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Surprise: I’m not cooking anymore

By Karen Austin

Photo by InAweofGodsCreation via Creative Commons

This week, I went on strike. After almost 19 years in the kitchen, I’m not cooking dinner for my family any more. I realize that I’m making a dramatic gesture and that I’ll probably cave and cook sometimes again.  But at this very minute, I’m throwing in the dish towel and hanging up my apron.

I have a husband and two teens, and all four of us have different preferences and different schedules.  My daughter is a vegetarian. My son is a junkatarian. And my husband is a porkatarian, preferring any-and-all-forms of pig: ham, bacon, sausage, BBQ, pork rinds, etc.  I’m hypoglycemic, so I have to eat frequently and eat lean proteins (sometimes from plants or dairy), high fiber and complex carbs over simple carbs—food the men in my family find boring.

Dinner is an important time for family communication, but lately everyone is overscheduled, overstimulated and way too plugged in. This makes it difficult for all four of us to be home and awake at the same time.  Also the two introverts in the family often want to hide in their rooms for several hours after arriving home, so it’s difficult to entice them to the table. They will go hungry just to savor some alone time.  Sometimes people will want to take a plate to the computer, or they’ll want to be on their phone at the table. I try to encourage everyone to come to the table, even it’s just for 15 minutes of family togetherness.

Other culprits: The kids will eat big after-school snacks, my husband will have a big lunch at work or attend an afternoon reception with food, or I will end up eating while I’m cooking because of dropping blood sugar levels.

I’m also trying to cook meals that are fresh, delicious, health conscious and budget conscious. Meals that everyone will like and that everyone will eat.

This week, I have decided these ideals are impossible.  So until further notice, I’m on strike. My kids are 13 and 16, and my husband was single until 30, so I know he’s capable of feeding himself.  They won’t starve.  They can eat cereal, heat up a frozen meal, or make a sandwich.  On Tuesday of this week, all three of them told me that they didn’t want the dinner I already started cooking, so that was the catalyst for my rebelling.   I’m on strike.


About Karen Austin

After living in UT, HI, CA, VA, DC, WI, WV & KS, Karen now lives in Newburgh, IN with her husband and two children. She's been a BYU writing tutor, an English teacher, technical writer, director of academic support services, and aging studies adjunct. She's reinventing herself--again. New role still pending, but mature athlete, thrift store fashionista, and court jester are strong candidates. She maintains the blog The Generation Above Me.

10 thoughts on “Surprise: I’m not cooking anymore”

  1. Wow!!! That's dramatic! I do hope you'll follow up in a few months and tell us how it goes. You are very brave to tell us! With all the research on the importance of family dinner, you're setting yourself up for criticism! But I love that you are authentic and brave and deciding for yourself what can and can't be done.

    I have been struggling with weight loss for several years….just about the length of time my husband has been in a new consulting job. Consulting, I discovered, means VERY long and unpredictable hours. I've tried many things to prevent it, but a late dinner usually means that I consume a pound of chocolate chips, half the dessert – if there is one, and never any vegetables while I'm waiting for hubby to come home and eat. I was spoiled with 35 years of prompt, car pool driven arrival at 6:15pm.

    I have tried eating alone – a total drag. Food doesn't taste as good eaten alone!

    I can totally understand the reasons you are on strike! Keep us posted…

  2. I am a huge supporter of this!! Make sure you let them know what's happening so that they understand that it is on purpose. OR teach them how to cook and have them prepare a meal every week. That might be nice as well.

  3. Sounds like time for a family council to me! I bet you four will figure out a way to work this out together. Thirteen and sixteen year olds are totally able to prepare dinners for four on a regular basis just like their parents are. Happy innovative mutual grocery shopping forays and culinary creativity opportunities to all!

  4. I admit I didn't aprove of the title of this post and I was about to be judgemental of your decision. I think family dinner is important. But then I read how your family is disrespecting your time and effort and I support your decision and would likely do the same.

  5. When do they take a turn at cooking? Perhaps if they pitched in and cooked some meals, they would understand the work that goes into meal preparation and be a better sport.

    Nowhere in the Proclamation on the Family does it say that Mom has to be the cook.

    My husband has always cooked dinner on Saturdays, even when he was bishop, if he was in town and not tied up with a church or work activity.

    By middle school, our older kids cooked once a week most of the time (marching band season or play rehearsal of course allowing an excuse).

    I couldn't cook every night, either.

  6. My mom did this when I was a kid, except it was a total strike. No laundry, cleaning, cooking, etc. It came after she asked my dad to hold an FHE to decide how to more fairly divide all these duties–my mom was tired of being the only one working around the house. Well, he held the FHE while my mom was gone and all the kids voted for what was clearly the best solution: Mom should do it all. Dad unwisely went with majority rule.

    Needless to say, Mom was not pleased and the strike ensued. Only my youngest brother, who was a preschooler at the time, was spared. He still got fed.

    After a week or so, we made a cake a wrote in frosting, "Sorry Mom". She forgave us and took up cooking again.

    But the lesson stuck with me and has made me more diligent as I train up my kids. My job is to be Mom. That does not mean that my kids or husband have no duties around the house. Mom means training you up, and part of that is teaching YOU about cleaning, cooking, babysitting, etc.

    So far I haven't felt a need to go on strike, but I do get really tired of everything that goes into feeding 6 people.

  7. Good for you for asking for your needs to be met. Being a faithful wife and mother does not mean being a doormat.

    A couple years ago I went the rounds with the picky eaters in my house (everyone but me) and came up with a few livable compromises. Each child gets to choose dinner one night a week, and everyone eats what is chosen or makes do with a sandwich. Children help cook dinner on their night (they're still too young to cook alone, but that will change), and also when I think helping will entice them to eat what's for dinner.

    Hang in there and stand your ground.

  8. Thanks for reading / commenting, all!

    Kim: My best to you and your consultant husband for opportunities to break bread together.

    PDofEve & RK: Thanks for the well wishes!

    Tay & MB: Yes, I am expecting my teens will gain some new skills, which isn't such a bad thing.

    Naismith & Katie: I am encouraged by the examples you provide from your households.

    Marie: Your mom rocks! I'm glad to hear she stood her ground. I had a friend whose mom actually moved into the attic for a year because she was so fed up with being treated as a doormat. I don't think I'd go that far, but that revealed something about the depth of her emotion.

    My best to all you cooks out there.

  9. This reminded me of the year I was trying to make especially delicious school lunches for my daughters to carry to school. One was a junior in high school and after given her the lunch to take to the bus, I needed to quickly catch her to tell her something. I opened the back door and there she was throwing that lunch out in the garbage can. Who knows how many days she had been doing that- but that was the last time because that was the last school lunch I ever made for her. Somehow she made it through high school just fine. It may have been unfeeling of me because I never enjoyed making school lunches anyway, but I think mothers have to take a stand too, sometimes.


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