by Ann Douglas
Things seem to fall apart at our house most nights when I'm trying to make dinner. My baby will want to nurse or be held, my toddler will want me to play with him, and in the meantime I'll be trying to figure out how to get something more inspired than chicken nuggets on the dinner table. How does everyone else manage to make dinner without losing their mind?
Short answer: Everyone doesn't. Lots of parents find making dinner a major challenge when there are little ones wanting and needing attention. That's why miracle products like salad in a bag were invented. Here are some of the survival strategies that have worked for our family and some of the many families I've interviewed over the years.
Nurse your baby right before you think you're going to get busy in the kitchen, and then pop her in a baby carrier or sling so that she has a great view of what you're doing -- something that may help to keep her entertained.
Set aside a particular kitchen in the cupboard for your toddler. It could contain toys, toddler-friendly kitchen paraphernalia, or a mix of both. Add something new to the cupboard daily (e.g., swap a couple of plastic containers for the plastic strainer you won't be needing for tonight's dinner). With any luck, this distraction will buy you at least a couple of minutes of mealtime preparation time.
Ask friends and family members to share their favourite recipes. Be sure to be explicit about your criteria: if it requires more than 15-20 minutes of kitchen preparation, it's probably not the right recipe for you right now.
Try to get ahead of the meal preparation game on weekends. Having pre-chopped veggies or precooked lean ground beef can be a huge timesaver on a Wednesday night.
Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about pregnancy and parenting including the bestselling "The Mother of All Pregnancy Books." She regularly contributes to a number of print and online publications, is frequently quoted in the media on a range of parenting-related topics, and has appeared as a guest on a number of television and radio shows. Ann and her husband Neil live in Peterborough, Ontario. with the youngest of their four children. Learn more at her site, having-a-baby.com.
Copyright © Ann Douglas. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org.