Stressed mums cook up to 10 meals a day
So screamed a headline in the Daily Mirror this week. This ‘fact’ was taken from the dubiously entitled ‘Modern Mum Report’ to which, for the record, I can find no other reference from my research (which, ahem, involved typing it into Google).
According to the Mirror, most mums admit to feeling stressed at least five times. Mealtimes are a key cause of this stress as “fusspot tots” dictate the need to prepare a different dish for every family member.
‘What a load of old nonsense!’ I thought smugly. ‘I’m never doing that. Kids should eat what they’re given and be grateful. That’s going to be my strategy.’
Indeed, it already has been. I remember clearly getting dubious looks from my other half when our little one decided he was going to start refusing food at around 9 months.
‘Shouldn’t you give him something else? He’s only a baby’ my husband uttered, typical new-parent concern rife in his voice.
‘No!’ I said confidently, using my practiced teacher-knows-best voice to hide my own fears that I might accidentally starve the baby to death in the course of one mealtime. ‘If he’s really hungry, he’ll eat. He barely even understands the concept that he is a person in his own right. I’m not going to accept that a child who can’t put a spoon in his own mouth is going to dictate that he won’t eat broccoli and will instead survive on a diet of only cheese, toast and apple flavour rice cakes.’ (Seriously, they taste like cardboard. Why do babies love them so much?)
And so I laid down the rules. No ‘fusspot tots’ in my house. I will never be cooking 9 different meals a day like those soft, foolish, namby-pamby mums. I’m in charge here.
There’s only one problem, and it’s the one my mum will be shouting at the screen right now as she reads this…
I was one of those ‘fusspots’. Not as a toddler, but as a pre-teen. Won over by a book on saving the planet somebody had absent-mindedly passed my way, I decided to become vegetarian. So did my brother, but for different reasons and with his own particular set of rules about what he would and wouldn’t eat. Meanwhile my other brother hated vegetables and would only eat meals consisting primarily of chicken.
My poor mother, who loved food of all varieties but had inadvertently given birth to an incredibly stubborn and willful brood when it came to culinary choices, was reduced to two options:
- We would all survive on a diet of only cheese and toast until we finally flew the nest (I don’t think apple flavoured rice cakes had been invented then)
- Accept that we had all thoroughly made our minds up – whether through well-intentioned moral choices or sheer fussiness – and make separate meals.
Fast forward about 20 years and I finally realise what an absolute pain in the backside my decision to become vegetarian must have been.
In my defence, it was not a whim – I am still vegetarian. However, this in many ways is how I now know what a pain it is.
During our ‘courtship’, my other half made it very clear that he loved me unconditionally and wouldn’t change anything about me, except my vegetarianism. For some reason, when he stayed at mine he didn’t think a vegetarian risotto/pasta/chilli/other-form-of-entirely-vegetable-based-meal with a half-burned sausage plonked unceremoniously on the side was the true ideal of the carnivore. I never understood why.
Fortunately for him, and unfortunately for me, once we were married, eating all our meals together and preparing for the arrival of a baby, it suddenly occurred to me that perhaps this wasn’t actually the most fair and nutritious of meal plans.
It was at this point in my life that I widened my cookery skills to include the following delights:
– Frying lumps of chicken in a pan and dumping them unceremoniously on top of an otherwise entirely vegetable based meal
– Chopping up bits of chorizo and dumping them unceremoniously on top of an otherwise entirely vegetable based meal
– Frying and chopping up bits of bacon and dumping them unceremoniously on top of an otherwise entirely vegetable based meal
– Stuffing a chicken breast with cream cheese, wrapping it in bacon and putting it in the oven. I consider this a particular treat so it really only comes out when we have visitors, and I am always disappointed when they point out I stole the idea from a Philadelphia advert.
In my eyes, I’m bloody Delia Smith! Except less well put together. Maybe Keith Floyd would be a better comparison – slightly messier and with more wine.
Either way, I consider this a huge step forward, but I’m already dreading the future. At some point, I’ll have to stop relying on the childminder as my son’s main source of iron and protein, and once he’s learned to talk he may even request specific meals. God forbid! It’s not that I’m ‘stressed’, I just can’t be bothered. During pregnancy I genuinely considered abandoning 20 years of vegetarianism just so I could avoid the hassle of cooking different meals once the baby popped out.
In the ‘Modern Mum Report’ I guess they’d class me as an anomaly – causing myself far more culinary hassle than anyone else in the family. Still, just to make things clear, I’d like to finish by passing on a few messages:
- To all the ‘stressed mums’ cooking 9 meals a day: Stop it. Just stop it! It’s ridiculous. Life’s too short. They’ll get hungry eventually. If not, they’re bound to re-commission Supernanny soon.
- To my mum: I’m sorry for being such a pain, but you only have yourself to blame. If you’d just let me grow up to be selfish and with no moral compass, you’d never have had this problem in this first place.
- To my son: Don’t you even think about it!