I've been trying to give up the indulgence of wine during the week, mostly because I want to lose a few pounds. But, look, when you sit down on a Wednesday evening and one of your kids is trying to code words by four different rules and the other one is simplifying fractions all while you're trying to listen in to a conference call, wine isn't a luxury, it's a necessity.
So on a recent Wednesday, I did my best to remain strong despite my mounting frustration over orders of operation, the Magic E rule and marketing plans ... until my younger son said this: "Can I have my dinner?" First of all, don't be so demanding! And second, no. No, you cannot "have your dinner" because there is no plan for dinner quite simply because I haven't made one. I haven't made one because I'm also attempting to boycott dinner planning. On top of homework, it's just too much responsibility. So I poured myself a glass of wine.
Here's the thing about dinner planning at my house. No one wants to eat the same thing - ever. I take full responsibility for this. When I was a child I was made to eat what was on the menu that night. I gagged my way through a lot of meals, and I swore I would never do the same to my kids.
So that sign in my kitchen that says, "Today's Menu: Eat it or starve"? Funny, but also total BS because they can have whatever they want within reason.
About six months ago, I also stopped doing a big grocery shopping every week that would provide all the necessary proteins and vegetables to sustain us for a week because things were just rotting in our refrigerator. It was a waste. So now I literally deal with this on a daily basis.
And it's not just dinner that has me frustrated. It occurs to me, lately, that the organization and preparation for most things that involve the children or the family fall on my shoulders. Drop-offs and pickups. (Try balancing three working parents' schedules to get two kids back and forth to two different schools and to all of their extra-curricular activities.) Shoes, clothes, toothbrushes, toothpaste. (Two growing kids grow out and run out of "stuff" on a daily basis.) Staying home with a child who either doesn't have school on a random Tuesday or happens to be sick. (I swear they're out of school more than they're in.) Weekend activities, vacations. (Soccer games, arts festivals, trips to the movies, Spring Break, summer vacation, etc.) Pretty much everything.
Don't get me wrong: My husband is an eager and willing participant. He's happy to cook whatever's in the fridge or pantry and drop-off and pick up whomever I ask him to. But I have to plan it. And I'm the first line of defense.
Here's the reality for women of my generation: Thanks to our moms' generation who trailblazed the way into the workforce and "gender equality," we have the right to a career. The right to earn as much as a man in the same role. The right to be and do whatever we want ... as long as the kids (and dinner) are taken care of.
Women who work have two full-time jobs, not one. And the brave women who stay at home and manage their families? Let me tell you, being a homemaker or stay-at-home mom or CEO of the Family is not a job for a wimp. These women are project managers, account managers, the creative team and the cleaning crew all rolled into one. They have little, if any, time for themselves.
So, here's a friendly tip for any men out there listening: A little planning goes a long way. Not all the time. Not every time. Just some of the time. Plan some burgers on the grill - just go buy the meat and feed the fam. Make a reservation. Know when and where the soccer game is (or the swim meet or the music lessons) and get them there. Drop everything when the school calls to say your child threw up on his square dance partner during dress rehearsal. Just once in a while, surprise us by telling us, "I got this." You have no idea how relieved, appreciated and appreciative this can make someone feel.
By the way, I'm well aware there are role reversals, and this rant assumes a heterosexual relationship. You'll have to forgive me; it's the only kind I've ever been in, so it's my only frame of reference. But I feel certain there are similar dynamics in same-sex relationships. In fact, I'd love to hear all about it!
The bottom line is this: If you're not the one who's always doing the planning, delight your counterpart with a "planning break" once in a while. You never know what perks may come your way!