I am a better parent because of McDonald's, and I will tell you why.
At home, dinner almost always comes at a frantic pace where children are demanding food and I'm staring at a fridge that's three days over-due for grocery shopping that I would have done that very afternoon after going through a similar ritual that morning of being genuinely surprised by our lack of orange juice and bread (where did that stuff go?? I swear we just had it...) except that it was ballet night so I had to rush from work to collecting kids to getting them into leotards and classrooms and now it's 5:15pm and they are explaining how at any second they really might waste away into nothingness because they are just starving (I cannot put the sort of emphasis a 6 year old manages to convey in that single word through text alone, but trust me, it makes it sound like she hasn't eaten in months and is about to waste away into nothingness at any second) and why don't we have anything good to eat and no they cannot possibly wait ten minutes for macaroni and cheese to cook since they don't really like anyways.
But that's not even the part I wanted to blog about.
When something resembling food is scrapped together as quickly as humanly possible (peanut butter on crackers totally counts as an entree, right?), it is thrust into outstretched hands and instantly followed with demands for tv, for one cannot possibly be expected to eat without proper animated entertainment. Putting on an episode of My Little Pony is the easiest option right then, as it makes them temporarily satisfied and gives me 22 minutes to put away the clean dishes and reload the dirty ones or to pick up a layer of the constant mess that permeates everywhere despite my best efforts to keep on top of it or to sort through piles of school papers looking for that field trip permission slip to paperclip $4 to before I forget. Or maybe, maybe, to even just sit down for a moment or two.
You see, that time in which they are occupied with food and television is both the time I use to get stuff done and the time I use for myself. However, did you notice what was missing in that list of what I do? Eating. I learned a loooong time ago that it is a frustrating and mostly futile process to try and eat yourself, because by the time you have prepared something for yourself and answered demands of milk refills and napkins and insisted they actually eat some of their food, you won't have sat down for more than 90 seconds at a time. Anything that was hot is now passingly warm. Anything that was cold is fast approaching room temperature. And you still haven't eaten more than half of it before they are done with their meal and need to be pushed through homework or nudged into the bath, your own food completely forgotten about in all the craziness.
So I cook and eat my own dinner after they go to bed most nights, and continue to let them watch tv instead of sitting at the table.
Except on the nights when I decide the lack of food to offer coupled with hungry whiny tired children and an exhausted mommy somehow becomes deserving of McDonald's on the way home.
Then we sit at the slightly sticky fast food table together, each of us spinning slightly on our own spinny chairs, and talk about what they did at school today. I listen to their stories, even the imaginary ones featuring the happy meal toys, as I eat my chicken sandwich, and smile at them having the same (probably not for the best, but some things just can't be helped) simple adoration for french fries as me. And we have a lovely and peaceful family dinner together.
(I usually don't even have to get up more than twice to meet the demands for forgotten honey dipping sauce or an extra cup of water.)
And so, fast food makes me a better parent on those evenings when I'm hungry and tired myself and the guilt over what nutrition is actually being consumed is outweighed by how desperately I just need food to appear right then.
And yet, I treasure the time that desperation gives me and the relaxing peacefulness we cannot seem to find at home.
Is it worth it?
Some days it really, really is.