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Chicken and stars soup in white bowl.

I was recently tagged in an IG story from someone who then told me that she felt “like a good mom” for making my recipes. It came at the end of a week when I was very sick and hadn’t cooked anything in days—other than a quick batch of Chicken and Stars Soup for myself. And with three kids in the house to feed now, I find myself still rather low on cooking energy.

My “meal prep” this week consisted of picking up groceries. Last night we had sandwiches for dinner. (A hit, except for the one child who adamantly did not want a sandwich for dinner!) We’ve been having yogurt and purchased granola with fruit for breakfasts so far this week.

As a recipe developer, I want to help others feel confident in their ability to cook easy recipes, with ingredients you probably have on hand, and that the kids might just eat. I want you to feel confident and capable and like you can do it! But I wish there was a way to take this “good mom” part out of it because it seems like it’s a way that we might be setting ourselves up to fail.

Because I always think about the opposite when someone makes a statement like this—what, then, would make one a “bad mom” in this context? (I’m not going to spell that out since it makes me just too sad that we do this to ourselves.)

Some weeks we will naturally cook more than others.

Other weeks we may rely more on shortcuts.

Or this may come and go in phases of our lives, that we can only see in retrospect.

One option is not better than the other and none of these options means anyone is doing something wrong.

It took me a while to realize this, and I definitely equated my “good mom” status with how much food I made from scratch when my kids were younger. (Which was basically all of the food.) I wonder now, truly, if I would have been able to enjoy the kids a little more, to rest on the weekends for a sliver here and there, to have had hobbies outside of my house if I’d given myself permission to not do everything, all the time, in the kitchen.

That’s clearly unknowable, and my reality is murkier since cooking is also my job. But I do know that now, in this phase I’m in, it’s better for me to simply accept my cooking energy during any given week—rather than constantly push myself to do more and more and more. And so quite literally, no two weeks looks the same in my kitchen because I am able to adjust now as I need to and accept the rest of our context. Which is to say: I don’t question whether I’m achieving “good mom” status anymore, I simply know that the best way for me to enjoy my kids—and for them to enjoy me—is to make it to the table in as good of a mood as possible. Which looks a lot of different ways and often includes many shortcuts.

I guess I just wanted to say that I know it can feel like we have to constantly run through a checklist of what we have to do in the kitchen in order to have certain types of kids who eat certain types of foods. But feeding our families is PLENTY hard enough without also constantly judging ourselves. And while I know it can be a hard habit to break, I can say that there’s real freedom in letting some of it go.

(Things were fairly chaotic at our table when we sat down to eat those sandwiches so I made up a game I called “7 Random Questions” and the kids were delighted! I started with one kid and did rapid fire random questions about her day: “What color was your lunch tray?” “What was the first song you heard at school?” Who did you sit next to at lunch?” They were specific enough to get them to share nuggets of their day and random enough to keep their attention!

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