Monday, November 7, 2016

Who cooks dinner?

So let’s say you enter your Third Third earlier than your spouse: who does the cooking?

Do you:
  1. Do more of the cooking because he/she is still working (and earning income) and wouldn’t it be nice for them to come home to a hot meal? (with pleasure)
  2. Continue to share the cooking/household chores because you worked hard to establish an egalitarian household and you’re committed to that in your relationship? (with pleasure)
  3. Do more of the cooking because … (same as #1, but with resentment)
  4. Continue to share the cooking/household chores because … (same as #2, but with resentment)
I know there are some people who are delighted with their newfound time to cook and prepare meals. Those are the women who lined up at the Friends of the Library book sale in front of the cookbook shelves. Those are the folks who take photos of the meals they’ve prepared and post them on Facebook. (Yes, I do know ONE MAN who does this.)

I’m not those people. Mostly, I kind of forget about eating until I have a headache, BUT when I cook, I like it to be healthful, non-meat, and not processed. That takes time. This is the weekly cycle we’re on:

Monday: I cook delicious healthy meal with side dishes. I have to stop what I’m doing at 3:30 for this to be possible, but I am pleased with my effort, and my efforts are appreciated.
Tuesday: I cook delicious healthy meal with side dishes. I have to stop what I’m doing at 3:30 for this to be possible, but I am pleased with my effort, and my efforts are appreciated.
Wednesday: I have to make extra trips to the store for a missing ingredient that is not in stock at two stores (corn meal!?). This particular meal turns out to have a few more steps in it than I’d anticipated so my day gets eaten up with meal preparation. I decide husband is not properly appreciative. I have to stay up late to get my personal stuff done that I couldn’t get done during the day.
Thursday: I assemble a meal of delicious leftovers. I watch husband like a hawk, evaluating whether he is eating his way through the leftovers so we won’t get another meal out of them. I fill out angry survey form for grocery store that did not have corn meal in stock.
Friday: Husband is picking up on clues. He starts saying things like, “I’m making a list with some items I want to cook for a meal. Do you have anything to add?” I feel bad because he has contributed 40+ work hours to our household this week and now I am frightening him back into egalitarianism because he knows me and knows I am ready to blow. I feel very grumpy about all this, but I did not quit my job to cook dinners.

My husband and I had achieved a very nice balance during our working years. He did things; I did things. We both parented. Every now and then, I’d get miffed because my things were do-over-and-over-again things and his were big-project-achieved kind of things, but we worked out a balance of effort. I’ve never mowed the lawn; he’s never tended the garden. If something broken required glue, he fixed it; if it required sewing, I fixed it. We rotated regular meal preparation, but mostly he cooked food, and I cooked meals. Things felt even.

But now, I have more flexible, “leisure” time. And in talking to many women friends, that creates a guilty burden of “we should be” cooking dinner. And the problem with guilty burdens is that eventually resentment finds its way in. I’m sure my husband would say I shouldn’t feel this way, that I’ve earned my time, that I contribute to the household (if not at the same income level as before), but that’s because he’s nicer than I. He’d also say peanut butter is fine for dinner.

So other than giving myself a personality transplant (attempted, never successful), I’ve been trying to come up with solutions to the perceived Dinner Burden:
  1. Maybe peanut butter, yogurt, or whatever scrounging yields can be counted as a meal. Maybe dinner-as-meal is a Second Third thing. Maybe Third Third dinner needs to be re-imagined as bits-of-this-and-that, not a whole meal, but still sitting down together. Maybe a dinner meal can then be a surprise kind of thing, as in “Oh! You made dinner! What a nice surprise!”

  2. Browse my magazines and collected recipes and get enthused about cooking one of those creations?

  3. See a lot more movies at the Bear Tooth and eat dinner there?

  4. More giant soups, more salmon, sandwiches? Great volumes of leftovers? Start a recipe folder of “easy”?
Taking suggestions….

1 comment:

  1. My husband enjoys cooking, and in general I do not. My solution to this problem? A meal of popcorn, cheese and apples. We do this at least once a week, and it's my go-to when I don't feel like cooking.


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