We all know that being a mother means being burdened by guilt, however little justified, for some portion of each day forever and ever and ever.
I’m not sure we sign up for it exactly, but in order to stay sane we must accept this delightful facet of life as a parent. I’m sure we all have slightly different hang-ups, but I wonder how many of them overlap.
For my part, I feel horribly guilty about being short-tempered when I haven’t had enough sleep, not changing the bed sheets often enough, and don’t get me started on the secret neck crease we missed for several bath nights. That one still makes me shudder.
However, I have one dirty little secret that I’m really ashamed of. Maybe it’s time to unburden myself...
I don’t like cooking. I really don’t. I would dearly love to be the kind of mother who spends hours in a gorgeous-smelling kitchen, emerging glowing faced and triumphant bearing huge platters of delicious food. Maybe the kids would cheer when I produced a particular favourite, their little upturned faces full of gleeful anticipation at the culinary wonders about to befall their appetites.
I wish I could teach them how to cook for themselves, to pass them yellowed pages of wisdom carrying the voices of much-loved relatives, annotated with my own experience to tweak and improve the classics. I want to give them what my mum gave me. Not just mouth-watering meals, but that inimitable warm heart that is absolutely unique to your childhood home.
But, alas, that is not to be. Instead our mealtimes are wracked with ‘Not again!’ and ‘Eat seven more beans and you can get down,’ and other such happy family exchanges.
Unfortunately, we end up with four distinct meals in our house most nights, which doesn’t help matters. I am vegetarian with tedious food intolerances, The Silver Fox is a vociferous carnivore who dislikes cheese owing to its ‘gone off milk’ quality, Small eats almost exclusively beige and Tiny changes her mind daily, nay hourly, as to her preferences.
We get by with strange cobbled together meals, (chicken, crackers and Satsuma, anyone?) eating an alarming number of jacket potatoes and because The Silver Fox is an excellent cook. I will be eternally grateful for beans on toast. Sorry, beans beside toast. The difference is of the utmost importance, apparently.
So there it is; my dirty little secret laid bare. But why on earth do I feel so guilty? Millions have men have got by for millennia without lifting a finger to cook half of what I have produced in my 36 years and do you think they have lost a second’s sleep over it?
Of course not. Which leads me to my answer. Put it down to my desire to address gender division of labour in the household and hold my head up high. I am great at den building, I always do funny voices when I read a story and I’m brilliant at lego. Furthermore, bizarrely, I love baking, and I’m pretty good at that too. So, it’s time to embrace my strengths and ditch the guilt. Cooking’s just not my thing.