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Thanks Motherhood, I Didn't Expect to Deal With This

Photograph by Twenty20

The dairy situation in our refrigerator has officially mushroomed out of control:

  • A Costco three-pack of organic whole DHA milk for the almost-2-year-old
  • Organic 2 percent for the preschooler
  • Skim for my cereal
  • Vanilla soy milk and vanilla almond milk, because apparently our preschooler has turned into a hippie
  • Mini milks for school lunch
  • The occasional half-gallon of chocolate milk (when I myself am craving it and/or need to bribe the kids while grocery shopping.)
  • Up until very recently, breast milk.

Basically, my fridge is a Paleo Crossfitter's worst nightmare and a kitty cat's wet dream.

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Oh, and let's not ignore the other dairy darlings currently taking up residence in there: Kefir, yogurt (plain, Greek and Greek with fruit, and Viking yogurt. Yes, that's a thing.), and a cheese drawer that would make Jerry Mouse swoon with desire. As a result, I am forced to play some serious Refrigerator Tetris every time we return from the supermarket (or, if I'm being totally honest, when Instacart magically arrives on my doorstep.) Even worse, there is less room for my wine.

I'm not the only parent with this problem, and apparently, unlike diapering and Legos, our kids aren't necessarily going to age out of this one. My friend, fellow writer Marisa Cohen, nearly tore her rotator cuff—for real—shlepping all of her family's milk home from the store.

Maybe I'll take a page from Jennifer Aniston and her chicken coops and purchase a cow for our backyard.

"We drink four different kinds of milk," she says of her two daughters, 12 and 14, her husband and herself. "I only drink non-fat because anything more than that tastes to me liking sucking cream directly from the cow. My husband drinks 1 percent. Bellamy (14) is lactose-intolerant, so she drinks almond milk. Molly still must have a glass of chocolate milk before bed every night, and since it is a pain in the ass to mix it each night, we just buy a half-gallon of premade chocolate milk at Whole Foods."

Every once in a while, Marisa says, they simultaneously run out of all four types. And since she is a New York City mom without a car, that means she has to shlep it all back from the store manually, like an apron-clad mother of seven carrying 224 pounds of freshly-shot buffalo across the Oregon Trail. As a result, "I have to go get a very expensive cortisone shot in my shoulder next week, and I suspect this may be one of the reasons."

Let's examine this phenomenon a bit more deeply. A few possible reasons that my fridge has turned into a dairy plant:

1. Too many studies

Every day we learn something new about milk: "No need to switch kids to skim when they turn 2, because whole milk doesn't cause weight gain"; "Calcium doesn't really strengthen your bones, so experiment with soy and almond"; "Lactose causes mucus!"; "Lactose doesn't cause mucus!" As a result, I'm giving myself whiplash in the grocery store's refrigerated section because, on one hand, the coconut milk is hurting the Sumatran farmers' backs, yet XYZ news program just told me that the hormones in conventional cow milk will make my toddler grow 34As.

2. Allergies

This isn't the case in our house (fortunately), but plenty of parents experiment with non-dairy milk alternatives to keep their little ones safe, hive-free or to guard against faucet nose.

3. Whole Foods

The dairy/"dairy" section at WF can be overwhelming AF. First, they carry, quite literally, 106 kinds of milk. Cashew milk. Hemp milk. Rice milk. Flax milk. If you could milk wild salmon and market it as an omega 3-rich non dairy alternative, they would do it.

4. I am trying to cater to everyone

The truth is, I could just become the mom who hangs up an "Eat It or Starve" sign and wipes her hands clean. It's not like our 4-year-old's life would be significantly worse if she didn't have vanilla almond milk. (Although she did recently inform me that by denying her a request for a spoonful of straight olive juice, I was turning her Tuesday into the worst day ever, so who knows.)

5. Today's milk lasts forever

I don't really want to know why it is that I can buy milk on April 3 and the expiration date isn't until our daughter starts Junior Kindergarten in the fall. Or why it is that those little tetrapacks with the straws glued on are shelf-stable enough to survive a nuclear holocaust. But it means less frequent trips to the store, so I'm all for it.

I will say, examining this phenomenon has had a happy side effect, in that it's allowed me to realize that the dairy contents of our fridge has actually served as a sort of growth chart for our family. Pre-kids, I was all about skim milk and 0 percent pseudo cheese; no fat allowed. When my husband and I started trying to conceive and our efforts went unrewarded, I brushed up on my fertility nutrition research and switched to real cheese and 2 percent milk and yogurt. (The acupuncturist suggested avoiding cow dairy, as she was worried it might increase sperm-thwarting cervical mucus, but I couldn't stomach the goat milk she recommended. Because it tasted like goat.)

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Once pregnant, I upped the ante to organic, taking on a second job as a pizza delivery woman to afford to do so. Postpartum, our top shelf became home to a double row of breast milk-filled Medela bottles. When that baby turned 13-months-old, we started stocking up on organic whole. When she hit seven months or so, we began buying organic whole milk cheese. And so on and so on, until our kitchen evolved into the amateur Horizon factory that it is today.

Maybe I'll take a page from Jennifer Aniston and her chicken coops and purchase a cow for our backyard. Or at least buy stock in Silk.

At least I can sleep well at night knowing that if a lost little vegetarian, lactose-intolerant kitten ever makes its way to our doorstep, we will be able to welcome it with open arms.

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