There's an old saying that I totally despise.
A way to a man’s heart is through his stomach!
What’s disturbing about these kinds of sayings is this patriarchal notion that women need to cook for their partners and families to be the ultimate nurturers. I completely understand that there are many cultural aspects to cooking and preparing meals, which are admiral. I just dislike how society tells women that in order to be a good mother, wife and nurturer, one must cook or bake well.
Julie Cole recently tweeted something I really liked that got me thinking about all of this:
“I don’t bake the cake... I make the money to buy the cake.”
Julie Cole definitely doesn’t need to cook or bake to prove that she is a caring, super supportive and nurturing parent. I have seen first hand what a loving mom she is.
In fact, my own mother will be the first person to tell you that she hates to cook. My mom was a single parent and she worked hard to help us survive. My sister and I didn’t feel any lack of love or nurturing from her because she didn’t cook elaborate meals for us. We knew she loved us and still loves us with all her heart. She is the type of mom that gave us everything, like saving most of her money to put us through University and paying to have a roof over our heads.
Many people would make comments or look down on my mom because she didn’t cook. But she didn’t need to, in fact our favorite memories were spending quality time on the weekends when we would go out to eat.
My mom is originally from Hong Kong, so we explored so many great Chinese restaurants in Toronto. We would go out for Dim Sum or try the different smaller Chinese restaurants which specialized in a certain region or kind of dish, like ones that specialized in Wontons, or a certain famous Beef Noodle Dish.
We would also explore different Congee Restaurants and try all the different varieties. My mom was the queen of ordering Chinese food and I was always in awe with this skill of hers! On very special occasions, we would go to Red Lobster for their pre-fixed lunch specials. And Friday nights, after our mom would pick us up from visiting our father, she would take us to Arby’s for our weekly dose of Roast Beef Sandwiches and curly fries.
My mom would always order extra food from the Chinese restaurants so that my sister and I could heat up leftovers during the week. She worked so hard that by the time she got home, she was way too tired to cook for us anyway.
So, we ate prepared meals, had taco nights and my sister and I had fun seeing how we could jazz up instant noodles by adding various Chinese vegetables to it. Everything we ate during the week was basic, but we didn’t feel any lack of love from our mom. We both thought and still think that she's the best mom in the world.
There is also tremendous pressure on stay-at-home moms and work-from-home moms to “nurture” and cook well for their families since so many of them are criticized for not having a “real” job (another nonsense, outdated, patriarchal notion).
So many women get stressed out trying to cook and try out new recipes so that they won't be seen as lazy or inadequate. If a mom does love to cook and bake, again, that's amazing. However, the pressure for ALL women, especially mothers, to cook, can take a mental toll and create stress in the family.
There are so many great and healthy prepared choices from the grocery stores now that parents can feed their whole family with, that would leave more room for quality time with their kids instead of slaving away at the kitchen.
So please, lay off mothers who don’t cook or bake. As long as their children are fed and loved, that’s nourishing enough.
Hiromi Okuyama is a mother of a 15 year old and a 5 year old who has severe food allergies. She's an Alumni of York University and majored in Sociology. She is a Karate Instructor, actor and writer for Tips from the Disney Diva. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram @hiromiacts.