Monday, February 28, 2011

Not All Moms Have To Bake

I don't bake. I don't like baking. Does that make me a bad mom?

Today, my lack of baking skills may just turn me into a less than adequate mom, because my 5-year-old's homework is to decorate a gingerbread house. Thankfully, I don't actually have to bake a gingerbread house - just assemble it with icing and help her put on the decoration. So, in effect, it's really more art and craft than confectionery concocting.

But I have to be honest. I'm really not enjoying this. I'm smiling at my little girl as the icing sugar is flying all over the counter top and floor, but in my mind, I'm half whining at the cleaning up I loathe to do and half ranting at how the school could assign homework that is loaded with gender stereotypes.

I do realize, of course, that the boys have to do this too. Or, at least, their moms have to do it for them. This is a fun way of wrapping up their thematic topic of 'houses'. So why can't the kids (and their hapless moms) be given a choice - you could either do the gingerbread house, icing or Legos, or build a virtual house on the computer using design software. I would gladly take the last two choices over the first.

Don't get me wrong. I admire people who can bake. And I love devouring their painstaking efforts to recreate a princess castle or Cinderella's magical glass slipper. I really love my sweets. But I just don't dig doing it myself.

It's not as if I'm useless in the kitchen. I can cook, and I love cooking. I can cook a wide variety of styles and dishes, from curries to pho to sushi and steak. I just don't do baking. Maybe it's because my own mom loved to bake, but can't cook.

When I was growing up, my mom stayed home and her days were filled with - you guessed it - baking. She had all sorts of baking equipment and accessories, from the electric mixer with a double spinning-thing (with five different types of spinning-thing for mixing, stirring, kneading, whatever) to a vast collection of measuring cups and spoons, and baking trays.

I recall being very fascinated with the sponge cakes, pound cakes, chocolate fudge cakes, cupcakes and cookies she would spend hours baking (and even more hours cleaning up after). But I never felt motivated to want to do it myself. Perhaps, it is because I decided early on in life that wasn't the life I wanted for myself.

I love being a mom, and I enjoy every minute of my mothering experience. I do my fair share of cooking, cleaning, laundry and the inevitable driving to ballet, piano, Tae Kwon Do lessons, etc. But I also want to be out there in the field, interviewing people, shooting pictures and videos, or behind my computer, writing a paper, editing a piece in Final Cut or hammering a blog post together.

I have nothing but the deepest respect for moms who choose to stay at home and devote their entire lives to raising children, because that is the hardest thing to do. My own mom did that, and many of my friends have done, or are doing that. I did that for a few years. But even then, I wasn't really just doing that. I still wrote freelance; I taught yoga; and I started a home-based business selling organic skincare products and my own handmade jewelry.

I never got into baking the kids' birthday cakes myself, decorating their rooms with matching wallpaper and lampshades, and organizing playdates every weekend. Not even when I was a full time stayhome mom, and much less probably now that I'm juggling grad school, freelance work and internships.  I guess it's just not in my personality.

When I'm spending time with the kids, I would rather teach them photography principles (or watch Justin Bieber videos) than bake with them. I would play soccer, rather than sew. (Although I have to state for the record that I can work a needle...well enough to make classic jointed teddy bears.)

I guess what I'm really saying is that I break all the rules of things moms should "traditionally" be able to do, and I happily make my own. Does that make me a bad mom? I guess I'll find out when my five-year-old submits her less than picture perfect gingerbread house homework tomorrow.

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