I used to love to cook. My friends and I would find a challenging, new recipe and get together to make it. I was excited to hone my craft so that someday I could cook delicious meals for my husband, who would of course appreciate every ounce of effort that went into the masterpiece. I was excited to marry someone who loved to cook as much as I did. I dreamed of working together in the kitchen as part of our date nights. Life isn’t always how you planned.
My husband, Nate, does love to eat! You would think that this would set me up for success! Unfortunately, he doesn’t love to cook. I am the keeper of the kitchen in our house. And this responsibility came with some unexpected stress. I once saw cooking as a fun recreation, but now it often feels like a chore.
You see, it definitely took some getting used to the quantity that a 20 something male consumes and it doesn’t help that Nate is a bit of a picky eater. I would happily eat oatmeal for breakfast and a salad for lunch every day, but Nate prefers variety. To save money, we always packed our lunches to eat at work. This was easy before….I just made a huge salad on Sunday night and ate off it all week. An apple, maybe some nuts, and I was good to go. Not so much for Nate. He doesn’t eat any of the things on my typical lunch menu. Also, one of his texture issues is with soggy bread, so sandwiches were off the table. (Apparently condiments, an essential part of a sandwich, make bread soggy). This meant I was sending him to work with a serving of leftovers from dinner the night before. This means we didn’t eat leftovers for dinner, which means I was cooking a full meal every night. It was quite the adjustment. Coming up with what to cook was wearing on me, much less making it! It was, and still is, exhausting.
On top of the quantity challenges, I was confronted with new issues upon having children. We found out that our kids have trouble digesting certain foods, so my diet is extremely limited when I’m nursing. This means more new recipes while babies want to be held and need me right now, even if something needs to be taken out of the oven or stirred or chopped, or, more often, all of it at the same time.
Cooking for my husband and children definitely wasn’t what I dreamed it would be. But it’s an area of my life where I get to specifically choose to love them. I get to put the wants and needs of family ahead of my own desires. I know that doesn’t sound like fun, but I’ve learned that love isn’t about sacrificing until I’m no longer comfortable. It means stepping beyond the limits I want to set and choosing to enter the realm of discomfort. It’s okay. It makes me a better person. It keeps me focused on what’s important. Watching my toddler has taught me that life is about slowly learning that I’m not the center of the universe. WHAT?! Most of the time, now, it’s just autopilot. It’s just what I do. But there are days when I have to make a conscious decision to, “just do it,” as my mom would say. I love them. I want what’s best for them. That just means that I have to sacrifice more than I would like to for it to happen. That’s okay…it’s a simple way to practice love.
So when I hear the dreaded, “What’s for dinner?” I try not to cringe on the outside. I try to smile and respond with something other than, “Why don’t you figure it out tonight,” even if that’s what I want to scream. It’s ironic because that’s the first thing I would ask my mom when I saw her after school. I just really liked eating and wanted to know what I was looking forward to. But on this side of the question, it’s a stressful reminder that the marathon of my day is not yet complete. In fact, we aren’t even close.
My husband has learned how important gratitude is to me, and he now does an excellent job of acknowledging my efforts and is teaching our children to do the same, which gives me a little boost on the rougher days. Someday I hope I will get to the point where I don’t need that appreciation to keep going. In the meantime, I get to learn to love better and my children get to learn the importance of gratitude, even for the little things.