Just as we get the hang of parenting, it seems like something always comes along that overwhelms us!
Lately, it’s been making food for the kids. Olive started eating 3 meals of solids a day, and Mrs. Bee started making all the kid’s food from scratch. This meant no processed foods and no eating out… sounds great, right? Well we found out the hard way that all that industrial processing is actually a huge timesaver! No processed foods = you’re left doing all the processing yourself.
So a few months ago, I started to help Mrs. Bee more in the kitchen. At first, I started to help with the dishes. While it saved Bee some time, it didn’t seem to make her any happier. So I took over all of the dishwashing. That didn’t seem to help either. In fact (and this could just be my imagination), but the dishwashing seemed to create more conflict.
Finally, last week we talked about what was working and what wasn’t. Bee mentioned that she appreciated the dishwashing help, but her #1 stressor was actually cooking. Cooking is like an iceberg, in that there’s a visible section of work that anyone can see and also an invisible section that’s not immediately obvious. I had always thought that cooking was an hour or two of work a day (which I offset by waking up with the kids and other stuff), but what I hadn’t realized was all the worrying involved.
* Why aren’t the kids eating well?
* What meals should I make that the kids might eat?
* Do I have the ingredients to make that meal??
* Why aren’t the kids eating the meal I just made???
All this worrying was making mealtimes miserable for Mrs. Bee… and I had been pretty oblivious to it all. The problem though is that I can’t really cook, other than making omelets. Last week, I actually Googled “how do you boil an egg.” Still though, I didn’t see any other solution to the problem other than learning to cook. So I proposed a chore swap to Mrs. Bee: I would take over all cooking chores for the whole weekend and make all of our kids’ meals from scratch… and in return, she would take over watching the kids (not really a chore, but you get the idea).
Well the weekend is over and the chore swap was a success! The kids ate pretty well, and I have a lot more appreciation for how hard it is to cook for four people all weekend. Mrs. Bee and I compared notes, and here’s what we each learned from the experience:
If you can follow instructions, you can cook.
I have very little cooking experience, but cooking mostly comes down to following instructions. I can follow instructions! I did what I do for most non-food situations when I have no idea where to start: I would Google what I wanted to do, and then carefully read every word on the page. The key is to read the comments on every single recipe… people often comment about what worked (and what didn’t), so you can learn from their mistakes!
The hardest part of cooking is often figuring out what meals to make.
I spent a lot of time brainstorming ideas for meals. In the end, I made:
* Garlic chicken tenders (the kids don’t eat spicy yet, so I just left out the cumin/coriander/paprika and increased the garlic)
* Zucchini sweet potato pancakes (Bee made the mix, I just cooked it up)
* Fish sticks with veggie chip breading (you basically chop up plaintain or veggie chips into breadcrumbs, cut up white fish into strips, and bread the fish by combining the two in a Ziploc bag and shaking!)
* Mini “green sliders” with spinach, mushrooms, onions
The green sliders were by far the most work, since I had to puree a bunch of veggies to knead into the ground beef. Luckily, they were the surprise hit of the weekend! Charlie ate them well, and Mrs. Bee even had a few! (I froze the leftovers, and already used them this morning in Charlie’s lunch!).
Bee suggested that I find 4 meals I can consistently make, and then I can rotate through them. I’ll use that as my first goal, but I’d like to build a bigger repertoire since the kids are picky eaters.
Cooking can be a downer if the kids don’t eat
Olive didn’t eat much of what I cooked, even my otherwise popular green sliders. That was pretty depressing. I understand better now how Bee’s happiness can be affected by Olive’s eating. I had some backup entrees and snacks ready, but it’s still hard when you spend an hour on something and your child won’t even put it in their mouth.
Really??? Just put it in your mouth already!! Come on now, child.
If you don’t cook, you get a lot more time with the kids!
Bee was surprised by how much time she was able to spend with the kids! She gets a ton of time with them of course, but by not cooking she got an extra 3 quality hours of 1:1 time with them each day (I’m a slow chef). It made a big difference to everyone!
We hadn’t realized how cooking meant that non-cooking parent gets all that QT with the kids. 6 hours of quality time over a weekend is a lot!
Don’t talk to the chef
When I’m cooking, I’m totally focused on the task at hand (partially because I am so bad at it). So I have a very limited ability to process verbal inputs. If you have a quick question, great. If you want to talk about H1 visas or something complex, not so much.
I will be more careful in the future about interrupting Bee when she is cooking. She can probably handle it much better than me, but it’s not something I had previously been very attuned to.
Spending time with the kids makes you sleepy
Haha this one came from Mrs. Bee. While I was cooking dinner on on Saturday, Bee was hanging out with the kids on the floor. She turned to me and said, “I understand now why you get sleepy watching the kids!” Sadly it’s true that I’m always getting sleepy watching the kids over the weekend. If you’re not cooking, it’s a lot easier to get sleepy lying on the floor with them. But when you’re on your feet, there’s so much going on that sleepiness isn’t really an option!
After the weekend was over, I asked Bee what she thought of the chore swap. She said that taking over weekend cooking was the most helpful thing I’ve done so far! All that dishwashing was nice, but it wasn’t the chore that she dreaded the most.
So how was the weekend for me? I ended the weekend in a lot of pain! I’ve been sleeping on the floor lately (I’m congested and snoring) and somehow I tweaked my back. Standing all day in the kitchen did a number on me. It gave me a new appreciation for the physical demands of working in the kitchen! But I feel better now, and will work on my stamina for next weekend! .
So I think we’ll continue on with this experiment. I’ll take over food on the weekends, and also pack Charlie’s breakfasts and help more with lunch. As I get better at cooking, I’ll maybe take over more dinners during the week. We’ll see how it goes!
What’s the number one chore you dislike, and wish your SO would take over? Would you do a chore swap with your SO?
Household Chores part 5 of 51. 9 Ways to become a more equal partner in household chores by Mr. Bee
2. The Cleanliness Threshold or: How I Learned To Stop Being Messy and Love Chores by Mr. Bee
3. Chore Schedule by printables
4. Home Management Binder by Mrs. Bee
5. Chore Swap: swapping chores for the weekend by Mr. Bee