"My obsession with baking perfect birthday cakes for my sons nearly ended my marriage."

When I was younger my biggest dream was to become a teacher, then a housewife.

I couldn’t wait to have babies and bake and have my house all beautiful and lovely with the whole picket fence business.

I clearly remember one of my Year 11 female teachers asking us what we’d like to be if we could be anything at all.

My response was that I’d love to be a housewife, I’d love to cook and clean and be there when my children came home to take them to the park and play with them.

Apparently this was not the correct answer. I was confused, all the other girls were getting the appropriate level of praise with claps and everything, but I had somehow “insulted all those women who fought so that you could become whatever you want, to show men that you are as good as them.”

Geez! I thought all those women had done that so that we could have a choice.


Claire and her husband and son. Image source: Supplied. 

So fast forward a few years and I was living the dream, teacher and mother. Wahoo!

But the dream isn’t quite how I had pictured it and it’s really taken me a while to come to grips with the reality that is being a mum. I love being a mum, I love my kids etc.

But being a mum is tough, and I’m nothing like the mother or housewife I thought I’d be.

There were plenty of hints along the way before I realised I wasn’t the picture perfect mum/housewife I’d anticipated, but I persevered for a long while before I gave in and just started being the mum/housewife I actually am (and I still struggle with it).


Claire's sons. Image source: Supplied. 

The first hint came at each of my boys' birthdays.

Every year filled me with the same feelings of dread, worry and anxiety.

It wasn’t anything to do with my baby getting older, nothing to do with presents or making their day perfect, it was the CAKE. Bloody birthday cakes.

This woman is shutting down trolls by turning their words into cake. (Post continues after audio.)

This was always a part of my dream, creating a brilliant Women’s Weekly cake that would stop all of our guests in their tracks and fill them with awe and wonder.

And the first couple of cakes were pretty good, they looked like the picture in the book and everyone agreed the cakes were winners.


But something was to happen that would change all that: fondant.

The first cake. Image source: Supplied. 

When my eldest son hit about three-years-old, fondant cakes became a “thing”.

They looked spectacular and there was a rumour going around that regular mums/housewives were capable of mastering these cakes.


I was hooked.

I signed myself up to a weekend course and decided that this was for me, I would nail each future cake and again my guests would leave our brilliantly themed birthday party in absolute awe of my brilliance, “how does she do it?”, they’d say.

Image source: Supplied. 

I bought every cake making item I could get my hands on. I sketched and planned, I tested recipes and sourced the best ingredients.


I was obsessed, in a totally unnatural, unhealthy way. I’d start a few days before the party and I’d be up until midnight for several nights in a row.

My kitchen was a mess and out of bounds to rest of my family and I wasn’t a very nice person to be around for the days leading up to the cake reveal birthday.

On the day of the reveal party, I’d have to spend hours clearing up the mess from the week of caking, remove the stains from my benchtops from the hideous amounts of food colouring, and I’d be a bit of a cow if I’m honest.


Image source: Supplied. 

Then the party would arrive and I’d find myself delivering this cake full of anger and worry to my poor little child who probably would have been happy with a mud cake from Woollies with a ‘3’ stuck on top.

I don’t even know if there was any wonder or awe happening from the guests, I was shattered and emotionally drained and not capable of human contact.

It took me a week to recover from each cake and I wondered if all the other mum/wives felt this way. Is it really this hard for everyone?

Those Women’s Weekly mums had it so easy, they didn’t have to tackle fondant.


The "near-divorce" cake. Image source: Supplied. 

Eventually my poor, patient husband confronted me. My husband never confronts me.

“Please will you stop making the kids cakes? I hate it. They hate it. Please can you stop?”. He begged.

Anyone who knows Brett knows that he’s pretty laid back and doesn’t really get worked up about much, but he was really serious.

I promised never to make another week long cake ever again.


Claire and her husband. Image source: Supplied. 

So that was my first mum/housewife dream shattered.

But it’s actually okay, cause there’s places that you can go and they will make you a cake and all you have to do is pay for it and pick it up. Seriously.

And then at the party you can talk to people, you can laugh and interact and be present.

The first time I did this ordering cake thing, Will came up to me at his party and said, “thanks for my cake mum, I love it!”

And it’s the first time I’d ever heard that, but I can’t be sure if it was the first time he’d said it.

Claire Shrimpton is a mum, wife and teacher trying to find some balance in her busy world. She's on a mission to make sure she takes the time to stop and smell the roses and to let go of the idea of never becoming the perfect wife and mother she thought she'd be.

This article was originally published on The Balanced Vessel and republished with permission.