Two months before my due date, I wrote a piece called "I Love Cooking For My Husband And It Doesn't Make Me Any Less Of A Feminist" for this website. I meant every word, and at the time, I didn't think my enthusiasm for cooking would ever fade. Sure, I knew that having a kid would change things, but I had ambitions to do it all—work! Cook! Play! Be present! I was excited to introduce a brand new little person to the wondrous world of food and I saw all the new kinds of cooking I'd need to do as a fun challenge. Now? I both resent and miss my former obnoxiously naive self.
My daughter Toni was born in October 2019 and we started introducing her to solids about four months later, around the same time that my maternity leave ended and about a month before the world shut down. After countless hours of flipping through baby cookbooks and scrolling through Instagram, I convinced myself that I needed to prepare everything she ate myself and in the beginning, that meant food processing everything. It was too easy to not puree my own peas, I thought! Opting for the store-bought pouch variety would be doing Toni and the environment a disservice, I decided!
I’ve lamented at length to other mothers about the topics of latching, formula, and the wild things that happen to your body after returning home from the hospital (you know, all subjects no one talks to you about before giving birth). But I tend to tiptoe around the subject of my kitchen distress because no one else—including people with far more important jobs, more kids, and even less time—seems to complain.
I want to be crystal clear: I don't have any beef with Toni. I think she's the most brilliant person in the world and I would do anything for her. But here’s the cold hard truth that I’ve denied until recently: Cooking used to bring me joy—now that I'm a mom, it mostly makes me miserable.
As Toni graduated from food mush and began to depend more and more on the nutrition of real food, the (self-inflicted) pressure and frustration intensified. Our pediatrician encouraged us to feed her what we feed ourselves (sans salt), which meant getting dinner on the table two hours earlier (and blander) than usual. This generally translated to me frantically cooking against the clock in the kitchen while my husband played with T. Each laugh of hers I'd hear from the room next door nearly broke me, and ever so subtly and slowly, my resentment of being the cook in the family—something that used to bring me immense pride—grew and grew.
My husband has a million and one things he's great at. He's better than me at changing diapers, folding laundry, and baking oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. But when it comes to cooking, his signature meticulousness means that something like de-stemming and chopping kale can take a full hour. It's faster, easier, and frankly less stressful to do it myself. He understands that this can suck for me. So we try hard to weigh the emotional labor of everything that goes into feeding a family—beyond just the cooking—and he helps with the tasks that make me want to scream most, like plotting out a week's worth of dinners.
When Toni was an infant, she ate almost everything we fed her and we thought we had already overcome the whole pickiness thing. You're rolling your eyes, right? I am too. Toni loves chicken nuggets, waffles, pizza, and mac & cheese, and I give her all of these things on more occasions than I'd like to admit. For the most part though, she gets what we get, and when she likes something that isn't breaded or loaded with cheese, I want to cry from overwhelming happiness.
As difficult as the prep work can be, dinnertime with Toni is the most fun (even if it only lasts five minutes before she throws her hands up in the air and yells "all done!" 100 times). She loves toasting with her sippy cup, dancing in her high chair, and eating with us. During the week, it's the one time of day when all three of us are together and fully present. Don't get me wrong, it's not without its challenges. Sometimes, she likes to look me in the eye before chucking her food to the floor. I often feel very confident she's going to love something...and then she completely ignores it. It can be frustrating, hilarious, and adorable all at once.
I never thought I'd be the type of person buying fish sticks (I wanted to be the mom who made them herself!), but now, seeing a box of them in the freezer brings me a great sense of relief. Motherhood is messy, trying, beautiful, joyous, and nothing like I thought it'd be. And my experience is unique to me. (Maybe you discovered your love of cooking after feeding your child! That's great!). But the reality is, now that I have a child, I dislike cooking on most days, and admitting that to myself—and saying it out loud when I've not heard anyone else say the same—has been truly cathartic. And it'll make tomorrow night's pizza delivery all the more glorious.
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