Why Mothers Cook

Before I got married, I only know how to make a couple of egg dishes, stir fry vegetables and tasteless, bland soup.

I love food but I don’t really like making it. You take forever to shop for ingredients, then another forever to prepare the ingredients. Sometimes the recipe works, sometimes it doesn’t. Everyone is a critic and the wash up afterwards is just so darn tiring. Can you blame me for preferring takeout?

Six months ago, my significant other got me a pressure cooker. The purchase opened up half a world of possibilities for me. I have the tool, but I still need the skills (pretty much how to properly use the darn thing). So I joined a Facebook Group there. That’s where I found a full world of possibilities waiting for me.

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HDIM Makes Char Siu

Since Sliced Bread

It’s the best invention ever. The pressure cooker. Throw all your ingredients in and push a few buttons, and let it cut down the cooking time to about a third of the usual time. There is minimal clean up afterwards, results are almost always the same, flavourful, calming and fulfilling – pretty much the last three adjectives I would use to describe my cooking.

But everyone is happy with what I make. And that makes me happy.

I’ve even started baking. If you told me exactly a year ago that I would be making Japanese cheesecakes (yeah, the jiggly type) like a pro (ok, semi-pro), I’d call you crazy, and perhaps a few other names just to drive the point home.

marble-cheesecakes
HDIM Bakes Marble Cheesecake
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HDIM Bakes Marble Cheesecake

My mother and late grandmothers don’t bake. It’s just not something people in my bloodline do. We buy cakes. We don’t make them. And yet, here I am making jiggly cheesecakes and chocolate cheesecakes with baking paper and a baking tin.

cheesecake-in-pressure-cooker
HDIM Bakes Cheesecakes in the Pressure Cooker

Other times, I bake chicken instead. A good friend of mine told me that I would love baking. And she was right. Baked chicken is a different kind of goodness, and should be savoured by all.

yummy-baked-chicken-drumstick-recipe
HDIM Bakes Chicken Drumsticks

Apart from baking, I also use my pressure cooker to make delicious, nutritious soups, curries and even steamed seafood. And I don’t have to stand over the hot stove for hours to get them done. I just throw them in, and an hour later, take them all out and prep for dinner.

what-an-asian-Chinese-dinner-looks-like
HDIM Pressure Cooked Dinners
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HDIM Pressure Cooked Dinners

I’ve always known the feeling of coming home to a hot dinner. It is one of the ways I know I am loved – be it by my mom or my mom-in-law. And now I pour all of that effort back into the food I make for my kids, my significant other, my extended family and my guests.

My biggest fan is my daughter, who takes two bowls of rice whenever I cook. She spoils me with praises (which I ignore) and almost always takes a second helping of rice and the soups I make (which I appreciate).

I get it now. I get why moms cook. And I get why moms get upset when you don’t come home for dinner when you said you would. But I digress.

By controlling what I make for her (no fried foods, not too oily, minimising artificial seasoning, opting for healthier alternatives), I don’t have to worry whether she is eating right or if she lacks certain nutrients. I’ve got the minimum covered.

I let her indulge in junk food if her father is the one who bought it for her. She knows to not take soft drinks after any school or sports activities that make her sweat (only water) and when it comes to ice cream, it’s a weekly family activity. Children need childhood memories, after all.

So yeah, get a pressure cooker if you haven’t got one. It will change your life in the kitchen and at home.

Personal thoughts: I need to take better-looking photographs.

Stay At Home Mom (SAHM): Is it for me?

Many women work nowadays, especially those who build their lives and families in urban areas. Ultimately, when they become mothers, this question will pop up: Should I become a Stay At Home Mom (SAHM)?

If you are a working mother wondering if you can and/or should make the transition to Stay At Home Mom (SAHM), here’s the gist of what to expect.

It’s Not Going To Be Smooth Sailing

To start off, one major disadvantage of being a SAHM with no help from family (a sister, a mother, an in-law living) nearby is that you don’t get days off or sick leave.

You are also expected to accommodate your spouse who is always tired whilst you are never allowed to be.

Why are you tired? You’re always at home!” is going to be something you may hear a lot, as if you automatically recharge once you step through the house door. Don’t let that bug you.

You’re expected to keep the house clean, keep your body slim, tend to the children’s every need then your spouse’s every need.

You’re going to be up at an ungodly hour, prepping kids then meals, doing the laundry then the dishes, run to the market, post office, school, bank, government offices etc because your significant other can’t take time off from work to do these runs and get back in time for their next meeting.

At the end of the day, you will be expected to wear a smile on your face.

It’s All About The Money

The amount of things to do every day will seem endless, and for many SAHM they opt to get outside help for instance they take away food instead of cooking, and opt for school buses instead of doing school runs themselves.

If you want to get outside help, you can, if your spouse earns enough. (We’ll talk about money later on. It needs its own section.)

You want to go for a facial, do your hair, get a mani/pedicure etc, sure, no problem, but this is a conversation between you and your spouse.

Different households have different financial situations which can lead to different conversations.

But all of us will have to be really good with money, and figure out how to manage that finite amount we have to work with every month.

If there comes a time when you don’t have enough to work with, you have to (or learn to) tell the breadwinner. Remember that it’s not your fault if people decide to hike prices, so don’t apologise for asking for a higher allowance/funds.

Splitting responsibilities

As a Stay at Home Parent, you run a household so all you need to do is worry about the household; income is not under your department.

I say this because it’s likely that you are not getting help around the house from your spouse if s/he is working and you are not. Because that’s not their department.

It’s some weird unspoken deal that was made when one of you stops working. I believe this is one of the many issues that will plague households that make that transition from two working parents to one working parent.

Some couples hash it out, while others go into multiple weekly fights fighting about whose turn it is to do the dishes and take out the trash. It helps to remember that everyone is entitled to a break (even though they are always at home).

Many Things Won’t Go In Your Favour

There will be other things that will leave you feeling second-rate. What actually transpires may be different from one house to the next, but here are just a few examples of what to look out for:

  • Often, you may be made to feel like you are second-class; phone calls from work will always take precedence before you, and your family time. You will have to be both parents to your children.
  • You could have completed nine things in the span of an hour, but people will focus on that one thing you have not done just yet. “Why is the laundry/dishes/dinner still not done? They will interrogate you but they will probably not lift a finger to help. At times like this, ask for help rather than asking them why they are not helping. In other words, say “Can you help me pick up the kids from piano class?” rather than “Would it kill you to pick up Sam from piano class on your way home for lunch?
  • When your spouse breaks promises to your children, you have to also be the one who will have to defend them, even though you yourself are upset with them.
  • On top of that, the children’s problems are always your fault. Bad grades? Your fault for not sending them to enrichment classes. Too skinny? Your fault for not being a better cook. Fell down scrape their knee in school? It’s your fault for not getting them involved more in sports. Got bullied? Your fault for not teaching them to stick up for themselves. Teacher complain about them? Your fault for not making them perfect little angels. They taking junk food, soft drinks, fast food? Your fault for opting for the drive-thru instead of hunting for healthier albeit slower, more expensive and more cumbersome alternatives.

So… Are You Saying “Don’t” Be A SAHM?

By now, you may be thinking, “you know what? Being a SAHM doesn’t sound like all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe a SAHM isn’t for me after all seeing as how it looks like an incredibly bad deal on the part of the mom’s.”

Well, it depends on the type of partner you have and whether you have a healthy mindset that will allow you to attach significance to your role as a SAHM.

Having a supportive partner goes a long way. A supportive partner will not only help out with the kids and in the house, he will also acknowledge your contributions in keeping expenses low in the house and putting nutritious food on the table, and he will speak on your behalf when people say silly things like, “why stay at home all day? Come out to work and contribute to society.”

On that last note, I’ve just recently learned that you have to treat being a SAHM as an actual job.

You have to list your achievements, your capabilities and your disadvantages and not let people put you or your role down. Like it or not, your children are a product of your upbringing and the environment you put them in – and thus, your source of pride.

When your children behave in public, are healthy, well-fed, know how to handle themselves and their siblings well, are opinionated, are fun to be with, are helpful, respectful to elders etc – that means you excel in your role as a SAHM.

And I promise you, being told that “you are a good mom” will make all the behind-the-scenes worth it.

Personal thoughts: I should write about the way you never notice SAHM contribute to society.

How In-Laws Make You A Better Person

You may have swapped rings and vows, build a family or a business together, and have gone through some of the highs and lows in your life with your significant other. But there will always be an thorn in the rose bush that comes in the form of their family members.

That’s right.

In-laws. The makers or breakers of relationships. Most notably the mother-in-law (or more affectionately known in Messaging circles as “mil”).

I have a wonderful mother-in-law. She’s stubborn but hardworking, naive but firm, worries a lot because she cares and most importantly, she is fun to be around. Together with her loving husband of five decades, give or take, they are the perfect in-laws to have.

Of course there are problems, not necessarily limited to these two nice folks. The Chinese has a saying 一种米养百种人 (One type of rice feeds 100 types of people). We may all eat the same food but our behaviour, mannerism, preferences, dislikes, values, sense of ethics, qualms and ideologies amongst others may differ greatly.

The upbringing we share at that home may be different from the upbringing values of this home.

Some households push toothpaste from the middle of the tube, some at the end. Some households eat dinner in front of the TV, others in collective silence, still others in the midst of “what happened in school today” conversations.

Once you marry into a family, you have to make adjustments. And this happens both ways – your spouse has in-laws too.

Having to adjust how you were brought up, merge it with or totally adopt a new way of life is tough.

Traditionally, this falls on the daughter-in-law since she marries into her husband’s family. But nowadays, the son-in-law can also have a healthy relationship with his wife’s family.

They also make adjustments to their way of life, sometimes, if I may be so honest, with a high level of tolerance. Because where there is no love to be had, tolerance is the next best thing.

I think this is why the Chinese, or Asians in general, have always made it important to marry and have children. Because in learning how to love and or tolerate our in-laws, we learn how to become better people.

We learn that things don’t always have to be the way we want it to be, and if you insist on this being your way of life (e.g. forcing your daughter-in-law to do something she is not used to doing), something will break.

We learn about boundaries: when to say what needed to be said and when to keep quiet and sit in the corner.

We learn that there are a million ways to do the same thing. Some methods may work better than the method we were brought up with. It helps to keep an open mind.

We learn about strange, weird, sometimes alien behaviour such as how a family copes with bad news.

We learn about the different ways family treat traditions, customs, food, children, even time (how fine is the line between punctual and late?).

We learn how to fight with people who know where we live, people who go to the same gatherings as we do, people who our children may absolutely adore and love to spend time with. It’s a weird dynamic, but one we have to learn how to master, one way or another.

And most importantly, we learn that “outsiders” can care about us just as much as our flesh and blood family can.

Personal thoughts: This post went in a very different way than I initially set out to write.