Do you say sorry to your children?

It was a scuffed pair of velcro shoes that was the morning’s undoing.

I was flapping around the house, answering emails, unearthing clean clothes, trying to make a sandwich from the last scrape of vegemite in the jar. My four-year-old son was eating his cereal one cornflake at a time; proving true the law that says the more you rush, the longer your preschooler will take to do things. Together we laboured over his clothes, debated his need for the toilet, negotiated his socks (“the ones with stars, mummy, not stripes”) and then finally got to his shoes

.Oh those shoes. Instead of putting them on his feet – a job he is well versed at – said preschooler threw them down the stairs. Hot bubbles of anger burst in every synapse. You may have experienced this moment before, when you switch with alarming speed from Zen mother to some sort of fire breathing dragon. In fury I shouted, “Would. You. Just. Put. On. Your. Shoes!”

My son’s face collapsed. “Don’t yell at me,” he said, his words an unflinching mirror. I had hurt him terribly. There was only one thing to say; a word easily offered and if sincere, precious to the recipient. I said sorry.

Sometimes I forget to apologise to my two children. It’s because I’m too proud to admit my faults, or oblivious to the ways I can hurt them. It’s because after years of mother’s groups, breastfeeding clinics and play dates, I’ve become so used to talking about my children that sometimes I neglect to talk honestly to them.

Confessing wrong – not the quick apology you toss when you’ve accidentally pumped your child’s knee, but the heartfelt kind that leaves you vulnerable to another – just isn’t part of the preschooler lexicon. We’re quick to point out our children’s wrongdoings and demand apologies, but much slower to offer them ourselves. Given the trusting nature of children, it’s easy to brush over hurt with an extra cuddle while neglecting what needs to be said.

When I sat down on the carpet next to my son and said, “I’m sorry”, it showed him how much I value his feelings; that everyone makes mistakes. It also gave him an opportunity to forgive me (which he did, with an earnestness that made my heart burst). This simple exchange, so few in words yet rich in depth, strengthened our bond. And it was just enough to get us through those days when tempers run amok and shoes go flying down the stairs.

 

Rise of the Mummy Bloggers

My article on Christian ‘mummy bloggers’ is out in Eternity. You can read the digital copy here (the piece starts on page 4).

I enjoyed researching this piece. It was fun chatting to such a diverse group on women about how they have carved their own little space – each one different – in the blogosphere.

You can read some of their blogs here:

No Reading At The Breakfast Table
168 Hours
Essentially Jess
Mummy’s Undeserved Blessings
Cecily Paterson

I’m just saying…dreams don’t always come true.

I was convinced I would get the job.

As a stay-at-home mum, I’d spent the last five months looking for work: scouring ads, emailing resumes, making inquiries. Then, late last year, I saw it. The proverbial Dream Job. The advertised journalist role was a rare breed: flexible hours, challenging, matched to my level of experience and well paid.

I sent off my resume and was delighted to land an interview, despite needing to borrow a skirt and do some creative layering to pass off my one dressy top as work attire. They loved my work. I was invited to have coffee with the publisher. We discussed which days would work around my kids. I started mentally spending my first pay check.

Did I mention I was convinced I’d get the job?

So it was a shock when I didn’t. The rejection arrived in my inbox at 8:30am; a two-liner saying someone more suitable had been offered the job. Cue the thud of my dream career smacking the pavement.

Mrs Lodwick, my grade six teacher who taught me all dreams were possible, did not prepare me for that moment, staring at the computer screen while my children ate rice bubbles. That moment when my hard work had yielded nothing but a well-formatted resume and a skirt that needed dry-cleaning.

Years of reading fairytale endings in magazines hadn’t prepared me either. I’d read articles of CEOs who emerged from humble beginnings to shape entire industries. Cover stories of celebrities who had miracle babies at 45. Profiles of models – and it’s always models – who achieved a perfect work-life balance while finding their life’s passion, be it organic cosmetics or designer baby shoes. According to reality television, the biggest perpetrators of the great dream narrative, dreams come to those who are determined, along with a $10,000 book deal.

Well, I’m going to come right out and say it. My Kitchen Rules is lying. The magazines are lying. The reality is that for most people, dreams often don’t come true.

I realise in saying this, I sound like the Grinch; a destroyer of rainbows, butterflies and all that is good. To clarify, I’m not against pursuing goals, nor do I resent those who have found their passion in life.

I’m just asking the question: are these dream lives an accurate reflection of reality? Where are the real stories?

Where’s the story of my artist friend Jess, who struggled to sell her work? Or Lisa, who climbed the ladder of her dream career, only to find the long work hours had destroyed her health? Or Denise, who dreamt of working with remote communities in Bangladesh, but had to return to Australia when her daughter needed specialised medical help?

The problem with elevating the pursuit of dreams above all else is no-one knows quite what to say if those dreams fall apart, apart from “don’t give up”, “keep believing” or some story about a street sweeper who grew up to be president.

People mean well, but these words aren’t always true. Dreams can be thwarted. Maybe it’s a health issue or a family circumstance. Maybe – and I’m putting back on my Grinch mask here – the talent just isn’t there. Not everyone can land a record deal or make it to the Olympics. Not everyone can be in the top 5% of their industry.

We’re taught to batter through every obstacle, but is this always the best advice? Although charging ahead makes us feel like Beyoncé, there are times in life when there’s no shame in backing down. It’s a fine line between persevering through difficulty and trying to make happen things that are beyond our control; between the need to persist and the need to gently prise apart that precious dream and make a few tweaks.

My friends know the difference. Jess used her artistic talent to move into advertising and is now being headhunted by other agencies. Lisa moved to the Gosford where she works for a smaller firm, enjoys good health and is a passionate Amnesty volunteer. Denise has found work in Australia supporting overseas health projects. Her daughter, meanwhile, is thriving. All have amazing lives, despite technically not having reached their dreams.

They are also all remarkable people – proof that achievements say nothing about your self worth. I cringe whenever magazines pour over celebrities who are ‘living the dream’, as if the zenith of what it means to be human is found in launching your own label, getting married or having a bikini ready body six weeks after giving birth.

On the other hand, it is tragic when someone believes they are worthless because their dreams have gone awry. Success is a multi dimensional concept, not something that can be measured by whether a network has deemed you one of Australia’s Top 20 Dancers. Living a particular dream doesn’t guarantee a successful life. It cannot answer the question of whether we are happy. Whether we have the courage to stick by our principles. Whether we love others and are loved in return. Whether our lives contribute to something beyond ourselves.

Giving ourselves permission to fail at our dreams also, ironically, frees us to pursue them with great abandon, if that’s our chosen path. Think about it. When your self-worth isn’t tied to achieving a particular dream, you aren’t afraid of what happens if you fail. You’re free to a) persevere, b) change that dream for a better fit, or c) a path I’ve perfected – fail in a blaze of glory and pick yourself up, tattered but whole. You have nothing to lose because you know you’re valuable, even if your dreams never come true.

At least that’s how I live. For now, I’m open to the possibility that my perfect career/dream life/whatever-you-call-it may wander into unchartered territory. Just do me a favour. Don’t tell me my dreams will come true if I try hard enough. They may not.

And if that happens, I’ll still be happy.

206 more times to play hide and seek

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When my children ask me for the 17th time in one day to play hide and seek, I can always think of other things I’d rather be doing. Finishing the washing. Cooking dinner. Working on my latest freelance job. Answering emails. The relentless task of parenting and my need to Achieve Things during the day has turned me into a taskmaster. Playing is an aberration; a distraction I want to outsource or dispense with quickly.

But lately, I’m trying to remember that my days here, in this strange world inhabited by cheese sandwiches, scabby knees and imaginary dinosaurs, are brief.

There will always be more emails to send, more dinners to cook and definitely more washing to be done. There is only a finite amount of times my children will ask me to play hide and seek.

Maybe I’m already halfway through my assigned quota and I’ve only got 206 times more to go. That’s 206 more times I’ll pretend to hide behind a curtain while gabbling “yooo-hooo…come and find me!”. Or 206 more times I’ll hear them shrieking as they tear up the stairs. Only 206 more times they’ll whip that curtain back and offer up their faces to me – two peaches glowing with unbridled joy. 206 more times until their orbits broaden and I am no longer their world.

From that perspective, the washing can wait. Today, I’m down to 205 times, my children are counting to ten and there’s a table out there I need to barely conceal myself under.

When ‘no’ is the hardest word to say

If you’re anything like me and suffer from a chronic need to please people, you’ll relate to my inability to say the word “no”.

It always starts with a polite request, usually dropped into the middle of a conversation. I’ll readily agree, pay for my coffee and spend the rest of the car ride home remembering – with rising panic – all the reasons why I can’t meet that request.

Rather than back out, I’ll spend the next few days convincing myself that it is possible, in one morning, to wake up at 5am and drive my friend to the airport, take my son to his swimming lesson, edit my brother’s uni assignment and bake 30 pink cupcakes for a Peppa Pig-themed kid birthday party (“…and would you mind making 7 of them gluten free?”).

It’s the perfect recipe for an anxiety attack.

You end up trying to please everyone, sacrificing sleep in order to drive to a 24-hour Coles in your pyjamas where you’ll find yourself squinting at packet labels, trying to work out if rice flour is gluten free. It’s moments like these you think to yourself, “why couldn’t I have just said no?”

A psychologist I saw six years ago had a solution for this dilemma. She had a default answer for every request she received, no matter how big or small: “thanks for asking me; do you mind if I check my diary first and get back to you?”

Of course, you’ll most likely have a smart phone in your pocket with your schedule handy, but the other person doesn’t need to know that. By delaying your answer, you short-circuit that loop where a person asks a favour and you automatically respond with yes. It gives you time to work out how to graciously decline the request. Plus you avoid double booking – a classic problem for the chronic people pleaser.

It’s taken six years, but this default answer has now become my catchphrase. If someone asks me for a favour, I’ll say I need to check the family calendar. Later that night, I’ll think about the request. As the psychologist recommended, I’ll think through how much time the task will take, what I’ll need to sacrifice in order to do it, how it will impact my family and whether I have enough on my plate already.

I also added another factor to consider: whether I want to do it.

It sounds like a simple question, but it’s actually quite complex for people pleasers like me, leading to a self-indulgent string of additional questions: do I actually want to help this person, or am I doing it because I feel like I should? Am I doing it to win their good opinion, or because I actually care? There’s nothing worse than helping someone with a grumbling heart.

Especially if that favour involves trying to trace Peppa Pig’s likeness on a small cupcake at 1am in the morning.

The third wave of mummy blogging

838340467_ebf91c2a8e_bI’m currently working on a feature article about mummy bloggers who are Christians: why they blog, what kind of readers they attract, how their faith influences their writing, what impact they’re making in both secular and Christian online circles.

It’s been a great topic to sink my teeth into. I’ve had a number of chats with fascinating women who have tapped into the blogosphere in different ways.

I’ve also discovered the third wave of mummy blogging. To quote The New York Times:

The first wave of mommy blogs (pre-Facebook) were simple family updates, like year-round Christmas letters. The second wave were confessional soap boxes for mothers with dirty laundry to air (like dooce.com), attracting devoted readerships, advertising dollars and eventually public mimicry. The third, it seems, are jaw-droppingly art-directed, sort of like a glossy fashion magazine on the newsstand.

While most of the bloggers I’m interviewing firmly belong in the second category, I find the third wave of blogs an interesting development. Confessional blogs pointedly reveal the unglamorous side of parenting. Glossy blogs like The Glow do the opposite. Think idealised images of family life, effusive writing, organic food and high fashion – for the babies, not just the mums. From a post on The Glow:

“When I had Ruby, my former boss told me, ‘here’s the secret: buy kids’ clothes in Paris.’ She’s been my mom mentor. Now I always shop for her when I’m there for the shows. I find all of these great, affordable pieces in muted colors and classic styles at Monoprix.”

These kinds of blogs are the byproduct of a seismic shift in print media. While magazines grapple with the challenge online publishing poses for their revenue streams, aspirational blogs signal a sort of democratisation of Vogue-style content.

As for the confessional type bloggers? They’re still there, albeit on a variety of other platforms: twitter, facebook, instagram, pinterest.

And they are still telling their stories, searching for the valuable in the mundane.

Should we really ban the word ‘bossy’?

I remember the first time someone called me bossy.

I’m the oldest child in my family, so whenever I played games with my friends in the playground, I liked being in charge. I had no qualms about telling other kids what to do and assigning roles for everyone in pretend play.

So it was that one day in primary school I was going about my usual habit, giving people different Rainbow Brite characters to act out (child of the 80s here) when out of nowhere, a friend piped up in a quiet but indignant voice: “I don’t want to play. You’re being really bossy.”

I was mortified. Suddenly I saw myself from her perspective, disregarding everyone’s ideas, telling people what to do. She was absolutely right. I was being, for lack of a better term, Little Miss Bossy Boots.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and her organisation Lean In is campaigning hard to ban the word ‘bossy’, especially in relation to little girls.

She argues that bossy is a term used to discourage girls from taking on leadership roles. “We need to recognise the many ways we systematically discourage leadership in girls from a young age — and instead, we need to encourage them,” she says. “So the next time you have the urge to call your little girl bossy? Take a deep breath and praise her leadership skills instead.”

You can watch the campaign below:

While I heartily agree leadership skills should be nurtured in young girls (I love Lean In’s collection of new stock images depicting working women), a celebrity studded campaign pillorying the word ‘bossy’ is a clumsy way to go about it.

Bossiness, Control, Dominance – any term that signifies overbearing leadership – is applied to both men and women. When the Labor party was in government, former PM Kevin Rudd was labelled a micro manager intent on gaining power. The late Steve Jobs was well-renowned as a demanding control freak. Closer to home, we complain about bossy male bosses as well as female ones.

Yes, it’s true that society tends to be more forgiving of men who are bossy than women (Steve Jobs, for all his interpersonal flaws, is still hailed as a genius). It’s clear Sandberg is projecting her own struggles of working in a male dominated industry into this campaign. But the answer isn’t to police what is essentially gender-neutral language, as if reframing negative traits in girls will somehow tip the scales and smash glass ceilings.

The answer is to rethink what makes a good leader.

I’d argue that a good boss isn’t bossy. Effective leaders don’t dominate over others, nor do they lead by simply telling people what to do. Great leadership is about leading by example. It involves inspiring people to follow, rather than simply barking demands. It’s about having empathy and understanding what motivates people. It’s about not being afraid to get down and dirty amongst those you lead. We all know this. No one wants to work for a tyrant, male or female, which is why I find this campaign so baffling.

Beyonce’s assertion “I’m not bossy. I’m the boss” is only helpful if the word ‘bossy’, on examination of her character, is invalid. If she (or any female) is overbearing and dictatorial, then such a statement is not empowering for women, but defensive and foolish.

Sandberg may want to paint bossy girls as feminist but the truth still stands. No one wants to follow a bossy girl; in the same way no one wants to follow a bossy boy. Encouraging negative behaviour in young girls is not empowering, but ultimately damaging. Raising a generation of women who do not know the value of empathetic leadership, who cannot filter criticism with a healthy dose of self awareness, can only be detrimental to any feminist cause.

As a child, I didn’t need anyone to tell me that my constant haranguing of my friends to do what I want was ‘progressive’ or ‘a great display of leadership potential’. I needed someone to give me a clip over the ear and tell me to be thoughtful of others.

I would do the same for my daughter.
I would do the same for my son.

And I would hope that they would grow up to be better leaders as a result.

When did a jam jar stop being a jam jar?

IMG_1920I started collecting old jam jars before Pinterest told me there are 101 things you can do with them.

It started when my friend threw a cocktail party and served pots of decadent chocolate mousse in old baby food jars. I was so taken with the idea that in preparation for my upcoming 30th, I spent the next two weeks feeding my baby pureed pears, just so I could have forty identical glass jars to serve canapés in (the husband thought I was mad).

One year on, I’m still collecting jars.

I have a chest full of old pasta sauce bottles, salsa jars, strawberry jam jars and glass candleholders. As the hipster obsession with repurposed jars spreads into mainstream culture, I’m not alone. I’ve eaten muesli out of a jar at cafes. I’ve received homemade baking mix jars as gifts. I’ve seen young mums drink kale smoothies out of Mason jars while at the park. There are even jars for hipster babies: tiny mason jars with sippy tops attached for little Seraphina/Brooklyn/Rex.

It’s part of the ‘old is new’ aesthetic; a trend that makes mascots of the wooden crate, the typewriter, buddy holly glasses, the rotary dial phone. And although I’m more Taylor Swift than Arcade Fire, I can’t get enough. Every day I scour sites like Gumtree and Freecycle for second-hand items. My last find was a rattan basket filled with knitting patterns from the 1960s (that’s when I discovered jumpers from the 60s are unflattering unless you look like Twiggy).

IMG_1919Why are we attached to this stuff?

Some people say it’s because we’re moving towards more sustainable ways of living. I don’t buy it because it’s hard to believe millions of Gen Yers are at home on a Thursday night, patiently soaking their old jam jars in hot water and scrubbing off the labels.

The reality is most people buy jam jars for $4 in chain stores which probably source their jars from factories with questionable labour practices. I was at a café recently – one of those places with bicycles hanging from the ceiling and signs made from recycled bits of corrugated iron. I ordered a burrito and instead of serving it on…I don’t know…a PLATE, it arrived in an old-school styrofoam takeaway container, even though I was eating in. Is this really where we’re at? Using takeaway containers that create more landfill just because it’s retro?

Another reason given is that old items connect us to the past. Again, I’m not sure.

We’re collecting items from a past we’ve technically never experienced. My family never drank iced tea from a Mason jar while sitting on the porch, which is not surprising given a) they are Chinese and b) we don’t live in the Deep South. My mother, who preferred soup from a tin and taped up the hems of my jeans, never knit me jumpers with baby animals on them. My weetbix have always come out of a cardboard box. I don’t remember a time before CDs and microwaves.

The truth is, I don’t have a noble purpose for collecting jam jars.

Even though I’m glad they don’t end up as landfill, I really just like the way they look in my kitchen. It’s easier to see my pasta when they are in glass jars rather than opaque tupperware containers. They keep the wax from spilling all over my (Ikea) table. Daisies in a jar on my kitchen countertop aren’t some ironic throwback to 1950s domestication. They just make me feel happy.

I realise this makes me a fipster, i.e. fake hipster. My younger brother Nic, a true hipster who was in Africa last week at a two hour drumming circle, would be the first to point this out. I don’t mind at all.  I’ll own my fipster status, along with my moleskine diaries, packets of quinoa and collection of porcelain owls (mostly bought from Kmart).

In the meantime, if you want to borrow forty baby food jars for a party, you know who to call.

If you want a fun day out, don’t invite the dolphins.

What I expected the dolphins to look like...The sign outside the Jervis Bay tourist centre caught my attention.

Cruise Pristine Waters! Watch Dolphins Up Close in their Natural Habitat! Relax on Our Deluxe Ship!

Usually, my husband and I would ignore this kind of sign. We are, by nature, low-key vacationers who prefer mucking around on the beach to scheduled outings. The two-hour cruise, though, looked like a great way to end our recent family holiday at Jervis Bay. I had visions of our family on a sun drenched deck, rosy cheeks turned to the sea breeze in exhilaration. We’d never been on a cruise with the children before, but what kind of child doesn’t enjoy being on a big boat?

Mine, as it turns out.

The morning started pleasantly enough. Both kids were excited as we boarded the ship and scuttled to find the best seats for dolphin watching. Then the boat took off and reality set in. The toddler decided she didn’t care about boats and preferred to climb up the restricted access staircase. The preschooler took all of 40 seconds to absorb the scenery before hurtling around the deck, his sandaled feet kicking kneecaps as he tried to crawl under the chairs.

Don’t stress, I told myself as I prised my daughter’s flailing body from under the staircase railing. They’re just restless, waiting for the dolphins. Remember, Pristine Waters! Relaxing in a Deluxe Ship! Perhaps I will take an impromptu photo of us, all blithe and tousled in the wind, with a dolphin or two in the background.

Except the dolphins took a while to appear. The first sighting was forty minutes into the cruise. Two fins slipped out of the water and down again, too fast for the myriad of camera phones poised to capture their majesty. “Where’s the dolphin?” asked the preschooler. “There.” I gestured wildly towards what was now empty sea. He looked at me quizzically then continued charging around the deck. I brightened my smile by a few notches and focussed on the calming influence of the ocean. “Breath-taking, isn’t it?” I said to the husband in what I hoped was a deep and meaningful tone. “I can’t hear you over the howling,” he replied. The toddler was in full-scale meltdown, banshee style, while husband had the preschooler in a headlock to stop him climbing over the edge of the boat.  I then realised something crucial. I get extremely bad seasickness. Having only been on a boat a handful of times in my life, I’d forgotten. “Um, I think I need to walk around and stretch my legs,” I said to the husband, who responded with a don’t-you-dare-leave-me-alone glare.

Then it all fell gloriously apart. Nothing could distract our children – not the ‘deluxe’ morning tea of biscuits and styrofoam cups of tea, not the bored tourists taking selfies next to us. Finally, salvation came in the form of an iPhone. People glowered as Peppa Pig blared, either feeling sorry for us or thinking we were awful parents who couldn’t go one hour without resorting to technology. I might have felt bad, if I wasn’t too busy concentrating on not throwing up in my sunhat.

When we returned to Sydney, I wondered why I had placed such high hopes in an overpriced cruise. Was I more interested in having a picture perfect family day, or the kind of day that would actually make us happy?

Magazines and lifestyle blogs have a certain idea of what a happy family does, whether it’s holidaying in exotic locations or creating photogenic moments in vintage-styled apartments. Reading these articles reminds me of celebrating New Year’s Eve in my early twenties. Everyone would talk about the parties they went to and if my night was quiet, I felt like I had missed something vital – that somehow, I wasn’t having fun the right way. It took a long time for me to realise there’s no point straddling the gap between ‘what I feel I should be doing’ and ‘what I actually want to do’. I’m better off being comfortable in my own skin and accepting what makes me happy.

When facebook and instagram came on the scene, I had to learn this lesson all over again. It’s easy to feel down about my life when I’m offered a tantalising glimpse into someone else’s. Amidst the overseas holidays, charming family picnics and the fabulous parties, my world can seem small by comparison. I sometimes catch myself wishing my days were brighter, filled with more adventure, more magical moments. Instead, I’m working on relishing the life I already have.  And happily accepting the fact that sometimes, all I want to do on New Years Eve is eat cheese, watch a DVD and get an early night’s sleep.

If I’m honest, this is what a great day out would look like for our family. There would be sleeping in. There would be television. A beach trip would be 40 minutes max because any longer would be suicide. There would be coffee. There would be wrestling with daddy and books with mummy. There would be digging in the dirt. There would be no wearing of underwear by anyone under 4. There would be frozen chips for dinner. Finally, at night, when our kids are tucked in bed, there would be cups of tea, Fitz and the Tantrums and dark chocolate.

And there would not be a boat or a dolphin to be seen.

How Nigella saved me thousands of dollars in therapy

cake

It all started with a trifle.

I had recently given birth to my second child and life was chaos. Not the whimsical, ‘let’s go to Bali at a moment’s notice’ sort of chaos, but the kind that felt like a daily avalanche. To relieve the stress, I became adept at breastfeeding while balancing a laptop on the arm of the couch and watching YouTube clips. I didn’t discriminate; think videos of singing goats, Best Moments of The Voice UK, old clips of Trinny and Susannah during an intense but mercifully brief obsession.

That’s when I discovered it: a clip of Nigella Lawson making a passionfruit trifle. From then on, I was hooked.

People are divided when it comes to the infamous domestic goddess. While some are enthralled by Nigella’s buttery voice and sensual approach to cooking, others dislike her on air persona. “I don’t buy the act,” one friend said. “The perfect hair, using teacups to measure flour…it’s all a bit much.” I can see where she’s coming from. Nigella Kitchen is not so much a cooking show as it is an instagrammer’s delight. From twinkling fairy lights to sticking celery in vases (why you ask? So party guests can break off little trees to dip in passing bowls of pesto), Nigella is all about the show. She is den mother, hostess and lady of leisure rolled in one. She cooks to perform and shapes her stage effortlessly.

This is why I find her appealing. In my mind, Nigella represents control – more precisely, the ability to shape your environment rather than letting your environment shape you. When I’m drowning in chaos, watching Nigella cook is like taking a vacation to fairyland where you can make everything exactly the way you dream it to be. How often can you say that about real life? And unlike other chefs whose recipes require a stone oven and five different types of mushrooms on hand, Nigella’s world is within my reach. Not long after watching her show, I made that trifle. I piled chunks of store-bought cake on a plate, doused it in ginger wine and dolloped cream and passionfruit on top. Yes, my kitchen was a mess. Yes, I did it while wearing Kmart trackies. And yes, I may have accidentally put my elbow into the bowl of whipped cream. But I tamed those ingredients into willing submission and for a brief moment, life also felt under control. Adrenaline drained out of my body. My jaw visibly slackened. Happiness was no longer a complicated matrix of factors that eluded me but a simple matter of cut, assemble, eat. The End.

I imagine last year was horrendous for Nigella. Whether or not you’re a fan, you have to respect a woman who can survive an abusive marriage, drug allegations and a brutal slaying by the British tabloids. Early this month she was back in the media, promoting her show The Taste with an upbeat interview on Good Morning America. According to a YouGov poll, two thirds of people surveyed said her drug confession made no difference to their opinion of her. In an age of sex tapes and luxury rehab centres, we don’t expect celebrities to be infallible. We also know that no one is in complete control of their environment, not even self-titled domestic goddesses.

At the risk of sounding like head cheerleader for #teamnigella, this makes me appreciate the Nigella’s cooking style even more. Her reality may be a far cry from cashmere in the kitchen, but she still manages to sell a brand of therapy that works. A simple achievement in the kitchen can be the best antidote to chaos, be it baking a cake, perfectly boiling an egg or when kids dinner doesn’t end up on the floor. As Nigella says in How to Be a Domestic Goddess, “cooking, we know, has a way of cutting through things, and to things, which have nothing to do with the kitchen. This is why it matters”.

I heartily agree. Although reality is far more complicated than baking a cake and chaos a never ending avalanche, I’ll stick with trifle therapy for now.

What’s your version of trifle therapy? How do you cope when life gets crazy?