In Recipe for Joy, Robin Davis has written a candid and unsparing memoir about her transition from glamorous San Francisco-based restaurant critic to an Ohio-based stepmother of three.
In this extract, Robin recounts how she told her children about her “major depressive episode”:
There was one more thing I had to do. “You need to tell Ben, Molly, and Sarah,” she said.
“Tell them I’m depressed?”
“Be honest with them,” she said. “Ken was always honest with them about their mother’s illness. You’ve both been honest with them about your relationship. Now it’s time to be honest with them about you.”
After dinner one night, I asked them to stay around the table. “I want to tell you something.” I took a deep breath and started on the part I had practiced. “When Josh was a baby, I used to tell him all the time when I watched him, when I changed his diaper, ‘Be nice to me, Josh. Your Aunt Robin doesn’t really know what she’s doing.’”
I looked around at my three stepchildren. “I don’t really know what I’m doing with you guys, either,” I said. “I’ve been trying hard to be perfect—whatever that means—and I haven’t been doing a very good job. I’ve become really sad. So I’ve been seeing a kind of doctor. The doctor says I’m depressed. Have you heard that word before?”
They nodded. “Is that why you cry?” Sarah asked.
“It is. And I want you to know that it’s not you, none of you. I just haven’t been really sure what it is I’m supposed to be doing, and I became convinced I wasn’t doing it right. But I’m working on it, OK? And I believe I’ll get better.”
Ben looked relieved. He smiled at me. “What can we do?”
Tears welled up in my eyes. Such a big heart, this boy. “Nothing,” I told him. “Just be you. And pray for me.”
The kids went off to do their homework, and I sat at the table and looked at Ken. “How do you feel?” he asked.
“About a hundred pounds lighter.”
“They don’t expect you to be perfect. They love you just the way you are.”
And I knew, maybe for the first time, that it was true. But it wasn’t just a flip of a switch: click, I was better. I still struggled often with my role, sometimes losing sight of who I was trying to be and who I actually was. [pp.91-92]
I love Robin’s honesty and willingness to be vulnerable.
Today, Recipe for Joy is featured on Grace Before Meals, a website dedicated to bringing families back to the dinner table. Visit their site to get Robin’s roasted beef tenderloin recipe. Bon Appetit!