Everything is Different Now

Now that we have two kids, both still in diapers, and my maternity leave is over, everything is different. Nivi and I race out the door in the morning and race back home at the end of the day. Every moment with our kids should be “precious”, but in reality, it’s “extremely stressful”. One thing we’re trying to stay on top of is family dinner. While I was on leave I was able to cook dinner almost every night and have it ready by the time Nivi got home. We’d sit at the table with our two-year-old, Ida, in her high chair, and baby Noa in her stroller or in one of our laps, and have 10, maybe 15 minutes, of somewhat-calm quality time before Noa would cry for her dinner or Ida would demand to be let down to play. Nevertheless, those few minutes were, in fact, “precious”.

These days, it’s impossible to get home at 6:30 and make dinner. We’re exhausted, Ida is whiny, Noa is hungry and tired. Recently, Nivi came up with a possible solution: We prep dinner in the morning so all we need to do when we get home is put the pan on the stove. This means you can find us on any given weekday, at about 6:45 a.m., in the kitchen peeling and roasting carrots, washing spinach, chopping tomatoes or breading chicken cutlets. Ida is still asleep and the baby is chewing on some plastic toy on the living room floor. We are a well-oiled machine. All business.

I was pleased to see we aren’t the first parents to try this. My friend Jenny Rosenstrach recommends the strategy in her new book, Dinner a Love Story: It all Begins at the Family Table, and after doing it for two weeks now, so far, so good. Still, every morning I’m reminded of just how insane it is for two working parents to raise two kids and have any time to breathe, let alone enjoy each other’s company. Another thing Nivi and I could be doing with that early-morning time is sleeping, or chilling out in bed with the baby, or sitting in our backyard and drinking coffee. Instead, we’re hard at work in the kitchen because we’ve prioritized family dinner. Everything’s a tradeoff, and everything is different.

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7 Responses to Everything is Different Now

  1. Katie says:

    When I had a freshly minted baby and a kindergartner, I gave up on the idea of cooking every single night.

    One night a week, I threw in the towel and ordered delivery. Everyone needs a break.

    On Saturday or Sunday, I’d make a few big meals, like chili, or a pair of baked chickens, or spaghetti sauce. Those big meals would feed us for the week, at least three nights.

    I had a list of meals I could make in under 20 minutes, and we ate a ton of those. What we lacked in variety, we made up for in an actually happy family time.

  2. Tony says:

    So, do you feel everything is different in the sense that the economic “rules” have changed? After having gone through a similar experience with a set of twins, I’d be interested to hear your take on how to handle the onset of extreme resource (time) constraints. In our case, many of the basic economic principles such as division of labor and comparative advantage simply went out the window in the face of externalities such as changing needs of the kids, illness, holidays, etc. The transition and communication costs of these factors simply overwhelmed our ability to adapt and establish new tradeoffs.

    • Paula says:

      Now you’re scaring me. But you raise a good point about the best laid plans. Which is why I ALSO recommend being willing to throw everything out the window! Creative destruction?

  3. As our children aged, the family ate together less and less frequently, despite the fact that we were always pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable it is. I realize our demonstrated preference was for everyone to eat what they wanted, when they wanted, but I still yearned for the communal meal enough that I would occasionally coordinate everyone into meeting at our dinner table now and again. It is particularly enjoyable when everyone is taking part in the prep, as well.

    • Paula says:

      Sounds like you guys had a good balance. Ida has started, on occasion, helping us stir things on the stove. But that raises a bunch of other issues, like that I think she should be far from the fire and my husband thinks she knows not to stick her finger in the fire. Hm.

  4. Irina says:

    I’m a morning dinner maker!! I started this when I went back to work after our second son. I make the entire meal and while it cooking I get ready. Some people think its crazy to be peeling potatoes and cooking salmon (that’s what I made this morning) at 6am but the boys cannot wait for me to come home and cook. The kids get up at 6am so I might as well get busy. Do what works for you and dinner before breakfast is a total winner in our crazy morning routine.

  5. Jan Stevens says:

    Great advice! Especially for new parents who are having a hard time finding a routine that works for them.

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