Monday, June 23, 2014

Busy Moms & [Mentally] Healthy "Cooking"

Cubicle Life | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
My old cubicle from my rat race days.
This is where great meals
deteriorated into grab-n-go attempts
to maintain my sanity.
There are times when, despite our best intentions, healthy succumbs to quick and easy in our efforts to keep our families fed. I recall a time not long ago, when I worked those 50- and 60-hour weeks in a brick building to which I commuted for that precious salary. Mornings were always filled with too much hectivity for me to think about supper. But I always had good intentions floating in the back of my mind in that department. 

On that particular morning, as responsibilities at the office piled up with each sip of highly caffeinated coffee, resulting in a need for me to work late, I texted Hubby. I suggested he go ahead and pull some frozen chicken breasts out of the freezer during his lunch break. At that point in the day, I had every intention of cooking the chicken upon my arrival home. 

As I plowed through my growing to-do list tacked to my cubicle wall, I imagined the chicken baking in the oven after I coated each piece with a homemade bread crumb mixture of wheat bread, fresh herbs from our garden, a pinch of sea salt, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Green beans picked from the vine mixed with sun-ripened tomatoes would make the perfect side dish. 

However, frustrating circumstances conspired to make the workday extra challenging. As my attitude grew weary, my expectations for dinner deteriorated and became clouded by an intense need to rush through dinner so I could relax in front of the television with a glass of wine. My motivation for picking and serving fresh veggies waned. While the chicken was baking, I decided I could bake frozen fries and heat a can of beans in the microwave. 

Minutes before powering down my laptop, a text from my mom buzzed my phone. She was sick and would love a frozen dessert to cool her scorching throat. I’m honored to help out my mother, especially when she’s not feeling well. Though, the timing for this particular illness and ensuing errand was less than excellent.
Coffee Shelf | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
My travel mug full of coffee had its
own spot. Now that I'm home, my coffee
cup is consistently misplaced. 

On the commute home from work, I reevaluated my dinner plans. I could pick up ready-made bread crumbs at the store for the chicken. In addition, if I grabbed a jar of cheese sauce, I could boil up some elbow macaroni for quick mac and cheese, which goes great with canned green beans.

I found all I needed in the store, except for the sorbet my mother wanted. Standing in the frozen food section with a scowl on my face, I texted her to ask where she normally buys it. She texted back the name of a store-—it was the one on the other side of town. I headed to the checkout with my crumbs and cheese sauce. 

Oddly, everyone in the store—patrons and staff alike—kept their distance as I negotiated my way toward the cashier. Then I received another text. My mom had an alternate frozen treat option for me to consider. 

Another trip to the freezer section meant losing my place on the checkout line. But if it also meant I didn’t have to drive across town to the other grocery store, it would be worth it. Ten minutes of searching for the alternate frozen dessert without success rendered my eyes tired and my patience thin.

Twenty minutes later I was back in my car ready to head across town. Before I pulled into traffic, my gas warning bell rang. Perfect. Midway to the other grocery store, I had to fill up my tank. 

At the gas station, I thought it prudent to call my children and let them know I was not unconscious in a ditch waiting to be found by passers by. When I finally reached one of my boys, he seemed unalarmed outside of wondering what was for supper.
Pre-cooked Chicken | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
Once the pre-cooked chicken is
removed from the container, cut, and
arranged on a platter, no one cares
that you did not roast it.

By the time I made it home, what was for supper was a lukewarm pre-cooked chicken that clearly died of anorexia. Next to the chicken rested a freshly opened bag of potato chips. I pulled the ketchup out of the fridge for good measure. 

Any guilt I should have felt for counting the chips as a viable side dish was squelched by the wave of relief washing over me at the realization I could finally plop down in the recliner and call it a day. 

Since resigning from the rat race, I’ve had several similar days. Whether parents work in or out of the home, there will always be days when pre-cooked deli chickens served with a side of potato chips are the healthiest option, because mental health must be maintained along with physical health.

Micki Bare, mother of three, wife, daughter & writer is the author of Thurston T. Turtle children's books. 
Email: mickibare (at)
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