Can having kids make you a better person? A case study of one kitchen-phobic mother


It never ceases to amaze me how many blogs there are written about food and cooking. If you are really into them, then good for you. Everyone should have something they are truly passionate about. For me it’s just never, ever been cooking. There are so many different guilt trips that parents can be targeted with, but believe me, not being able to cook just adds a whole new level.

In pure agony, I have listened to other moms discuss how they did a terrible thing by giving their child some fish fingers the other day. On the outside, I have nodded along, but on the inside I have been screaming in shock and horror. I actually developed a concept of “fish finger Fridays” for the one day of the week when I turned the oven on. If you think that is sad, then you’ve heard nothing yet!

I have always tried to avoid cooking at any cost. I have also made myself look worse by marrying a man who is the closest imaginable male equivalent of a Swabian housewife (as once advocated by Angela Merkel). My husband takes great pride in all the things I really loathe - such as cooking and balanced household budgeting.

Years ago when I moved away from home and started uni, I learned to survive with whatever was available that did not involve cooking. I ate out a lot. I also consumed tons of canned pea soup and a variety of microwave meals. When microwaveable rice appeared in the supermarkets, it revolutionised my life. Seriously, for me this was the equivalent of electricity being invented. You see, I was quite happy just having rice with ketchup for dinner, but could not really be bothered with all the hassle that goes with boiling rice. (This is why Jamie Oliver with his 20 minute meals always makes me laugh… do you really expect me to stick with it for 20 minutes? Oh Jamie, Jamie, you have no idea do you!)

Then I met my boyfriend and future husband, and it truly was the beginning of a beautiful, culinary relationship. For 11 years we had a perfect equilibrium to exist in, whereby he cooked to his heart’s content and I picked up all the low skilled housework - such as; wheeling out the bins and pulling the sewage hair out of the shower plug. We both loved eating out too, so it was a very blissful existence indeed.

I thought I had escaped the kitchen for good, until one day this illusion came to an abrupt end. You guessed it: we got married and had a child. I discovered that being a female absent from the kitchen was one thing, but being a mother who did not cook was quite another.

What was to become of me? In the 21st century, was I still going to have my arm twisted to get in front of a hot stove? Ever since we became parents, even my husband who had always accepted my inability to cook, began to raise his eyebrows: “Ella’s pouches again then… is it?”

As my mom lives in abroad and my husband is at work most of the time, there was no one at home to cook for me and the baby. So a new level of humiliation entered my life in the shape of my mother-in-laws casserole dishes. She, like my husband, just cannot get enough of cooking and healthy eating. In fact, she recently graduated with first class honors in nutritional science - you can’t make this stuff up, right? My mother-in-law follows a strictly dairy-, gluten-, caffeine- and alcohol free lifestyle (...these are pretty much the four cornerstones of my diet).

After weeks of bringing food to me and my daughter, my mother-in-law slapped her hands together and said enthusiastically: “I know! I will buy you some of these small casserole dishes and teach you some really easy family dinners that you can knock together in 15 minutes”. I remember what followed, it was one of those strange moments, where a lot is said even though no words are exchanged. It just felt like a wind blew through the room. I looked at her, confused and scared. She looked at me with unease with a hint of pity. And then it was never spoken of again. Needless to say, she never did buy me any casserole dishes.  

In the despair I was facing, as always, my first instinct was to look for excuses to justify my own choices. It seemed to be everywhere and all the time: eat this and don’t eat that – after all “you are what you eat”, blaa, blaa, blaa... In the face of uncontrollable realities that come with genetics etc. how much can you influence things through diet? Is food really all that when it comes to having a healthy lifestyle? What right did the media and everyone else have to keep slapping me in the face with their nutritional charts? And that Jamie Oliver too, what a w*#ker.

However, being a parent, I just could not get away from it. I took a good, long look in the mirror and asked myself: was it the case that I genuinely could not cook, or was it that I just really didn’t fancy trying?

Perhaps this is what having children is all about, I eventually concluded. As described in countless blogs everyday, the love we have for our children can encourage us to step out of our comfort zones, which can result in us becoming truly better people. Whether it is through learning to tolerate chaos, initiating conversations with strangers we meet in the park or re-organising our work-life balance.

I still believe that we are so much more than what we eat, but I have definitely raised the bar when it comes to my children’s meals. I am spending more time in the kitchen and it is feeling increasingly less awkward.

I still think it’s more important to teach our children that eating red meat is unethical than whether or not eating red meat might reduce one’s life expectancy in some minuscule way.

I still pretty much follow a diet of a teenaged boy myself. That’s just how I roll.

Nevertheless, I acknowledge that having a healthy balanced diet can go a long way and that growing up, it is more important than ever.

And so, I shall learn to cook healthy, home-made food. It will be my Everest.

Sorry my darlings, I'm afraid it's just fish fingers again :[ 

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