The reason for this is simple. I barely know what I’m having for dinner an hour before I eat it let alone grocery shop for the week ahead. I’m an impulse buyer. And because I lived in a big city for so long where I didn’t have any storage, I still go to the grocery store every single day despite the fact that I now live in the ’burbs. Can’t. Quite. Let. Go.
But the real reason I’ll never be a superstar coupon mom is because I’m just not organized. My receipts are stuffed into my wallet with crumpled dollar bills. Goldfish swim with pennies at the bottom of a Marc Jacobs sea. Pens, Advil and the occasional piece of gum mingle with paper clips, hair bows and, you guessed it, expired coupons. By the time I retrieve them–elated, I might add– they’re three weeks past their due date. Bummer.
When I was in college I had it all planned out. I’d major in something smart and esoteric and spend my summers working my way up the internship ladder, get an executive producer credit by the time I was 30, get married, have kids, buy a house and serve lavish dinner parties while still being able to fit into my size four jeans. I swore I’d never be one of those harried moms I saw at the grocery store screaming at her kids and wrangling in her purse for coupons, looking like she got run over by a truck.
Steps 1-4 worked out nicely. But then I had kids. And suddenly, everything I had known or thought about the universe completely changed. People say it all the time, but it’s true. It’s as if someone dropped a ton of bricks on my head and left me naked in the middle of nowhere. I was a mom − a mom who was supposed to cut up grapes and have snacks ‘on hand’ at the playground and show up at school and be organized and be patient and be smart and know what I was doing. And I was very, very scared to fail. And did I mention I’m not organized?
Mommyhood threw me into a world unlike anything I had ever anticipated. Unlike any job I’d ever had. I didn’t exactly like the change. I saw my friends embark on similar paths. Many took to full-time parenthood with a grace that I could only envy, yet never emulate. Others hired fulltime nannies so their lives post-baby wouldn’t have to change.
I chose the hybrid path. Th e “I’m going to try to do both at the same time” path. Daycares were found on Craigslist. Really. I found my equilibrium working as a writer and still had time to be at my kids’ schools. It was hard. It still is hard. You’re always feeling guilty about something whether it’s work or kid-related. Sometimes work suff ers and sometimes family suff ers. But as Marlo Th omas or Oprah or someone really creative and smart and rich and successful once said, “Sure you can have it all. You just can’t have it all at once.” Well, she was right. Work oft en takes a back seat. Projects are passed by and all the glory that goes with it. A small price to pay for the smile I get when I show up for second grade “Center Helper.”
Meals. Meals were diff erent. Meals were coveted. I always loved to cook. For one, for two, for lots of people − it didn’t matter. I tested recipes, made up my own, doctored others and enjoyed the process. Maybe it’s because it kept me off of the computer. Who knows? But I love it. I love good food. Not fancy food. Good food. Th ere is a diff erence. Could be from Waffl e House or Komi, depending on the day.
So while I was willing to give and take with my career, I wasn’t willing to compromise with food. I refused to fall into the dark world of chicken nuggets and the occasional mushy green bean. I wanted to maintain my standards of eating well no matter what the circumstance. And so kids in hand, I forged on, continuing to cook and host parties for my friends. I just tweaked my methods of getting it on the table. Sure, my kitchen looks like a tornado hit it most of the time. Sure, I can be the “meanest mommy in the world” on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Th ursdays and Fridays (let’s not even talk about Mondays). I’m no Martha Stewart, but I can put on a holiday dinner like the best of them. Cut to several years later. I still have no clue what I’m doing. I’m still not organized. But I have a semi-functioning household and seemingly well adjusted children. But it takes a lot of work, laughter, wine and a lot of ‘winging it.’
Sometimes I laugh when I have to stop and tell my four-year-old to stop licking the remote control or tell my seven-year-old that it’s inappropriate to tell her friends that she, “brushes her teeth with a bottle of Jack” like Ke$ha. Or when I have to throw candy on the fl oor and turn on smooth jazz so my kids will be quiet while I talk to a client who thinks I’m sitting in a fancy office. Sometimes I dart out of the house when my husband comes home and fi nd refuge in the gossip magazine section of CVS. Sometimes I’ve already had two glasses of wine when he comes home so I can’t actually drive to the CVS. Sometimes he’s away for a few days, and I have to figure it out. Life is chaotic. Everything seems to converge right around 6 p.m., when every woman’s at her worst, including me. But life goes on. And in between working, and family and dreams and paying the rent, dinner still has to be made. And if it’s not good, I won’t eat it.
ADINA KALISH NEUFELD is a freelance writer currently living in Atlanta. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Glamour magazine. Adina's first book, Making It in the City, a girl's guide to starting life on your own in a ridiculously expensive city you can't afford was published in 2005 and turned into a live event the following year. In between writing gigs she blogs at www.mykitchenchaos.com and drinks a lot of wine. She is married with two daughters.