Confessions of a Good-Enough Cook

Guest post by Becky Beaupre Gillespie and Hollee Schwartz Temple – the authors of Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood (which I reviewed last week – how cool that they wanted to guest post for me. Thanks girls!)

This is Becky’s sad truth: She’s a terrible cook.

OK, maybe that’s not entirely true: She can boil water, roast a chicken and even make risotto. But despite a few attempts to truly master the skill, she’s never quite gotten the whole kitchen thing down. Often, when she hears Hollee planning some extravagant menu, she feels a tinge of remorse: Too bad my daughters don’t get to eat the kinds of meals Hollee’s sons do …

Becky remembers hosting a play date when her oldest daughter was a baby — back when she was still vying for that gold medal in the Supermom Olympics — and deciding that she needed to whip up an impressive lunch for the other moms. One was a vegetarian, so Becky did something involving grilled eggplant. She spent hours preparing the dish, both the night before and the morning of the play date. The process made her miserable, and the dish failed utterly. (Who knew eggplant slices could look so sad and limp — or make everything around them so soggy? Not Becky).

The problem, however, wasn’t so much Becky’s culinary skills, although those were obviously a factor; it was her attitude. She was trying to show off, even though she didn’t like cooking and wasn’t really committed to improving. She was determined to fit some mythical image of the Perfect Mom.

She hadn’t yet discovered the New Perfect.

Flash forward several years, and here’s what we’ve both learned researching and writing our book on working motherhood: Perfectionism is a liability. And, when it comes to juggling work and family, it may just be our generation’s greatest liability. When we looked at two types of women in our data — those who focused on “being the best at everything” (the Never Enoughs) and those who strived to be “good enough and happy, both at work and at home” (the Good Enoughs) — you know who found more success, both at work and at home? The women who cut themselves a little slack.

The women who defined success on their own terms.

And that’s what Becky eventually did with cooking. She embraced her culinary imperfections and focused on the easy, healthy dishes she could do well — and let her husband do the hard stuff. She let herself off the hook so she could focus her time on the things that truly mattered to her. We could go on and on about our findings on motherhood and perfection; some of them really surprised us. But, for now, we’ll simply tell you what happened when Becky learned to accept the Good Enoughness in her cooking.

She wound up happier. Evenings became easier. And she took all the time she might have spent furrowing her brow over the stove and devoted it to writing a book.

Some might call that perfect. We call it the New Perfect.

Becky and Hollee’s new book, Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood, is available at http://amzn.to/newperfect . They blog about parenting and work/life balance at http://TheNewPerfect.com.

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