After months of varying degrees of lockdowns and quarantines, we all have a better idea of what it means to be a stay-at-home parent. And while the time of truly staying home isn’t an accurate picture of normal times when we can actually take our children out, I hope we all have more compassion for parents who stay home with their littles. The idea that it’s an easy or lazy choice has always been untrue. Caring for kids full-time is exhausting.
I’ve worked from home in varying capacities and commitment levels for several years, gradually ramping up my work commitments as my children have grown and started in school programs. Being a trapped-at-home mom has been a very different experience for me, but knowing that everyone is in the same storm helped manage the disappointment of canceled plans and lack of ability to take my children here, there and everywhere as I normally would.
Something that hasn’t changed in this time has been the continued need to feed my family. Although I cook (or heat up) most nights in normal times, having the option to easily go out for a quick bite or grab takeout without weighing the risks of potential virus exposure has increased the burden that is making dinner Every. Single. Night. One burden among many, for sure, but nevertheless a burden. I recognize my privilege and that I should be grateful to have dinner to make and people for whom to make dinner. But there are only so many meals I can make, day in and day out, without wanting to weep.
I’ve tried social media tricks to make it easier, and throughout the summer, I used a system of sticky notes to manage meal ideas. The front of our fridge, in addition to the art and letter magnets, was covered with meals that could be made with the ingredients inside. I have quite a stack of dated sticky notes as the meals went from concept to plate. We are still keeping our grocery shopping runs down to once a week at most, but I’ve reverted to a looser list of meals on the back of the shopping list, plus old standbys of frozen foods and pantry cooking in a pinch (every day feels like a pinch though).
A few friends are helping too by making a Pinterest board with recipe ideas for meals they have made and like. Nothing makes me feel like an old lady who can’t work social media like that app. But I’ve been able to make a few meals that are new to us. My husband and I have enjoyed their deliciousness, but my girls are less adventurous. Where did I go wrong?
A bright spot: cleaning up the kitchen after meal prep and cooking isn’t a problem, as that’s been my husband’s role since our newlywed days living in a studio apartment in New York City. I’m not a great housekeeper, to say the least, and it makes preparing dinner a little easier knowing he will take care of dishes and clean up. I still get a dropping feeling as 4:30 rolls around, but I know I have to pick from my list and make something happen!
Do you have any go-to recipes you can share? Has your dinner routine changed at all during the COVID-19 pandemic? How much takeout is too much? (Asking for a me.)