In the world I live in, how much a woman cooks, how beautifully she presents and how good the food tastes, correlates directly to how much she loves her family. Or at least, that’s how it feels. In the Syrian Jewish community, there is a word, shatra, which means to serve abundantly, willingly and beautifully. Traditionally, this has been the highest compliment you could give a Syrian woman. And throughout my adult life, I have valued it too.
My children are use to Shabbat dinners where there are over a dozen food choices on the table.
During the week, there is fresh salmon, curried cauliflower, lentil soup.
We have spinach salad and roasted sweet potatoes.
I make homemade pesto and homemade salad dressings too.
And I’ve been doing this, happily, for years.
So the other day, when I announced, I don’t want to do this anymore, my children had a strong reaction.
Let me correct the above statement. It’s not that I don’t want to cook at all; but I want to change the way I’ve been doing it.
I want my kids to pitch in.
I want to do it less often.
I’m looking for a healthy balance.
I know that cooking and putting food on the table, brings my family together; and that I don’t want to give up.
Plus, I genuinely like to cook.
However, I’m trying to carve out time to write, and since I schedule my own hours, it is too easy for me to get distracted, and to end up experimenting with grilled red cabbage and cilantro pesto instead.
Actually, the bar has been raised in the Syrian community over the last decade, (See: Running on Veggies) and the expectation is a new kind of extravagance, which includes black rice, red quinoa, and knowing how to make cauliflower 18 different ways: cauliflower crust pizza, cauliflower mash potatoes and cauliflower steak.
So I’m just trying to:
Making changes in a family isn’t easy. And as I pull away (not just from my kitchen but from household chores as well) in an attempt to shift the status quo, there are consequences. As I let go,
Things don't always go smoothly.
I am very grateful to be able to have household help but without supervision, things don’t always get taken care of as one might wish. (See: When To Clean House.)
For example, we have a “Bathroom Photo Series” developing.
Due to an inexperienced day worker, we have found my daughter’s ski jacket in a basket with the bath towels.
And her winter scarf on a bathroom hook with a shower cap.
And the fun doesn’t end there. After looking all over the house for my cell phone charger, you can imagine my surprise when I found it in a kitchen drawer (a messy kitchen drawer) amongst the can openers, potato mashers and carrot peelers.
There is a saying: A woman’s work is never done.
And when this phrase was introduced, it referred to the idea that men work from morning until night, but women work around the clock; and while this may have been true, what also seems to be true is that women’s work is never done as in literally. Never! As in — for the rest of her life.
It's not easy to let go of family and community expectations, and for the most part, I'm okay with my role as wife and mother and homemaker.
But if I want to build a career for myself, a value of my own, those days of around the clock care and attention must come to an end, or at least change. My kids are grown and can take care of themselves. I have a housekeeper who can help take care of the rest.
I just have to LET GO and ACCEPT.