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I’ve got a SO problem...

Step lightly's picture

Okay okay okay. I need to preface this post by saying generally, this week-on has not been that bad. SO largely has shown he wants to work towards a harmonious home. He doesn’t tolerate the kids outright disrespecting me. By and large he has my back. He understands that I want everyone to be happy and well adjusted. He usually is able to come around to my logic. 


For the love of all things holy I am about to lose my mind when it comes to food with SO and clan!!

Here’s the deal: I LOVE cooking. For a long time, it has been a hobby and passion of mine. I’ve been a vegetarian for a long time, meat doesn’t sit well with my stomach, so that has required me to pick up some skills in the kitchen to not suffer on a boring diet of bland vegetables. I find joy in the kitchen. 

SO hates cooking as much as I love it. He wishes he could “turn off the need to eat” so he wouldn’t have to deal with food. It stresses him out. If a recipe says “salt to taste” he gets upset because he doesn’t know how much salt to add. He likes food fine, but doesn’t have strong opinions other than he can’t stand cooking. 

For those of you who have seen the movie Rattatouille, I am the Remy to his Remy’s brother who’s fine with eating garbage. 


We are in the middle of trying to find a way to handle food as a family that works for everyone in the house. Here are the puzzle pieces we are working with: 

-SO and clan need to eat healthier. SO recognizes this and has taken some steps to make it happen, but he also recognizes there are still gaps and he doesn’t have the skill set to close those gaps.

-I love cooking and don’t mind helping my partner with this task. It is far less effort for me to put together healthy meals than it is for him. 

-SO is grateful for my help and is willing to pay for the food, help with clean up, etc. to recognize my willingness to help him with this area of parenting where he needs help.

-SKs are picky eaters and obviously more veggies/less junk food will not be popular among children who have grown accustomed to a lenient diet.


These three facts are the Chicken, Fox, and Corn we are trying to get across the river.

If I cook meals, the kids are presented with healthier, made from scratch options that can’t in a million years stack up to chicken nuggets and tater tots. The association will become this: Steplightly’s food is bad and a sentence to be served before trying to negotiate for dessert.  We liked it better when dad made food. Eating well becomes traumatic and bogged down with step-baggage.

If SO cooks food, he admits they won’t be eating the kind of healthier diet they need to be eating because he doesn’t have the skill set. Other issues associated with poor diet will persist. I disengage more than I feel comfortable with and more than my partner is comfortable with in order to let the status quo remain. I get resentful because SO isn’t taking the issue seriously, which in turn puts strain on our relationship. Kids still don’t eat well.


Here is the solution I have come up with that hopefully avoids the pitfalls of this puzzle. Let me know what you think.

SO learns to get the heck over his aversion to cooking because, grow up dude. I help him find simple, healthy, easy to follow recipes on our weeks-off. He presents it to the kids as him trying to learn a new skill so he doesn’t set the house on fire. (Yes there was a small kitchen fire when he tried to help... they thought it was a little hilarious). They aren’t seeing me forcing them to eat different gross food, they see their dad taking steps to better himself, they see him getting out of his comfort zone to learn something new. He’s their dad and they’re empathetic kids- they want to see him succeed. The meal is set up less like an adversarial power struggle and more like everyone trying to help everyone be better. I posture as grateful and supportive to my SO for trying a new thing, the attitude is theoretically contagious. They are primed to be more willing to try something new- like a healthy diet- when that becomes a kind gesture/show of support. I’m not thrust in the middle of their dynamic so I’m disengaged some, but not to a point where I’m totally checked out, and not to a point that starts to put me and SO at odds. If our relationship is tense the whole house of cards collapses.


Yes I know... best laid plans of mice and men... But. Seriously? Does the calculus of this make sense or am I being hopelessly naive?


stepgirlfriendfurmom's picture

which does not entirely solve your problem, but as perhaps a good starter since you like to cook, is to try making the things they like to eat, but from scratch so it is healthier. For example with chicken nuggets, they are not horribly time consuming to make at home with fresh, unprocessed ingredients and taste delicious, same goes for tater tots, but instead have made baked potato wedges (sweet potato ones even healthier and better). Even your SO could make these, the recipes aren't hard and are very yummy. 

Unfortunately to get my bfs children to eat healthier we have been bribing them sometimes with fruit snacks when showing an aversion to trying something new to eat. They are also 4 and 2, so a little easier to manipulate.

Step lightly's picture

That’s not a bad idea! I still think what you and I think of as “so easy” might still get SO’s hands shaky... haha bless his heart he needs a recipe to boil water. 

SS has a cook book at our house. I plan to go through and pick out some recipes with SO (that are healthier than the cheese quesadillas SS would pick) and simple enough for SO to start picking up more kitchen chops. Maybe SS’s competitive streak will kick in and Dad can challenge Son to an iron chef challenge where they’re both cooking veggies. 

Lol I feel so Machiavellian.

stepgirlfriendfurmom's picture

 love to cook, so I can see what you mean! BUT those recipes do not have any "add salt to taste" haha, it has all exact measurements! My bf is kind of like this, basically does not cook anything new or outside his realm of easy, unless I am there. HOWEVER he does like to help me cook! So whenever it is something I know to make or something new, he will participate without me asking and since this has increased his confidence in the kitchen!

That would be so much fun and I bet hysterical! That's an awesome idea! 

Step lightly's picture

Haha yeah the fire started when I asked him to check on some eggplant in the broiler. He “didn’t know what he was checking for” and didn’t watch the parchment paper on the broiler, so the whole tray went up in flames. He starts trying to blow the fire out with his mouth... embers are flying everywhere... the kids are laughing and screaming... I finally tell him to put the tray in the sink. He does, but keeps blowing on it. I am shouting “water! Use the water” 

He says “this is why I hate cooking!”


... oh Lordy.

Step lightly's picture

Thanks! I’m sure I’m missing something... but we’ll see! 

Who knew it took so much effort to “not care”

Petronella's picture

I love your plan! It's caring towards the stepkids but is not doing Dad's job for him. Good luck to you guys and please let us know how the new meal regime goes!

Step lightly's picture

Thanks Petronella. It’s hard to be an appropriate level of disengaged when I really friggin care. 

SO is hopeful because I managed to get SD4 to try AND ask for seconds of cucumbers when I told her it was Watermelon’s cousin. His exact words were “you brilliant witch” Lol

Siemprematahari's picture

Steplightly, you're awesome! The time and effort that you put in to ensure everyone enjoys meals is great. I definitely understand the challenge as my son was VERY picky. I also like the whole watermelons cousin explanation. I'm sure in a few weeks/months you'll be transitioning along with their meals much better.


Step lightly's picture

Thanks Siempre! 

The watermelon’s cousin thing caught EVERYONE by surprise. SO told BM about having luck with the strategy and I’m sweating bullets that she’s gonna get territorial over that. Hahaha it’s just a problem for tomorrow steplightly. Today steplightly survived another week-on and gets to go on a movie date with SO tonight! 

Petronella's picture

Who gives a shit what BM says? But it actualy was unneeded for your SO to tell her about it. As a BM myself, I'd have zero interest in any cute little saying that the new stepmom had used on the kids. 

Step lightly's picture

I think (I hope) he just framed it as a strategy to get SD to eat more veggies and left me out of it. He may be clueless in the kitchen but he isn’t totally hopeless. Lol

but no, SD has been having some medical issues related to her diet. Both households are trying to get her to eat better, per doctor’s orders. It was, I presume, less about a cute thing and more “hey, heads up, if you want to get SD to eat a veggie i’ve had luck with this. Or if she asks for watermelon cousin she’s talking about cucumber”

It’s possible I’m being paranoid about her reaction. She’s never given indication of doing that in the past. I just operate under the philosophy that for every sunny day in a row, you increase your chances of rain. However flawed it may be.

Harry's picture

And make broiled chicken breast, some fish,or sea food, ect for SO and SK to add to your meal.  He can broiler chicken breast, fish,

lieutenant_dad's picture

Why not teach the kids and SO how to cook? Kids are more likely to eat foods they prepare themselves, plus the recipes that your SO needs to learn from would be super basic - perfect for kids.

Step lightly's picture

In an earlier reply I mentioned getting SO to try recipes out of SS’s cookbook. My concern is that there may be a little bit of “anything Steplightly cooks is different and weird and I don’t like it on principle” going on.

I’m running an experiment to see if I have no (visible) hand in the meal SO cooks, but if it’s still something that challenges their palettes, it eliminates the weird steppy baggage from mealtime. The last thing I want is to add more stress since it’s already kinda stressful for SO and clan.

The goal is to set up a situation wherein skids have a positive relationship with healthy food, SO does the lifting to feed his kids, which frees up the emotional room for me to be able to help out in a pinch if he’s got more involved parenting work to do in the evenings.

Petronella's picture

This is smart. We've had many stepmoms here share how the SKs wouldn't eat food cooked by SM but would eat it if they thought Daddee had cooked it. Don't be the one who's introducing all these scary new changes.

SayNoSkidsChitChat's picture

Not your feral spawn; not your problem. I cook what I please for myself, my DH and our (lol) real kids. Stepdemon can like it or lump it. I don’t give a f!ck.

Petronella's picture

Well SayNo, you do have to admit that yours is kind of the scorched-earth approach. *ROFL*

Step lightly's picture

Oh sure! There’s nothing wrong with hardline disengagement. I don’t believe anyone gets to that point without being pushed. But... I mean... Read the room.

SayNoSkidsChitChat's picture

Yes, absolutely. I have many years of StepHell penance. Also with the bipolar piece  of shit BM and her Dirtclan. It’s simply terrible.

Step lightly's picture

I grew up around mental illness. I know how tough it is to deal with, even on good days.

the upside is I learned really creative ways to deal with people I can’t get away from.

SayNoSkidsChitChat's picture

It’s peaceful. It was hell before! I shit you not. I would kill myself (pregnant, then with an exclusively breastfed infant, then repeat) cooking meals from scratch only to have the feral demonspawn make snide remarks, refuse to eat, be rude, whine and snivel etc.

He was raised on a steady diet of garbage and still is. IDGAF. DuH has to fix him so lame ass alternate meal. I give no shits.

Disengagement is glorious, lemme tell y’all.

Step lightly's picture

I totally see that. Which is why my focus lies on SO. His butt is the one going to cooking boot camp. 

If he’s going to talk to me about how he wants to change, and how he’s concerned about their diet, as his partner I’m gonna support him in becoming the master of his own destiny. I may be dumb for getting involved but I’m not so dumb that I’m gonna be the one the kids see making these changes. 

tog redux's picture

Question: Does HE want the kids to eat better? Does HE want to learn how to cook?  If so, then perhaps this will work - if not, he's just going to get resentful that you are pushing him to do something he doesn't want to do.

I hate to cook. Hate, hate, hate it. Yes, I can do if necessary, but I HATE IT.  I would be really mad if DH tried to make me cook for any reason under the sun. (He cooks, or I make simple stuff, or I buy food, or whatever).

For me, cooking is the only chore you have to do before you can benefit from it. You don't have to clean before you sit on the toilet (well, some of you do), you don't have to do laundry before you can get dressed, you don't have to clean the floors before you can walk on them.

Anyway, as a fellow cooking-hater, I  just want to make sure he's on board with this.


Step lightly's picture

I’ve told him several times that I won’t make these suggestions if he isn’t on board with them. I don’t demand change out of him, but I do voice my concerns over things that aren’t functioning smoothly. 

He seems to be open to trying it, on paper at least, if it helps the house run smoother. He also doesn’t like that he’s fallen into habits of convenience.

But does he *really* want to learn how to cook...?

Probably not.

P.S. Hence the title of this post.