The other day, a friend 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 my son, 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 now, and we still eat at the table together only a few times a week.
I’m not an outstanding cook, but I crush it at being a mom.
When I think about my child leaving the nest and looking back on his childhood, I know he won’t picture epic homemade meals because I did not serve many. We eat simply, German traditional “Brotzeit” with cheese, salad, sausages etc, homemade pizza and as a special treat sometimes homemade sushi. Just nothing super complicated and fancy. So I might not be a super chef, but on the other hand, there are SO MANY BEAUTIFUL THINGS he will remember: back rubs and foot rubs and long talks in bed; playing Uno, Jenga, Chess, Monopoly; going on bike rides and taking walks at night. We watched all Guardian of the Galaxy movies in our outside movie theater in the backyard. We’ve enjoyed lots of ice cream in the hammock, and I’ve taught him how to change his bed sheets and apologize genuinely and mingle at parties. Most of all, they know that there is nothing in this entire universe that he could ever do or say that would make me stop loving him with my whole heart forever. Which I think is more important than anything else. But, for now, back to food.
Some families cherish the ritual of eating dinner at the table every day and that’s wonderful. And other families lean into different rituals. It’s a classic “good for her, not for me” situation.
Have you read Amy Poehler’s memoir, Yes Please? I expected it to be funny. But I didn’t realize it would also be wise and sharp and dive deep into what it means to be a woman. Here’s one of my favourite parts:
I have many friends who have had natural childbirth. I applaud them. I have friends who have used doulas and birthing balls and pushed out babies in tubs and taxicabs. I have a friend who had two babies at home! In bed! Her name is Maya Rudolph! She is a goddamn baby champion and she pushed her cuties out Little House on the Prairie style!
Good for her! Not for me.
That is the motto women should constantly repeat over and over again. Good for her! Not for me.
What a brilliant mantra, right? There are countless ways to be a good mother (and person), and we should trust our guts; we know that intellectually. Still, at certain moments, it can be hard not to sometimes compare yourself to others, and then doubt yourself or wonder if you’re at odds if you’re taking different paths. But in the end? “Good for her! Not for me.”
We each show love in our own way, and that’s where the magic happens.
So, I tell my son: “There’s nothing you could ever do or say that would make me not love you.” I will bring it up in conversation, or just say it out of the blue. Sometimes I will elaborate and add, “I will never be grossed out by anything” (work in progress) or “Even if you rob a bank, you can always come to me, and we will figure it out.” (with the police officer who might even be a former colleague whom I haven’t seen in ages so we chat and have coffee and cake and laugh it all off). It’s funny because I can be pretty strict about everyday things — table manners, grades, politeness — but when it comes to revealing my son’s larger fears/worries/dreams, I will always be a safe place.
I say certain things so often that my son rolls his eyes. He is like, duh, Mom, I KNOW.
When my mom told me these things, I would roll my eyes, too. But now that I’m an adult with a child of my own, I realize how lucky I was to feel that sentiment so deeply, and what an incredible parenting gesture it was on my mom’s part. I ended up feeling comfortable telling or asking her about anything — first kisses, school anxieties, birth control, the list goes on.
So, I tell my son: “There’s nothing you could ever do or say that would make me not love you.” And hopefully, he will see me as an ally as he gets older and his life and worries get more complicated. It’s funny how even a single sentence can sometimes be so powerful, don’t you think?
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 and you are involved and here for them, you are doing a great job. FEELING LOVED is what matters, in whatever form that comes. That’s all.
Do you ever say things like this to your children? Do you remember any sayings or advice your parents gave you? I’d love to hear…