Beans on toast

I have a confession: I absolutely loathe cooking.

I love to eat – I really, really love to eat. But at the moment, my love of eating is falling second to my hatred of getting food onto my plate.

Before I had kids, this laziness was disguised by a job that kept me in the office for long hours, enabling me to justify the purchase of breakfast, lunch and often dinner five days a week, and a husband who loves to cook, enthusiastically picking up the baton at the weekends without even realising he was doing me a favour.

Now I’m at home and there’s nowhere to hide. And I am primarily responsible for ensuring the nourishment of my children (though fortunately my daughter still finds much of her sustenance from my boob). I do an ok job of making sure my son is offered a balance and range of mostly-healthy foods and he eats pretty well. Don’t get me wrong, he is apt to eat only watermelon for supper one day and declare the same watermelon “yucky” the next: he is a toddler. But generally, he eats vegetables, fruit, nuts, some white fish, meat in the form of “Daddy’s Special Bolognese” (a marketing triumph, if I do say so myself) and carbs as long as they are pasta, bread, cereal or, um, pizza. (He’s allergic to dairy, soya, eggs and peanuts so they aren’t on the menu.)

But I don’t think he is presented with a healthy picture of adult eating habits, when he spends his day with me. Often I skip lunch, or just eat his leftover veg and humous, supplemented with a million sugary snacks and cups of tea to keep me going. (My sugary snacks are generally fancy organic chocolate because I can’t eat dairy but I know I also kid myself that it would be worse, somehow, to be eating a Mars bar every day and so give myself some sort of relative kudos for my sugary snacks not being as “bad” as they could be. What a snob.) He seldom sees me eat supper: officially, because he eats at 4.30pm and it’s too early for me, unofficially because god knows what I’m going to cook and it might well be beans on toast or something from Deliveroo and it certainly isn’t going to be the same as him in the model of family eating that I actually would like him to see and absorb.

I posted recently about breastfeeding both of my children and how it suits us all at the moment. I didn’t confess a benefit of breastfeeding that I find a bit shameful and hard to admit, namely that one of the reasons I love it is that it makes me feel like I am useful. Because at times I feel like I’m pretty terrible at everything else. And nothing makes me feel more like a shit mum than my hatred of cooking. [Edited to add: I wondered about taking this paragraph out, as I think I must have been feeling a bit blue when I wrote it and, actually, I think I am a pretty good mum, most of the time. Ok, there are some definite areas for improvement. Cooking is one. Using my phone too much is another. Muttering swearwords under my breath is a third. I mean, my swearing is top notch, but my muttering needs work. I know this because my son spent the other evening before bed running madly around his bedroom, completely naked and transferring bright yellow nappy cream onto the carpet and the chair, shouting “FUCK’S SAKE! FUCK’S SAKE!” at the top of his voice. Oops. Anyway, I’ve kept this paragraph in, because I am trying to write honestly about motherhood and I don’t think I’d be doing that if I edited out all the miserable bits on a sunny day when I find myself alone in a cafe without kids, feeling fairly cheerful!]

Every now and then my guilt around the issue galvanises me into action. I read some cookbooks and blogs, I make a meal plan, I do a big online grocery shop… and sometimes I even stick with it for a week or two. But I never seem to manage to keep it up.

People often suggest easy meals that I could prepare quickly, and I appreciate the help, I do, but I’m not sure I have ever really successfully conveyed the extreme lethargy that consumes me when I stand in front of the fridge and think about having to prepare anything. I detest chopping onions, unwrapping raw meat, draining pasta, washing a lettuce, picking some fucking coriander… I hate it all. It is a visceral loathing that completely drains me of energy and initiative. And sometimes I can overcome it, my conscience stepping in and refusing to allow fresh fish to be wasted or an unexpected visitor to be fed takeaway, but it is exhausting to fight in this way and I don’t have the capacity to do it every night.

Can anyone relate to this? I feel quite ashamed to write it but I also really want to be a better example for my family and I’m not sure where to start, again. I don’t feel like guilt is the right motivation for radical change but that, to be honest, is my prevailing emotion when I think about food and cooking. Help! Is there a way to frame this more positively?

What do you mean, none of these are appropriate first foods? 

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Post-natal baldie heid

My hair is falling out. Again. Right on cue: it started four and a half months post-natally, just as with my son.

The first clue: my ankles swimming in water during the shower. Turns out my twice-monthly rummage in the drain was no longer sufficient to stop the repulsive build-up. Bleurgh.

The second: an increasing sense of parental negligence as I untangle yet another rogue hair from the tiny grasp of my baby and wonder if I will ultimately be responsible for the loss of a digit due to prolonged lack of circulation.

The third (and a bit more obvious): clumps of hair coming out in my hands when I wash. (What do you do when you have hairy hands mid-wash? I always stick the hairs on the shower wall and then scoop them all up at the end and put them in the bin. Except when I forget. When I first went on holiday with my now-husband, then-boyfriend, we stayed in a shitty room on an island in Thailand, where the shower was about a metre from the bed. I caught him one day, looking perplexed and disgusted in equal measure as he watched me washing my hair. It was not the look of love/lust I was hoping the holiday would elicit. After the shower, he asked somewhat tentatively, “why do you pull out your hair and stick it to the wall?” Ha. He was so fucking relieved when I told him the hair had fallen out and I wasn’t some sort of budding Emin, using my own bodily products to daub offensive art on the walls of hotel rooms.)

The fourth (and ultimate insult): my Dracula-style recession. Ugh. This bit is the worst. My fringe hides it a bit from the front so I can delude myself that I look ok but every now and then I catch sight of my profile in a mirror or shop window and realise I have an expanse of forehead between my increasingly-sparse fringe and the rest of my hair. I’m not even sure it’s strictly forehead if it is that close to your ears. Sidehead? Anyway, I am not confident enough for this shit. My hair is usually the one thing I can console myself with when I look in the mirror. But not now. It looks and feels awful.

Still to come: flaky scalp. FFS. I actually had to ask my best friend the other day if she could please be on the look out for dandruff in case I should be too tired/in denial to spot it. Last time it was horrendous (but I was able to mask it mostly by wearing grey knitwear and being perpetually covered in baby vomit). I bought a Philip Kingsley scalp tonic that helped a bit (maybe) so I have that waiting just in case the same thing happens again.

As well as looking totally shit, my post-natal hair feels crap too. The products that I usually use seem too thick and heavy; my hair is lank and dull. I had been using a free sample of an Oribe styling cream that made even my brittle mop feel like spun silk, so I investigated, only to find it costs FORTY FIVE ENGLISH POUNDS. Man alive. To make matters worse, it’s so good that it’s got me wondering if maybe the accompanying shampoo and conditioner would CURE my sad hair. Just what I need: the world’s most preposterously expensive hair regime.

I am going to take some vitamins too. I eat a fairly restricted diet because of my kids’ allergies (another story) and I’ve been promising myself and my husband I’ll take some supplements for a while. I’ve ordered Biocare’s Femforte capsules and a Vitamin D spray from Victoria Health (along with a few things to try from The Ordinary 🙊). Perhaps I should also try some fish oils or something.

Help me, internet friends. Is there anything else I can try? Could you perhaps shame me like Cersai walking the streets naked in Game of Thrones if I am disgusting enough to spend that much on hair products? We wouldn’t even need to hack much of my hair off for an authentic GoT walk of atonement.

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Count Draculabbott