Cooking is hard. If you don't grow up observing someone do it (my mom always shooed us out of the kitchen because it was "her office" and my three sibling and I were constantly getting in the way) or specifically learn how, then figuring things out can be a challenge. And if you try to learn how to cook at the same time you're raising a family? Honey, it's going to be a hot mess. So let's talk about how a hot mess mom handles dinner, because it's a comedic tragedy for the ages.
Look, I'm not judging Hot Mess Mom in the slightest. At times we have all been this person, right? In fact, I celebrate this intrepid archetype, because no matter how many times she fails (and she is just chock full of fails, bless her heart) she always gets back up again to try (and likely fail) again.
Even for a Non-Mess Mom, dinner can be pretty awful. One child won't eat this, another child won't eat that, the youngest child is allergic to this and that, and their partner doesn't think it's a dinner if it isn't centered around a large and expensive hunk of meat. There are so many, often contradictory, boxes that need to be ticked off, all under the knowledge that, somewhere, someone is waiting to judge you for any decision you make. It's just a lot.
To wit, let us examine a random two weeks in the life of a Hot Mess Mom as she attempt to prepare dinner:
Week One, Day One: Menu Plan
Here's something a lot of people don't realize about a hot mess mom: she's not a hot mess because she doesn't care. She's a hot mess because she cares so much. She really does try but, ultimately, doesn't quite attain her goals. Maybe it's because she has too much on her plate. Maybe it's because she reaches too high. Maybe it's because she's just naturally flighty and/or accident-prone. But it's never because she doesn't have beautiful intentions.
So, every now and again, hot mess mom will sit down with a bunch of cookbooks or pinned recipes and fastidiously write down everything you'll need at the store to make a week's worth of delicious, healthy meals for her family.
Day Two: Go Shopping
Of course she left the list at home. Upon realizing this, her shoulders sag as she enters the grocery store. Should she go back home and get it? No. She doesn't have enough time to do everything she needs to do if she goes back now. She takes a deep breath and resolves to be optimistic. She can do this! She can remember most of what she needed! This is going to be OK.
Day Three: Attempt To Substitute Crucial Ingredients
Despite her best efforts, she forgot about a third of the things she needed. Who can blame her?! She didn't have her list! So now cooking is a desperate attempt to make use of the ingredients she did remember while replacing the others. "OK, I have the skirt steak. The recipe calls for soy sauce... I can use Worcestershire* sauce instead, right? Sure! Why not! It probably tastes the same, right? No one will ever know."
Everyone knows. Immediately.
*Hot Mess mom cannot pronounce this word even a little bit and just mumbles her way through it hoping no one will notice
Day Four: Go Back To Grocery Store
Now that she has found the list she forgot a few days ago, she can go back to the store and retrieve the items necessary for her menu.
She still forgets about half the things on there, but she does get a lot of stuff she didn't technically need but was hungry for.
Oreos and salt and vinegar potato chips can be dinner, right?
Day Five: Order Take-Out
Honestly, it's been an exhausting couple of days in the meal prep department, to say nothing of all the other areas of Hot Mess Mom's life. But you know what's never stressful? The vegetable dumplings at Main Moon Chinese Take Out & Delivery. It's also far more delicious than the ill-advised skirt steak with ginger, orange juice, and Worcestershire sauce from the other night.
Day Six: Make Spaghetti
This wasn't on Hot Mess Mom's menu for the week, but she discovered everything she needed in the back of her pantry — a box of spaghetti and jar of sauce that, according to the expiration date was best eaten by last week, but that's really just a recommendation. Once completed, this meal will be photographed, run through filters, and posted on Instagram.
"Homemade spaghetti: yum!"
Hey, it was made at home. Show me the lie.
Day Seven: Eat Leftover Spaghetti, Obviously
Hot Mess Mom didn't go through all that backbreaking effort for half of the meal to go to waste, after all.
Week Two, Day Eight: Completely Forget To Cook
The day completely got away from Hot Mess Mom and now it's 6:30 pm and... well, whoops? There isn't time to make the meal she had planned for this evening, so she sighs and pours everyone a bowl of cereal.
Everyone, incidentally, is delighted by this bounty, which is disheartening to Hot Mess Mom: if they're happy with cereal, why does she even bother?
Day Nine: Do A Recipe Exactly As Instructed
She'll show them! She'll show them all! She gathers every single ingredient (they're all here this time), pulls back her hair, throws on an apron, and gets busy, motivated by the mental image of her family quietly and gratefully appreciating her culinary prowess.
Nothing is ready at the same time, it takes about an hour longer than anticipated, and after one bite her children ask for cereal.
Day 10: Pizza
(Fortunately, defeat tastes absolutely delicious.)
Day 11: Fire Department Arrives
We do not speak of Day 11. Suffice it to say it did not go well and the local fire department will be getting a larger than usual donation this Christmas.
Day 12: Discover Moldy Leftover Spaghetti, Order Take-Out
This isn't the spaghetti from six days ago. This is a dinner Hot Mess Mom made probably six weeks ago. It's been hiding in the back of her fridge this whole time. So many questions: how did she forget about it for so long? How did it not smell? Is mold usually pink?
There is little that will make a person not want to cook than seeing one of the last things they cooked look so incredibly unappetizing. Time to bust out the delivery menus.
Day 13: Leftover Takeout
She tried so hard but many of the ingredients she purchased on her last big shop have gone bad (she didn't know that spinach could liquify like that), everything she did try was a disaster, and now here she sits, popping open a bottle of cheap white wine because it pairs pretty well with leftover falafel and the salt of her own tears.
The kids are eating cereal again, because of course they are.
Day 14: Menu Plan
♫ ... in the ciiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiircle, the circle of liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiife! ♫