by Caroline

By the time anybody reads this post, I’ll be comfortably settled into VirginAmerica’s seat 11E on the morning flight from SFO to Dulles. I’ll have my tea, more books and magazines than I can read in 5 hours, and my airplane snacks. I’ll be looking forward to four days at the Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference, four days of inspiring panels and overwhelming bookfair and meals and drinks with a number of writers and editors that I usually only get to “see” online.

I will not be at all worried about my family at home.

I don’t go away too often, and although I love it when I do, I believe perhaps my husband enjoys it even more. Partly he loves to see me get a break, and he urges me to indulge in the opportunity to sleep in, order room service, and eat out (he is making fun of me for packing airplane snacks at all). But also, I think, he loves just being on his own with our boys. It’s not like he’s not here all the time — and I do mean all the time: he works from home, he drives the kids to school twice a week, even his weekly basketball game is late enough in the evening that he sits — if not eats — during dinner with us. And of course he cooks dinner most nights so that’s nothing new.

But my being away makes things a bit different and it shows in my preparations for this trip: I updated my website, finished a couple essays, and researched DC restaurants, but I did not stock up at the farmer’s market over the weekend. In fact, Tony asked me to skip the CSA delivery this week; he’d rather go to the store with the boys and let inspiration hit. I didn’t make any meals and stick them in the fridge or freezer. In my absence, there will be less meal planning, more “cooking show” meals at the kitchen bar — with the boys watching Tony cook — than at the dining room table, more puttanesca, less (homemade) dessert. And they will be fine.

Obviously, it doesn’t go this way in every house, but if you are the one responsible for all the marketing and cooking in your family, maybe this is the week to consider encouraging some of your family members to take a bigger role. Maybe older kids can put together the grocery list for a change, or a different adult can go to the market. It’d be interesting to see what new foods come home in the grocery bags! Maybe instead of urging your young kids to stir up the pancake batter, you encourage your partner to do it. They might not do things the way you would; they might make messes and burn things. But they might also find they love it, and if you back off and let the other members of your family find their way to — and around — the kitchen, you might just find they stay.