I know it’s not just me. Parents all over seriously hate everything about the relentless task of packing school lunch and are counting down the days until their kids can make their lunches themselves (if that day ever arrives).
Here are the top nine reasons we hate packing lunch:
1. The crap you need to buy
Ten thousand zip lock bags, juice boxes galore, and 40 lunch-size bags of popcorn and pretzels (as though those are that much healthier than potato chips). Basically, about a third of your grocery bill centers around lunch items once September rolls around.
2. Having to pack lunch every. single. night
I don’t mind cleaning, decluttering, cooking — even scrubbing toilets is okay. It’s the repetitive tasks that drive me up the wall. And lunch making is one I have to do every single stinking night for ten months out of the year. Hold me.
3. Listening to your kid complain about what you packed
“I thought I was supposed to have chocolate milk on Monday and Wednesday!” he whines, even though this only happened twice. And then, when I get him the mini bagels he begged me to buy again, he only takes a bite of them, complaining that these bagels are radically different from the ones I packed last week. (They were the same bagels from the same store, obviously.)
4. Wondering what others will think about what you packed
If it isn’t clear yet, I have a very picky kid. He has sensory issues, too, and has trouble eating his lunch in the noisy, stinky cafeteria. So I do my best to basically pack whatever it is that he will be willing to scarf down at school, and I concentrate on feeding him healthy foods in the comfort of home. So yeah, that means sometimes the kid will get two granola bars and a rice cake for lunch. If you judged me based on what I packed him for lunch, you’d be sure I was one crappy mom.
5. Opening the lunch box at the end of the day
Because I know that I will usually be shocked by how little was eaten, and/or the explosive mess that ensued in my son’s meager attempts to eat, the simple act of taking his lunch out of his backpack, placing it on the counter, and starting to unzip the thing takes courage. Deep inhales. Rubber gloves.
6. The “surprises” you find in the lunch box
Besides a corn muffin explosion or a bagel soaked in chocolate milk, I have found all manner of weirdness in my son’s lunchbox. Napkins folded into god-knows-what. Ketchup packets squeezed out to make some sort of art. And all kinds of strange concoctions — witch’s brews, magic potions — stirred together inside a zip lock bag.
7. The smell
Ummm, I know the food has only been unrefrigerated and out of my house for a few hours, but often enough, the lunch box comes home smelling like death, feet, or vomit. Ewwww.
8. Cleaning the damn thing out
I have considered switching to good old fashioned paper bags because I hate, hate, hate cleaning out the lunch box. Something has always spilled in there, and these plastic and vinyl lunchboxes have corners stuck with crumbs that are simply impossible to clean.
9. Having to start the whole process again
It’s like Groundhog Day every night. Why? Why? Why?
About a week before last school year ended, I just gave up. I made my husband pack lunch for that last week of school, and I’ve had him pack lunch for my son’s day camps this summer, too. I’m usually a pretty liberated woman when it comes to the delegation of chores, so why didn’t I think to share lunch duty all along? And yes, at 9 years old, I’m pretty sure my son is ready to start making his own lunch too — or at least cleaning the freaking thing out at the end of the day.
But let’s be honest, even if we delegate some of the chores out, most of us moms end up doing the brunt of the work — or at least having the role of nagging our loved ones to step up to the plate. So, to all the moms out there dreading the chores that inevitably come with the new school year — especially the horror show of making lunch — fist pump to you. Oh, and send wine and chocolate, please. In bulk. Pronto.