In the 18 months since I became the only adult in my household, I’ve often been asked how I’m managing to do everything on my own.
There’s a lot I could say about this, and perhaps here isn’t the place to say it; but the first difference I have noted is a very practical one.
I’ve got to think about the next day’s breakfast pretty soon after eating that day’s breakfast. Do I have enough milk, bread and cereal to see me through the next 24 hours?
Every parent is used to thinking during the day about what to cook for dinner, and there’s no doubt that this can be a pretty thankless chore, day in, day out, when it’s a case of trying to think of something everybody will eat with the least amount of complaints and with some sort of nod towards the principles of nutrition.
Yesterday, I was making some effort cooking dinner (I’d picked some basil and chopped onions), when my son looked at it and sniffed ‘yuck’, my daughter asked for some toast, and I realised I wasn’t hungry.
At this point, I’m realising that lots of people probably think more than 1 day ahead when it comes to meals; they have bi-weekly revolving meal plans and have regular on-line shops scheduled. I completely admire these people. Sometimes, I even am that person.
I’m pretty sure that even the most organised of us runs out of milk occasionally.
When there’s another adult in your home, however, you have the luxury of noticing that there’s no milk, say, at 6pm when you’re about to run your children’s bath, and thinking, oh well, I’ll go and buy some once the children are asleep.
There were times when such a stroll round the corner to the local shop actually constituted ‘me’ time. Indeed, I once read a blog in which an American woman was recommending in all seriousness that Mothers should gain some time to themselves by inventing a need for Broccoli at the weekend, running out of the house before their children’s father could object, taking time to really walk around every aisle in the supermarket and then driving the long way home. This is pretty awful, but there’s no doubt that for some parents there are times when this is all that’s possible in the way of breathing space.
When you’re the only parent in the house, realising you don’t have enough milk for breakfast feels like a major failure; it’s kind of crushing to realise that you haven’t thought as far ahead as the next morning; that you haven’t quite got your act together before bedtime signals your confinement to the house.
All parents have to develop certain attributes; two key ones are resilience and resourcefulness. The mental strength to ignore the onset of self-doubt when you’ve made a mistake, and the ability to make the most of the breakfast supplies you do have.
If milk is the only missing ingredient, then you’re fine. Toast, fruit, yoghurt, juice are all great options for fuelling your children before the school run. However, if you’ve run out of milk, you might also have run out of bread…
It’s austere, but I might suggest porridge made with water.
Also, eggs; lots of options there; Omelettes perhaps.
Thinly cut cheese with crackers have been popular with my daughter, too. I think this is a Swedish idea, which gives it extra points.
I’ve been known to give my children potato waffles from the freezer, with bacon.
If you have milk, but no bread or cereal, then you should make pancakes.
Baked beans are useful – if you don’t have a phobia of them like I do.
The garden can sometimes provide supplies too; at this time of year my children’s breakfast has often been enlivened by an early morning raspberry picking session.
So far, I’ve never been completely defeated and breakfast has always been possible. I’m definitely prepared for the day when I’ll have to take them to the local cafe for breakfast; and if you ever see us walking from the cafe door to the school gates, you’ll know it’s not because I’m extravagant, but because I’ve literally run out of any other options; and I don’t suppose my children will complain about it.