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Mealtime is greater challenge than putting man on Pluto

May 17, 1997|By Jo Ellen Barnhart

The day is moving along at its usual warp-speed clip. Suddenly, it is 4:40 p.m. and three children collectively announce hunger pangs, requesting a dinner entree which features chocolate cake topped with chocolate icing. For a brief moment, their idea actually sounds appealing.

For working moms, mealtime is a greater challenge than putting mankind on Pluto. But, there's only enough time to prepare something that is available in speed of sound - the sound of your voice speaking into the drive-up box and getting the order in time to make it to soccer practice.

It's kind of funny when you think about it. The dinnertime patron saints of working mothers are all men: Bob Evans, Roy Rogers, Dave Thomas (Wendy was his daughter - so her involvement doesn't count) and of course, Ray Kroc's McDonald's. Their inspirations solve mealtime dilemmas more times than we wish to count.

I remember my pregnancy oath. "No more fast food - Ever!" Only fresh, wholesome, homemade food for my offspring. There were two major flaws with my proclamation:


1. The attraction of bean babies and restaurant play lands

2. Opinions of children

For the most part, society now dictates fast food as an OK alternative. The classic 1950s image of a tablecloth dinner has given way to paper bags dumped onto plastic trays. To sum it up, at the 1950s table there always was time to actually chew your food, not just inhale it.

The requirements of work and meeting the commitments of extracurricular activities for kids have created a new routine. With time being of the essence, discussion around the dinner table has become deciding if you really want the number three at the counter - then whether or not to super-size.

Nutritionists remind us that proper diet begins with proper planning. Meals can be prepared the night before and ready to heat, serve and eat to 10 to 15 minutes. These meals may not pass for a holiday feast, but at least you don't have to wolf it down from the seat of your car.

Scrambled eggs, anyone?

Another option is allowing your children (and husband) to learn how to cook for themselves. In our house it's one of those survival of the fittest merit badges I award. The person who finds the most inventive uses for peanut butter wins the badge. Seriously, it is a good idea for everyone to at least understand that they can attempt to make something for themselves. Don't set your expectations too high, though. My husband's first attempt at scrambled eggs involved using a cup of milk with each egg.

It's always a challenge balancing your work, family and additional duties of being a member of the human race. Throw in, not just one, but three meals a day for everyone, and the real fun begins. Just remember that the time you spend at a meal with your family is very precious. Whether sitting around your dining room table or a table in a restaurant where the funny clown lives, you still need to take time to share your day. Let the moment be defined not by the food, but by the family.

Jo Ellen Barnhart is the working mother of three boys. She is a freelance writer and owner of a home-based marketing and public relations business.

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