Categories: Mom's the Word
Date: Sep 25, 2008
Title: Meals and Wheels
Mom shares her secret recipe for guilt-free parenting
By Maggie Lamond Simone The boy came into the family room and announced, “Hey, it’s dinnertime. Where are we going?”
The boy came into the family room and announced, “Hey, it’s dinnertime. Where are we going?”
“Chinese!” the girl chimed in. “I want Chinese!”
“We were there twice this week,” the husband reminded her. “Let’s go someplace different. How about Mexican?”
“No, not good for me,” replied the boy. “Pasta?”
“Not in the mood,” said the husband.
“Hey, I thought I might cook tonight,” I interrupted. “I have chicken in the fridge, and I could make a salad and potatoes!”
There was silence as they all momentarily appraised me.
“How about that new steak place?” said the boy, turning his attention back to the group. “I could do steak tonight.”
“I don’t want steak!” cried the girl. “I want dumplings! Chinese dumplings!”
“Nah,” said the husband. “How about Thai?”
In the car on the way to the restaurant, I was uncharacteristically quiet, and the husband asked why.
“Why am I upset?” I cried. “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because the biggest decision in our house every day is where to have dinner! Maybe because historically, women had three jobs in life—to cook for their family, to clean the house, and to raise the kids—and I only do one.”
The boy in the back seat said, “Which one?” When I finished screaming and pulled my head back in the window, I informed him that, in fact, I raise the kids.
I don’t think I fell far from the tree, if that’s a defense. I don’t think my mother truly enjoyed cooking. I always had the sense, come dinnertime, that her heart just wasn’t in it. She did make wonderful meals for us night after night, but there was always the unspoken question in her eyes as she served us: “Are there really still seven of you?”
I say essentially the same thing every night: “Who are you people, and why are you looking to me for food?”
Unlike my mother, who did not have the same options, I rarely cook. And despite the fact that my kids have never asked, “Mommy, why don’t you cook?” I have found myself feeling very guilty about it.
I’m wondering if I’m teaching my children to make choices based on their interests and desires, and then to feel guilty about them.
Guilt is a tough emotion, and one with which I often struggle. I now even find myself feeling guilty for feeling guilty, and I dare you to top that. When I unconsciously use it as a discipline weapon against my children, they know to stop me with a “Guilt alert!” call that helps me to break the pattern. Now I need to learn to stop myself.
I’m not a great cook. I’m not what you’d call a neat freak. I don’t sew or knit. I find laundry strangely therapeutic, but generally those other things rank somewhere close to unmedicated root canals in terms of things I really enjoy. I envy people who do them, but I’m simply not one of them. And my children don’t care.
They care about the other things, though. I throw a mean football, I pitch to the boy and help the girl with her karate. I teach college and write books and plan absolutely fabulous vacations. I support my husband’s business with my lightning-fast typing skills (of which I am strangely proud) and help my children with homework that I can barely understand.
I am the pets’ caretaker (including but not limited to buying live crickets for the barking tree frogs) and the buyer of all clothes and most electronics. I am a chauffeur, a secretary, an enthusiastic coach and watcher of all sports. I am things that many mothers of previous generations simply did not have the opportunity to be.
Am I a cook? No. But I do my best to teach my kids to be healthy, eat well, and make intelligent, informed choices based on their interests and desire... whether they be Mexican, Chinese or Thai.
Maggie Lamond Simone is a book author, award-winning writer and mother of two living in Baldwinsville. Reach her at