Why mothers bake.

Krithika Akkaraju

Published on

I’m part of a group on Facebook where parenting issues are discussed, ideas are exchanged, knowledge is imparted to the lesser-experienced parents and so on. Quite a few interesting discussions come up and I find myself jumping into the dialogues with enthusiasm, or when something troubles me, i react with an opinion or two of my own. All in all, it is a place where new parents can feel secure in the knowledge that they’re not the only ones walking through life half-asleep.

Today an interesting discussion caught my eye; it resonated with my own experiences in motherhood and i followed it with interest. Here was a young mother coping with all the mayhem of nurturing a newborn – she posted on the group that she was tired, sleepy and depressed most of the time. In her words, I saw a cry for help (of the counselling kind), while some other mothers responded with well-meaning advice – asking her to carve time out for herself, pursuing a hobby, going for a yoga class, handing over care of the baby to the husband once in a while, ‘doing something that generated a personal income ‘ and also getting professional help for her depression.

There were more than 50 responses for this young mother, and while i was jumping up and down, anxious in the knowledge that this lady needed counselling and nothing else, i also happened to notice some mothers, especially the ‘stay at home’ ones sharing their own ways of coping with ‘post baby blues’. Some had learnt knitting, one lady took ‘hairdressing lessons’ at a local parlour (how cool is that!), some took up organising the house with maniacal vengeance and others still, learnt the fine art of baking.

And that brings me to strawberry cake. Today, i made one. It’s like this; every once in a while, the overwhelming desire to have control over something, even if it is the quantum of baking powder and sugar, takes over me and i head to the kitchen – my little kingdom where cakes rise like they’re supposed to, ovens ‘ping’ on time like a neat little bow on the project, and for once, you can see the glorious outcome of your many little decisions. All in all, its a fantastical little world that I can create all for myself by following a set of reasonably simple instructions. Because, as a mother, reality is nothing like that for me. From the time I wake up, I have no control over my day. Scraped knees happen the minute I’m stepping out

I’ve heard some women say that they bake to de-stress, some bake to retain and nurture that little core they call ‘just me’, some bake to believe that they are changing the world, one glorious piece of chocolate cake at a time, some bake to say ‘i may not be at ‘work’, but i’m sure as anything still working, some bake to stop a tantrum (in its mouth), some bake for some ‘me time’ by the cosy little oven and some bake to fill childhoods with yummy smells of baking. And yet some bake to tell the world ‘i did a project today and it’s called a cake’.

But a mother, any mother, will tell you that real life is nothing like baking a cake. A major part of the control you have on your offspring ends when you actually give birth to the offspring. You can do the best you can for your child, but you will never know whether it was the right decision. Which makes parenting so hard. No handbook, however popular quite prepares you for the real job. You learn as you go along, you make mistakes, you pick up from them and keep marching ahead. At any point of time, you are only doing the very best you can for your child/children. And in the true spiritual sense, you release your hold on the ‘reward/result’.

I’ve met mothers who have unwittingly have walked through life with depression, a condition that set in after the birth of their child/children. Overwhelmed with the reality of dealing with the complete responsibility for another human being, some mothers break down, not sure how they would ever get the job done. Some find themselves alone all of a sudden; the pampering that was a regular feature for the past nine months is suddenly snatched away – and all the focus is on the newborn, sometimes to the utter neglect of the new mother. Some other mothers, meanwhile, juggle corporate work, home management and baby care every moment of the day – they are left with no choice but to supplement the family income. In the same breath, some mothers in our society are stigmatised for giving birth to a daughter vs a son.

There is no one answer to how one can cope with this. Perhaps everyone has to find their own balance and find a way to do it all, or find a way to prioritise what’s important. Perhaps it helps to knit, or write, or join a group of mothers and share stories, or take up baking.

Perhaps sometimes we just need a little help to find what makes us happy (or functional) again. Perhaps we need someone to stand by us, rock solid, while we make our mistakes and heal ourselves. And maybe we will need help time and again throughout our lives, for the times that we fall and break down. Maybe while being parents, we too need someone to parent us from time to time and make the worries magically disappear. Maybe sometime we just need to get  a good night’s sleep. Or maybe we need just need a shoulder to cry on.

But yes, I’ve heard baking does help greatly too.