Childrearing

I Feed My Kids McDonald’s And That’s Okay

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It’s happened more than once. It goes exactly like this, every time. I am standing in a group of fellow moms, chatting and laughing about all the things we swore we’d never let our kids do before we became parents: iPads! TV! Sugar! We’re chuckling and swilling back wine and then I mention that I let my kids eat fast food. Suddenly everyone goes silent. One mom drops her wine glass. Another mom crumples to the ground in the fetal position. Another starts smoking from her ears and then spontaneously combusts into a pile of ash. Oops.

It’s true: My kids eat McDonald’s. It is something I thought I’d never let them do, until one day I did, and everyone survived. In fact, it was kind of perfect. Our food cost eight dollars; my kids ran around like lunatics and no one blinked an eye. Toys came with the meal so I didn’t have to dig around in my diaper bag full of stale crackers and old applesauce pouches for things to play with. All I had to do was open a ketchup packet.

Sure, I know all the reasons why cheap meat and french fries coated in “natural flavoring” are not the most optimal food choice. I’ve seen the video of the pink chicken nugget filling (and McDonald’s photographic rebuttal) and I know every Quarter Pounder sold means another tree in the rain forest is demolished. I was a vegetarian for a long time, and have read a lot of literature about the dangers of the fast food industry. I get it. But the simple truth of it is this: fast food is easy. At the end of a long work day, or on a weekend when we’re rushing around and there is not a nap to be found, the last thing I feel like doing is mixing up some quinoa cakes or pesto turkey meatballs. (Or, let’s be real: slapping some string cheese and carrots onto a plate.)

Sometimes I just want to sit my ass down while my kids pound french fries and play with some stupid plastic toy that’s almost certainly covered in toxic paint. Also, it is delicious. When was the last time anyone said that about a kale smoothie?

To be clear, we don’t eat fast food all the time, it’s a rare occurrence at best. But still, when I tell people we occasionally hit up the drive-thru they react like I’ve just told them that I rip off my kids’ fingernails for sport. I used to be horrified by their reactions; I am, after all, a human with normal insecurities, and I am proud of who I am as a parent and a citizen of the world. I think I generally do a pretty good job at both things and I want you to think this, too. But I no longer care what anyone thinks of this parenting decision, because for me and my family, it works.

Treating my kids to fast food gives me a break: from cooking, from dishes, from trying to find an hour to chop and sauté and bake. We get to be together; to laugh, share food, and play with cheap toys I’ll later throw out once they’re asleep. All moms deserve the right to let their kids do things – like eat processed, fried food – for the sole reason of getting some sanity and peace back into their own lives.

That, to me, seems like a very healthy choice.

(photo: Everett Collection/ Shutterstock)