I Eat Alone

I have a confession to make. I don't share meals with my daughter. By this, I do not mean that she and I aren't eating the same cheese cubes and broccoli bits for lunch. Rather, she is not my dining companion of choice. I like to eat alone.

Back in the babyfree days when the hubs and I used to go out for brunch, I would scoff at couples dining together, but each engrossed in different sections of the Sunday paper. "How sad," I would tell the hubs. "They have nothing to talk about. Their marriage must be in a shambles."

But now? I totally get it. They are savoring the beauty and the joy of an uninterrupted and quiet meal. And as they leisurely eat and read, and read and eat, their children are climbing up the chimney and ripping out every last page of the books on their parents' night stands while their babysitting grandmother is sitting in her car drinking heavily.

As a work-from-home mom of a young child, if it isn't naptime or bedtime, it's showtime. I'm "on" every minute of every day. I can't pee alone, shower alone, and I certainly can't eat alone without my daughter wanting to either share my food or to dump it all over the floor and stomp on it with over-priced shoes.

So when it comes to eating my three not-even-in-the-same-ballpark-of-square meals a day, I don't want to be interrupted, or distracted, or concerned with doing anything more labor-intensive than lifting a utensil to my mouth. I don't want to coerce and cajole Isabella into eating whatever it is I've prepared for her that day, pick up what she's hurled to the floor, scrape drippings off her chin, and pick chunks out of her hair, all while attempting to eat my own meal. I've decided that mealtime is my time, two words that very seldom go together anymore. And so I've set up my schedule to give me those five or ten minutes of complete and utter isolation, before I jump right back in to the rest of my day.

Here's how it works. I feed my daughter breakfast between 8 and 8:30. She goes in for her morning nap (to which I am clinging with a death-grip, although she's determined to see it go) between 9 and 9:30. I eat my breakfast while she's babbling (her version of a morning nap as of late) in her crib.

For lunch, she eats around 12, and I eat between 1:30 and 2pm after I put her down for her afternoon nap. And for dinner, she eats at 5, and the hubs and I eat around 7:30.

Not only do we eat at separate times, but we also don't take her out to restaurants (family-friendly or otherwise). I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've gone out to eat and taken Isabella with me. And most of these outings occurred before she turned six months old and was content to recline in her baby seat batting at a dangling duck for two hours while I talked with my friends. For me, there is simply nothing enjoyable about strapping down a toddler who doesn't want to sit still on the floor of her living room for 3.2 seconds much less a child seat in a restaurant and try to ply her with food and entertainment, while I attempt to carry on a halfway decent conversation with my friend or husband.

I know most others find this completely bizarre. When I tell people we don't eat meals together and I don't take Isabella out to restaurants, they shoot me a look of shock and awe, and say, "No. You're joking, right?" I'm used to it, though, because I get the same reaction when I tell people Isabella goes to bed at 7pm.

"7 o'clock???? Why so eeeearly? My God, that's practically noon!"

But here's the thing. In addition to being extremely lucky with in-town family members who just about duel to the death for the chance to babysit, making nights out for us relatively easy, I also like my food at certain temperatures. I like my cold foods one hair short of frostbit and if the hot foods don't scald the inside of my mouth, well then, they're not hot enough. I would never consider pouring the milk in my cereal and going to fetch the morning paper before sitting down to eat my Special K. The milk needs to be ice-cold. As in, if I'm having coffee with my cereal, you bet your sweet arse that coffee is in the mug, sitting on the table next to the morning paper before that milk ever leaves the fridge. And eating with a small child in no way allows this freakishness to happen.

I know that I will eventually have to share mealtime with my daughter because presumably, she'll one day have the skills to feed herself without wearing more than she eats and she won't always go to bed before the sun goes down (however, if you know of a way I can arrange for this to happen at least until she's 16, please email me!). But until that point, I'll down my yogurt and OJ in private.

Viva la me time.

9 Responses to “I Eat Alone”

  1. # Blogger shokufeh

    I hear you. I love the opportunity to eat alone these days. And I'm not always excited to go out to dinner, as it often just means more work and less food in my mouth. But some nights, things move so nicely into MrMan's mouth, and my only role is to help him down from the table. Those nights are rare, but they happen.  

  2. # Anonymous Melissa Garrett

    I totally understand. Hannah is the only one somewhat civil enough to sit at the dinner table for an entire meal. She likes to wonder aloud, "What would the Queen of England think of my manners?" Silly, but it's what we taught her to ask herself as a reminder to practice chewing with her mouth closed, sitting properly, yada yada yada. (We couldv'e said George W., but we don't swing that way!).

    Jacob and Bridget are, well, Jacob and Bridget. Neither one see eating as a social time and prefer to get in and get out as quickly as possible. While Bridget has the age defense, Jacob has the ADD/ASPERGER's/SID (or whatever) defense. We are actually have a family counselor/play therapist come and observe at dinner time to help us with ways to get him to sit, interact, and eat at dinner.

    On the one hand, I desperately want to enjoy my food. But on the other hand, I desperately want us all to be together for dinner. We rarely go out as a family. Usually, Ian and I wait until special occasions (birthdays & anniversary). We recently took Bridget out while H&J were with the grandparents, and it wasn't SO bad. She ate and didn't throw a fit. But she was like a little ball bouncing up and down in her seat. The four college guys sitting on the other side of the partition wouldn't give her the time of day, so that only made her want to get their attention more (which made it more difficult for me to keep her in her own place). We usually ask for a booth away from the crowd, if at all possible.

    I think it's supposed to get better. At least that's what I've been told. ;-)  

  3. # Anonymous Shannon

    Oh, hooray, I've actually found someone who needs their food scalding hot just like me! If my soup isn't near boiling, forget it. If the pizza doesn't actually burn the roof of my mouth a bit, it needs to be reheated. I'm not sure why I am this way but I am.  

  4. # Blogger Laura McIntyre

    We always eat dinner together but i do try to eat lunch before the girls are up from nap.

    Both my girls are in bed sleeping for 7 if not earlier , i love my evenings and the free time  

  5. # Blogger Editorgirl

    hMy nephew (who is now 17 months old) never had an issue going to dinner with all of us - until Sunday afternoon when the last place he wanted to be was at dinner for my grandmother's 98th. Needless to say my brother left with him to go home and watch the game and meet us for cake after.

    On the sleeping side - you may be in the luck. Our little guy goes down at 7 p.m. and wakes about 12 hours later - every night and has done so since birth. While my mother and others have expressed concern about the "too much" sleep issue, but the doctor told my brother it's fine and there's nothing wrong with it. :-)  

  6. # Blogger kenju

    I understand your position, but I am not sure I agree with it - at least for all meals all the time. We started taking our first born out to a pancake house (all we could afford) when he was 2-3 months old. He never created a fuss until once when he was about 20 mos. old. When that started, we removed him from the restaurant, and sat in the car until he calmed down. Doing tht 2-3 times got the point scross, and then we never had a problem with him ever again.  

  7. # Blogger Kristi

    I think the problem is Isabella's age. Feeding her these days is often work, and I associate eating with enjoyment (most of the time). But, your guy's good behavior at the dinner table gives me hope that my kid can behave one day too!

    Melissa- lol. Good manners tip for Hannah. I'm hoping as she ages, feeding her (and having her feed herself!) will become easier too.

    Shannon-Yes, I love my food at extreme temperatures. I actually used to eat ice when I was younger.

    Laura-Me too!

    Liz-the little ones always have a way of picking the special occasions to act up, don't they?

    Kenju-You're definitely in the majority with your opinion. And that's a great discipline tip for me to use when Isabella is older.  

  8. # Blogger Beagle

    Everyone needs a little "me" time! I am sure I will really "need" it once I have a child at home. I do hope we can manage restaurants once in a while. We'll see how that plays out in reality! ;-)  

  9. # Blogger Damselfly

    I eat alone when Fly is napping -- but they're snacks. I eat regular meals with him all the time. Every.single.meal. And yes, unlike you, my food is usually not warm.  

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