My love, you're sweet and caring and you look amazing in buffalo plaid, but so help me God if you ask, "so babe, what do you need me to do?" this Thanksgiving as I'm levering a 30-pound turkey into an oven while fending off toddlers who "want a look!" at the 400-degree inferno. Pro tip: if you have to ask how to share the load this Thanksgiving, it is already too late, and I will legit remove your heart like that creepy dude in Indiana Jones and serve it as a side dish.
Here's a question: would you show up the opening night of a play, walk up to the director, and be like "I'm here! Am I stage crew? Cast? Do I have lines? Just show me what you want me to do and I'll do it!"
Of course you wouldn't. Because you know that weeks of planning go into the production. Special tights are purchased. Programs are printed. And Thanksgiving? A lot like that. Thanksgiving may be the main event on the moms bearing the mental load calendar, with a number of responsibilities sitting firmly on their shoulders, including a) planning ahead for meal preferences, b) finding a turkey the right size, c) procuring enough chairs, and d) yes, keeping the kids from climbing into the oven. Because it's not just the doing the prep work that's exhausting, it's being director and producer and also the guy who sings a lonely song on stage in a newsboy cap while pretending to sweep. Moms don't just need help sorting the forks from the spoons, they need help planning and executing a Thanksgiving fiesta. That is where you, the partner, come in.
Have you never experienced the all-stodge 21-dish endurance race that is Thanksgiving dinner before? How else could you profess to be completely clueless about the things that needed to get done when there's an empty punch bowl sitting on the dining table, and a tenpin arrangement of cranberry sauce tins in the pantry? Thanksgiving has a SET MENU. It's the same holiday every year. Yet here you are standing idly in front of the chopping board as Uncle Graham tries to jab a stuck cork down into a wine bottle with a chopstick, mere minutes out from The Feast, wondering how you can help.
Do you think one night the goddess of Thanksgiving appeared to me in a dream and just imbued me with all the necessary knowledge to put together an A+ holiday dinner?
Work backwards here, friend: picture how you imagine this Thanksgiving will go. You want a turkey on the table at 5 p.m., a dish that takes actual hours to cook: when is that turkey going into the oven? And, obviously, the best parts of the meal are the sides. Make a list of all the delicious foods you'd like to eat. Now go item by item and ask yourself how long each dish takes to make. Can it be made at the same time as something else? Will it have to be made ahead of time because the oven and burners will be occupied making the turkey on the day? Do you have all the ingredients to make it? Where can you purchase all those ingredients? And what about all those friends and family you assume will be there: how will they know when to arrive or whether they're invited at all? Do they need time to make travel plans?
Even if you're not hosting , you're probably still going to be enjoying the fruits of another host's labor. So ask: how can you lighten that person's load? Is there something you can contribute to the feast? And what will it take to get you (and your family) to that location? What preparations need to be made to make that happen?
"But I don't know about all that!" you say. "You know all that!"
How. Do. You. Think. I. Know. All. That. [Expletive]?
Let's talk about how we can get through the holiday together, ideally at least a week out.
Do you think I have a secret radio from which I receive my orders? Do you think one night the goddess of Thanksgiving appeared to me in a dream and just imbued me with all the necessary knowledge to put together an A+ holiday dinner? No. I figured that ish out on my own... which is to say I asked my mom and, when she didn't know, Google. (Isn't it funny how so much of adulting is just Googling stuff?)
"But I'm asking you how I can help," you whine. "And then you turn around and dismiss me. I can't win."
I love and adore you partner... and I will love and adore you even more if you're proactive this year. Let's talk about how we can get through the holiday together, ideally at least a week out. Instead of waiting the day of to offer help, look around and see what needs to be done. Does the table need to be set? Are there multiple pairs of gardening shears littered around the living room where our toddler nieces might find them? This is where you get a chance to shine!
Coming to me and saying "I was going to set the table, would you like me to use the nice china?" will go over much better than "What should I do?" Here's the trick to Thanksgiving: see the load I'm carrying, take that load on your back, and move it into the other room, far out of my sight.
I'll take care of the tater tots.