I’ll just go ahead and say what everyone who’s ever eaten with my family is thinking: I hate meal times.
I do. I hate them.
Christian culture makes meal times out to be this glamorized period during which smiling, laughing, families gather around a large table to share a hot meal and good conversation.
That doesn’t happen at my house.
For me, meal times are the most stressful points of my day. The kids start fussing and crying from about 4:00 pm until (and during, and after) dinner is served. I have tried everything I can think of to mitigate this stress and so far, later snack times, dinner by 5:00pm, letting them help me in the kitchen, playtime with Tupperware while I cook, none of it completely works every time.
I’ve sort of just come to accept that because Mama’s the only one home 3 nights a week (which, be honest, that’s a blessing compared to most families), they don’t really know what to do with themselves while I’m standing in the kitchen preparing food from scratch 3 times a day.
What I’ve finally decided to do is perform little favors for my future self. What do I mean? I mean things that when I’m nearing the end of my ever-fraying rope, I audibly speak the words, “Holy cow, thank you so much past Me.”
For starters, the last few weeks (okay, the last month and a half) of this pregnancy have been just… Ugh. I’m exhausted, the kids sense the “differentness” and anxious anticipation, and they’re feeding off my more than usual palpably negative energy. So I realize that I’m most of the issue. Anyway, I digress. The long and short of it is that I’m tired, they’re whiny, and tensions are running high all around.
So, I’ve done a few things to simplify the newborn transitional period.
#1) Bulk Cooking/Pre-cooking
I was always put off a little by the Crock-Pot, freezer happy, bulk cooking mom. Something about the aggressive way they insist upon mass-meal prep as a lifestyle was always a little too intense for me… Those days are gone. Because of our food allergies, nearly everything has to be made from scratch.
I now find myself triggering their bulk cooking filibusters and getting out pen and paper to take notes. You can read more about my bulk cooking day here.
#2) Naptime is Mommy’s Self-care Time, Not Plan the Next meal Time.
What’s self care? What’s a self? Do I still have one? Is that one of the things I left the hospital after I gave birth the first time? In all seriousness, this has been huge for me. Since my son was born in 2015, I’ve used naps to accomplish all my household chores and mom-tasks. Not so anymore. The past few weeks, I’ve been taking that time to rest, read, sleep, bathe, sleep, listen to podcasts, sleep… Mostly the sleep.
And I’m not feeling guilty about it. I mean, I did feel guilty about it for the first few days especially when I looked at the sink full of dishes. But not anymore. My husband brought home a massive stash of foam plates (I prefer paper, but I’m so grateful I don’t even care) and disposable utensils so I don’t have to stand on my giant pregnant hippo feet washing the same plates, cups, bowls, and silverware 4 times a day. How we have more dirty dishes than members of our family can use in a day of eating, I’ll never know. I’ve found that this tiny bit of rest and relaxation helps my nerves to be a lot less raw come the typical mealtime battle.
#3) Meal Planning
I know people who take this to an extreme and visually map out which meals are to be had at which times, using which ingredients, on which days… That’s not me. I’m a loose constructionist meal planner. I list out meals my family likes or meals I’d like them to try for two weeks at a time. Then I make my grocery list based on the ingredients for those meals and certain staples. Which in turn makes grocery trips faster and less obnoxious! Thanks, past Me!
Then, whether we get to a certain meal during that period of time is “eh.” The point is that I can go to the list and be like, “okay, what sounds good tonight?” And I know I have all the ingredients I need for that meal… Unless it’s nachos night and my husband has been in to the salsa again. I swear, I think he drinks it.
This one should probably be #1 on my list as far as priority is concerned, but I’ve decided instead to let it be last so it sticks with you. (You don’t remember what #1 was anymore, do you?) Prayer. It’s that simple. I talk to God. Usually with hot tears (which are easily triggered lately) of frustration, and confession of my inability to function as a Mom anymore. Truthfully, praying for grace, compassion, and a servant’s heart for my family has been pivotal the last week or so. God has storehouses stocked to overflowing with any and everything I could possibly ask for. So why wasn’t I asking? He’s a good Father! More than ready to give. I came across an interesting point in a Bible study last night that pointed out that the only time The Father is ever illustrated in scripture as being in a hurry is when He rushes down the road to welcome back His prodigal son. Remember that story? It’s the story of all of us to one degree or another. But the part when the father lavishly bestows on his son the best robes, fine jewelry, and kills the fatted calf for a feast in his honor, when all the son asks for is to be hired on as a slave! That really resonated with me this week. God loves His children and He is eager to give us goodness because it’s consistent with His character. All we have to do is ask! So, I just started asking. And let me tell you, He’s been there to give abundantly.
So that’s it, I hope that was helpful to you in some small way. How do you manage mealtime stress in your home? Share in the comments!