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A few months ago I posted the question, “What do you find the hardest about cooking?” in a mommy recipe Facebook group I’m a member of. I received over 200 responses and being the data nerd I am, found the results fascinating. I’m not sure why I expected technical cooking skill responses like how to thicken sauces or keep a whole roast chicken from drying out but those were not the responses I got.

Before we dive into the numbers I feel obliged to point out this was by no means a random sample. The fact these moms were part of this Facebook group probably says something about them that would bias their answers to the question. For example, just guessing here but top chefs probably don’t join Facebook recipe groups. Some of the mothers also provided multiple answers and I took all of them into account.

That being said, this specific group has over a million members so it’s more likely than not lots of other mothers share these sentiments too. Check out the results and judge for yourself.

Overall Results

Here’s a breakdown of all the responses in rank order from most to least. According to this group of moms, cleanup (i.e. doing the dishes) ranked as the number one hardest thing about cooking followed by deciding what to cook.

Check out the whole list of answers. What do you think? Which resonate with you?

I can definitely relate on the standing for long periods of time. Whenever we have guests over for dinner I feel like all I do is stand in the kitchen or lean on the counter. No wonder chefs are notorious for their bad knees. I tried cushioned mats for a while but after one stumble too many, which can be very dangerous in the kitchen, I broke down and bought these less than stylish but spectacularly supportive clogs from Oofos. You can see me proudly wearing them over on my About page – function over form people!

Another one of my favorite comments was “eating alone (happily lol).” I take comfort in knowing I’m not the only mother who can’t eat a dessert in peace. “Just a bite!” they say. It’s never just a bite but we love them anyway.

As far as technical comments go, only a few specifics like peeling and crushing garlic and making rice made it in (if in doubt, buy a rice cooker for $19.99!) but let’s not overlook the fact that “actually cooking” was the third highest response.

In fact, let’s break down the top five responses in more detail, shall we?

#1 Response – Cleanup

86 out of 231 answers listed cleanup, specifically doing the dishes, as the hardest thing about cooking. Based on the comments the reigning sentiment was that after cooking and feeding children, the last thing moms wanted to do was more work to clean up the kitchen.

For mothers with a greater number of children or young kids, I can imagine dishes are a particularly burdensome task since there are more to do and fewer people to do it.

Also compounding the issue are Americans’ packed schedules (most respondents were from the U.S.). With more than 60% of married American families having both parents working as of 2021, I’m sure the tradeoff between cleaning the kitchen and taking the time to do literally anything else only adds to the drudgery.

A post with practical tips for making cleanup easier is coming soon – be sure to subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss it!

#2 Response – Deciding What to Cook

One mom’s response of “deciding what to cook every day for the rest of my life” really hit the nail on the head.

A surprising number of factors go into deciding what to cook. Time, mood, energy, who’s coming for dinner, when you can get to the grocery store, what ingredients you have, what recipes you know, etc. No wonder so many moms consider deciding what to make one of the hardest parts about cooking!

Do you think it’s possible to develop a formula based on all those factors to answer the deceivingly simple question, “what should I make for dinner?” Probably not but even if it was, we’d have to factor in a coefficient for boredom since people get tired of eating the same thing every day.

While this was the second most common answer I can’t say I relate. Maybe I’m just lucky but I suspect there are things I do that make deciding what to cook a non-issue. I’ll give it some more thought and get back to you.

#3 Response – Actually Cooking

What does “actually cooking” mean? Many of the responses weren’t verbose around this matter but I took it to mean the actual nitty gritty in the kitchen. Chopping vegetables, tenderizing meats, sautéing, grating, seasoning, deciding whether to roast or fry something – you know, actually cooking. Basically everything from the time you put on your apron to the time you take it off.

Don’t have an apron? Trust me, you should have an apron. I like this simple black one for $9.99 from Amazon.

I found it encouraging that while actually cooking was the third highest response, only a small number of moms actually answered that way. Fingers crossed the cooking situation in America isn’t as abysmal as these cooking skill survey results from would have us believe. I’d be very curious to see these results broken down by whether a person is a parent or not. Based on personal experience I’m convinced having children is the number one reason to master cooking.

#4 Response – Making Something Everyone Will Eat

Respondents cited picky eaters and allergies as challenges to making something everyone will eat. Having several family members with severe food allergies, I can relate. Cooking becomes especially challenging when people are allergic to common ingredients like dairy or nuts.

As for picky eaters, there are so many varying schools of thought on that front I’m hesitant to put my toe in the water and offer advice. Our policy with our kids has always been they have to try something and that dinner is dinner – we don’t make separate meals just because they may not like something. Fortunately for us our kids are very easy going eaters (knock on wood).

#5 Response – Finding the Motivation

Ah, motivation. The willingness to do something. Based on the comments I don’t think motivation was actually the right word even though that’s what some mothers used. I think a better word would have been energy.

Just by being a part of the Facebook group it was evident these mothers were motivated to cook healthy, budget friendly meals for their families. The real hurdle wasn’t motivation but finding the energy to do so.

There’s no denying cooking takes energy. It takes time and effort to plan, shop, cook, clean and repeat the process virtually every day. If you regularly find yourself too tired to do things including cook for your family, I highly recommend reading this Harvard Business Review article about energy management. It’s written in the context of energizing employees but plenty of tidbits can be extrapolated out to other parts of life. Be sure to specifically check out the Energy of Meaning and Purpose section.

Share Your Thoughts

So now you’ve seen the results and we’ve covered the top 5 hardest things about cooking according to moms on Facebook in depth, tell me – what are YOUR thoughts? What do you find to be the hardest part about cooking? Other readers and I would love to hear what you think so be sure to leave a comment below!