How a Solo Mom makes Thanksgiving dinner and keeps her sanity
SPOILER: Solo Moms with children under the age of five are not allowed on the Thanksgiving ride. Move along!
As Solo Moms, we take on many chores/responsibilities/things to do. Since we have no one to comment on how tired we are or look, we sometimes keep adding to the plate. Carpools? Swim meets? Quiz bowls in places two hours away? Bring it. We can do it while baking brownies for the snack bar and ironing costumes for the dance team.
So when Thanksgiving rolls around, and some genius family member decides that since you’ve been skimming off the family goodwill for a while it’s your turn, you just say . . .
Wait! Don’t say anything! Let’s talk amongst ourselves for a moment here.
Frankly, Supermom, the holidays are your kryptonite for all sorts of reasons, and Thanksgiving is at the top of the list. Why? Because we are a bunch of brainwashed idiots. Every holiday season we hold up old pictures and forget the political arguments; how cranky we were; the discussion that led to someone sulking in the other room; and, of course, the undercooked/overcooked [fill in the blank here].
If you’re at my house, then there is the added burden of the Traditionalists versus the Gourmet Police who want to know why they can’t try something new—and argue about it every single year. There is inevitably someone with a new food fetish (Tofurky? Curried cauliflower? Paleo? Turducken?) that others refuse to tolerate. There is a reason these suppers are called traditions. Because you have temporarily traded in your sanity. Trade-itions.
And yet, as the days grow shorter and we start putting away our summer clothes, each year we are filled with luminous expectations of success. This year, we tell ourselves, it’s going to be a shimmering, greeting card kind of holiday.
Maybe that’s where the kryptonite is stored—at Hallmark.
Here’s a thought: If you really want it to all go perfectly, don’t do it! Don’t even try! Offer to bring dessert. You can’t go wrong with dessert. You will find that you are so much more relaxed that even when your children argue all the way over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house, you won’t care.
If, however, that is not an option, and you are trapped by familial/friendly forces of doom, then here are some tips:
Prep prep prep. My mother, never a big fan of domestic duties but a lover of holidays, started with Thanksgiving the first week of November. She bought the yams! She had the linens ironed! I thought it was quaint. I am now a big fan of this plan. Cranberry sauce can and should be made weeks in advance!
Delegate. Ask for help. People like to bring dishes. Don’t call it potluck; it’s cooperation. And it may not be your favorite type of mashed potatoes, but, as a Solo Mom, you should know how to make the best out of a not-so-great stuffing. Make children (yours or otherwise) set the table. Then reset it.
The kids and their preferences. The one who only likes yellow sweet potatoes. The one who picks out the carrots in the soup. Why does this seem to happen only at your house? In those happy pictures, everyone is smiling and reaching for the food! Are you the only one whose kid is kicking the table and moping, refusing to try the dark meat? Probably not. Find one thing on the table for your kids to eat and ignore the rest. More leftovers for everyone! It doesn’t matter if you are a Solo Mom or not, your kids will be only as annoying as all the other kids at the table.
The dreaded dishes—saving the worst for last. Actually, this is the first discussion you must have if you are going to do this. Do not do the dishes!
There are going to be many of them—many, many of them! You’re not going to serve all that hard work on disposable dishes. So, after putting together a feast and then having to host the feast, you will have to clean up the feast. Nope.
Before you even start cooking, set up an arrangement:
- Someone in charge of leftovers
- Someone in charge of dishes
- Someone in charge of pots
If your kitchen is small, send in the leftover person and give this person utensils for storing, and then switch out with the dishes person and then the pots person.
Finally, you must remember one thing: It’s going to be a disaster—a big, noisy, messy, complicated disaster, with soup jars that leak and a pie that ends up mostly on your kid’s shirt and a potholder that catches fire.
And everyone—including you—is going to remember it fondly by July!
Image via Shutterstock.com
Margot Kessler, a screen and television writer living in Los Angeles, is the sporadically witty Solo Mom of two lovely daughters.
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