This is something I need to write about because it resonates so massively with anyone I mention it to in private. And that is, the thing when your husband is working at home and wants to have lunch. With you. Probably something that you have made.
I don’t know why this should be such an incredibly enervating subject but I would say most women I mention this to take a deep breath and cover their mouths and their eyes flip out wide and they just cannot even begin to describe in only words – perhaps with paint, dance, fire – how irritating this is.
Why is it so annoying? As a veteran of working at home in the room next door to my husband, I can say that my husband is really good, now, about the lunch thing. He doesn’t expect it, is grateful when he gets it, doesn’t ask questions or pass comment, is prepared to fend for himself and helps tidy up. But there were years when it was, not expected exactly, but he would say “Whatever you’re having for lunch can you make some extra for me?”
But quite often I skip lunch. I hate lunch, lunch is annoying and usually comes at the time of day when I’m only just getting going doing something. Or if I did have lunch it would be miso soup and crackers. And quite often lunch comes pretty hard on the heels of making the kids’ breakfast, which I do most days. And then planning dinner for everyone – kids at 5.30pm, us at 7.30pm, every day. (Do not, please, tell me to make the same thing for us as for them. One day, maybe, but for now we don’t want to eat the same things and neither of us are prepared to compromise.) Lunch on top of all that suddenly feels like my actual, real job is running this really shit cafe with the world’s rudest customers.
But then I would feel incredibly guilty because my husband works really hard all day every day. Would it kill me to make him some lunch?
Yet as everyone who is in charge of a family kitchen knows – a meal is not just a meal. You have to spend some time thinking about the meal and then making sure you have the ingredients for the meal. Then there is some time before the meal prepping and cooking. Then there is the tidying up afterwards. Even an egg on toast requires a reasonably sophisticated back-office. It’s not just lunch.
Anyway I’m not really saying anything. I’m just getting it out there. It really bothers me, the whole lunch thing. I once spent an entire session with my shrink talking about it.
My life, every single day. Lucky for me my kids eat a 3 course meal at school so I just do them a sandwich or crackers in the evening. Husband goes to gym at 12, comes home, protein shake and then hovers around kitchen (also my work space) waiting to be fed and most often has to “jump on a call” (wtf?) before he has time to tidy up
There’s always a call…
I think they’re all on the same call.
When we got married I went out to a proper grown up job and my husband worked from home. Then we had a baby and I was at home with said baby. After about six months of my husband magically appearing and looking expectant about lunch I was contemplating murder. He now rents office space!
Hallelujah! I bloody hate lunch too. It’s a royal pain in the arse. I don’t have the desire or the time (read, disorganised) to make lunch every day so end up grabbing the arse end of a loaf of bread and a lump of cheese to get me through lunch time whilst my colleagues eat their beautifully prepared salads and soups. They couldn’t understand at all when I explained how I hate lunch and how inconvenient it is. If I wasn’t so starving every day I would ignore lunch altogether. I work in a small hospital with no canteen, so arse end of loaf it is for the foreseeable….
A wise woman once told me when I got married that a husband is for life but not for lunch… I didn’t understand it when I was first given it, but it’s probably one of the best pieces of unsolicited advice I’ve ever been given!
This is brilliant. I am going to steal this advice to share with others.
This drives me fucking bonkers when my husband works from home. Yesterday, he was home AND it was his birthday so I had to provide lots of nice celebratory things while keeping two children under two occupied (as he was ‘working’) and it almost killed me. Having to spend my precious two hour nap time preparing/eating/tidying up lunch is a step too far. Let alone make interested comments about what he’s working on!
Oh God, I love lunch. I’m always starving (don’t eat breakfast) so couldn’t skip it or just have miso soup. When I worked in an office I’d sometimes try taking a packed lunch with me and it never worked as I’d always eaten it by about 10.30. It’s a pain in the arse, timing-wise, I agree- my day is generally kids’ breakfast etc, school run, try to do some sort of exercise, then start work at 10ish then LUNCH!!! so yes, it does feel as if I’ve only just got started.
On husbands at home, I share your pain. On the odd day that my husband works from home (not often) he seems constantly surprised that I’m actually busy with my own work or household stuff and not just sitting around reading magazines and waiting for his return.
I hate lunch too and barely eat it when alone, just so sick of preparing food. Have to say though my husband has never even vaguely hovered or given a hint that he expects me to make him lunch when he’s working from home – in fact he often makes it for both of us if he’s home or buys something and we’ve never even had a conversation about it. I didn’t realise I was such a princess. Maybe I give off such a negative vibe he’s never even gone there. I could still fill a therapy session with some other stuff though, no trouble. Making two dinners in the evening would drive me up the wall, I can’t even begin to think of the logistics of it, so lunch can clearly bugger off in that situation.
what do you do in the evening?? eat the same thing as kids?
I have had quite a lot of success merging our meals with our kids. The trick is to start off making two meals at the same time and have them observe your dinner, whilst they eat their own thing. Then gradually you bring the two together. Start off with all having the same veg and rice/ quinoa/ potatoes/ pasta and different other stuff. Then gradually get them into your stuff. They’re more likely to do it if there’s is genuinely no pressure. I don’t do it most evenings because they eat too early but we do all together meals on weekends/ during school holidays.
Yes, pretty much. When they were really little we ate separately but now we all eat together. If they have a cooked lunch at school sometimes I’ll make them cheese on toast or fish fingers and we’ll have something else that they’re not so keen on then, or on a Saturday night, but generally during the week I make one dinner. I try and make things they like reasonably often, and they’re usually happy to take a crack at most things, but there’s no pleasing everyone all the time and there’s always bread and butter and tomorrow. It’s just never occurred to me to do it differently in all honesty, but then I’ve got lucky with my kids being good eaters so I’ve never had to. I’ve also paid for my part of the compromise with an extra half a stone.
I did not realise I was meant to be making two different meals…my almost two year old eats exactly what we eat. Except he is one day behind us, so has for supper what we had the night before as he eats at 5pm. I really hope this doesn’t change as he gets older!!! Feeling a bit worried about the amount of catering now….
When I say we ate separately when they were little I mean just the same as you – they had theirs a bit earlier so they didn’t faceplant in their spaghetti from exhaustion (actually I wish – they were never exhausted) but generally we’ve always had the same thing, and as time went on they incrementally got used to eating a bit later so now we all eat together around 6ish. I’ve never cooked 2 separate dinners apart from the odd night, and even if I do they hover and say “what are you and dad having? Why didn’t we get that? Can I try some?”. Everyone settles into their own groove.
At my boys school, £10k a term each, we had to pay for paper, that’s right, paper! And text books. And they could get their hands on stuff they weren’t allowed. Besides crack cocaine – drug dealers prey on private schools thinking the parents/kids have more money than sense (which given my first sentence ……..) – all sorts of rubbishy suggary cereals etc.
Re lunch – Nigella said once that when she was on a diet she would eat the same meals every day – just a thought.
I do that – if I’m on a diet I make a massive pot of Mary Berry’s Veg soup and freeze it in single portions then take it to work frozen and it defrosts by lunchtime. Saves me hours of thinking time, gets the veg in and has hardly any calories
My father was in the forces and when he wasn’t away he would come home for lunch every day. When my mother got a job for the first time her mother in law’s reaction was ‘But who will make Roger’s lunch now?’ and not ‘Bloody hell that’s fantastic, well done you!’ which would of course have been the right response.
I’m lucky in that Mr W is quite happy with fridge safari for most meals so there’s no pressure on me to make him any meal ever, but when he works from home he likes to stalk around talking very loudly on calls all day like the Wolf of Fucking Wall Street, shushing anyone in his wake and making us all slink around whispering. He has a perfectly nice study but the calls NEED to be done from anywhere but the study. We did a small stint of both working from home and I came to the realisation that one of us (me) had to get somewhere else to work as it would have ended in murder or at the very least divorce. Hats off to you as I don’t know how you manage it.
I love the joke: “I’ve never thought of divorce. Murder, yes. But not divorce.”
sheila birch says
Oh I, laughing my head off at you all…. so entertaining (just a butty here, and if I’m out shopping, I buy him one). He Never complains as I’m a rubbish cook.
My husband and I have worked at home (in different jobs and in different rooms) for the last 35 years of our 42 year relationship and we have got lunch sorted. It used to be something that was prepared by me but with minimum hassle such as a baked spud but in the last 10 years or so it’s settled down to a routine of both of us stopping work at 1pm and putting the 1pm news on in the kitchen to listen to the headlines whilst we each make our own sandwich, they are often different.
He makes the pot of tea while I get stuff out of the fridge, then return it. Then we go our separate ways to eat at our desks. We also have a break at 10.30 for elevenses too so we have a quick chat whilst we make tea and toast (or crumpets) – we are SO regimented but we’ve found that the more routines you have the less there is to think about organising each day. I only shop once a week so I make sure that all the ingredients for the sandwiches etc are always available..
Just wait until he retires and is not only around all day every day wondering about lunch but also missing his secretary and getting irritated with every bit of home IT which he doesn’t work like the office IT!
I cannot tell you how much I identify with this – but I take it a step further – I even resent my husband (who frequently works from home) making his own lunch. He never tidies it up, crumbs are left in the most inexplicable of places, he manages to eat whatever I was planning on giving the children for an after school snack, food is left out, the dishes are absentmindedly left somewhere. My head is fizzing just thinking about it.
It destroys any defined gap between breakfast and dinner; instead the day becomes a never ending procession of breakfastlunchsnacksdinnersuppermakingschoollunches that sees me thinking of, or preparing, or tidying up after, food all day. It feels utterly claustrophobic.
If I know he will be at home I buy him lunch when I’m out to stop both the brain aneurysm I can feeling forming/rupturing and to assuage the guilt of being so miserable as to begrudge him lunch.
Emily C says
Emily! *waves* I could have written this! Although my husband doesn’t work at home often, I do not understand how he always, always manages to eat precisely the ingredients I was going to use for the children’s tea/ school lunches. He doesn’t ask or even hint that I’ll make him lunch, but he does want to talk to me, just as I’m bezzing about doing 100 things in the 5 hours I have between drop off and pick up. Gah! I value the peace of a solo day at home just doing… stuff. Not being chatted to like we’re, you know, in a relationship! So inconsiderate 😉
This is so very true. Oh my word. My husband would do exactly this. Come and find me and say, “what are we having for lunch then”? (Eg what are you making, to which the answer was usually a packet of bacon frazzles). OR WORSE he would sometimes suggest popping out for lunch. And then look sad when i turned him down. So i felt bad. But WTF?!? I don’t have time for that shit, my working day is already much shorter than his due to childcare etc. It infuriates me partly because in my mind it confirms that he thinks i swan around a bit at home when in fact i am normally working pretty hard. He’s got a bit better now though!
Thank God i didn’t get married🤣🤣🤣 suckers
Just yes, to all of it. And then there’s also the slight expectation he has that in working from home now and again he might get lucky during the day. In between all those meals i’m Sorting and clearing up after. Which makes me cross. Which makes it even more unlikely.
cindy fried says
Loving all these responses – especially ‘suckers’ 🤣. I meet my husband in our local deli a few days of the week, where they start to prepare our panini as we walk in the door, other days I buy Waitrose sarnies. When I work from home there is a groove worn in the floor between fridge/kettle/table.
I know people (women) who have considered divorce because retirement was looming and they couldn’t stand the lunch question, let alone the being home all day with the other half, so at least we are not there. Yet…
I feel you Esther. I’m married to a dairy farmer. He turns up for breakfast, coffee, lunch and later for supper. Yes he happily eats whatever is put in front of him (from steak to tofu), then always conveniently has to take a phone call or two then disappears without clearing anything up. There is also an unspoken expectation that I will drop whatever I’m doing to talk to him. I prefer not to stop for a proper lunch as it’s a faff. The “I’m happy to eat whatever you make” thing is kind of a pain too – coming up with meal ideas every day is draining. Having said that I prefer not to leave him to his own devices due to mess/crumbs/always leaves the butter dish and open newspapers on the table (plus the plastic wrappers) which we all know is the Worst. Habit. Ever.
Wife of Arable Farmer nodding silently here ……
Gah yes to the lunch thing. I remember us talking about this a couple of summers back and it’s still the same. I don’t have enough time or inspiration to do lunch everyday.
Thought I was being an unreasonable cow for feeling so resentful about lunch. Every time I get the dreaded “what’s for lunch?” I am sorely tempted to say “no idea, have you looked in the fridge” but instead I just silently gnash my teeth and roll my eyes behind his back….
L McC says
You’re all so patient. It’s a massive f off and don’t come in cos I’m on a Skype call from me!
Maureen McCollum says
When I told a friend my husband was retiring she said “You married him for better or worse but not for lunch!”
Anyhoo, I cook every evening and sometimes do an extra portion for him to have for lunch the next day. He now knows not to scavenge unless its cheese or home made soup. I tend to have brunch about 10.30am whereas he has a healthy but not filling brekkie much earlier. when I fancy doing something for lunch he is most appreciative but knows its not a precedent.
My husband and I work from home together once a week-ish and he’s got the message about lunch. He knows that unless he’s happy with marmite on toast, he’s got to get his own. So it’s not lunch, it’s a shag he wants! He spends the day popping in and out of my office, boob grabbing and wanting to make the most of child free time with a quickie in between conference calls about budgets and marketing campaigns!
yeah that’s not okay
My husband has started to work from home, as of yesterday. I told him that basically I eat half a pack of microwave lentils/pulses/rice with some leftovers/salad or soup in winter so he can share or make himself a sandwich. I think we’d live off those pouches if it was up to me.
We all eat more or less the same thing now, it kind of happened naturally as they got older so don’t fret about it. (8&10)
I did organise my week into vague categories ie; Monday’s – leftovers & microwave rice, tuesdays – something w mince, Wednesday- chicken & veg, Thursday- pasta/eggs etc so room for variations but cuts down on the endless hours thinking about meals.
Please share with us your favourite microwave pouches
Jamie Oliver’s range is really good, as is Merchant Gourmet and most supermarkets do their own brands, Waitrose have just upped their game and launched a better range of microwavable flavoured pulses & grains.
My other time saver is the incredible frozen prepared veg you get now, teeny tiny chopped shallots, sliced grilled peppers, frozen spinach obvs, and the ‘holy trinity’ of celery/carrot/onion in one bag!
I’ve got an excellent veggie recipe for you, I’l email it across…
No husband/kids, but a housemate I entirely share lunch-making responsibilities with. Changed our lives with a slow cooker, a really big freezer and a whole bunch of single/double serving tupperware containers. Generally making stuff in batches of 10-12 portions at a time, so the only brainwork needed is making sure I’ve pulled something out to be defrosted. This was all due to wanting to eat healthier/save money taking my lunches to work. Now we each have about 5 fail-safe standard recipes (Thai chicken soup, chicken harissa lentils, paneer lentil curry… we eat a lot of lentils/beans) so we get a decent amount of variety.
I thought it was just me!!!
I feel pressure (from Society, not the husband) to make Something Nice for lunch when he’s at home, whereas I’d just forage in the fridge if I were alone. And then I get cross with myself for spending money on extras, and wrestle with my need to be the perfect 50s housewife. Also, relatedly, my husband likes a hot lunch so I always make deliberate leftovers at dinner where I can for his packed lunch the next day and then realise at 8.30 as I’m headed out the door that I haven’t done anything for me. Why?!
Now I’m on maternity leave for the second time I’ve shot myself in the foot as he expects to be kept in the manner to which he has become accustomed, even though I now have two kids to worry about. I managed it on first maternity leave so why not again now? I say he expects… why is it worse when he doesn’t expect anything and makes his own, somehow robbing me of the chance to prove how amazing I am providing this delicious bounty…?
The emotional energy I waste on this series of internal conversations could have been better spent on solving climate change or running for office or something.
SO MUCH THIS but with dinner rather than lunch (we both work out of the house so thankfully lunch isn’t a thing). But the emotional labour of planning two menus every. single. day – yes my children eat separately and earlier too – well, honestly there are times quite often when it could tip me over the edge.
I feel like this is something Nora Ephron probably got straight to the heart of, somewhere, during her life and when I find the exact essay where she’s explained it all for me so I feel a bit less resentful and just gnnrrrr about the whole thing I’ll come back and share that wisdom here. For now though I’ll just carry on feeling increasingly stressed from 4pm onwards until the double-catering round is over.
I would give anything to eat a meal with my husband again, and I’m so fucking jealous of you all. As it is, I have framed a recipe that he wrote out by hand in his crappy handwriting, and a tiny kilner jar of his ashes on top of the egg pantry so he can keep me company while I cook, because he always did that when he was alive, and now I have to chop the bloody onions by myself. He actually enjoyed doing that, the weirdo. Some of the best conversations happen in the kitchen…
Karen this almost makes me want to cancel my earlier whine-filled post… I need to appreciate what I have xx Thank you for the wake-up call
That’s the thing, though… it’s the really ordinary stuff that you miss, like sharing a meal. I wasn’t trying to make you feel bad, but if it has given you a bit of a kick up the arse, then that’s no bad thing, I suppose…xx
My husband often makes me lunch – i WFH every day, he has 1 day a week at home looking after our preschooler. It has never occurred to me to “make him lunch” – I tend to skip it or eat crackers or something late, just before I run out the door in the afternoon to do lengthy nursery and after school club pickups.
The notion of regularly making my husband lunch seems ridiculous…. I look forward to a future when both of our kids are out at school 5 days per week and he still works part time when we can skip out to lunch together, where someone else makes it.
(And as for making two dinners in the evening – WTF is that??!!)
I do tend to do variations on a theme if it’s something one of the children isn’t keen on, or they just don’t eat that bit of the dinner. But we will all have spag Bol together or whatever it is. I ain’t making 2 separate meals – but our kids probably eat quite late (6-6.30pm) compared to some.
I know, I know… 2 dinners a night is BS, but my kids have to eat at 5.10pm or they go crazy and for dinner we have crazy, spicy, no-carb, veg heavy, zero calorie meals that they wouldn’t eat in a million and wouldn’t keep them alive even if they did
The thing that gets me is the lunchtime phone call:
“What shall we have for tea?”
“Oh whatever, I’m not fussy”
And then he comes home from work laden with food he has bought to cook himself late into the night. Then he leaves me all the washing up and mess for the morning. I officially work from home now (before, I was just *eyeroll* doing a masters/hurling kids from one venue to the next) and I NEED TO WORK, NOT SCRUB INDETERMINATE ORANGE GACK OFF MY BEST FUCKING PANS.
If he worked at home too, I would kill him.
do you think he thinks he’s being helpful
I have no idea. I think he’s mostly thinking “I want pasta and she hates pasta”
Oh my GOD Esther this is describing my life. Drives me completely up the wall. I’m a great cook and love doing dinner very similarly to your household arrangements but lunch… anything about lunch… Just completely does my head in. A small blob of leftover something in the fridge that would have done me nicely, is completely insufficient for two people and so I have to rethink it all and DH has no idea of the mental labour involved.
Had a complete “I refuse to be a 1950s housewife wtf was I thinking’ meltdown a while back so now let me share with you my new house rules – this is for DH and I who both work from home:
• I will prepare and serve lunch at the time of your choice every day. However… menu choices are:
1) heated-up soup (Waitrose Keralan chicken or Tesco Cully and Scully or whatever it’s called Chicken and Vegetable) with a cracker or rusk. Buttered toast if you’re very lucky.
2) leftovers – if there’s enough for two*
3) picky plate of hommous, vegetables sticks, cheese/ham.
That is all.
Works a treat. Oh, and we head round the corner to the local Vietnamese/Thai about once a week when one of us feels like it.
*he had a habit of saying “Oh, I’ll just have the leftover chilli” or “Oh, I’ll fend for myself for lunch today” like he was making some brave and noble sacrifice and I eventually threatened to gut him with a fish knife unless it stopped.
My mum has always worked from home. When my father retired from his business 30 years into their marriage and started also working from home she allowed it if he agreed to two things: No lunch, and no tech support. Following their example, my husband and I now work from home too, and likewise, no lunch, no tech support. i won’t even eat lunch with him if he makes his own. Lunch is when I get to scroll through Instagram and message my friends. Having said all that, it occurs to me that today I made us both lunch. I clearly cannot walk the walk.