I need to cook up some new ideas in the kitchen so that I have more time to spend with my daughter.

I read an interesting article the other day about how, when it comes to children, mothers are supposedly nurturers and carers while fathers are playmates.

This is true for a number of my friends, particularly the households where both parents work long hours. The exhausted couples return home in the evenings and, while the moms set about making supper (and washing the dishes, and doing the laundry, and tidying the house), the dads play with and entertain the kids (for a while, at least). I know this sounds a bit like a 1950s stereotype, but I’ve seen it firsthand at the homes of my nearest and dearest – and I’m sure they can’t be the only ones. There’s a similar pattern emerging at Chez Janine, where my hubby and my daughter are spending quality time together in the evenings while yours truly is cooking up a storm in the kitchen.

Before you raise your eyebrows, this is not a rant about the division of domestic responsibilities – the chores are split 50/50 here and I know I’m lucky to have a husband who is proactive. There are plenty of women out there who do everything on their own, and others who have become cyberwidows after losing their partners to PlayStation, Wii, the Internet or a gadget-laden smartphone. But I have to acknowledge that the winter routine in our house has led to an uneven split in face time with the munchkin. Dad is getting more of it – and this mama bear is starting to feel left out.

Part of the problem is that my man doesn’t cook. It’s not that he doesn’t want to, he just can’t. He’s tried – and failed (spectacularly, but the red chicken and yellow mash is a topic best left for another day), and so I have accepted chef duty for the sake of our taste buds. I like to cook, so it’s not a burden, but in recent weeks the preparation of the stews and curries and bolognaises that go down so well in the colder months has been eating into my evening routine.

And so I find myself contemplating a way out of this culinary conundrum. We already have one night a week when I don’t cook (it’s usually a Thursday or a Friday and the stand-in chef is Mrs Woolworths or Mr Delivery). More processed food is not an option. My daughter would no doubt welcome any extra opportunities for pizza and hamburgers, but no matter how much she wishes for junk food, as parents we have an obligation to make sure she’s getting a balanced diet. Because it’s what she needs. (Although, how cool would it be if all vegetables tasted like chocolate? Then moms and dads would have no problem getting little princes and princesses to the dinner table!)

My first order of business is to go shopping for some new recipe books. The kind with menu choices that need six ingredients and around 40 minutes of labour. I’ve heard Jamie’s Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals is a good place to start (but I’m not convinced that Jamie’s 30 minutes and my 30 minutes amount to the same thing). I’ve also been scouring some of my favourite blogs for quick, tasty cuisine. I’ll put these ideas to the test next week. Triumphs will be noted, failures will be forgotten. And hopefully, the munchkin will be amazed by the sight of me, sans apron, playing in the Lego pile.

The title of this post is borrowed from the lyrics of In The Sun by Chris Martin (of Coldplay) and Michael Stipe (of REM).

Janine Papendorf likes coffee, chocolate and wine. Not necessarily in that order. She’s married to a nerdy biker and they’re raising Cape Town’s cleverest child. When she’s not building Lego castles or watching old movies, Janine likes to send words into cyberspace. She’s a freelance writer and content strategist based in South Africa’s beautiful Mother City. Witness her obsession with pink flowers on Instagram, or contact her to collaborate on a project.

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