As the news’ updates continue to roll in, and safety concerns rise over eating outside of the home, it is no surprise many of you may begin to experience anxiety over what to prepare in your kitchen for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The truth is, for many millennial mothers across the U.S., cooking and meal-planning, are a source for stress, worry, and downright fear.
Despite the limitless access to family-friendly cooking networks and shows, like my favorite, “The Pioneer Woman” – books, magazines, and even Instagram pages supporting our inner homemaker, some of us still get a sense of overwhelm when it comes to creating healthy, hearty plates that everyone in the family can enjoy.
There are myriad of reasons.
For some mothers, this overwhelm is rooted in issues with time; you might have a career that imposes constraints or unpredictability, causing you to outsource to local restaurants and establishments you trust. Fatigue, an imbalance in support from your spouse, or even the absence of a spouse, can also add to issues around time and overwhelm.
For others, it’s the fear of not being able to perfect certain traditional dishes, not being comfortable with your cooking skills, or simply, not having any cooking skills at all.
And if you’re a mother who falls in the last category, have mercy on yourself. Becoming skilled in the kitchen might have been thwarted by a few factors.
For one, as a millennial mother, you happen to be part of a generation of women who came of age in the midst of being spoiled by easy access to campus life or dining halls. Remember the quick, pressed grilled chicken panini sandwiches and wraps? The late night orders to Domino’s Pizza and Denny’s pancakes on the weekends? Compounded by limited time and space, the stage might not have been set to help you develop the inner culinary you.
And even if the access to meal cards or dining halls aren’t part of the reason why your ability to cook wasn’t fostered before now, you might have been the student always working or studying, preparing to stand out in an ever competitive environment. Food prep was always an afterthought.
For me, it was a combination of a few things.
While ordering out as a single, working professional worked, once I became a mom, I learned the hard and expensive way, how going back to work on my traditional dishes would not only be healthy for my family, but would help me kick a self-sabotaging belief that if the dishes didn’t come out like my mother’s, they weren’t worth eating.
And that ladies, is the category many of us bashfully fall into.
As a woman of Haitian descent, it is important to note the level of pressure placed on cooking. Known for authentic cuisine with dishes like soup joumou (pumpkin soup), diri djon djon (mushroom rice), diri kolé (rice and red beans), lambi (conche), tassot kabuit (fried goat) or legumes berejen (eggplant), and a Sunday classic- diri Blanc ak sos pois (white rice and black bean stew), it is expected you’re prepared to cook for your family. Intimidation or simply not being able to, can leave you feeling less than or even shameful.
Don’t believe me?
So if the anxiety of having to cook multiple tasty meals is seeking to overwhelm you, take heart.
And a deep breath.
Here’s five tips I’m sharing, learned over the last three years of transitioning into a full-time stay-at-home/work-from-home mom, you can use during this season. Give yourself permission to cultivate a spirit of joy instead of fear, when it comes to nourishing your family.
- Have confidence: preparing food is an exchange of energy. Approaching your cooking with love and a mindset that you’re capable, is a great place to start. Even if you miss a step or two, your meals will resonate a love and affection your children will grow to appreciate.
- Keep practicing: a sure-fire way to become good at anything, is to keep working on it. The same goes for nourishing your family with what you cook. I know it can feel annoying to not yet have mastered dishes you ate maybe everyday as a child, but don’t give up. Keep working on those dishes until you feel satisfied with the outcome.
- Kick perfectionism: Have patience with the process and trust your own style of preparing food. Making meals is an art form for sure, but the beauty of making art is it’s defined by the artist. While traditional recipes might have a structure to how they should turn out, you have the special something that adds its own flavor to how you feed your family. Add more of this, or less of that. You can use different oils or spices until you and your family are well versed with the meal.
- Make it fun: Before you get mad at me for suggesting to incorporate the kids, one way to know that you’re making a difference, is when they begin to show interest and want to participate. If you’re a neat freak like me, this might seem intimidating at first, thinking about how much of a mess might incur, but allow these moments to help you bond and grow deeper in your nurturer’s role. These are the moments that don’t have a strict guideline for and honestly, that’s a good thing. Give yourself permission to loosen up and receive the joy from bonding with your family.
- Keep it simple: how on Earth can you decide if everybody is healthy or getting what they need in a society throwing studies and information at you 24/7? This alone used to intimidate me and fill me with excuses from feeling engaged in the kitchen. Start with the basics. Incorporate veggies of all types, flavor them in a way that gets the babies engaged. Don’t fear repetition. Don’t fear rejection. Gently introduce new things as you go along. The best thing as a mother, is to not let fear or shame grip you.