There was a recent discussion in one of my Facebook groups regarding winning the “BEST. MOM. EVER.” award when serving our kids cereal or even worse, Nutella for dinner.
Let me preface, I am all for sharing “The Best Mom Ever” award with all my fellow mamas, the people who wake up everyday, show up for whatever the day brings and face this thing call motherhood.
But if we are being real “The Best Mom Ever” and “BEST. MOM. EVER.” awards are two totally different things.
The first is a badge to be worn with pride and honor, but will rarely ever be showcased because it is not PC to gloat or brag about being “The Best Mom Ever.” Whereas the later one we crown ourselves with every time we drop a ball, pick up a little late, or – hold your breath for this one – feed our kids cereal for dinner.
GASP! Cereal for dinner?!?! How could we!
Because we do not live up to the media standards we have created for being “The Best Mom Ever,” we shame ourselves with the title “BEST. MOM. EVER.” And yes, I have even given this title to myself a few times. But through the years of learning to practice grace, I try to keep the “BEST. MOM. EVER.”crown locked up. We all know, when we capitalize every letter and add punctuations it is rarely a compliment … kinda like when we call our precious children by their full name.
As a registered dietitian who has a passion for empowering people to live a healthy and balanced life, I am even more passionate about how we choose to feed our minds. The fact is a healthy body begins with a healthy mind. Therefore we cannot feed our mind with negative, degrading, shaming thoughts and words if we are to be our best selves.
When I saw a friend post:
“Who knew serving my kids Nutella sandwiches and Pirate’s Booty for dinner would make me the BEST MOM EVER?!! (also the laziest, just for tonight)”
It hit a nerve within me.
I knew this mama.
She was a hard-working, loving, mother to three beautiful and active kids. I know she does not feed her kids Nutella sandwiches and Pirate’s Booty for dinner every night. I know she tries to feed them healthy and balanced meals. So why is she being so hard on herself and calling herself “lazy,” when the truth was she just needed a break.
And that break she decided to take…
feeding her kids Nutella sandwich and Pirate’s Booty one night of the week…
is not going to make or break their nutrition for life.
But it could be the difference in her kids seeing an exhausted mother who possibly goes into a yelling rampage about the duties of motherhood versus them seeing a mom who honors and respects the limitations of time and energy she has and says “Dinner is served.” Paper plate and all.
As a dietitian I value family meals. I cook for my family most nights of the week. I encourage a variety of foods. I promote eating lots of fruits and vegetables, foods low in sugar, high in fiber, and like my kids to get healthy fats and protein for a balanced diet.
But I also know, sometimes it is healthier to lean out of cooking so I can lean into my family.
Making the decision to lean out of cooking for the night so I can actually have the energy to listen to their day and engaging in conversation is just as important for their health and well-being as feeding their bodies with healthy foods.
This was my response:
“You fed your kids. Mom. Win. Seriously – your kids will be fine. Feeding your kids cereal or PB&J or even Nutella sandwich every now and then is not going to kill them! Your kids will be fine❤. In my opinion, the stress and anxiety we bring to meal time over serving “the perfect meal” is more harmful than a Nutella sandwich.”
I then asked a few of my professional peers, dietitians from around the country, their thoughts on this topic. Here were some other statements shared:
“Pre-child, I was that “my child will only snack on organic fruits and vegetables” mom in my head, but here I am now just trying to make it until bedtime.” Kelsey Woodworth Stricklen, RDN
“This is so serendipitous! I met with a fellow RD mom yesterday for coffee and she told me a story where she gave her kid Nutella for dinner because it was a long day and the best she could do! It’s hard not to be hard on ourselves and the struggle is real all the time!”
“My daughter has tons of food allergies (I’m talking 10 plus foods). So we have to take her lunch everyday. I pack healthy meals most of the time, but sometimes I forget about her lunch and have to run to the store and grab a Lunchable. I used to feel so bad about it, but she loves them and she’s not allergic to them. Aaand guess what?? She’s still alive! A healthy thriving three year old! I agree we are WAY too hard on ourselves! #lunchablefortheWIN”
– Tabitha Odom, RDN, LDN
“Having packed lunches and cooked dinners for my kids entire lives until they were adults, my favorite memories were the times where I was too tired to cook and purchased the rare fast food meal that was eaten on a blanket in the park so that after this meal we could play. Feeding kids involves smiles, laughter and joy as well as food!”
-Susan E. Adams, MS, RD, LDN, FAND
“Sometimes we do “snack for dinner” (to myself I call it “hodge podge dinner”) – a Greek yogurt, baby carrots + crackers with hummus, and some kind of fruit. And every now and again, it includes something random from the fridge that just needs to be finished. Kiddo loves it and doesn’t complain. Plus, I can relax and sit with him and talk about his day while he eats instead of running around stressed and distracted.”
Read between the lines, and you will see these moments when deciding to lean out of cooking (with no guilt or shame) are often the greatest times to lean more into the lives of the people you are growing.
In conclusion, as I was sharing this topic with my 11 year old daughter and explaining, “Most of the nights I cook y’all a good dinner, but sometimes I am too tired.” She looks at me with a big grin … ”And then I cook.”
So voila – there you have it – make it to they are 11 years old, and then they may just start cooking for ya!
P.S. And if you are looking for ideas beyond cereal for dinner when you fail at meal prep, here is a post by Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, you may enjoy!