How Being a Cook Prepared Me for Motherhood
So last night was rough.
Actually, most of yesterday was rough. Babies are hard. Everyone tells you this before you have your first, but like moving to a foreign country, you can only hear so much advice and other’s first hand accounts before jumping in head first and having a completely different experience. It’s something you don’t really get until you do it.
I really get it now.
Between breastfeeding, postpartum well-being and a severe lack of sleep, I can only compare having a newborn to one other thing: working the hot line in a professional kitchen.
Before you laugh, hear me out. As I was up very early this morning for the umpteenth time with a baby attached to my boob, I recalled a few things about being a cook that reminded me of what I’m currently going through.
1. I have burns again. Like, actual burns up and down my arms. It turns out a lack of sleep combined with cooking dinner every night turns me into a clumsy, burnt mess. It’s like the first time I worked a pizza station – an oven taller than me burning at 500 degrees. Burns galore. Which leads to my next comparison:
2. Functioning under little-to-no rest. The only other time I’ve ever felt this tired was when I was on the opening team for a couple of restaurants in the Toronto International Film Festival building. I’d work the closing shift which amounted to, at the very least, 12 hours every afternoon/evening on my feet. I’d stumble home at 3 am, devour a late-night shawarma and pass out til getting up and doing it all over again the next day. I rarely had a day off in the first few weeks – I get no day off from my baby. Which leads to:
3. Marathon work days. Working a busy dinner service is like running a never-ending marathon. Just when you think the end is in sight, 100 new people walk in and you start all over again. This is much like having a newborn. Just when you think she’s down for a nap, she wakes up and you start the whole process over again – change the nappy, feed, burp, comfort, sing-to, put down, pick up, rock, soothe, etc. Sounds terrible, right? BUT this also leads to the most important comparison:
4. Pride in your work. There’s some sick high cooks get after working a crazy night. When the last customer leaves, the last pot goes through the dishwasher, the last station gets flipped, the floors mopped and the gas ranges cleaned – when you don’t think you’ll have the strength to even get home – when the chef hands you a pint of beer and tells you you’re awesome – it’s actually a great feeling. When everyone chips in to get the fridge organized and pats each other on the back and laughs about the night’s events before going out for last call at the bar across the street – that’s a great feeling.
Same deal with a newborn. When you finally get her settled, when she’s been fussy all night and is suddenly burped and content, when she’s in her bassinet with a milk-drunk smile on her face, slowly drifting off to sleep and your husband tells you you’re awesome – that’s a great feeling.
It makes everything else manageable. And you’re able to get up the next morning and do it all over again.