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A Working Mom's Place in the Kitchen

Photograph by Getty Images

Growing up with a single mom, who wasn’t necessarily that into the culinary arts, meant that tonight’s meatloaf dinner turned into spaghetti and “meatballs” the next night. A vegetable was always on the agenda though, as she fought to get me to eat all my food groups. Dinner time wasn’t that elaborate, but honestly, I could care less. My mom worked her butt off as a single parent with no support from my father. She did the best she could with the resources and know-how she possessed.

Though, as I grew and matured, so did my palate and I experimented more in the kitchen. Then came graduate school, a teaching career, marriage and a baby carriage. And all of those desires to succeed in the kitchen were forgotten as I struggled to stay afloat and meandered my way through my newfound working mom status.

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Once I got my bearings, I found myself making homemade baby food, meal planning and scouring Pinterest to continue to stretch my horizons in the kitchen. I made myself crazy along the way, but I was determined to do better by my family. The big question, though, was why? Why did I care so much about my role in feeding my family?

About a year and a half ago, study results revealed a substantial decline of people cooking at home from the mid-1965 to 2008. The outcome of this report also notated that as men cooking at home increased, the role of women in the kitchen decreased. The inference to be made from this latter point is that since the mid-'60s, more women are entering the work force, resulting in an increase of working moms.

To put it bluntly, working moms have less time to cook. That’s a no brainer. And before I stopped caring what others thought about me and my working mom status, I was determined to prove the naysayers wrong. I could go to work, make a difference in the lives of the youth, come home, cook a well-balanced meal and do it without breaking a sweat or getting cranky.

Hahaha! That’s funny, right? I can’t help but laugh at myself five years after becoming a working mom. Because that dream of doing it all, having it all, attaining that balance as a working parent while creating delicious, beautiful, well-balanced meals for my family on a daily basis just isn’t possible. And really, I don’t even think my SAHM counterparts would argue against that either.

It all boils down to parents trying to do the best they can with the time and resources they have.

Just as the crazy in my busy life ebbs and flows, so do my culinary talents.

Do I meal plan? Absolutely. But do I also throw my hands in the air on Wednesday because I had a hard day at work and I, once again, forgot to defrost some meat for dinner that night, and decide take-out Friday is now take-out Wednesday? Yep. Oh, and we’ll also be eating out on Friday too.

Do I search for new recipes to try out to get variety on the kitchen table? You betcha. But do we also repeat the same recipes week after week after week after week because it’s simple and easy, and I know everyone, including my picky 5-year-old will eat it? Of course.

Do I strive to have healthy and nutritious on the agenda for family meals? Certainly. But do I also feed my children frozen chicken nuggets without batting an eye? Totally. Because if my child will eat them, and only them, for many days in a row, I’ll give those chunks of breaded chicken to her, because she needs to eat, damn it!

And honestly, do I celebrate on the nights when my husband tells me to sit on the couch and hang out with the girls while he cooks dinner? Who wouldn’t? He’s a pretty darn good cook and love that we share this responsibility to give each other respite at the end of our long work days.

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Here’s the thing, as a working parent, I’m just trying to do best by my family, and really best for myself. I no longer count my successes by how I do in the kitchen, and I’m better for it. I’m less stressed because of it. But the bigger question is why do so many others care enough to create a study to figure out how many women are in the kitchen cooking all day?

The fact that this concept is still on the radar today, the concern about the working parent in the kitchen, continues to perpetuate the problems of the working parent guilt and feelings of inadequacy. It all boils down to parents trying to do the best they can with the time and resources they have. And in the 21st century, the role of the working mom continues to change.

So let’s stop worrying about who is cooking what and for whom, and let us rather focus on providing safe, happy and healthy environments for our children to live in—chicken nuggets and all.

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