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Question #17: How can a working mother follow a healthy diet?

Sustainable Health

Edit: A friend messaged me with the feedback that this article doesn’t really answer the question and is more about managing workload than diet. If you feel the same way, my response is that the nutritional requirements for working versus non-working mothers don’t vary much. So, a direct response to the question would be the same as for anyone else, which would likely elicit the response, “But I don’t get the time to do that”, which in turn would prompt a response from me on the lines of managing workload in a nuclear family, which is what’s below.

In the typical family scene I’ve observed in Indian nuclear families, the lady of the house, working or not, is probably the inhabitant with the lowest priority, usually self-imposed largely due to unstated or perceived social expectations. Children and husbands are rarely asked to and thus rarely participate in the daily chores of the household. In fact, quite a few housewives tend to take the solitary management of a household as a matter of pride. Given that the question was “How”, I’m going to take the liberty of making a few statements and suggestions.

The household is a shared facility as well as a responsibility for all residents. The responsibility for its upkeep lies with everyone who lives within and not just the lady of the house. For some reason however, the average male goes to work and on returning, plops someplace and stares at a screen until dinner, usually not moving a muscle until then. The average kid has no concept of helping with household chores. And the lady of the house, regardless of the timing and intensity of her job and work commute, regardless of the percentage of income she brings to the household, nearly always plays second fiddle to the male.

Here are a few ways I’d go about it.

  • Divide chores with your partner, based on your schedules and skills.
  • Assign chores to your kids so they participate in the running of the household. You don’t want them growing up with the notion that the house is the woman’s responsibility.
  • Make plans for rushed periods like weekday mornings when everyone has to go to work or school and there’s a whole bunch of things to do.
  • Make a list of the major and minor jobs and assign them to your partner and kids, such as waking up the kids, getting them to get dressed etc., preparing packed lunches for everyone and serving breakfast among others.

Try and make your meal plans in advance, perhaps a week ahead. Plan the cutting and storage of vegetables and other ingredients required for those meals. It’s perfectly alright to pack leftovers or things you’ve made with leftovers for your kids’ tiffins or husband’s lunch. If he wants freshly prepared food each morning without fail, ask him to wake up an hour ahead and do it himself. He’s entitled to his preferences, as much as you’re entitled to be human and recognise the limitations of being so. One advantage of planning in advance is that you’ll never be standing in the kitchen at 6 am wondering what to make. If your children regularly make demands that you struggle to find time or energy for, explain the problem to them and ask them to help out, so you can make more time for them.

As counter-intuitive as it sounds, you might also have to sit your partner down and explain the same thing to him, perhaps slower and more patiently than with the kids. At the end of the day, you’re an individual with distinct needs that deserve equal priority as those of your family and it’s up to you to ensure that happens.

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