The first 12 years of my marriage I did most of the cooking from scratch. I did everything I could to prepare perfect, delicious, nutritious meals. Of course I failed because that is an impossible task to accomplish, especially with children. They often find nutritious and delicious mutually exclusive 🙂
I did this for a few reasons. I felt like this is what good wives/mothers do. It is just my job as a woman. It is my chore because I am “wife.” I had been lead to believe that it was part and parcel of being a good mom. It was also cheap. This was important for our financial survival through my husband’s PhD and post doctoral work. Additionally, I lived in a situation that exerted a lot of peer pressure to do so. Even though I didn’t always like it, I never complained and often pretended that I really like it. In some ways, I propped up this peer pressure system so others wouldn’t think I was “different.”
Then I moved away and was released from the pressure. I soon discovered that social pressure was the main force driving me to feel guilt and believe that “cooking” made you a good mom. So, I gave it up somewhat…or at least I scaled it back to a level I felt happy with. I realized that I hate cooking, but I do like baking. So I just bake to make me happy, and I cook whenever I feel like it but never feel like I have to. This was about 7 years ago. We became vegetarians and did our best to support sustainable practices but over the years I arranged it so I didn’t have to cook much. I have been much more content.
Today I made a muffin mix. It is rare for me to do so because I do like to bake. It is a mix from a local company that uses local farmers so I figured might as well. I have spent the last 12 years feeling extreme guilt and feeling like an indentured servant. I have spent the last 4-7 years trying to escape that with mixed success (but I am pretty good now). Upon eating these muffins my husband declared them the best muffin he has ever had. I laughed and told him they were a mix. A few years ago, this conversation would have made me feel defensive and guilty.
As I reflected on his statements a few minutes later, I felt the irony. For 16 years I have, in many ways, killed myself both physically and emotionally to deliver on the stereotypical “good mom” while continually failing at doing so. The dissonance this created in my emotional well-being was extensive pervasive.
This is like the church for me. There are many things I like about the church, there are many principles I follow because they are sound but it was the pressure and manipulation exerted by the church that cause me to follow. I didn’t realize it until I understood the truth. Like the example of cooking, I was told this is the only way to do it. It is the only right way, the only moral way, the only way to make me happy, the only way to have a good family, the only way to have love and a good marriage. I discovered it was only social pressure keeping me there. It wasn’t truth and it wasn’t happiness. Once released from that pressure, it was easy to see the church is just caught in a classic ingroup-outgroup rather than those expectations being the objective truth. Just like the muffin mix, it turns out that happiness, hope, and morally exist outside of the Church’s made-up limitations. That doesn’t mean that happiness and hope don’t exists inside the limitations. There are many people in the world who love to cook but I don’t. I am in the outgroup. So without the pull of truth, I feel just fine in my new “mix.”
Go ahead and try the muffin mix. When you do it morally and respectfully you might find it is the “best” thing you ever did for yourself.