We haven’t eaten potatoes for a while, I think as I stir cut russets in my mother’s old cast-iron skillet. I’m always wondering what to cook for my family. It seems as soon as I finish one meal, it is time to think about the next. Ding, your order is up!
It never ends. By the time my kids turn 18, I will have been responsible for 19,710 meals in each of their lifetimes. Not that I’m counting.
They should give cookbooks and saucepans at baby showers.
In my house, anything related to eating is my department.
This department has included breastfeeding, pumping at work, leaking like a cow while I sleep, grocery shopping, baking, sautéing, slicing, dicing, and frying it up in a pan. My kids know how to cook, but it takes a lot of prompting with their schedules. So the overall day-to-day food hustle falls on me. Whoopee. I don’t remember signing up for this cooking gig and I get annoyed just thinking about it.
The other departments I manage in our family are special events (including all holidays and parties), transportation and planning logistics, house cleaning, and anything related to school. My husband’s departments are lawn service and household maintenance. He has a gardener for the front yard, but every month he cleans our patch of dirt in the back yard. He tells me it’s a grueling job. When he has collapsed on the couch to rest after his hard work, I am starting on my second meal of the day. Ding, meal 15,000 is up!
The In-Between of Motherhood
I love being a mother. I love spending time with my kids and watching them grow. It is all the other things, like cooking and cleaning, that seemingly transport me to a place I call the In-Between.
The Netflix series Stranger Things has a world called the Upside Down. It’s a cold, dark, alternative dimension where nobody in the real world can see or hear you. The In-Between is like that for me—and a lot of other mothers.
It’s where my real life stops and the things nobody else wants to do begins.
It is a place where we do the household grunt work unnoticed. When I am there, I yell out to my children, “Who has dishes today on the chore chart?” There is no answer in the In-Between. It is so quiet there. The maintenance department can’t hear me either since he has started walking meditation on the beach.
Nobody talks about the In-Between in the real world. All of the household labor is done by ghost figures called Mothers in the In-Between. Nobody knows I am gone until they need something. “Where is my favorite shirt?” I can hear faintly from the real world and I know it is time to go back.
I didn’t intend to spend so much time in the In-Between, I just wandered in when my kids were babies and stayed. As I add more seasoning to the potatoes and put the pan into the oven I think about my mom. I wanted to do this mothering gig better. How hard could it be? That was before I knew about the In-Between.
How Much Has Changed?
I thought so much had changed for women over the years.
I believed I was so different from my mother, getting my education and having a career. But here I stand in an apron, cooking dinner for my family. Just like her. The only difference is that I have better appliances.
While the potatoes are in the oven, I get out salmon to grill and start to think about breakfast in the morning. I can whip up overnight French toast in the crock pot if I start it now. I better defrost the ground beef for tomorrow’s dinner while I am at it. All this work for home-prepared meals seems overrated. Isn’t that why they invented food delivery?
I started taking classes recently and also took on another job outside the home. Now there are some days when my family has to figure it out on their own as I burn rubber out of our driveway. Even with a few nights off, I estimate I still have around 4,710 meals to go before my kids are grown.
But who’s counting?