I hate when people say they “don’t have time” for something. I’d like to propose that instead we say “I don’t make time” for whatever is. If you made that “something” a priority, you would magically have time for it. Instead, there are other things that are your priorities.
That said, I don’t make time for things like meal-planning. (One look at me and you’ll see I also don’t make time for manicures, haircuts and eyebrow waxing. But that’s another post.)
My priorities haven’t wavered since I hit puberty:
3. Fun (and I consider exercising “fun”)
4. Everything else
Yes, food is above family. That doesn’t mean that I would pick a sandwich over my sister if one of them had to die. But it does mean that I’m really rude to my loved ones when I’m hungry.
What can I say? I’m an eater.
If you need proof, I’ll refer you to my first word: “hungry.” No lie. My mother has told me on several occasions that the sound of me shaking the bars of my crib moaning “Huuuuuuuungry!” still haunts her.
When Monster was born, it didn’t take him long to prove that he had inherited his father’s good looks and his mother’s appetite.
He’d look up at me with those baby blue eyes (got those from his dad) and his sweet smile (also from dad) and then let out a ground-shaking wail, signaling he better get his food NOW, because you do NOT come between him and his food (got that from his mom).
So you take a toddler with what I like to call “the hunger” and a mother with “the hunger” AND a full-time job and it makes our dinnertime pretty interesting.
Here’s how the end of the day typically goes down in my house:
I rush to pick up Monster from daycare and get home by 5:15 p.m., when he demands to eat. You try pushing that back even a few minutes, and it is pure chaos in my house. He will throw his pot-bellied-body onto the hardwood floor, kicking and screaming until you put him in his highchair and throw something – anything – on the tray. Usually, that’s scraps of bread, because I can reach that the quickest.
While he crams bread pieces into his mouth by the fistful, I am scrambling to find something healthful to round out his meal, as those pieces of bread are disappearing quicker than my tolerance for those parents who have it “together” and have “family meals” and “dinner conversation.”
I hastily heat up fishsticks in the microwave (conventional ovens/skillets don’t run on Monster’s watch) and chop up vegetables that WILL end up on the ground (much to the dismay of the dog, who sits at Monster’s feet hoping for fishsticks, all the while ignoring the food I somehow remembered to put in her bowl).
The baby has the bread, the fishsticks and the vegetables on his tray but darnit he just saw me pop a piece of leftover crabcake in my mouth because my hunger is overwhelming so now he wants THAT and will not stop yelling with outstretched arms and clenched fists until I give him some crabcake, which he puts in his mouth, spits out and throws on the ground (much to the delight of the dog).
You MUST give Monster something to hold while he eats (did I mention I think Monster also got his mother’s knack for multitasking?). My son eats most dinners holding a spatula/whisker/egg slicer in one hand while using the other to shovel food into his mouth by the truckload with little regard for size, taste, consistency or whether or not he already has something in there.
So as my spatula-wielding toddler gets his fill, I am scouring the kitchen to find something quick, easy and if at all possible healthy to have for my own dinner. By the time I get out all the ingredients to make whatever it is, Monster has thrown both his arms in the air to signal that he is finished and ready to get on the ground to play with the dog, who has also already had more to eat than me.
I then proceed to chase Monster around the first floor as he gets his final wind before bedtime, usually carrying his tray and eating his leftovers (and that’s not much).
Now, for all of you who are about to offer me the advice of “freezer meals” and “crock pots” and “advanced meal planning,” I say this:
In my free time, I don’t cook. I don’t meal-plan.
(Refer again to my priorities.)
My free time is the time when I get to eat a meal without a baby in my arms. I can actually chew food instead of swallowing it nearly whole in the hopes that I don’t choke on it, because who has time to chew while you’re running after the baby who’s running after the dog who’s running away from a tail-pulling baby?
I’m sure you wouldn’t call a handful of trail mix dinner, but if I can sit in peace and read a book while I eat it, that’s the best dinner I will have that whole week.
Maybe I’ll get it “together” enough one day to regularly plan our food for the week. Until then, I’m not swayed enough by our dinnertime chaos to change my priorities.
After all, a momma’s gotta eat.