On the pains of making food for children

by Veronica on February 3, 2015

in Headfuck

One of the hardest things about being a mother, I think, is feeding children. Other mothers may disagree with me – but clearly you’re the lucky ones. Your children eat everything you put in front of them, or you love preparing fifteen different meals a day. Either way, take your smug away from me you lucky bastard.

I hate feeding my children because they always want exactly what I’m having. Only, not exactly what I’m having. They’d like ham instead of chicken, and cheese instead of mustard and tomato instead of lettuce and hey, maybe they’d like it in a bowl, not in a sandwich, and could I possibly cook some pasta to go with it?

Right up until there are so many tweaks to what I’m having that I end up making three different meals using all the plates and utensils available.

And I’m happy to tweak things, up to a point. But when it gets ridiculous (oh, you’re making a tuna salad in a bowl? Can I have that, but only ham, and no lettuce, and the other cheese, no not that one, the other one, and can you grate me a carrot as well and do we have any tomatoes or cucumber and why can’t I have …)



No you may not. I can make a large version of this thing I am eating, or you can all make your own and god help you, please put everything away when you’re done.

It’s killing me, to the point that yesterday, I realised at 3pm I hadn’t actually eaten anything because I was avoiding having to play the substitutions game with the children.

Sure, they’d all fed themselves (and I fed Evelyn, god, I’m not neglectful), but they’d had things like weetbix and cheese slices and apples and carrots and some more cereal and a sweet biscuit and another piece of fruit.

But I hadn’t eaten anything because preparing food for myself just seems to invite a nightmare.

I find myself dreading mealtimes, dreading cooking, dreading the inevitable cries of “we’re hungry, what can we eat?” because I just don’t enjoy feeding anyone anymore. Everyone has an opinion they’re more than happy to shout at me.

Maybe, it would all be easier if I was a bit less busy, and a bit less tired, but seriously. The fussiness is killing me.

And no, I don’t want your solutions. I don’t need to know how to hide vegies in muffins or spaghetti sauce, because no one is eating muffins with things in it, or spaghetti sauce anyway. And no, I don’t want to hear about your miracle child who eats everything you set in front of them and maybe if I’d never even allowed sweets in the house we wouldn’t have this problem anyway.

Go bother someone else.

But if your kids are like mine, speak up? I’d just like to know I’m not alone.

Blossom February 3, 2015 at 12:23 pm



Jo February 3, 2015 at 1:08 pm

They will grow out of it. I have a niece who lived on two-minute noodles for years, she’s now an adult and will eat almost anything.

K February 3, 2015 at 2:07 pm

I have 3 kids and it’s like that in our house too. It’s exhausting 🙁

I try to be sneaky and have my lunch when they’re occupied but they always find me and start interrogating me. “Hey Mum, can we play outside with the…hey, what are you eating? Can I have some? Can you make mine with cheese instead?”

They went back to school/daycare last week and my stress levels during lunchtime have finally dropped back down to a healthy level (at least until dinner time each night, lol).

Amy R February 3, 2015 at 2:09 pm

Q ate my ice cream. It was the one thing she tends to not pay attention to. And today, cheese is for the pugs she says. My good eater has been replaced by a picky toddler who changes her tastes and mind about tastes at the drop of a hat. Beets and blueberries. Remember how those were her favorites? Yeah, she screeches if she sees them now. No more eggs, even though she used to only eat the yolk runny. No more for most everything. Yet, somehow she still continues to grow, just as yours will.

Riley won’t eat raw tomatoes, or most vegetables. He becomes fixated on one food and that’s almost exclusively all he’ll eat, until he fixates on something else. Lately it’s been pb&j. Before that, hot dogs. And before that, waffles. Notice veg isn’t in that short list? It’s because he never fixates on them.

I don’t know how to solve the short order cook problem. I wish I did. Then again, I wish I was close by to help in all ways.


Becky February 3, 2015 at 4:29 pm

I am a terrible, terrible, shitty, SHITTY mother.

I make my children three meals a day. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. I remember what they like, more or less, and I try to cook within that framework (no liver and onions, for instance.)

And here’s the kicker, which is not nice of me at all: Up until recently we didn’t have room at our table for more than three people, so I never sat down. I serve them. I serve my husband. I do not serve myself a plate.

And then when my boys get up and wander away from the table, or complain “I don’t liiiiiiiiike thiiiiiiis” I say, “I’m so sorry. That’s dinner. You can eat that, or you can eat a banana.” (They’ve eaten so many bananas they will only eat them when they’re actually hungry now – they’re no longer a treat.)

If they continue complaining, or if they get up from the table, I pick up their plate and start eating, because damnit, I’m hungry. I will give them a couple of chances to earn the meal back, but if they’re annoying too many times in a row I simply eat the whole thing in front of them, and no, they don’t get another plate of food. If they’re really that hungry, they can fill themselves up with a banana.

I don’t know if I recommend this at all. This is not a solution. In terms of effectiveness, it works. What I have now are two boys who will sit down politely to dinner, and who eat steadily like little engines, usually ask for seconds and thirds, and don’t mess around.


My mom is horrified at the fact that my boys are so thin. I think that’s why I’m sharing this – because it’s cathartic for me to admit out loud. My kids are thin, and I feel guilty. And they are – they’re both under 25% on the weight-to-height scale for their age, and when DragonMonkey got sick this last month he lost five pounds and dipped down to 6% on the scale again. I should probably try a lot harder to keep weight on them but….

I just figure if they’re actually hungry, and it’s not something disgusting, they’ll eat, you know? If they’re messing around, or whining, or complaining, then it’s not actually an issue. Starving kids wouldn’t complain, so they aren’t actually starving if there’s edible food in front of them and they’re refusing it.

Still. I’m chubby, have weight I need to lose, and I’ve got two little skinny kids, and sometimes when they are throwing chicken at each other instead of eating it, and I grab it from them and start eating it and they start crying…. I feel super, super guilty, because what the hell. Fat people shouldn’t steal skinny people’s food.

But man, when they are actually hungry (which is more often than not) they sit down with perfect table manners and eat their food politely, and try things like pesto sauce and thai food and other stuff because they really, really, really don’t want to eat bananas for dinner…that’s just fun to watch.

Also, for realsies. I *SUCK* at cooking for my kids, and I absolutely HATE doing it, and I’m so excited that they’re actually old enough to pretty much fend for themselves. I keep the super nice snacks up high – no cookies down low, no expensive gluten-free snacks down low. Everything else… if they’re hungry, they can eat it, provided they clean up after themselves. And so they do. Maybe it’s sucky of me, because they’re not actually getting the nutrients they should (although I usually offer those nutrients at mealtime, like I said), but today my three year old (FOUR TOMORROW, CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?) was hungry so he got up, crawled onto my counter, got down a bowl, got a spoon, crawled up into the pantry like a monkey, pulled down the cereal, poured it, went out to the fridge, got the milk, filled it up, put the milk away, and then sat at the table and ate his cereal.

And maybe it’s sucky that he when he was hungry and wanted a snack he ate Cap’n Crunch instead of celery sticks, or whatever, but hot damn, that was nice to watch.

Becky February 3, 2015 at 4:33 pm

PS: That sounded like a humblebrag, now that I reread my comment, but it’s totally not. You, too, can use my patented “Eat Your Children’s Dinner And Make Them Cry And Not Feed Them Anything Till The Next Meal Except Boring Snacks And Eventually They’ll Get Hungry Enough To Comply” technique. :/

Dorothy February 3, 2015 at 5:43 pm

My kids are like yours. I hate cooking. I hate the kitchen. One meal for everyone, but it’s so goddamn boring, I want to throw up. I used to enjoy cooking. Before children.

Suzie February 3, 2015 at 5:49 pm

My kids eat salad. They both love salad.

Except that one won’t eat tomato but loves cucumber. The other one won’t eat cucumber but loves avocado. The first one won’t eat tomato because it’s red but will quite happily drink from a bottle of tomato sauce??? and also? Loves red capsicum. The second one won’t eat smooshy avocado but will eat it if it’s served at exactly the right minute for optimal texture. They both freak out if their anointed vegetable choice is touching the other’s anointed choice.

We have chickens but neither of them will eat eggs. They’ll both eat bacon but fake vomit if I try and serve Ham or Pork.

They will literally have a punch up over who has the bigger broccoli piece (they both want the bigger broccoli piece) but only if Nanna cooks it, if I cook it it’s the worst poison ever. Nanna loves that.

I am confident that they are doing it all to send me mental. It’s their long term goal.

So, no smugness here. Except mine WILL eat Spaghetti Bolognaise. But no muffins.

Ness February 3, 2015 at 7:45 pm

Mine are EXACTLY the same. I lost my sh*t the other day. It went like this.


It worked for a good 24-36hrs.

Kathy February 3, 2015 at 10:06 pm

I have one child who eats everything put in front of her. Anything at all that doesn’t involve lettuce – put it in front of her and she’ll scarf it and usually say thank you too.


I also have two children who have taken the redefinition of “changeable” and “picky” when it comes to food to a fine art. Both are moving targets – they will randomly decide they haaaaaate and won’t eat a meal that they were heretofore fine with, on at least a weekly basis. Both ALWAYS demand variations on the meal as presented, and the youngest frequently refuses to eat it at all. (I average one full-blown dinner tantrum every second day from her).

There is one golden, shining exception to this – Pumpkin risotto. Everybody still loves pumpkin risotto and will eat it hungrily. There is no debate, no wailing, no raised voices, no substitution wrangling; just empty plates. So, you know, we eat a frickin metric TONNE of pumpkin risotto in my house.

This makes me sad, because I used to really like pumpkin risotto. (I don’t now. Cook and eat the same meal at least twice a week for almost 2 years and the very smell starts to curdle your stomach).

Jo February 3, 2015 at 10:08 pm

Thank god it isn’t just me. I was nearly in tears Saturday from the never ending chorus of “I want a snack!” Followed quickly by a refusal of anything I offered. My 3 year old son is the worst (I generally find age 3 THE WORST), but he used to be such an easy eater that has suddenly been replaced by a whiny, screamy, picky monster with two empty legs. He wants to eat all day but only very specific things that are usually a pain in the arse to prepare. And of course he always wants to eat what I eat too. I’ll end my rant, but basically yes to everything you said. You are not alone.

Lorraine Salvi February 4, 2015 at 7:44 am

I dislike meal times as well. I have told the children that it is not a hotel and they either eat or don’t get snacks during the day or have to go to bed at night. Yet there is still some complaining….. but I mostly don’t like meal times because it is the constant – “sit down” “eat properly” “use your fork” etc. After years I am still repeating the same things and it drives me batty!

Amie February 4, 2015 at 9:41 am

*raises hand and sighs* yep, that’s our house too, you’re not alone….

river February 4, 2015 at 1:55 pm

Would it help if you asked them each what they want to eat from the choices available, then get them finished eating before you make your own?
I’ll take my smug away now (*~*)

Mary @ Parenthood February 6, 2015 at 3:30 pm

I used to feel that pickiness was related to poor parenting and then I had a kid who haated food. She also refused to drink anything aside from the odd sip except breast milk until she was four.

Being second percentile in weight we didn’t feel we had the luxury of waiting until she got hungry (and anyway when we tried at times mom wasn’t available she went many hours without food. There was much screaming and no eating. Stubborn!)

Eventually we discovered chocolate. We bribed shamelessly despite swearing we’d never do that. She would eat tiny bites of most things to get her dessert. Planned out huge variety in meals – never the same exact meal in months (sigh) lots of different textures. Realized that she needed to try the same food at least 30x before getting to like or at least tolerate it. Realized she had some food sensory issues – only kid I know who could chew mashed potatoes for half an hour AND still choke on them to the point of nearly throwing them up. Eventually she got a little less picky. We learned strategies for helping her to swallow certain textures. Just in time to have picky kid number two. We still bribe with chocolate. But you are definitely not alone. The high point for us was going to a picky eater’s info night at our children’s hospital and finding out that while our kid was picky, she ate a higher variety of food than would qualify her as “severely picky”. By one food, but hey there was a kid there that only ate toast. Nothing else. We felt like rock stars after that 😉

Grouchiegrrl February 6, 2015 at 5:58 pm

Remember when I told you how I make yoghurt? Yeah, my kid won’t eat it. The neighbour’s kid eats it instead. So the other day we are at a friend’s place, and she has these refillable pouches with animals on it. And my darling boy eats TWO sachets of her yoghurt. And then goes generally mad for ‘squeezy yoghurt’ – demanding and eating several sachets from the shop in a sitting. So I’m like “awesome” and ordered the pouches.

While waiting for them to arrive my neighbour gave me these great clear ones so I could start. Blitz a bit of fruit, mix it in with my yoghurt, in the sachets…..

yep, he won’t eat it. Stands there saying he wants ‘the blue ones’ or ‘the cow ones’.

I mean, seriously?

So now I am waiting for the non-see-through sachets with the animals on them to arrive, and hope they will work. Oh and the neighbour’s daughter? Can’t get enough of my home made mango yoghurt squeezies!!!

Practical Parsimony February 27, 2015 at 11:42 am

My two-year-old refused to eat tomatoes. I put it on his plate, nonetheless. One day, I just gave up and did not put it on his plate. He burst into tears when I put him in his high chair. He was so upset he did not have tomato. I told him he did not like it, so I was not going to get it for him. He wailed like his heart was broken. Finally, I put tomato on his plate. He promptly ate it and never complained, eating tomato the rest of his life. He is 47 now. I learned a lesson.

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