If the Others in your family are able to fend for themselves, the pressure on you is somewhat diminished. Any nutrition they receive from your efforts will be a bonus, but there comes a time when their diet (and subsequent health) is in their hands.
However, if you are responsible for feeding small children, your efforts have much more impact. If we are what we eat, it follows that those we feed will be whatever we feed them. This is quite a responsibility. But instead of feeling over-awed by the enormity of this, why not use your innate sense of duty to your children to stimulate the energy you need to provide for them.
"If you cannot feed a hundred people, then feed just one" - Mother Teresa
There are days when the last thing I feel like doing is cooking a healthy meal. Yet I feel a strong, moral obligation to meet the nutritional needs of my children. For me, being a parent involves not just feeding my offspring, but feeding them well. So, I dig deep into my commitment to my children and haul myself into the kitchen. In fact, being committed makes it easier. There is less wondering whether I can be bothered. I know it needs to be done and this helps motivate me to get on with it. Besides, I know (from past experience) that the energy required to prepare a decent meal will pale in comparison to the guilt I feel if I don't.
Having said that, ensuring your children are well fed needn't always be so hands on, or at least not by your hands. You will be doing yourself and your children a favour if you regularly seek or accept help. Perhaps a grandparent could give them tea once a week? Or maybe Daddy and children would enjoy weekly home made pizza night, where they do some bonding in the kitchen (and give you a well earned break)?
Enlisting help is particularly advisable during the challenging phase of weaning. It is ironic that the time when you have the most influence on a child’s health of parenting. Feeding children can be a challenge at any stage, but this one takes the teething-biscuit. Remember, then, on those days when you are well weaned-out-help is out there!
These days, quality baby food is readily available, prepared by experts who care almost as much about your child’s nutrition as you do. These are often developed by mums who have been through this stage, who know how hard it is, and want to provide a no-compromise solution. There is no shame in succumbing to assistance during what is a particularly testing time. Better that your children have bought-in food and a happy mother, than only the finest home-cooked ingredients served up by an exhausted wreck!
Same goes to the chores around the house and the illusion of the perfect dinner host. I much prefer to spend some lovely quality time at our family and friends gatherings, than spending two days in the kitchen and fretting over the little dust on the bookshelves. I've found that a fun evening with our closest friends and some takeout food is much more fulfilling for everyone, than three course meal and a nervous and exhausted reflection of me. Also, about house cleaning, there is no need to try and be perfect and keep a sterile environment and perfect order. Ever since I have kids, I am much more laid back about it. And when you really need to get things in order, just use some professional cleaning help once in awhile. This will save you so much nagging and arguments, and overall stress.
As vital as nutrition is for young children, I believe even more important is a sane and healthy mother. So if there are accessions when preparing a meal is one step too far, then give yourself a break. Children are resilient creatures. If they are fed well most of the time, the odd veg-free meal is not going to be disastrous. Many dietitians suggest an 80/20 rule, i.e., good food 80% of the time. That means there is a 20% window for giving you a break!
Also it can be a great comfort to know that this intense period won’t last forever. There will come a time when the culinary demands on you will ease up. Your children will grow and they will increasingly eat elsewhere. Perhaps your child will become a budding chef and take over the family meals! Over the course of your lifetime, feeding children will only occupy a relatively small number of years (though it may feel like longer!) So when you next need a little encouragement, it may help you to remember that this busy time, when it is always down to you, will one day be a distant memory.
And when that day comes, you will reflect much more happily if you give it your best shot now.