Sunday, February 28, 2010

Yesterday we cooked

The idea was simple, pick a recipe, bring the ingredients and then we will all work together to cook.

It was as simple and wonderful as it sounds. My friend Deirdre arrived around half past nine with her two beautiful girls and the ingredients for a spinach and ricotta quiche. We had an easy day together cooking quiches, spaghetti bolognaise and foccacia bread.

The cooking seemed so much less stressful than when done alone. Being interrupted from the task at hand to deal with an unsettled child did not seem like any inconvenience at all. Stress or difficulty that might generally be associated with attempting to do a big job while looking after children seemed negated by the fact that it was being done with someone else. When one of us stopped to tend a child there was someone to pick up what was left off.

Working together made the task at hand just more enjoyable. I was attempting to make bread but water was breaking through the well of flour and running all over the kitchen table. I was scooping up flour and dumping it on the rogue streams making even more of a mess. My friend and brother were laughing, as the gloop on the kitchen table looked increasingly like a failed mess that would require a lot of work to clean up. It was fun rather than disheartening, and the thought of cleaning up a big mess did not seem a concern. Nothing seemed like work.

The children experienced all this in a very unforced way (Jean Liedloff1 would have been proud). The children watched sometimes, and sometimes they joined in, they rarely stayed long, and we did not force them into helping. My friend’s youngest daughter watched with interest as the herbs were put into the mortar to be crushed. I handed her the pestle and let her have a go. Her other daughter later came to help smear the herb and oil mix all over the shaped loaf of bread.

I really loved looking after our children, it was so different from what we would have done had we been at home alone. We were just as attentive to their needs as we would usually be, however things just seemed a lot easier. I also believe that the children benefited from it. When I sat on the lounge to breastfeed my daughter, I sat next to my friend’s three year old who chatted with me, comparing my baby to her own twelve month old sister. Both myself and the three year old were socialising. My own daughter seemed much more content being passed from arm to arm all day. At times when she was put down she remain settled for periods longer than usual, watching what was going on and listening to the banter.

As the mother of a twelve week old girl I loved the opportunity to watch the other children. Having not been around children for nearly twenty years, the little I did know was long forgotten. It was interesting seeing our home from the perspective of another mother (cockroach baits around the kitchen and a distinct lack of plastic cups).

We did something that I have heard a number of other people refer to as a ‘cooking swap’. I like the term and will use it along with related terms such as ‘gardening swap’ and ‘housework swap’. I want to make it clear that I believe these activities are a core part of what together parenting should be. These are shared activities that serve the purpose of creating a strong bond amongst a small group of people. keep in mind that the smaller the group the faster a strong network will be formed. Together parenting is about more than the occasional cooking swap it is about bringing women out of systematic isolation. Getting parents together on a regular basis is a very important part of making parenting less isolating.

Having said all that, I am looking forward to doing this again next week, it has been such a wonderful social opportunity. I find myself wanting to invite far more people than will fit in kitchen.

1Liedloff, J. (1989). The Continuum Concept. Penguin books

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