The other day, my friend Gemma texted me…
“Sometimes I feel bad that I’m not a good cook,” she wrote. “I don’t make family meals from scratch etc. Does that make me a bad mummy y/n”
Of course, the answer is no. But I do understand her feelings. Before having kids, I envisioned sitting down for dinner, Norman Rockwell style, and sharing our hopes and dreams while breaking bread. But honestly? We didn’t have regular sit-down family dinners until Toby was around 10, and we still eat at the table together only a few times a week.
I’m a terrible cook, but I crush it at being a mom.
When I think about my children leaving the nest and looking back on their childhoods, I know they won’t picture epic homemade meals because I did not serve many. We eat simply, and pizza is regularly ordered. But there are SO MANY BEAUTIFUL THINGS they will remember: back rubs and foot rubs and long talks in bed; playing Uno and Guess Who and M.A.S.H.; going on bike rides and taking walks at night. We watched all of Full House and Fuller House and wrote fan letters to the cast. We’ve enjoyed dozens of popsicles on the stoop, and I’ve taught them how to change lightbulbs and apologize genuinely and mingle at parties. Most of all, they know that there is nothing in this entire universe that they could ever do or say that would make me stop loving them with my whole heart forever.
Anton’s Mother’s Day note from a few years ago: “You’re a good cook L.O.L.”
Some families cherish the ritual of eating dinner at the table — like Jenny, who has called it her true north — and that’s wonderful. And other families lean into different rituals. It’s a classic ‘good for her, not for me’ situation. We each show love in our own way, and that’s where the magic happens.
I think of my own parents, who I’ve always adored — neither spent much time in the kitchen when we were growing up.
My dad would make us cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches for dinner. But then we spent hours browsing in bookstores and watching old movies. He would weep in the car while listening to opera cassette tapes, and on Sunday mornings he’d read Far Side comics to us as we piled onto his bed. He nicknamed everything (his favorite sweatshirt was Red-y), and in the grocery store he’d whistle and we’d come running from various aisles. He taught us to write condolence notes and try hard things and drive stick shift in a parking lot.
Meanwhile, my mom was famous for fish fingers and tater tots, and, not to brag, but we were secret shoppers at Dominos (we’d get free pizza delivery if we filled out a survey afterward). But, most of all, I remember baring my soul while she braided my hair, staying up late to watch Mary Tyler Moore reruns, cross-country skiing around our suburban backyard at night, showing her my ballet moves a gazillion times, and always trusting her to take my joys and fears seriously.
It makes zero difference if you’re a good or terrible cook, if you’re crafty or handy or can barely draw a straight line, if you’re athletic or clumsy, if you’re introverted or extroverted, if your house is neat or messy, if you’re divorced or single or married, if you are *fill in the blank*… who cares? If you love your child, you are doing a great job. FEELING LOVED is what matters, in whatever form that comes. That’s all.
I once made pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.
Thoughts? Do you enjoy cooking for your crew? Or do you open a box of mac n’ cheese and call it a day? Either way! xoxo
P.S. My parenting motto, and when have you felt the kindness of strangers?
(Top photo from 2019, the last time I baked a cake from scratch.)