Mom, what’s for dinner?
I do everything else! I can’t figure out what we are eating, too! Over the years, as our marriage and household have evolved, meals have become my husband’s responsibility. He has been delegated to the mind boggling task of feeding us, his family of five. I inventory the contents of the pantry and I make and send him the grocery lists. Then, HE does the grocery shopping and plans AND cooks our meals.
I can’t feed us and do everything else that I do, too! So, how does my family eat? My husband’s job, besides the one that pays him to go to work everyday, is to figure that out. How, when, and what we eat are ultimately his decisions. After twenty-three years together, fourteen years of them marriage, and all that it entails to love and raise three wonderful boys, I just can’t wrap my head around trying to figure out what to feed my husband, twelve, eleven, and nine year-old sons, and myself. I don’t try.
I already do the shopping for school clothes and supplies. Though my husband receives the emails and text messages about parent meetings, school supply dues and field trips, Grandparents’ Day, Fall Fest costumes, Book Fair money, Christmas parties, Valentine’s Day brunches, Spring Flings, and Teacher Appreciation Week, he doesn’t actually read them enough to retain any of it. I tell him where to be, when to be there, and what the boys need to bring.
He doesn’t know that our twelve year old has outgrown his shoes, that our eleven year old needs a new jersey for Cross Country this season, or even that our nine year old needs a prescription refill for his eczema cream until I ask him to stop and pick it up at the pharmacy on his way home from work. Birthday parties? Playdates? School group outings to the movies or skating? Does my husband know any of this? Nada. Nothing. School IEP meetings for our son with Autism and ADHD, homework completion and checking for understanding of skills and concepts, and hiring the math tutor when needed are all on me.
Balancing the checkbook and the monthly bill payments, keeping the house tidy (and what I mean here is immaculate), and typical home maintenance (you know, all the calls for replacement of broken garage door belts, installation of new hot water heaters, and repair of heating and air units that are on the blink), unlocking the back gate because you are the only adult in the house that chooses to remember the days that the lawn and pool guys need access to the backyard to mow the lawn and clean the pool; all of it… is… ALL… ON… ME.
Laundry? A really SCARY thought, right? Well, we do share this task. I wash and he helps fold. But, I put them away. I don’t know the last time my husband has seen the inside of the boys’ closets. As a matter of fact, I don’t think he has seen the inside of any closet or cabinet in our house since we toured it when it was for sale seven years ago, excluding the kitchen and his own closet, because I maintain all the linen, restock all of the cleaners and personal hygiene products, take out the decorations, hang them, and put them away at Christmas, and box up and schedule the pick up of old clothes and items for donation when I clean closets and rotate them on a seasonal basis.
I help the children to keep their desks, games, and arts & crafts supplies organized and I check backpacks daily for the letters home to parents that the boys will forget to give us until the last minute when school is in and then repack them with signed field trip permission slips and money for purchasing school spirit shirts and yearbooks. In the summers, I check backpacks and empty them of wet swim trunks and towels when they come back from day camp and set out dry trunks and fresh towels for them to repack for when they return to day camp the next day. Oh yeah, and I read and keep track of every single piece of mail and paper that comes through the house.
And so, when my boys sometimes forget and walk past their Dad to ask me, “Mom, what’s for breakfast? Who’s feeding us lunch? What time is dinner?” then, my response every time is, “Great question. I am hungry, too. Go ask your Dad.” And, if my husband is at work, my answer only changes to, “Call your Dad and ask him what we are eating.”
In our home, the inside joke is that Mom is a “BAD MOM,” you know, like the movie. She’s the rebel when it comes to stereotyping and delegating Moms to the kitchen and cooking. Don’t get me wrong, if you love to cook, then do it! But my husband loves to cook, too, I love letting him, AND he loves me letting him. And as much as we joke about it, I don’t FEEL like a bad mom. I feel liberated. I feel like a great Mom and an amazing partner to my husband. I feel that our sons know what it looks like to see a man AND will one day know what it is to be a man who knows his way around the kitchen and a stove. I also feel that seeing a man, their DAD, cooking a meal for his family builds character and that one day my sons’ spouses will, as I am, be grateful to have such a helpmeet.
When we married, one of husband’s sisters said to me as she welcomed me into the family, “He’s ready. Don’t mess him up.” What she meant was that my husband, the baby of eight children, five of which were girls, had been taught by the females in his family how to cook, fold laundry, iron clothes, and many of the other things that society still deems as “women’s work and responsibilities.” Our boys are learning to navigate their way around a kitchen and to cook for themselves as they watch and help my husband cook for us. I sometimes sit at the breakfast table with a hot cup of coffee or tea and watch them work together in the kitchen and think to myself, “They are good boys and will be even better men, husbands, and Dads because their Mom and Dad taught them that Dads cook, too.”
So, I am not the cook in my home. I am not the mom who is going to answer the question, “What’s for dinner?” I am that working mom who doesn’t always know when we will eat or even what we will eat. And this REALLY doesn’t make me a bad Mom and it doesn’t even mean that I can’t cook. I am actually a pretty darned good cook, can follow a really great recipe with skill, and every blue moon, I cook us something. As a matter of fact, my husband loves my greens and turkey necks and tails and my seasoned air-fried chicken. He loves my chicken salad, my chicken tortilla soup, and my beef stew, and oven cornbread. My boys love my spaghetti and my waffles even though their Dad is famous for his homemade waffles. Honestly, I really do love making those dishes for us sometimes. And when the boys see me cook a dish on that every blue moon, they laugh and say with love, “Mom we forget that you can cook!” And I wink and nod my head at them and say, “Yeah, that’s the idea!”