I was discussing with other parents today some of the challenges of dinner time. Let’s face it, there can be a lot of them.
As a solo parent with a young toddler (who also the complication of health concerns) I find myself thinking about food a lot. I think about food far more than I did when I was a working professional and it really didn’t matter if I ate breakfast at my desk, had coffee for lunch, or ate Thai food for dinner at 9pm at night. Now I find myself needing to plan 5 meals a day for her (two of those are actually snacks but in reality my toddler functions better with the option of 5 mini-meals rather than 3 larger ones); I have to really plan to our budget; there are time constraints around naps & schedules; there is much more of a focus on fruits & vegetables in my life; and I need to think about what behaviour & attitudes I’m modelling when it comes to food.
Honestly, I sometimes get really tired of planning meals! I long to click my fingers and have a genie (or Hugh Jackman) appear in my kitchen simply so that I could put them to work cooking, washing dishes, and mopping the floors for a day! I read rave reviews about schemes like MyFoodBag and can understand the simple joy of having all the ingredients, recipes, and planning delivered straight to your door. For a while this year I made a concerted effort to make one new recipe each week. This effort has definitely tailored off but it has left me with a number of new recipes that I return to and more willingness to make myself experiment with them.
As a solo parent, my frustration (and exhaustion, and motherly guilt) is that there is only myself for the entire evening routine. There’s cooking dinner, feeding her, enforcing all the rules/boundaries about acceptable behaviour at dinner time (which can be exhausting in itself), cleaning the kitchen, washing (and drying and putting away) the dishes, giving her a bath, wrestling her into a nappy and pyjamas before the inevitable pee accident that will occur if I don’t, reading stories, and the lengthy process of trying to settle her down to sleep. All of which can take 3-4 hours and requires convincing her for periods of that time to play independently. We now have a happy arrangement where she will largely play with her toys while I take care of the kitchen post-dinner but just as I finish and desperately want to sit and do nothing for 5 minutes, she decides that I simply must come and play dinosaurs or sing or read etc. It would be nice, sometimes, to have an adult partnership that would allow her to receive more quality attention during that late afternoon/early evening period, and to have more adult division of labour for everything that needs to be done. I daydream sometimes about someone else doing the dishes while I give her a bath, or being able to simply relax and dote on my wonderful child (from the comfort of another armchair) while someone else reads Dr Seuss for the umpteenth time.