This Christmas, I Refuse to Do All the Cooking

Tonilyn Hornung
Photo credit: Getty Images

From Delish

“Mum, can I please have some milk?” my 6-year-old calls out over the Christmas music. Standing in the kitchen, my hands are sticky with the remains of a tomato. I tried doing my best to slice it into tiny cubes for our salad, but my pieces look like big, squashed globs. The dogs have already gathered to taste the spoils of my failure. I look around to ask my husband for help with the heavy milk jug, but he’s nowhere to be found. I’m the only one in the kitchen — again.

As I manage the milk, I catch a glimpse of my kid from my usual spot at the counter. He’s using his tow truck to transport his princess doll to our Christmas tree. My heart fills and my eyes well up with delight as I watch him follow his imagination. Then I realise the tears aren’t for him, but for me. I’ve always encouraged my kid to live in a world free of stereotypes, but in this moment I’ve become one — the “good wife and mother” stuck doing all the cooking.

Our kitchen is probably big enough for all three of us, but when it’s time to cook, my husband and son are off playing games like hide-and-seek while I’m hiding in plain sight behind our stove. Their laughter drifts down the hallway, and my stomach feels empty — partially from hunger, but mostly because their togetherness feeds my isolation. I can hear them telling goofy inside jokes and I feel like a total outsider. I’m missing out.

I wish I’d stopped this pattern the moment it started. When my husband and I were first married, we talked about divvying up our chores equally and even laughed at the fact that neither of us could find the secret ingredient that made us love cooking. We both enjoyed eating, so we decided that the best way to keep our partnership flowing fairly was to take turns in the kitchen. Then I got hungry. My turn came more often, and my habit of cooking began.

Now that the Christmas festivities are in full swing, a need to change this recipe is boiling hotter within me. As my son’s awareness has grown, I’ve noticed him watching every role his father and I inhabit. And just like I tell my kid, “All toys are for everyone,” I hold the same attitude regarding household chores. I want to show my son a new vision of our family life — one where everyone takes part in all domestic tasks, including cooking.

Truly though, the reason I haven’t yet hid all of our cooking utensils and blamed their disappearance on our dogs is because there’s one traditional element of the period I do adore: the togetherness. I’ve witnessed first-hand how a Christmas meal can connect a family, and I’m not sure it’s fair to deny my little guy that experience.

I have the clearest memories of dinners with my family when I was my son’s age. My grandmother cooked, baked, and boiled every mouthful of the food we ate. She started in the early morning and barely finished by the time my parents, sister, and I arrived in the afternoon. Every year, she apologised for the state of her mashed potatoes and the wetness of her meringue — both of which were perfect. The food was remarkable, but even more than that, I remember eating up the conversations. The food brought us to the table and our connection kept us there.

After every dinner, my stomach was full with a home-cooked meal and I was full of love. These days, that table and some of the people surrounding it are gone, but my recollections of those dinners are still alive with me. I’d love to give my son memories like those to keep — until I realise I'll be the one in the kitchen cooking, away from the lively conversation.

I love my kid. I want him to feel that same sense of connection as he grows up. I don’t want to deprive him of the possibility of some his favourite Christmas memories along with his favourite dessert — but I won’t be cooking it for him. This Christmas, I’d like to see if our kitchen is really big enough to fit my whole family. I’m finished being a lonely stereotype working away over a hot stove. My husband, son, and I are going to have a conversation, and if we all decide a traditional Christmas meal is of value, then we can prepare it together.

I’m hopeful my kid and husband will be excited about the possibly of creating some fun togetherness there. I’d love to bake some memories into my little guy’s heart that show him he’s never restricted to a specific role in our house — or in life. Just like he shows me he’s not limited in his playtime imagination, I want to show him his parents aren’t limited in the roles they take on, either.

It’s important for me to let my son know that he can choose his own path, too: If he should look down one day and find he’s in a position he feels confining, I want him to know he has the power to change it. The festive period is a time for giving and this particular gift has special meaning, but truly, though, what better way to create some lasting memories then burning cookies and gingerbread houses all together?

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