It’s no great secret that my least favorite part of being a mom is meal planning and cooking for my family. I truly do not enjoy cooking; it is a total chore that is only made worse by the mess it creates in the kitchen and the ungrateful commentary provided by my children. Still, despite my dislike for it, it is important for me to provide my family with healthy, well-balanced meals, so I spend Saturday mornings planning meals for the following week and grocery shopping. And throughout the week, my husband and I take turns cooking in the evenings.
Unfortunately, I’m also really great at either over-planning or under-planning. If I plan for a meal every day of the week, something will inevitably come up and we will end up not eating a planned meal, resulting in spoiled food that gets thrown away. If however, I under-plan, assuming we’ll end up going out to eat or eating leftovers some night, everything will go exactly as planned, and we’ll end up with no planned meal on Friday night. For many people, the easy solution would be to order take-out, but unfortunately, we live in a neighborhood with few delivery options, and meal delivery services are absurdly expensive.
Then one Friday evening this school year, I came home feeling more than unusually exhausted. I was pretty certain I was getting sick, and I crashed on the couch once my youngest got off the bus. By the time my husband got home from work that evening, it was time for dinner, everyone was hungry, I hadn’t started making anything, didn’t personally feel like eating anything, and had nothing resembling a quick and easy meal to feed my family, not even a frozen pizza.
Feeling like I had failed my family but also feeling too awful to care that much, I declared, “everyone is just going to have to fend for themselves tonight.” I expected whining or attempts from my children to get my husband to drive them to McDonalds, but instead, my kids were surprisingly excited. My 11-year-old heated up some leftover pasta, and my six-year-old happily made herself a cheese sandwich, declaring that every Friday should be “Fend for Yourself Friday.”
Her comment made me realize something I hadn’t yet recognized: both of my girls are now old enough to make themselves dinner and are eager to do so. In fact, they usually want to help make dinner the rest of the week. Of course, they still needed some supervision with using the stove and knives, but they’re both perfectly capable of preparing simple meals for themselves, and it’s something I ought to encourage.
So now, Fridays are Fend for Yourself Fridays, with a few rules, including leftovers have to be eaten before we make something new and dinner must include a fruit or vegetable. It takes some of the pressure off of me to plan meals, it allows my husband and me to relax after a long work week, and it gives my girls a sense of ownership over what they eat. They’ve even started applying their understanding of balanced meals to their choices on these Fridays, which makes it even more of a win.