Guest editor Tenielle Maris writes about how her good intentions around feeding her children had to change when reality hit.

With a passion for all things relating to nutrition, and having started my blog when my son was five months old, it felt only natural to immerse myself in making his journey with food as nutritious and memorable as possible.

I took this new chapter in both of our lives seriously – I would plan his meals for the week ahead with meticulous precision, buying only the very best ingredients. I would lovingly cook and purée his meals from scratch, taking pride in my fully stocked freezer with a variety of nutrient-packed and colour-coded options on hand at all times.

When I went back to work full-time, it got more challenging to keep this military level of planning going. Add a fussy toddler into the mix and I found that the meals I spent my Sunday afternoons preparing and cooking, remained untouched or landed up on the floor for our Bull Terrier to feast on.

Like many parents, I also had to rely on family members and caregivers to look after my son while I was at work, which meant that I wasn’t always in total control of what he ate. (For someone who is borderline OCD, this was a tough pill to swallow). I soon realised that life happens and that the little person I was hoping would eat up my masterpieces with relish, wasn’t always going to be so accommodating.

In an ideal world I would be serving up picture-perfect homemade and nutrient-packed cuisine to my son at every meal, and keep him away from anything sugary or processed at all costs. I’ve had to learn that things simply don’t always go as planned when it comes to raising a child, who is a little individual after all, with his own likes and dislikes.

As parents we place a lot of pressure on ourselves to fit a certain mould, and then berate ourselves when we somehow deviate from our own self-imposed expectations. I’ve had to learn that serving my child ready-made meals or fish fingers, when I just don’t have the time to make him something amazing from scratch or when he just isn’t going to give one of my creations the time of day, isn’t going to negatively affect either of us in the long run.

I’ve had to accept a more realistic ‘parenting persona’: one that will always put my child’s needs first, and that includes doing my best to offer him the most nutritious meals wherever possible, but which sometimes won’t always be textbook perfect.

If parenting has taught me anything, it’s that our children will surprise us every day. Just as you think you have it all figured out, they throw another spanner in the works to keep us on our toes. Having a child has taught me to become more agile and to put less pressure on myself to be a perfect parent. I have learned to focus more on the happy and well-adjusted child I have raised, and less on not being able to get him to eat his greens on a specific day.

My advice to other parents out there, is that you need to do what works for your family and lifestyle, even if that means going against the grain every now and then, and that everything in moderation is going to be the answer. There will be late days at work, days when you are simply exhausted, days when the only fresh food in the house is in a box in the freezer, days that your child just isn’t in the mood to eat the homemade meal you lovingly prepared for him and loads of other less-than-perfect days in-between.

It’s about being fluid in our parenting approach and accepting that things won’t always be as planned as we would like. It’s going to be messy, rushed and a bit of a whirlwind at times. And for the other times, well we can cook them that gourmet dish from scratch and maybe, just maybe, they’ll surprise us by asking for a second helping.

About the author: Tenielle Maris is a certified nutritionist and mom to a four-year-old-boy. She blogs at hungrylittlemonkey.blog

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