Health Food

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Like it or not, McDonald's and motherhood go together.  Sure, this might make you cringe.  There will be the few moms out there who somehow miraculously and courageously avoid the Golden Arches at all costs and no doubt their children had a healthier lunch than mine.

But, for those of us normies who fess up to defaulting to the Happy Meal when our children are throwing fits and the fridge is scarce...welcome.  You are in good company.

We live about a mile away from a McDonald's with the hugest indoor playland I've ever seen for a fast food restaurant.  It's a giant, plastic, climbing fantasy land for my kids, and completely closed off to the rest of the restaurant so I can feel fine about them screaming their heads off without disturbing the entire universe.  They can roam about freely, check in for the occasional sip from a juice box or nibble of a chicken McNugget, and continue on their way without interrupting (too often) my own lunch.

Yes, they are devouring food that's higher in calories and fat.  They are climbing on slides swarming with germs.  They are loud and obnoxious and not sitting still for a single second.  We're not here for our physical health, certainly (though the playland does work up a good sweat for them).

I'm not here for my health, I'm here for my mental health.  And sometimes it is just totally worth it.

No one is proud to go to McDonald's.  I remember the first time I succumbed to the drive-thru when my girls were very little.  I was stressed out and they were screaming, and instead of dropping everying, heading home, and chopping up carrot sticks, I found myself frantically tossing chicken McNuggets at the backseat and drowning my woes in a large Diet Coke.  Whew.

Literally fell asleep holding a chicken McNugget
I'm over the guilt now.  Maybe it's exhaustion, or laziness, or just the fact that I don't have time or mental space to dedicate to feeling badly about my toddler falling asleep holding a chicken McNugget.  But, meeting friends for a play date at McDonald's provides a different outlet for my mental health that I can live with.  Meeting friends, letting my kids be silly, allowing them a little autonomy and freedom and space, while I can actually finish a meal with limited distraction and even engage in conversations with other grown-ups...well, that's worth a LOT in my book.

Obviously, I'm not promoting a new diet for children that's cheeseburger-centric.  If you can always plan ahead and create home-cooked meals for your kids, that's certainly the best option for food.  But, if you're like me, then mealtimes don't always have to center around the nutritional value (albeit, important) but can extend to the relational value found as well.  While nutritional and relational values don't have to be mutually exclusive - sometimes they are.

All this to say, sometimes I think it's more important to take guilt off the menu than sugar or fat.

So, if you find yourself guilt-ridden in a drive-thru or cringing at the thought of what your toddler might be ingesting for the sake of a few minutes peace...join me in a refreshing sigh of relief knowing that you aren't alone.  Your kids will be okay.  Your kids will still eat vegetables.  Your kids can still grow up knowing the value of time together at the family dinner table.  Your kids won't be totally spoiled.  Your kids are NORMAL.  And, if they make some new friends over a french fries and sweat their way to nap-time in a castle of grime, maybe you can even smile about it.

They don't call it a Happy Meal for nothing.

For a fun feature, here's comedian Jim Gaffigan's bit about McDonald's.  There are few crass moments (I wouldn't watch it with the kids) but, it's great for a laugh.  Enjoy, mamas!


  1. Oh, this is SO me. I have three girls (ages almost 9, 7, and 7), and some days, my sanity is worth more than fixing something uber-nutritious and not from a drive-thru window.

    I felt guilty the first few times, but seeing as I got all three of my kids at once (nine days' warning) and they were all under 3 at the time, I dispensed with the guilt and reveled in the freedom of "hey, they're eating, and I'm not stressed out about fixing a meal."

  2. My kids grew up going to McDonalds every week to meet Gracie and other pals. Karin and I would knit and talk for hours, until many times, the kids would be begging to leave.


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