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I Used to Love Dinner, Now I Just Get Through It

It never fails: It's dinnertime, and I'm standing at the helm of my kitchen. With a spatula in hand, I'm trying not to overcook whatever I have in front of me. My toddler is standing precariously close to the stove, and I try to shoo her back into the living room, which leads to a meltdown. Dad springs into action, but that leaves me to finish dinner by myself.

I'm scooping yogurt into the pink bowl. "NOT the purple bowl, Mama."

I'm dishing everything up and we're ready to go.

Except I forgot the utensils. I'll get them!

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Oh, and my daughter's milk, let me pour that quickly. Wait, where's her favorite sippy cup?

Yes, I can get you a napkin.

Yes, I can get you some blueberries.

My food starts to get cold.

When feeding a family with small children, food gets toned down.

So goes midweek dinner. I'm the last to sit down and, while I eat, I have to nudge a tiny person to continue eating her food. I want to say, "Do you realize you need to eat food to live?" Even when kids eat pretty well, mishaps arise. Oops, there goes a spoon on floor.

No worries, Mama will get you another.

Ironically, the days that turn out the worst can be the best when it comes to dinner, because I'll give in by ordering in. Everyone eats at the same time when dinner is a pepperoni pizza. Of course, there are great days too—those when your kids ate vegetables and bedtime is a breeze.

And yet, it wasn't always this way.

I remember what dinner was like before we had kids. My husband and I would shop at the exceedingly overpriced local grocery store. Dinner meant opening up a bottle of wine and cooking together. We were so much more adventurous back then—culinarily speaking. The hottest curries, steaks cooked rare, sashimi, deglazed sauces. We always sat down at the table together.

Dinner was intimate, romantic.

When I sit down, it might be the first time I get to have a real conversation with my husband.

When feeding a family with small children, food gets toned down. Pesto is an adventurous choice for our 3-year-old. The alternative is to make two dinners. That'll have you feeling like you should be yelling, "Order up!" from your kitchen. I've been there. It's not exactly a habit you want to encourage.

This isn't to say my husband doesn't step up. We usually start dinner together, but since he's been gone all day, I like him spending the time he's at home with our daughter before she goes to bed. That means I often finish dinner on my own.

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When I sit down, it might be the first time I get to have a real conversation with my husband. Sometimes this moment is interrupted by flying baby carrots or a cup of milk falling to the ground. I start to get up to clean the mess. My husband stops me, saying, "You need to eat, you've been doing stuff for everyone else all day."

In the context of parenthood, the gesture is intimate, and yes, absolutely romantic.

Also? It's my big chance to, you know, take a few bites of food.

Photograph by: Getty Images

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