In the interest of better understanding which of my essays get picked up by editors for publication, I started sharing the ones that didn’t sell. After all, there must be a reason they didn’t resonate, right?
This essay, Why I Am Not Making Dinner Tonight, is one of those essays that didn’t sell. Read on to learn more.
I wrote this essay during a particularly busy time for my family. It’s not intended to be taken verbatim, but more considered for its relevance to moms who feel pulled at the seams and stretched to the limits.
Why I Am Not Making Dinner Tonight
The clock on the kitchen wall is ticking threateningly and I know the witching hour is drawing closer and closer. The sun is setting. And the hungry stomachs? They’ll be coming for me soon. They always do.
“What’s for dinner,” they’ll ask, circling me with eager eyes and impatient stomachs. The cat will come too with his sad and confused meows (I take them to mean “Why haven’t you fed me yet, Mother? Can’t you see I am withering away?!?”).
But this tired single mama who has worked all day isn’t cooking dinner tonight (good thing the cat only needs me to scoop food into his dish). I was there at breakfast, buttering their bagels and reminding them to eat fruit. I was there supervising the lunch making, ensuring they packed the right amount of nutritious food — not too little or too much. I was there at work, diligently working all day and I was there to shuttle everyone to their activities and commitments.
But the witching hour nears now, and I am without the energy to face it.
I’m zonked. I don’t have anything more to give.
So, no, I am not making dinner tonight and I will tell you why:
I cook all the time, nearly every night. I stock our kitchen with fruits and vegetables and healthy grains and have taught you how to enjoy them. And I think constantly about your nutrition and if you are eating right.
I work several jobs to ensure you have good lives, and now I am tired. My full-time job is demanding, mentally. My part-time jobs, the ones I have taken on to ensure we live well, mean I rise very early and often stay up as long as I can. Exhaustion is something I am so familiar with.
And yet, all the practices, the rehearsals, the games … I am there. I drop you off or cheer you on or both, when appropriate. And I love to be there to see you cross the finish line or pirouette across stage.
Yes, there’s food in the kitchen I could make. But tonight, on this night, I won’t. You’re welcome to, if you think a homecooked meal is necessary. But otherwise, we’ll eat something else.
See, in our house, I expect that everyone will pitch in. I expect that if you feel strongly about something, you will help make it happen. I expect that you will contribute to the successful running of our household — whether it’s putting together an easy dinner or taking out the trash.
As I gaze around our kitchen, I see the dishes that didn’t fit in the dishwasher when I ran it this morning. Thank you for unloading it, but it needs to be reloaded now. Will you help?
Tonight, I am truly exhausted.
So, my little loves, it’s time to order in. No, it won’t be a homecooked meal. I can’t even promise there will be enough vegetables to really make it as good as what I normally make. But it will be nourishing and filling. Your bellies will be okay.
I work really hard. I cook for us all the time. But tonight I am not. And I don’t feel guilty. Parents of all stripes, including single moms like me, need a little break now and again. This is mine. It comes in the form of a delivery driver, a credit card receipt and a piping hot meal made by someone else. I’m okay with that. You need to be too.
One night of pizza won’t be the end of days.
This is one that I sent out to the world and had rejected largely without comment.
This was a different sort of essay for me. It doesn’t fit with the usual type of writing I do. I am glad to have tried something different and flexed different writing muscles.
But I am also okay with the lack of response. That tells me that this style of writing either isn’t for me — or didn’t hit the mark with this piece. And that’s okay.
I still enjoyed writing it.