Right now, there are at least a handful of people who I KNOW will never babysit my imaginary, yet-to-be born child. As far as they’re concerned, my baby will be more under wraps than “Blanket” Jackson was. Yes, I want nothing more than to have a full stock of potential babysitters, but sometimes these people—my friends—say things that make me get the Scooby Doo face.
“Your kids ain’t gon have any friends!”
“I’m going to feed your kids McDonald’s when you’re not around.”
“I feel sorry for your children…” *Insert sympathetic head nod and social worker look of dire concern here*
I’m a horrible mother and my eggs haven’t even hatched yet. Is it a crime to want my children to eat healthy? Am I cursing them to a life of being social outcasts because mommy wants to feed them green smoothies and use unsweetened almond milk in their gluten-free cereal? I bet the little girl I saw drinking blue juice and eating a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos before 8 a.m. has LOTS of friends to go with her early onset diabetes. Don’t I want that for my children?
I thought my peeps would be excited to know that at least my children will be fed and have something that passes for a decent home-cooked meal because for most of my adult life that whole part of being a mother was questionable. By everyone. Including me. Historically, I’m not known for cooking, so I get why there might be some concern about the future welfare of my family.
I’m always the person they ask to bring the cups and napkins for get togethers. Being in the kitchen used to make me really nervous because I never felt comfortable there. Growing up, my mother cooked every day, even when I moved back in after college. She didn’t like people in the kitchen with her, and I guess I never forced the issue. It wasn’t a big deal to learn how to cook or not; I just wanted to eat.
But things are different now and the “Sandi can’t cook” jokes have had their last laughs. I’m learning and practicing to cook and I’m not just doing it for myself. I’m doing it for people I haven’t even met. A family that only exists in my imagination.
When I changed my diet nearly three years ago — to become a pescatarian with a few vegan and raw foodie tendencies — it was a deliberate choice to change my family legacy. I wanted to feel good and I wanted to grow old healthy, unlike both my parents who both died pretty young. And I wanted a sexy womb!
The idea of a baby nesting inside a womb full of toxins, cysts, fibroids, lethargy, relationship trauma, and nondescript goo and gunk sounds really wack to me. As someone entertaining the thought of having a family one day, it also seems mad irresponsible. Shouldn’t you at least attempt to clean your house before important guests come over? Shouldn’t you at least clean your womb before you bring a life into the world? Like they say in church, I’m just trying to set the atmosphere.
So, where does this leave dating? They say if you want a man, you better know how to cook, but learning to eat and cook healthier has seemed to open a whole ‘nother can of worms. I’m very conscious about not being the food police toward people. What I eat affects MY body and what they eat affects THEIR body. I’m not here to convert or condemn anyone’s nutritional choices, especially when I still drop it like it’s hot for snacky cakes. I never really had to consider how a man ate before, but now, that’s a legitimate “thing.”
I thought I was progressive and open-minded enough to say it doesn’t matter; I can respect his food choices if he can respect mine. I mean, I guess I still feel that way when it comes to us individually, but parenting is a joint venture. One parent can’t be #TeamMcDonalds and the other #McDonaldsIsTheDevil.
Things like knowing a man’s nutritional values — how he feels about food and the way he wants his children to eat — are important if we’re considering doing more than just dating. If we have sex, we might procreate, and if we procreate that child is probably going to want to eat at some point. We have a dilemma on our hands if we’re on different McDonald’s teams.
Or, what if he IS #TeamFit, but his family and friends eat like crap. Am I just supposed to be like, “Nawl, the baby can’t spend the night at your mother’s house! You know that woman doesn’t like my non-cooking!”? What if he’s surrounded by people who do cartwheels every time we drop the baby off because now our child can finally eat some “real” food? I’m accustomed to having my food choices respected, so the thought of people not respecting them is new for me.
I ate “funny” according to my mother because at a very young age, the little girl who couldn’t stay out of the corner store buying snacks and pineapple pop suddenly changed. I gave up Kool-Aid, pop, stopped putting sugar on my grits and rice, switched to soy milk and requested my tacos and meatloaf be made with ground turkey instead of beef. My mother totally supported me. She and the rest of my family still ate “regular,” but she allowed me to do me and I’m forever grateful for that.
I couldn’t influence my mother to eat differently, but I can influence my child. I can start her on a healthy path and if she decides to veer off later in life, at least she can just do her in an informed way.
I don’t want a divided home. Even if I have to cook steaks for my husband every night, I want to be able to trust that when it’s just him and our child they aren’t running off to McDonald’s together for “our little secret because you know mommy eats funny and hates McDonald’s.” I want to trust him and anyone else our child is with when I’m not around.
I can deal with my imaginary child being invited to a few less play dates, or having to pay for a fancy school that serves organic meals so that she can feel normal around other kids who have mommies that are pescatarian with vegan and raw foodie tendencies. This veggie vixen hopes to have a man and a support system that can deal with that, too.
Sandria M. Washington is a Chicago-based writer.