When Can I Quit Cooking Dinner Every Night?

so-glad-i-don-t-have-to-keep-calm-anymoreLast night, my son – the oldest, who’s 22 – emerged from his camp down in the basement to ask me if I was making dinner.

“I grabbed lunch out so am eating the leftovers for dinner,” I told him, which was met with plenty of foot stomping, cabinet banging and muttering.

When the kids were young, my role here as official stay-at-home-mom was pretty well defined. I did everything.

I bathed them and dressed them. I took them to the park and pushed them on the swing. I tucked them into bed at night and read them stories.

And I fed them.

I soft-boiled eggs and buttered toast and carefully cut the crusts off their grilled cheese sandwiches and their hot dogs into tiny, non-chokable bits. I tried to plan healthy meals, too, taking into consideration the many and ill-founded self-imposed dietary restrictions of my diners. I stuck to poultry. Avoided cheese. Didn’t add too many peppers. We went from Hamburger Helper and Manwiches to quinoa and Thai Curry Chicken with enough bags of snacks in our pantry and frozen items in the freezer to feed a Ugandan village for a month.

All of this does not take into account the combined two years of breastfeeding I devoted to my four children, a task I at once loved and resented the shit out as I watched QVC for the zillionth time around 3 a.m.

The point of all this is to say, “I’ve done my time.”

I have planned and shopped and cooked and tried to keep everyone alive and healthy almost every single day for the last two decades.

This week, I’m back down to two children living at home. As previously reported, my little girl has shipped off for an early start to college for the summer and my baby is away for the week at sleep away camp. That leaves the two oldest kids – a recent college grad and soon-to-be grad — under my roof. In other words, two legit adults.

While I was approaching this week as an opportunity to get some solid uninterrupted work done, without worrying about keeping a 12yo occupied or time-consuming trips to the supermarket, my oldest son just thought things would be business-as-usual. He’s pissed that for the last few nights he’s been forced to fend for himself and cook some frozen Trader Joe’s product for his nightly meal.

I can tell he’s resenting me just as much as I’m starting to resent him and his reluctance to see me as more than his live-in cook.

I’m torn. Am I being selfish, not wanting to chop or stirfry anything this week? Or is it okay to let grown up children fend for themselves sometimes?

Coming up with an answer to “what’s for dinner?” has been my problem for over 20 years. Can’t I take a week off?

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40 thoughts on “When Can I Quit Cooking Dinner Every Night?

  1. Amy,
    I feel your pain! apparently,no, you are not allowed to stop cooking as long as they are under your roof. I have been experiencing much foot stomping and grumbling this entire summer because I told them I am “over the dinner thing”.

      • I have two adult children living back at home.
        The younger 23 years old, made the statement that she will NOT help with any chores that don’t directly benefit her.shes only willing to clean up after herself and will not help with general household tasks unless she feels fit to do so.
        She has constantly says NOT to bother cooking for her, but then will be Angry when I say I shouldn’t have to.
        My eldest 25 yrs old uses her work timetable to say that Mon-Fri she is too tired to cook, was dishes which she leaves to grow like a conga Line Across the length of the kitchen .and at weekends she’s wants to be left alone to recoup ,and if she has the time she will clean up.
        They constantly tell me that I should WANT to cook for them and I should be ashamed.

        It’s really making me resent them.

  2. OMG…EVERY night!! It’s too much…all of my cherubs are home (all five of them…two of whom are also in college) and all still look to me for nourishment EVERY NIGHT! I wish in those younger years, I taught them to be more self-reliant. I wish I would have implemented “children cook nights”. Then maybe they would be preparing some of the weekly meals….Younger moms, take note!!

  3. You are completely justified in saying the kitchen is closed. He’s old enough to fend for himself. Just tell him chicks dig guys who can cook.

  4. Ungrateful little bastards. Do not give in to the guilt. In fact I would count every foot stomp exasperated sigh and eye roll and charge accordingly. One dollar per foot stomp, 50 cents per sigh and 25 cents per eye roll.

    • I’m a twelve year old and I do not appreciate the commentary. My mom stopped feeding me dinner already and it is not fun. She is a great mom but I still like to have dinner. I make dinner a lot and I am still a kid. Once someone is like 14 I would say that is a good age for you to stop cooking dinner every night and once they are 16 stop feeding them until they can learn to feed themselves. Once again That language is not needed to describe kids my age but once they are 18+ feel free.

      • Aww..I was so enjoying every slightly “fed up” post as a fed up Mom of grown “a” boys eating me out of house and home.. until I read your sweet and sad post. These messages are NOT for 12 year olds!!!
        I am sorry you need to fend to yourself at your age!! Honestly, if it helps at all you will be light years ahead of all of these bone heads we’re talking about. Bless your heart!!

  5. we have fend for yourself nights at least twice a week. the result? a lot of cereal. whatever…. I’m working, deal with it.

    • “Fend for yourself night.” Nice. I guess I’ve just stretched it to “Fend for yourself week.” The spray lots of vitamins on the cereal, don’t they. 😉

  6. Amy, Check out Blue Apron on line. 20 bucs a meal all fresh ingredients delivered to your house. We stretch it to feed 3 or 4 and we make the kids cook it when they are home! Great dinners with recipe and the kids are cheap labor, all meals 20 to 40 minutes to prepare.

    • Hi Don! Am slightly excited to see your name here and will make sure to check out Blue Apron. Sounds like a good solution to this never ending problem. Glad to know you’re reading along and thanks for chiming in …

    • Then She is cooking- are you kidding me? Those meals take 45 minutes! Screw that, she deserves some time off from cooking. Let them make something for her! I am tired of cooking every night for 30 years, no thank yous. Screw blue apron

      • I feel the same way . I have a 18 yr old son at home who decided to live at home the next 4 years of college and expects breakfast lunch and dinner I work 50 plus hours a week, he tells his dad there is never anything to eat here. I spend about 900.00 a month at the grocery WTH…….

  7. I so feel your pain. I, too, am so tired of planning, shopping, cooking, cleaning up and listening to numerous complaints. I have been a SAHM for a shorter time than you but I so understand both your wish for a week off and the guilt that is coming from your oldest child. Enjoy your week off to do what you want to do!

    • Kelly … glad you feel my pain and thanks for chiming in. Just home from the movies after eating leftovers yet again for dinner so all is going according to plan! 😉

  8. Slightly different perspective…I was always the breadwinner during my 20 year marriage, but no, I never made enough to have “help”. I made do for years trying to figure out how to quickly throw together a healthy nutritious dinner in, I kid you not, 30 minutes (with a ton of meal planning done on weekends) After my divorce was final in 2009, I moved 2,000 miles for a new job opportunity out west so I could support my kids and pay spousal support to my ex husband. My daughter was going to college in Maine and I left my16 year old son behind since he wasn’t able to transfer schools mid year his junior year. My kids are 24 and 21 now and have both joined me in my new home state. I missed so much of their childhood and teen years while I tried to keep a roof over our heads and food in the fridge, that I LOVE when they are home long enough for me to make them a homemade meal 🙂 I’m still working and paying that spousal support (with 0 child support from the ex) but my kids moved thousands of miles to be with me, and I couldn’t be happier! I also cook for their young adult and college friends any and every chance I get 🙂

    • What an amazing mom you are. Truly. And what a testament to your parenting that your kiddos would follow you thousands of miles to be with you. I agree that preparing a meal can be about nourishing so many things other than the body — the mind, the heart — and have taken great pleasure in that over the years. Just sometimes, like on a Tuesday in July, I don’t want to have to come up with an answer to “what’s for dinner?” Keep on cooking, Second Chapter! Sounds like you are writing a great story for you and your children and I’m so thankful that you shared some of that here with us … xo

      • Thank you for your generosity of spirit! I reread my post in the cold light of day and felt sad because it didn’t come across the way I wanted. It felt defensive about the choices I made and the “jealousy” I felt and still feel about not having the option to truly raise my kids. I love your blog, your honesty and your amazing sense of humor(/irony)! And yes, when you just worked a 12 hour day, seriously? who cares about what you have for dinner??? Rotisserie chicken from Costco? Yep! Been there done that!

        • That’s the tricky thing about words — texts, emails — sometimes your sentiment doesn’t come through. Words are so easy to misread. But I knew where you were coming from. I could feel how much you loved your babies. How far you’d go for them (literally). In the end, we’re all struggling, right? But SO glad to hear back from you for Part 2 (this is a theme for you? 🙂 Glad you are reading along and don’t be a stranger … xo

  9. YES you can take a week off. Hell, you can take a life off. He is a grown ass man. If he doesn’t want to cook for himself he can starve. WTH did he do in college?

  10. You are right on the mark as usual, Amy! I couldn’t agree more and have the same resentment! It must be the growing pains of mothering young adults…but I believe the push back is necessary for full independence and the finish to our jobs as parents but it can be pretty tense and ugly while the process takes place! I’m with you, Sisah! xo 🙂

  11. This is awesome! Except that I found it by trying to google things to make me feel validated in my desire to not cook for my one child … A 3.5 year old daughter who is the light of my life. How terrible is it that I don’t want to cook?! I used to LOVE cooking but now – I work full time and commute an hour each way and my husband travels a lot for work, so unless it’s cereal (and sometimes even then!) the dog gets the leftover organic, pastured scrambled eggs in organic ghee. And if it were just me, half a bottle of wine with a side of girl talk or a long run and no dinner is perfectly acceptable! But I feel compelled to put something on the table and the worst is when she tells me she wants something specific so I make it and then she doesn’t eat it! And now you are telling me… Very likely in 20 YEARS I will be in the same situation! The funny thing is – my hubby (who initially poo-poo’d trader joes!) is now the biggest fan of their gyoza. Frozen food for the win?!

    • Oh, Kat. I hate to be the one to break it to you. But the dinner struggle is never ending. I suggest you embrace Trader Joe’s and do your best to juggle your child’s eating needs with your super-hectic life. A little gyoza never killed anyone. SO glad you found me, no matter how … 😉

  12. Our grown “children” are 22 & 24 years old. I am way too familiar with the foot-stomping tantrums regarding our “live-in servant/ shirt order cook status” bestowed upon me by our two “kids”. We started out with ” fend for yourself Fridays” then progressed to full-on “make your own d-mned dinner” when they both refused to help out (even with simple chores as feeding/walking the family dog to taking out the trash). I totally support your decision as a former stay at home mom. I have since returned to college to complete my degree. Let them fend for themselves and not at your personal, mental, physical and emotional expense. Embrace the concept of “Fed up Mom”. I totally support you! Thank you so much for this post.

  13. No, you’re not selfish at all. Your son is being completely selfish.

    What worries me is not only how he sees you and your role, but how he might see his future wife’s role. Either no woman will put up with his demands, or he will force some poor woman to give in to his demands. His behavior is incredibly immature and very concerning for a 22 year old man.

  14. It amazes me how women allow themselves to be doormats with a smile. Want a dinner? Cook it or buy it yourself. Period

  15. I know this is an old post but I just had to say thank you. I’m a caretaker and a private cook and so when I get home at night to a house filled with adults sitting on the couch, tv on , laptops and iPhones in hands I want to walk out the door vs putting my stuff down and cooking the second or third dinner for the day. I’ve not heard not had the foot stomping when I don’t cook but often it’s me who comes home and pulls out the meal I cooked early in the morning before going to my clients homes only to find nobody home. I seriously could have just had hummus and veggies and been happy. I’ll find the balance I’m sure but glad to know I’m not alone.

    • Miss Kitty … you are definitely not alone. I’m glad you found that post and it brought a teensy bit of comfort. And I’m with you, I’ll take pulling out some hummus over a whole dinner production any night of the week. 🙂

  16. Like Miss Kitty, I stumbled across this post today while desperately searching Google for some answers to my search phrase of ‘my son is 19 and still wants me to make dinner for him every night’!
    He lives mostly with his dad, who does cook dinner for him every night. I do feel like a bad mom when my son decides to come over and stay with me for a couple weeks, and I don’t make dinner. He gets resentful, even though I still do everything – work, go shopping, buy the food, clean up after him. He doesn’t have a job, so this is getting to be a big conflict for he and I. I feel like he should be able to make some meals for himself. Anyway, thanks for bringing some sanity to my life and I can see I’m not alone in pushing back on my son when he sits around all day doing nothing, and asks me ‘what’s for dinner’ when I come home from work!

  17. My 16 year old has been really testing me. He complains about everything I cook, doesn’t help with a single thing at home, complains when I ask him to put his dishes in the dishwasher, and insists he is an adult and has the right to drink and smoke pot! It was so bad that he even wined about making his own breakfast in the morning! Nevermind that he is disrespectful to the highest degree. So I just decided (two days ago) that since he wants me to treat him like an adult, I will. I stopped cooking period and doing anything short of cleaning. The fridge is full of meal kits and my son knows how to cook and he also knows how to shop. My feeling is until he shows some respect and contributes, he can look after himself. Time to grow up!

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