Two months before my due date, I wrote an article for this website entitled, “I Love Cooking For My Husband, And That Doesn’t Make Me Any Less A Feminist.” I meant every word, and at the time I didn’t think my passion for cooking would ever wane. Sure, I knew having a child would change things, but I had ambitions to do anything – work! Cook! To play! To be present! I was thrilled to introduce a brand new little person to the wondrous world of food and I found all the new ways of cooking I had to do as a fun challenge. Now? I resent and miss my former disgustingly naïve self.
My daughter Toni was born in October 2019 and we started introducing her to solids about four months later, around the same time my maternity leave ended and about a month before the world shut down. After countless hours of browsing baby cookbooks and scrolling through Instagram, I convinced myself that I had to prepare everything she ate myself, and that meant food processing in the beginning all. It was too easy not to puree my own peas I thought! Opting for the store-bought pouch variant would be doing Toni and the environment a disservice, I decided!
I’ve complained extensively to other moms about latching, baby feeding, and the wild things that happen to your body after you get home from the hospital (you know, all things nobody talks to you about before give birth). But I tend to tiptoe around the subject of my kitchen shortage because nobody else — including people with far more important jobs, more kids, and even less time — seems to complain.
I want to make it very clear: I don’t have a beef with Toni. I think she is the most brilliant person in the world and I would do anything for her. But here’s the cold, hard truth I’ve been in denial until recently: Cooking used to bring me joy – now that I’m a mom, it mostly makes me miserable.
As Toni completed the grocery mash and began to rely more and more on real food nutrition, the (self-inflicted) pressure and frustration mounted. Our pediatrician encouraged us to feed her what we feed ourselves (no salt), which meant dinner was served two hours earlier (and milder) than usual. This generally meant I was frantically cooking against the clock in the kitchen while my husband played with T. Every laugh I heard from her from the room next door almost broke me, and very subtly and slowly, my resentment at being the cook in the family – something that used to make me very proud – 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 something like stemming and shredding kale can take a full hour. It’s faster, easier, and frankly, less stressful to do it yourself. He understands that this can suck for me. So we make every effort to balance the emotional work of everything that goes into supporting a family—beyond the cooking—and he helps out with the tasks that make me scream the most, like planning dinner for a week.
When Toni was a toddler she ate almost everything we fed her and we thought we were over all the pimples. You roll your eyes, don’t you? I am also. Toni loves chicken nuggets, waffles, pizza, and mac & cheese, and I give her all of those things more often than I’d like to admit. More often than not, however, she gets what we get, and if she likes something that isn’t breaded or loaded with cheese, I want to cry with overwhelming joy.
As difficult as the prep might be, dinner with Toni is the most fun (even if it only lasts five minutes before she throws her hands in the air and yells “Done!” 100 times). She loves toasting with her sippy cup, dancing in her high chair and eating with us. It’s the only time during the week 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 throwing her food on the floor. I’m often very confident that she’s going to love something… and then she completely ignores it. It can be frustrating, hilarious and endearing all at the same time.
I never thought I’d be the guy who buys fish fingers (I wanted to be the mom who makes them myself!) but now when I see a box of these in the freezer I’m hugely relieved. Motherhood is messy, exhausting, beautiful, joyful and not what I imagined. And my experience is unique to me. (You might have discovered your love for cooking after feeding your child! That’s awesome!). But the reality is, now that I have a kid, I don’t enjoy cooking most days, and admitting that to myself — and saying it out loud when I haven’t heard anyone say the same thing before — has been really cathartic. And it’ll make tomorrow night’s pizza delivery all the more delightful.
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