I Stopped Cooking Dinner, And It Made Me A Better Mom

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I Stopped Cooking Dinner, And It Made Me A Better Mom

KATIE BINGHAM-SMITH

When my ex-husband and I agreed I would quit my job and stay home with our kids, I had visions of cooking with flair in our kitchen every night. I wouldn’t just throw a dinner together; I would chop and mince while sipping wine. My kids would play nicely with their toys while I re-enacted an episode of Barefoot Contessa in my kitchen. I even got a bunch a glass jars to display all my staple ingredients, because this mama was going to be cooking from scratch every night, and dammit, I wanted people to know it.

After about two nights, however, I realized there was no flair in my cooking. Sweat, yes, but flair? Hell no.

My kids didn’t play nicely at this hour. As soon as they saw me walk towards the kitchen all hell broke loose, someone had a blow out, toys started flying, and even their favorite movie and a bag of fruit snacks wouldn’t calm them the hell down.

I tried the sipping wine and chopping thing, but knocked over my glass which spilled all over the raw chicken sitting on the counter, and the glass broke. Instead of enjoying some vino while making a nice meal for my family, I stood there deciding if I should try to pick all the glass out of the chicken and carry on with the stir fry I was so excited about, or serve soup instead. Soup won.

But I kept trying.

Growing up, my parents always made wonderful, homemade meals from scratch. And before I had kids, I loved to cook — it was almost therapeutic. But suddenly the healing energy I used to get from making a goat cheese stuff pork loin and homemade salad dressing left the building.

I kept pinning meals on Pinterest,  because somehow I just couldn’t get comfortable with the thought of being home and not making dinner. Isn’t meal prep one of the main things a stay-at-home-mom does?

No. No, it’s not.

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A stay-at-home-mom needs to do whatever works so she makes it through the day with a little something leftover to do it all again the next day. And to all those amazing moms who do make a from-scratch dinner, I bow down to you. I applaud you. I’m a little obsessed with you. I just can’t be you.

Now that I’m a woking mom, there is just no way I can muster the energy to make a homemade lasagna. That shit comes frozen and I like it. And honestly, so do my kids. As soon as I gave in and realized I was still “making dinner,” I just didn’t kill myself trying to cook something up with specialty ingredients and more than two steps, I became a whole hell of a lot happier.

Those rotisserie chickens that smell so good when you walk through the grocery store are meant to be bought and eaten. And you know what you get when you throw that down with a salad and steam some rice?

A meal, that’s what. A good meal, in fact.

Keeping frozen pizza and cans of soup on hand at all times has been my lifeline. More often than not heating something up has been all the effort I can come up with after a busy day.

My new way of making dinner has made me a better mom. And honestly, my kids like the food better; there’s no complaining after I’ve broken my back trying to make the perfect sizzling fajitas and green rice  only to watch my youngest pick out the onions and have everyone ask why the rice is green and tastes like barf.

Also, side note: no one in my house appreciates lime zest on anything. I learned this the hard way after thinking they’d love it in the guacamole and I ended up getting a piece of pulp stuck in my eye. I had to finish our grand Mexican meal with one eye shut.

If you are keeping your kids alive, you are already nailing it. It doesn’t matter is you are serving mashed potatoes and your Grandma’s meatloaf with a side of resentment, or those frozen burritos (that are actually really wonderful) slathered in ketchup.

Meal time is not an Olympic event. Martha Stewart is not going to show up at your house and ask you why you are pouring cereal for dinner. Who cares if you aren’t getting all Bobby Flay with ingredients you can’t pronounce or will ever use again. There isn’t a mother I know who has been able to demonstrate any kind of flair in the kitchen at this time of day.

So, I’ll save my flair for other things. Like trying to remember which day it is and where my kids have to be. Maybe my cooking mojo will come back some day, but in the meantime, I’ll always have lots of frozen meals and a stash of Macaroni and Cheese on hand because it’s more important to me to be a happy mom than one who has her ass cheeks clenched up tight because the manicotti shells keep breaking when I try and stuff those fuckers.