As I was preparing to return to work after baby number two, I also had my 18-month-old constantly clamoring for my attention. During my maternity leave, I had relished being able to have a hot, well-considered meal ready when my husband arrived home with our toddler. And I was dreading the time-crunch that would instead be my reality for meal prep once I was back to work.
Going into my first week back, I spent quality time meal planning, and took advantage of still having leisurely time to go to the store. My pressure cooker was a life-saver, and got me through by allowing me to throw in ingredients, then spend time with the girls while the meal cooked unmonitored.
But we couldn’t repeat the same five easy meals every week.
My husband is a great partner in raising our kids. He took note of my distress, and offered to handle the weekly meal plan the following week. You can bet I jumped on that without a moment’s hesitation!
After the week, I asked him if he had learned anything significant. Here are three of his realizations.
“I can make what I like.”
This one may sound silly, but he was so tickled to rummage through the spices, and add as much as he wanted. He made excellent grilled pork chops, and fantastically marinated chicken thighs as two of his meals. And he enjoyed embellishing the names of his selections on our meal plan chalkboard (which may or may not be appropriate to share with a wider audience, ha!).
“I have to plan ahead.”
He took special care to take inventory of what we already had that could be used alongside his grocery list. As the week went on, he realized he needed to make sure he had the appropriate pots, pans, and utensils ready for the next day. And he got a taste of why I get so concerned about timing to ensure all parts of the meal are ready simultaneously.
He originally forgot that the weekend counted as part of the “weekly” meal plan, so made some creative adjustments to extend and cover those days, too.
“After cooking, I don’t want to do anything else.”
As a working mom, it’s hard to explain the weight of the world you often feel from various pressures to keep the family running. This realization of his was music to my ears. It gave him some understanding of how meal prep was important and necessary, but so was the rest of the child care required of us in the evening. And although I enjoy cooking, it’s just one more thing to attend to while also nursing the baby and consoling a tantruming toddler. All after a full day’s work five days a week.
The lesson I learned is to remember to ask for help when I need it, especially when it means ensuring I’m able to give my family my best self. Being excused from kitchen duty allowed me to concentrate on loving my girls, and feel more rested (especially crucial while still in the newborn haze). And while I never thought he wasn’t capable of cooking, I feel more assured that I can enlist his help for meal planning and prep for the future.
Maybe you have meal planning covered, but you could use some help with laundry. Or perhaps rotating kid pick-up would assist you in feeling like your best self. Whatever it is, just because you have always done it doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a conversation with your partner. You may each find a new strength to bring to your relationship.