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The Daily Miracle: Cooking Dinner Amid Kid Chaos

Dinner

Chaos: It's what's for dinner

The most dreaded part of my day lately is between 4:30 and 6:30 or 7 pm. It’s after my toddler gets home from preschool and before my husband gets home from work.

Try wrangling an overtired 3-year-old, cluster feeding a two-month-old and preparing dinner.

I can handle a lot of things, like explosive diapers, public tantrums or finding a pacifier while maneuvering through rush hour traffic — and sometimes all three at once. But trying to cook, care for an infant and appease a toddler all at once has me at my breaking point.

Sure, my husband and I can eat frozen meals, I suppose. But I’ve given up a lot to expand my family. I go and do without at every turn. That’s not a complaint; it simply is what it is.

Sharing a normal, adult meal with my husband nightly is one of the few things we have left that remind us that we are a couple who doesn’t have to eat cardboard pizza that actually tastes better if cooked in the microwave instead of the oven (which speaks volumes about its flavor, no?) or leftovers for the eighth night in a row.

I’m not sure why it is that the perfect storm hits every time I try to do something more elaborate than boil water. Like, if I want to make something that necessarily needs to be done in timed stages and sequence. It’s usually at that moment that my 3-year-old needs me to retrieve the potty seat upstairs. Or my 9-week-old spits up the contents of the last three days on the Oriental rug. More than once I have risked dropping my baby into a roasting pan or a pot of meatballs that have needed to be stirred while she’s nursing. It’s not a call I’d relish making to the ER or pediatrician.

There needs to exist a cookbook for breastfeeding moms where you can stop and start the stove or oven every 11 minutes as necessary without the final product being affected. It seems every time I sit down to nurse a timer goes off. Or the phone rings. Or the umpteenth episode of Dora just ends. Someone, somewhere doesn’t want me to cook. But I really, really want to.

My husband doesn’t expect me to cook. He knows I’ve been working all day, too, while also caring for our baby. But he appreciates when I do it. And I appreciate his appreciation. And the fact that we can sit down together for a few minutes and talk about grown up things. Sometimes I can’t wait for him to put the toddler to bed before I eat. But I make a point of sitting down with him anyway while he’s eating.

When something has just been reheated or a sandwich has merely been slapped together, less effort is made to sit and talk. When a meal has been purposefully prepared, a conversation necessarily follows. It’s can be challenging to maintain a marriage when you feel like the old woman who lives in a shoe. Sitting down to dinner makes it a bit easier.

There’s one website in particular that’s a lifesaver: Dinner: A Love Story. It’s written by a mom, Jenny Rosenstrach (and sometimes her husband, Andy Ward), who has two kids. And a life. She gets wanting to eat well but not spend all day (and all paycheck) doing it. It doesn’t hurt that the writing on the site is so good that it makes me want to log on and read the posts even if I won’t be cooking what she’s writing about. It actually makes me want to crawl through my computer and go spend a few dinners at her house. Or a few days. She just gets it.

I’m not complaining about my kids (OK, so what if I am?), but would it be so tough for them to let me get through the preparation of just one meal undisturbed? And while they’re at it, can I have back just one Sunday to read the New York Times and get out of the house in time to go somewhere for brunch before they start serving dinner?

How do you manage to cook dinner with your little one(s) at home?

Image: Williams Sonoma

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