In our 20s, making dinner was fun.

How Munchery Saved My Marriage

“Even going to the grocery store is fun,” I recall telling my sister when Brad and I started dating. Unhurriedly, we would wander the aisles, holding hands and deliberating the night’s menu. “What are you in the mood for, babe?” he’d ask, surreptitiously tossing my favorite snacks into our cart. Back at his apartment, no matter the hour, we’d wash, peel, slice and dice, chatting about work and roommates and music and the weekend. When dinner was ready, we’d crack open a bottle of cheap Chardonnay and curl up in front of The Sopranos.

Every night was date night.

Ten years and two kids later, dinnertime had become a nightmare. Granted, we are fortunate to have food on the table and a warm house in which to eat it. But Brad works late, and I can’t seem to fit meal preparation into a full day of work and witching hours. While I crave the American ideal of healthy, home-cooked meals, I rarely find a recipe that my three- and five-year-olds enjoy as much as we do. Not to mention the fact that my husband isn’t home in time for the elusive family dinner. Of all the articles preaching the importance of dining together, I’ve yet to learn how to pull it off while folding laundry, making lunches, searching for missing library books, emptying the dishwasher and paying almost-overdue bills.

When I attempt more intricate recipes, my kids tug at my legs, begging me to play soccer or Candy Land. They ask me to “watch this,” “fix that,” and fetch band-aids and snacks. By the time I finish cooking, they are full from Goldfish (fortunately, since the chances of them liking my concoction are slim). At the dinner table, they ask for more milk, spill it, and ask to be excused. I inquire about their day at school, but they rarely remember on the spot. The truth (who got a time-out or had an accident) comes out at bath time.

When Brad comes home from a twelve-hour workday to a kitchen that looks like a bomb exploded and a wife whose head is about to, no one’s happy. I’m fuming that I had to handle the kids’ dinner and bath and books and pjs and teeth and bed by myself…again. But what really sends me over the edge is when (unless we want to eat the kids’ homemade cauliflower au gratin that lays untouched on their plates) we still have to turn tonight’s recipe into reality. Exasperated, what takes Rachel Ray a half an hour somehow takes me an hour-and-a-half.

While a personal chef will always be out of reach, I discovered the next best thing: Munchery, a meal delivery service that brings freshly prepared, healthy dinners to my doorstep. While it’s hard to justify shelling out $20 on a weeknight, it’s not the food I pay for — it’s my marriage. I am a happier, more reasonable wife when someone occasionally brings me dinner. From choosing my meal to greeting the driver to composting the container and calling it cleanup, I love every step.

Munchery helps me keep my cool about Brad’s uncanny ability to arrive just after I’ve tucked the kids in bed. Even when he insists on going immediately down to their room, often riling them up and reversing all progress toward slumber. He’s down there for awhile; long enough for them to recount every detail of their day. I eavesdrop from upstairs — the conversation I longed for around the dinner table comes at its own time and place.

Brad emerges upstairs and we exchange an unmistakable grin — our children have finally succumbed to sleep. We sit down with our home-cooked (by someone else) meals and flip on the latest episode of Shark Tank. Someday, I hope date nights more closely resemble the carefree evenings of our 20s. But for now — children dreaming downstairs, my love by my side, and no dishes in the sink — life is good.

Who says that quality family time has to occur around the dinner table? Who says that a woman who can’t cook is any less of a mom? Who says that throwing on an episode of Berenstain Bears while the kids eat so that I can take my first shower in two days is going to land the kids in San Quentin?

Mostly me, I guess. Sure, I could blame the media for filling me with unrealistic fantasies of how things should be. But ever since I first filled my freezer with a lifetime supply of pureed sweet potatoes that my baby would never eat, I’ve been setting myself up for disappointment, constantly striving towards an ideal that is out of reach.

Table for two

The next night as my kids devour chicken nuggets while I unload groceries and futilely request the day’s scoop, I look around. My kids are happy, well-adjusted, confident and self-preserving. And with Munchery, I am too.