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Mom's, Do You Feel Different, When You Are Cooking For the Kids?

This is a strange question.. I'm wondering if other mothers (Dad's too maybe) have experienced this strange feeling of happiness. Once in awhile, I have no clue what I am going to cook for the kids for dinner, and I feel pretty stressed about it, however, when I figure out what I am going to prepare, and know it's something I think they'll enjoy, or even after I see them eating something and enjoying it, I get an almost euphoric feeling. I wonder if this is something other moms experience? Is it just part of human/animal nature inbred over thousands of years to keep families going? Or is it just that I am excited to see my picky kids eating knowing they aren't starving...

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  1. It certainly is a Dad thing. You mean maybe its a Mom thing as well?

    10 Replies
    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

      Agree Sam. Certainly not just a female expereince. When I'm cooking for my kids, who are both off at college now, I get a great sense of enjoyment making something I know they like. I also get a great sense of enjoyment and satisfaction watching them enjoy it.

      I was a bad dad. I made them what they wanted, even if I had already prepared dinner for us. Some days I felt like a short order cook but even looking back at it, I wouldn't have done it if I didn't enjoy it.

      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

        I'm with Sam, my 15 month old is far from picky, he'll eat anything not fast enough to get off his plate. It does make me feel good to find something that really lights him up, Since I make all of his food except the breast milk, it's a daily adventure.

        1. re: Scrapironchef

          Um...in a way, you kinda make the milk too. ;)

          1. re: OCAnn

            Actually I'm the stay at home dad, mom handles the breastmilk production....

            1. re: Scrapironchef

              LOL! Oops...sorry, thought you were the mom! =)

        2. re: Sam Fujisaka

          I'm with Sam. Love cooking for my son. Love it more when he's cooking with me.

          1. re: Indirect Heat

            When this thread popped to the top of the list, I immediately thought of our dearly departed Sam. What a girl he was raising :

            1. re: c oliver

              OMG - What happened to Sam? I always looked forward to his posts.

                1. re: jcattles

                  Thank you for sharing that here; I wasn't aware that he passed. =(

        3. well I don't "cook for the kids" I cook for the four of us :). Every afternoon the kids (teenagers) ask "what's for dinner" and usually I get a shrug when I answer with one of my wide ranging meals. But it *is* nice when they say "Oh I really like that" (Of course I'd get a lot more of that if the answer was ever pizza or hot dogs :)). Nice when one of my "odd recipes" ends up as a favorite.

          7 Replies
          1. re: DGresh

            I wonder if it is something to do with feeding the kids while they are younger, mine are 8&9, but the feeling hasn't gone away yet. Perhaps when they are teenagers and able to feed themselves it diminishes???

            1. re: DGresh

              My mom would always respond, "Poison".

              1. re: DGresh

                You don't ever fix pizza or hot dogs? Why not? Just curious.

                1. re: c oliver

                  maybe for lunch on a weekend, occasionally, might have hot dogs for the kids. Not for dinner. *I* don't want that for dinner, and like I said, I cook for 4.

                  1. re: DGresh

                    I just had leftover pizza last night for my solo dinner. Homemade sausage, shaved fennel, red bell pepper, pasilla pepper, shaved garlic, cremini mushrooms, cheeses. Before eating I topped it with some arugula and drizzled with good oliver oil. That was might fine leftover :) And while I can't remember cooking plain hotdogs in a long time, there are all sorts of wonderful sausages and breads and condiments that make a special dog also. So pizza and dogs don't have to Pizza Hut and Oscar Mayer any more :)

                    1. re: c oliver

                      italian sausage sandwiches with red peppers are part of the rotation in our house :)

              2. I'm a mom of both a 15 and a 9 year old. I love it when they enjoy the food I have prepared but really, I get excited and happy about cooking for anyone who appreciates food. Now, if I have to cater to a lot of dislikes. it's not nearly as much fun as when I can have free reign.

                1. I think its great when u find some thing that works(ie) a good marinade or sauce for chix wings or a new twist on a pasta dish and a few days later they say "when we having that again" I save the recipe and pray its the same

                  1. For me it's not just limited to my kids or family. I like nothing better than feeding someone who appreicates my efforts to create good home cooked food. When they tell me how good it was or want the recipe it's definitely a warm fuzzy.

                    1. There's just something wonderful about making people happy through good food, nice conversation, eating together. When my children (3 & 5) say something tastes good or ask for more, it makes me very, very happy. And my 5 year old requests carrot souffle b/c it's one of her favorite foods! That & home made pizza :)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: tall sarah

                        I agree. I love to (as you say) make people happy through food. Whether it's for the upcoming Passover holiday when I have company, or just a weeknight dinner. I am lucky in that my kids (4 and 2) eat a wide variety of foods. But I will admit that it gives me pleasure when my 4 year old daughter asks me to send her with lunch to school even though they are going to serve pizza. She tells me that she'd rather eat my cooking than have pizza (granted the pizza that they serve stinks, but she's 4!).

                        Oh, and tall sarah, I would love to try out your carrot souffle, if you'd like to share the recipe on Home Cooking!

                      2. My father used to say that seeing us kids eat well was one of the happiest things a parent could see. He said a lot of it had to do with him growing up in Korea during the Korean war when good food/money was scarce. Not sure how long that was the situation in Korea, but a typical greeting is still 'have you eaten?'

                        1. I feel "happy" when adult guests enjoy my food, or I share something delicious and I see a "happy" reaction in the person, but this feeling is very different with the kids, it's almost like a drug induced euphoria. Perhaps it has to do with a release of oxytocin, or something like that? Any geneticist/scientist/biologists CH'ers out there can comment?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: michele cindy

                            I don't have children, but it makes me feel good to feed my adult guests as well. My friends and I now have "family dinners" on Friday nights instead of going out to restaurants and spending at least $40 a head as was the custom. It has definitely made saving in this economy just a little bit easier.

                          2. There is nothing quite so satisfying to me as cooking for my kids, even though they are now mid-twenties...we live a long way from them and it is a rare and great pleasure on those occassions when I do get to cook..From planning the menu to sending them home again with leftovers, it is just a joy from start to finish.

                            I always felt like this. There was nothing more soothing than coming home from work, where life was high-powered, stressful and unpredictable to the calm of the kitchen and family. Half an hour chopping and mashing worked better for me than a martini, hot bath or yoga class...always did and I still feel the same.

                            Maybe it is because I was blessed with a family that is really into food. Dad can make your eyes mist up with descriptions of the perfect roast. Daughter makes her own pasta by hand from scratch. I will find son-in-law will lurking right behind me to see what I am putting in that sauce so he can try it later at home. Husband is famous for his contributions to the potluck lunches at college. We can't wait to see what gourmets we get for grandkids (I know, I know: the chain will break and they eat nothing but chicken fingers and fries).

                            Thank you for this posting...I am going to start planning Easter Dinner right this minute!

                            1. I am always deeply grateful that we have the means to buy good food to feed our child. Whether a quick sandwich or a full dinner, I am always very happy to make my boy's meals. I also believe in blessing the food before preparing it, believing the blessing will enter the food and bless my son.

                              1. Mine always eat what I prepare but it's always an added treat when they get excited and obviously enjoy it. They are 7 and 10 and already have favorites like my home made roasted lemon pepper chicken (muddled lemon zest, kosher salt and fresh pepper) and spaghetti with oil and garlic. Throw in some fresh bread and they are in heaven. Funny how the simplest of meals excites them. 'Course they are just as enthusiastic over Chic-fil-a.

                                What bugs me though is when they ask "What's for dinner?" and I tell them and they moan or groan. I'm trying to break my youngest of this. I tell him, "What if you brought home a picture you made and gave it to Mommy and I said I didn't like it - how would that make you feel?" He'll say it would make him feel bad. I tell him that is how I feel. (of course if he genuinely didn't like pork or whatever it was I'd get it but if he's just disappointed that it isn't pizza, well then, that's rude).

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: lynnlato

                                  I hear you. Good work on trying to squelch that. My kids (older) have gotten *that* message :)

                                2. I am thrilled when my kid takes even a bite of something, given that she's skinny for her age and picky to boot (18 months). But preparing it? Anxiety ridden if I'm cooking something just for her, but I usually don't.


                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Amuse Bouches

                                    This is something I went through, too, and my Mom also, with me...picky eating at this age is not something to fret about (well, unless your doctor tells you to!).

                                    But it is no fun and can take the pleasure out of food prep. Hang in there and don't feel bad about repetition of the good stuff she will eat happily. This will turn around. My 'picky' baby is now a savvy cook herself who runs a very profitable and successful college lunch exchange program with all sorts of interesting food variety.

                                  2. I made a slight jab at michele up above for "(Dad's too maybe)". Dana Zsofia, my five-and-a-half year old, is now eating con gusto a mix of lentils (made with smoked lung), egg, roast chicken, and some pasta. She really likes it and it makes me feel way better and different than when I get raves from my guests. Dana Zsofia gets absolutely no junk or prepared foods or sodas from me. The half the time her Mom has her, there appear to be some problems with her eating. There aren't any problems when DZ is with me. And she likes such a broad range of things. On the Sundays before the Mondays when she goes back for next week with her Mom, DZ and I now seem to have a tradition: I make makizushi (nori rolls) and steam an artichoke and we match each other bite for bite, yakking away.

                                    She just finished, and as always said, "No quiero mas" ("I don't want any more", her little joke) with her plate absolutely clean. !Que felicidad!

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                      Clearly the fruit hasn't fallen far from your tree. Your love for that child shines through in the above, "Sam. Thanks for sharing.

                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                        sam, i think i love dana zsofia through your descriptions. is she your only?

                                        1. re: cimui

                                          Much loved daughter in the Philippines as well.

                                      2. I have to say that yes, I feel different cooking for the kids. (Although one is no longer a kid, I guess.) What I feel is a responsibility to expose them to food and flavors that will expand their understanding of the world. I know that sounds truly high-falutin', but I truly believe in eating your way through the world if you can afford to travel it.

                                        My youngest, 16 year old DD, has set up a Wednesday night dinner with a friend of hers. I make a full dinner, ethnically based, and Z. explains the food to her friend. We all talk about food, about the geography/history/politics of the country, and enjoy ourselves mightily. Keeps me creative in the kitchen. Makes DD on-task in telling me what she'd like to try. Exposes her friends to various foods.

                                        I like to think that teaching goes on at the table (not just about food!). If you are cooking for kids, you are teaching. It's fine to feel differently about that. It's satisfying to teach the young.

                                        Euphoric? Go ahead and feel that! Good food makes you feel that way!


                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: cayjohan

                                          I miss cooking for my kids, dinners are not the same as when they were younger , now that they are grown and gone from the house I realized that there are weekly staple dinners that we all loved that don"t taste the same to me anymore. When they come home I cook up a storm and love all of it!

                                        2. michele, i do not yet have children, but i certainly experience an unparalleled joy from cooking for my SO and our dog. the SO laughs at me because i like to sit next to the dog while he eats and watch him enthusiastically devour what i've made him. my SO is not a foodie and probably wouldn't notice if i fed him TV dinners every night. so i experience extra happiness when i manage to feed him something that he really loves passionately -- like homemade dosa or a simple caprese salad made with perfect ingredients -- or introduce him to foods he otherwise would never enjoy (nigiri, cheun fun, chevre). i very much identify with sam and others who experience part of their joy through knowledge that the food is not just enjoyed, but that it is nourishing and wholesome and good for that loved one. i want my dog to live for 20 years and my SO to live for 110. i like feeling as though my food will help them do that.

                                          (i have the same sense of joy when i take my dog out for long runs or when we chase each other around a big, empty field at top speed. it is like singing through your body: "we are healthy, we are free and we will live forever!" good food can give you that same feeling.)

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: cimui

                                            Dana Zsofia and I are on our way to sit next to you and the dog and to have your caprese salad, nigiri, cheun fun, and chevre.

                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                              you and dana zsofia always have a place at our table, sam. (the puppy will even make space for you under the table if you would rather.)

                                          2. This is pathetic. I love baking bread and baked fresh whole wheat sesame bread the same day I was babysitting my 22 month old godson. I was so happy he ate my natural peanut butter and jelly (blackberry) on my whole wheat bread I about cried! I don't want to clean the jam spot off "his seat" - my ottoman - because its a reminder that he ate something I made him. I love cooking for people - that includes hearing compliments or requests for foods I make for my husband (even better when his co-workers ask for more) and friends - but seeing that kid chow down on his little sandwich was different. I was just putting it up to wanting kids of my own.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: TampaAurora

                                              This thread is just what I needed today, it's really lifted my spirits. And speaking as an aunt (and not parent myself), I especially appreciate your story, Tampa -- when you love a stain, you know you're in love! You should take a picture of it and tell him this story for the rest of his life. I'm sure it's not the same as what michele and sam are talking about, but special in a way that only an aunt/uncle/godparent and maybe grandparent (or that might be yet another variation) can understand.

                                            2. My kids, er dogs, never complain when I cook for them. They split a boiled chicken thigh every night. The resulting broth gets mixed with kibble, the chicken, veggies & cheese. They sit & watch patiently as I prep, cook and then let it cool down. My "kids" scarf the food like they haven't eaten for days, lick the plate and the floor clean....

                                              How does it make me feel? Like a very happy and contented mother.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: OCAnn

                                                Yes, I do so 'get' this...I was away for the weekend and a pal was covering doggy duties. When I got home, Betty the Cairn, was SO enthusiastic about her dinner, it made me wonder if the poor thing had been so stressed she hadn't been eating for my friend. I double checked...not so. SO not so!!!! Ate like a little pig!

                                                Lesson learned yet again. This 'kid" is even more of an actress than my other one, who actually IS an actor!

                                              2. My husband thinks I'm happiest when I have the kids and maybe a few hangers-on to cook for.....he might be right. Too bad the kids don't come around much anymore.....I didn't even get the pleasure of their company at Spring Break (both were working...)....

                                                Now, what I don't get is that I get far more pleasure cooking for my kids than I do for my husband and I...what does that say about me???? :-)

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: janetofreno

                                                  Completely know what you mean: I get more joy cooking for my two kids than for my husband. One of the best things about being a mom is that in their eyes I am the best cook in the world!

                                                  To my husband, I am NOT the best cook in the world. He's such a critical person that he always finds something to criticize. he doesn't even consider his mom the best cook in the world! Maybe that's the difference between cooking for him and cooking for my kids.

                                                  1. re: browniebaker

                                                    For me my husband loves my cooking, and the kids are little critics. So when they like something I am truly elated. And if it is something with a healthy slant, I am in super duper happy mode!

                                                2. I know that special feeling of happiness when cooking for my two children (and watching them enjoy eating what I have cooked). It's a feeling like no other. Probably I get more joy cooking for my children than for anyone else in the world. When I am preparing the food, I feel a smile on my face, and my heart feels full of love.

                                                  My extreme enjoyment in cooking for the kids is why every season I make a "meal-deal" coupon with a silly name (like "Spring-Fling Meal-Deal" or "Bet-Your-Bottom-Autumn Meal Deal" or "Nuclear-New-Year Meal-Deal" -- you get the picture!), hide them for the kids to find, and let each fill in his coupon with his choice of a main course, two sides, a dessert, and a drink. Then I get to shop for and cook the dinner. What fun! My kids have gotten very creative and have used the coupons to try food they have read or heard about but never eaten, like ratatouille that my son heard about through the animated film of the same name or a princess-themed afternoon tea in my daughter's book of princesses.

                                                  Can you tell I just LOVE to cook for my kids in a special way? Yeaaahhhhh. Sigh.

                                                  1. I believe it is love of these precious little gifts that makes a difference. I love cooking,but cooking for my 4 little ones is more satisfying and fulfilling. than for even my husband. It is a feeling that you just don't get when cooking for other loved ones. No matter how old they are they are your babies.

                                                    1. Single mom of two, now grown children -

                                                      No, I've never experienced anything like this. Usually I was annoyed with them, knowing that they wouldn't eat anything with sauce on it so I was forced to cook plain food night after night.

                                                      However, I was filled with pride when my fellow soccer coach mom would drop by after practice and be amazed that I would have dinner on the table in 20 minutes. She and her husband would get takeout almost every night.

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: 512window

                                                        ok - you need to start a new post as to how you did the 20 min. dinner. Would love to hear all your tips!

                                                        1. re: michele cindy

                                                          Mc--A good pasta sauce quick boil on some penne , good bread. ceasar salad finish with a good cake or dessert

                                                          1. re: chef24

                                                            I do that one too - my trick to make it quick is on Sunday I prepare the pasta and store in a plastic bag for a few days, so I can have it as a quick side later in the week. It tastes alright enough that the time it saves I don't mind it not being as "fresh".

                                                            1. re: michele cindy

                                                              Since I failed to reply for over a year, I figure I should do it now. Sorry - the moderators must have moved the thread.....

                                                              No, I didn't do the pasta thing, because my kids wouldn't do *sauce* - no sauce on anything. If we had pasta, it was with butter and cheese only.

                                                              My real trick was to limit the number of items that I really cooked. If I made rice for one dinner, I tried to make twice as much as we needed and serve the rest later in the week. If we had cooked vegetables, then the starch would be sliced bread, or we'd have two vegetables and no starch.

                                                              A typical dinner after soccer practice was pan braised pork chops (usually with pineapple juice), sliced cold vegetables (bell peppers, celery, tomatoes), and breadsticks that were baked in the toaster oven. 20 minutes tops. I still don't understand why it seemed like a great culinary achievement.

                                                      2. The best compliment my kids have ever given me hasn't been expressed verbally. Their (near) silence at the table while they enjoy what I've made makes me smile every time. (now if I can only get that going more than 2-3 times a week heh)

                                                        1. No kids and, let's face it, the dogs will happily eat cat-vomit and worse, so the wagging tails aren't all that ringing an endorsement. However, at dusk one winter, when snow had melted and then frozen into a thick sheet of ice, I happened to see an opossum gnawing at dog turds that were frozen into the ice below the window. I hurried to find something for the poor creature (it didn't occur to me that dog kibble would have sufficed), and pulled from the freezer a ping-pong ball sized homemade meatball.The possum was so hungry that the noise of opening the window didn't scare him off. My aim is poor, so the meatball landed a few feet away. He continued nibbling on the turd for a moment before lifting his head and sniffing. Then he slowly rushed to my offering (opossums are rather phlegmatic critters), snatched it up with a growl, and bustled away toward the safety of the trees, where he could relish it without fear of mugging. This is not the best compliment I've ever had for my cooking, but it's the most memorable. Definitely genuine - not to mention the ego blow if he had smelled the meatball but resumed
                                                          eating the turd!

                                                          1. Hello... Your post reminds me of a touching scene from the japanese cult/food film 'Tampopo' (about the quest for perfect ramen, but really, about the human drama that ensues from the pursuit of food and eating) from years ago. In one funny, sad, but ultimately heartwarming scene, a man rushes home to his dying wife and hungry children in japan. His wife has nearly 'given-up-the-ghost' and is moments from passing away, when the husband oddly (and seemingly, cruelly) orders her to fix dinner for the children. The nearly comatose wife, hearing this, unsteadily-but-miraculously lifts herself out of the waiting jaws of death in order to prepare a last meal for her children. If there was ever a more saintly and serenely contented look of completion of a life's work fulfilled than of that mother as she glows a beaming lovely last smile upon her children, I have yet to see one. My description does not do justice, and it is so poignant when the husband (in his soon-to-be grief) shouts/weeps to his children (paraphrasing, here): "Kids, eat your dinner, mom made it for you". The face on the actress/mother as she glows with pride at providing for her children and husband, with literally her last breath of life, is what I imagine a child sees when their mother offers the very first meal from her maternal breast... Do see the film (and that scene) if you haven't before, and I guarentee that the look of unconditional love on the mother's face will haunt you for a long long time... :-)

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: silence9

                                                              I remember that film, but never saw it. Your post had motivated me to seek it out. Dont' doubt your wording, it made me teary eyed! Thanks!

                                                            2. didn't see this thread the 1st time around -

                                                              clearly dad's too.