So, I now know why old ladies often decide that they will not cook any more after their children leave home. It's very challenging to work hard every single day, three times a day with absolutely no days completely off unless you leave home. It's even more challenging when the result of your labors earns comments like "Do we have to eat this?," "I don't like _(fill in the blank with just about any food with nutritional value)_" and "This is not good. Thumbs down. All the way to China."
It helps a little when you have a husband that likes actual food. The only time I can get every single person in my family to be happy with the food is if it has chocolate chips in it. Chocolate chip pancakes win every time.
Don't get me wrong. It's not that my children don't like some healthy foods. They all have foods that they really like that are good for them. But the problem is that there are almost no foods that all three like. Ever. Except the chocolate chip pancakes. Oh, and top ramen or buttered noodles with parmesean. And those don't exactly fall into the "bursting with healthy goodness category." What this means is that three times a day, almost every day of my life, at least one of the children is complaining about some part of the meal they don't like. Even if you have "no complaining" rules, you can tell by the sullen looks on their little faces and the way that they poke at the offending food with their forks as if it were some kind of slime creature that they don't like it. Who wouldn't want to quit after 18 years? I challenge anyone to go through a job where they are constantly being told that they aren't doing it right to not be discouraged.
Now, there are the rare children who "eat everything" and "never complain" and if you ever meet one, you better call the authorities, because I don't think they exist. They are the stuff of myth and legend. And there are a few of us who have fairly thick skin and can just shrug it off with a "Bummer. Better luck next time kid. And don't gag at the table, it's impolite."
I don't know what will happen when the children are gone and I am released from the constant haranguing. But my husband better get fairly familiar with local fast food menus or learn how to cook just in case, because I might just get burned out before I retire on this one.