Monday, December 12, 2011

Timing is everything

When I plan our menu for the week, I take into consideration a few things: Workday schedules with meetings, evening plans or commitments, and what kinds of meals I can do some of the work for ahead of time (i.e. prep vegetables, marinate or defrost meats.) 

A typical workday for me goes like this:

5 AM: Go to the gym (this happens three days a week)
6 AM - 7:30 AM: My husband and I get ourselves and the two kids dressed, fed and out of the house by 7:30.
8:15 AM -5 PM: Work
5:45: Home

A friend once said that for her, coming home from work and walking through the door was like having a gun go off signaling the start of a marathon that she would run till the kids went to bed. I think of her often when I drop my purse on a dining room chair and get started on dinner. My husband gets the six year old started on homework and I try to simultaneously entertain our two year old while cooking dinner. Good times.

5:55 - 6:30 Cooking dinner

Often I have the dinner planned out ahead of time and I'd say that we typically eat dinner at our table at home six days a week. I do try to reserve one night in the week for take out or a frozen something. I need a break now and then. Sometimes I do it twice a week if things are going downhill fast.

6:35-6:50 Eating dinner

That's right, you read this right. 15 minutes. All this work for 15 minutes of quality family time at the table. It doesn't last long (enough) but I love it and I know it will get better. Right now, we have a squirrely two year old whose idea of dinner is eating butter by the finger and a six year old who negotiates bites by the number. Sometimes my husband and I just look at each across the table and raise our eyebrows in that "Remember the good old days?" way. Other times we high five each other over a dinner that went far better than we expected. Like the other day when my son gave us the real skinny on the drama surrounding a few of his friends at school. Those moments, while few and far between, are the ones that I know I am doing the right thing for. But the moments when the two year old whines the whole time about  her socks are the ones when I want to throw up my hands and send them to McDonald's.

6:50-7:30 Play time and clean up the kitchen
7:30         Bath, Books and Bed at 8 PM or somewhere around there

I think about all the time and energy I put into working on a weekly menu plan, buying the groceries on Sunday, organizing meals around evening plans, organizing leftovers for lunches and prepping for the next night's dinner and I realized that I do it all for that 15 minutes where we stop running that proverbial marathon. We sit down and all take a big deep breath and just enjoy the clinking of forks on plates and the stories about school. When I counted up all the minutes of planning, prep, shopping and cooking it came out to about three hours a week in exchange for 15 minutes a night. Hardly a fair trade, but I know this will pay off in the end. It is one unfair trade that I am happy to put the time into for the outcome.

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