As a mother, my guilt knows no bounds. I feel guilty – in no particular order – about missed sports carnivals, forgotten free-dress days, neglected swimming lessons, and for checking Facebook while I push the kids on the swings. I feel guilty about not toilet training Alice yet, about letting Frankie poo in a nappy, and for still tying Ben’s shoelaces. I feel guilty for hating Play-Doh and despising Lego and refusing, point blank, to do any craft-based activities on the kitchen table (it’s the GLITTER, friends, I hate the fucking GLITTER).
Most of my mother guilt, however, revolves around food. I feel really, really guilty about what the kids eat. That’s not to say I feed them Turkey Twizzlers and Fanta – I’m not a fucking animal – I just don’t invest as much time and effort into their mealtimes as the holy mothers of Instagram. OH, I was all good intentions, once upon a time. There was no soft cheese for me while pregnant, and I ate ALL the broccoli, ‘cos what you eat while you’re pregnant affects what the kids will eat when they’re born, right? Bollocks does it.
And then, when the babies were born – all three of them – I diced and steamed and pureed like a boss. Weaned them at six months, started with veggies (‘cos if you start with veggies, they won’t get a sweet tooth, right? Wrong), and didn’t introduce sugar until long into their first year. Not one of my babies – and I say this virtuously, while asking you to punch me in the face – has seen (or indeed eaten) jarred baby food or formula milk.
Has it made any difference? Has it bollocks. My children are rotten eaters. Well, not so much Alice (she ate her own poo, until very recently), but the boys, certainly. Ben was TERRIBLE. Once we got the vegetable purees successfully out of the way, he made the executive decision to subsist solely on soft, beige food. No colours, no lumps. Chips and cheese and white bread and porridge and bananas and – just to mix things up a bit – hummus. That was FUN. Admittedly, he’s better now, but that’s just ‘cos he’s a greedy fecker, and likes eating.
Frankie, oh Frankie. He was AMAZING as a little person. Can you imagine my smug round head as he sat in his highchair munching on green beans and quinoa? Smoked salmon and asparagus? My kid was a superfood superhuman until he hit about 18 months old, and then it turned to shit, and he’d only eat crisps and cashews. For real. All he wants for tea, every night, is sausages. Just sausages. Or sometimes spaghetti. Just spaghetti. If I add sauce he makes me wash it off.
Which is why I’ve given up. Not willingly, and not guiltlessly, but yeah, I’ve given up. Ben’s lunchboxes are a pre-packaged anti-instagram nightmare. Not for him bento boxes packed neatly with home-dried fruit, finely chopped carrot sticks and home-baked cheese scrolls. He gets a ham sandwich (white bread) and whatever Uncle Toby’s got on special at Woolworths that week. Before you get all heavy on my ass, I’ll put him a bit of homemade cake in, if I’ve baked, and chopped fruit for crunch ‘n’ sip. He totally covers the food groups.
As for evening meals, it’s over. You gotta pick your fights, friends, and my days of preparing home-cooked meals for those ungrateful bitches are long gone. Before I had kids, I dreamt of jovial evening meals around the kitchen table, passing the salt and laughing about the day’s events. Instead I get three naked kids sitting on the table, throwing their carrots at my head and dangling their testicles in my moussaka. I’m out.
These days, Paul and I have a proper tea once the kids are in bed. I’ll cook for him, ‘cos he’s grateful and doesn’t dangle his balls in it. The kids have what they can catch. Sometimes spaghetti, sometimes sausages, sometimes porridge (piled with berries, weirdly). Most of the time it’s a selection plate of ham and strawberries and crackers and definitely NOT cheese, because Frankie says cheese tastes of floor. And I’m gonna say the next bit very, very quietly, in case the gods of domesticity hear and strike me down dead: they eat their tea in front of the telly. There, I’ve said it. Do with that information what you will.
I feel guilty about this, but then I remind myself that they don’t have rickets, their teeth are their own, and they have an encyclopaedic knowledge of dinosaurs, thanks to Andy and his wild adventures. They’re also way happy, which means I’m happy, which means WINNING.