Rita asked Lauren:
I’m the unmarried mother of a twelve year old boy and a seven year old girl. I work two jobs to pay my bills and I’m worried because I don’t think I get to be with my kids enough. I really love your “message” about cooking and making time to sit together at the table but, to be honest, I just don’t know how to do it. I’m so tired when I get home after work (which is usually between 5:30 and 7 pm) and on the weekends, I work on Saturday, home at about 4 pm. Sunday seems to be my only day when I’m not pulled in all these different directions. Sometimes I think it’s just too late (for me as a mother) to begin to make homemade meals a regular part of our life at home. And yet, when I write those words, I want to cry. My mother loved to cook and, although she had the support of her husband, my father, she also worked and managed to “make it work” for us. I guess I’m getting worried since my son is starting to have a “snippy” attitude and I’m afraid that, when I’m at work, he might be hanging around with the wrong types of kids. I just don’t want to wake up one day and kick myself for not being able to “do it all.” I’m writing to you because I’ve started to feel that this is a really important time for my kids and for my relationship with them. I don’t want us to lose each other because of my outside commitments. Thanks so much for your time.
Ok, let’s start at the top. First of all, the very fact that you’ve written me this heartfelt note says that you’re ready to make some changes at home. And, for the record, it’s never (ever) too late to make positive changes. Although being a single, working parent can, most definitely, be a challenging scenario; it’s certainly not one that deems you destined to end up feeling filled with private regret.
I’d like to address that phrase “doing it all,” which seems to leave so many people (primarily mothers) feeling hopelessly inferior. Here’s the truth: You’re a mother and you work. So, by definition, you (like most parents) need to accomplish things in more than one aspect of life. If you loved playing a sport or reading books, if you wanted to fit in a daily time to meditate, if you had a sick parent that needed you or if you simply felt it was a priority to get your nails done each week, and if you were also a mother who worked, then you’d also need (or want) to find a way to make that third, fourth or fifth aspect fit, as well. So, as a whole, dimensional person, it’s normal and healthy to want (and need) to “do” more than one thing. And because it feels better to do things well, without interpersonal sacrifice, I’d like to talk about a very valuable skill that can help that to happen. It’s called Multi-tasking.
Why not shift your mindset? Think of cooking and meal time as a perfect opportunity to satisfy several physical and emotional needs with one activity.
Because being worried that you don’t get to “really see” your kids enough can interfere with your ability to feel good about your outside commitments and accomplishments, my best suggestion is that you make the most of the time that you DO spend with them at home. Why not use meal time, a time that’s built into the system of life, to not only satisfy physical hunger, but to also get a good glimpse into your children’s thoughts while also reaffirming your place as the devoted leader of your unique and private tribe; your family. I know, from personal experience, that this can help to reduce inner conflict as a working mother.
Having said this, there is not “one right way” to incorporate home-cooked, shared meals into your home. For one family, dinner time is the best time and for others, breakfast works better. One family might be able to swing family meals several times a week while others can only manage to fit it in once. The amount of meals or time of day is much less important that two things that are crucial to making this dimension work. One is that you cook happily, with a loving, nurturing spirit and the other is consistency. If you choose to make Sunday breakfasts “your time” to connect over a thoughtfully prepared meal, when done consistently, your family will most definitely find true comfort in knowing (and trusting) that Sunday is always coming.
Speaking of Sunday mornings, if you really want to get a huge nurturing bang from time spent in the kitchen, you must try my Buttermilk Pancakes!