I grew up with a mom who was a pretty good baker. She always made a special holiday Chex-Mix and homemade poppy seed bread at Christmas time for our teachers. She will (still to this day!) make a batch of banana bread or cookies and freeze them to always have a baked good to pass out to friends or family. Her chocolate cake recipe was perfected and became the standard option for all our birthdays. While I enjoyed baking growing up, it wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that I found my way into the kitchen for pure pleasure. At the time, I was planning my wedding, starting a new job, and attempting to make the 110-year-old fixer-upper my husband and I had just bought livable. Needless to say, I felt the stress of all of these life changes, even though they were all positive. I started small with simple recipes in our tiny and neglected kitchen. Gradually, I became more and more interested and began trying different techniques. I recorded cooking shows, subscribed to the New York Times Cooking newsletter, and read cookbooks in bed. As I researched and experimented more in my kitchen, I realized I am pretty good at this!
Let’s note I have never been very artistic or creative. I am not crafty, and I don’t know how to sew. For the first time in my life, I had found a hobby where I was creating something – making a product that I was really proud of and that others could enjoy. Similar to how I had felt overwhelmed when planning our wedding, I baked a lot when pregnant with our son. The more I baked, the better I got. I made mistakes, wrote down notes, and would try again. I felt like I was riding a high on my new knowledge and would get lost in the process. I would turn on music, listen to a podcast, or listen to nothing at all. There was no pressure, no goal to monetize my new endeavor, or worry about perfecting my hobby for anyone but myself.
My hobby of baking has become immeasurable to me as a mom. It helps me to be quiet, spend time in solitude, and be alone in my thoughts without constant input from my phone. It’s a hobby where I use my hands to create something that feels meaningful, whether it’s a simple dessert or a special birthday surprise for someone I love. It connects me to others, especially my relatives and neighbors. It’s allowed me to learn new skills I can teach my kids one day.
I feel renewed, inspired, and excited when I give myself the gift of taking the time to bake. When I feel this way, I know it is helping me be a better mother, and my kids get a happier and more enthusiastic version of myself. As they grow up, I want them to see me authentically enjoying myself outside my cell phone or bustling around the house. When I bake, I hope to model to my children how good it feels to have a special recreation just for you and a healthy hobby that can help you cope with stress or anxiety. I encourage all mothers to reflect on what they genuinely enjoy: reading, knitting, walking, swimming, journaling – whatever it may be, prioritize it. Your kids will be better for it, and most importantly, YOU will be better for it.