When we went more than a month ordering Chinese food and the delivery guy was relieved we were all okay, I had to admit I wasn’t cooking homemade dinners as often as I thought. Every mom is a short order chef. With your first child you’re optimistic and excited. I pureed organic vegetables into baby food, but only for child number one. He also never ate sugar until he was a year old. By child number three, I decided popsicles were appropriate teething toys.

In elementary school, I fed the kids hot dogs and slushies from the concession stand during little league season. In middle school, I drove endless rotations to and from the local soccer fields. I confess that during soccer season I fed them convenience store hamburgers or canned soup over rice. The boys were even cooking for themselves while I collected my daughter from glee club. Tommy ate 2 or 3 dinners a night at that point, so even if he cooked, I still had to make the rest of his Michael Phelps diet.

sitting around the dinner table with rolls in their mouths
They were cooking dinner for themselves junior and senior year in college. Clearly, they didn’t take courses in manners.

When I had to move into a larger pant size it was time for us to eat healthier. I got away with sprinkling wheat germ and kale into casseroles, but I went too far when I used recipes from a vegan cookbook written by Texas firefighters. I thought it showed how strong guys could be eating vegan food. The kids tolerated the recipes until I made vegan lasagna. That recipe had sweet potato and corn in it and, of course, no cheese.

When I told the kids I was making lasagna for dinner, they started salivating early, expecting my well-loved sausage and spinach lasagna. At dinnertime, I placed this orange and yellow food in front of them. No one even touched it. I tried a trick that, until that day, got my kids to eat anything. I melted cheddar cheese on top of it. They each ate one bite and no more.

For months after that they were skeptical of every meal I cooked. Each afternoon Tommy asked me what was for dinner. If he didn’t recognize the dish he asked, “Is there meat in it?” to make sure it wasn’t one of THOSE dishes. Ironically, Tommy’s a vegetarian now. But those years of unappreciated meals took a toll on my culinary confidence.

25 years or more times 365 days times 3 meals a day plus snacks = a lot of dirty dishes, some unhappy faces, and one burnt-out mom.

So, I think I’ve earned my retirement from cooking. Thanks to the ease of protein shakes and a husband who’s a better cook than me, my time near a stove is limited to potluck parties and holidays. It’s not a full retirement, although I spend more time boiling water for tea than I do heating up anything else.