April 11, 2014

heart to heart: ruth bruten

Today's Heart to Heart is with Ruth Bruten, aka Gourmet Girlfriend.  In this chat with Tamara she shares her experience of life as mother of 5 boys, the importance of food as a means of sharing love and offers words of wisdom about breastfeeding.  Set within the parameters of Facebook messenger, here is the unedited, unscripted chat between two mothers who between them share 10 boys!!

Maybe, before you start, click the play button on the video below and listen to one of Ruth's favourite songs : The Cinematic Orchestra - 'To Build A Home'; if you are a regular reader of Gourmet Girlfriend than you'll know that at the end of each blog post Ruth shares a piece of music that she has been listening to,  it seemed only fair to do the same here:

Ruth Bruten
mother of five, passionate cook  |  gourmetgirl-friend.blogspot.com

Ruth: I'm here and ready when you are !

Tamara: Was just putting a quick load of washing on!! 3rd one for the morning!!! Sorry!

I'm so excited to be chatting with you:) For those that don't follow you over on your blog… can you tell us the family statistics?

Ruth: ha! look at you! go washer girl go! I am - like you -am lucky enough to call myself Mother to Five boys.

Tamara: I know… that excites me so much… and in a lovely way contorts me also! contorts???? comforts… maybe contorts who knows;)

I did think the contortion might have been in empathy. but i LOVE that it comforts you. It comforts me too. I feel like the luckiest lady in the world

hahaha…. I have read that you are 1 of 5 yourself… did you always want a big family because of your own childhood experience?

Yes. I am one of the five. The baby. I do think it played a huge role in our mutual decision to plan five. My husband loved the happy chaos of my family and very much wanted that for his own.

So did he come from a large family also? LOVE happy chaos btw.

No- he is the eldest of two. His sister is five years younger than him. He grew up in the country and left the country town to move to the big smoke to go to Uni. His sister was just in early high school at that time. We met a few weeks after I turned 17 and have been together for 27 years.

Thats so interesting… The reverse is the case here… James is 1 of 6, 3rd eldest and from Toowoomba… and I am 1 of 2, my brother is 13 years younger and the city slicker! So I have to ask you… boys… could you ever have imagined 5 boys… a big family yes? But all boys?

I never imagined whether or not they would be boys or girls. I know that sounds strange but it was never really something I thought of. It was the number rather than the gender. I was never disappointed each time I met the newest and they kept on coming out as boys. I just feel so so lucky to have what I do. I was and still am I guess, a Tomboy, so I never craved doing 'girly' things- I don't do any of those things like Manicures etc. It's just not my scene. It never occurred to me that I might want a particular gender baby. I certainly don't feel as if I am missing anything. Boys really like hanging out at the kitchen table- that is my scene!

I am sure you plucked my entire thought process on this subject, out of my brain and put it into words. LOVE you. Except, I do like a manicure;) I found that everyone else seemed to be disappointed when I had a boy… like that would be the only reason to keep having babies… can you relate to this experience at all?

 ^like 'having a girl' was the only reason you could possibly want more children… sorry if I wasn't clear there… a little excited to ask that question?

I still reel every time someone assumes that I am disappointed or feel at a loss or overwhelmed by my boys. Really I think people are not trying to be hurtful with their commentary but it is so so boring hearing eleventy million and a hundred times the "Did you keep going for a girl?" *sigh* My lads are such ace humans, surely that wins over anything else at all? I am still to come up with the perfect retort- but essentially I don't care what other people think but I do care a LOT about the message they are conveying to my boys. My children are kind, compassionate, insightful, honest, genuine, funny, gentle human beings. these are things I hoped for in my children- not whether they were a girl or boy.

I totally hear you. Sadly I have no answer… yet… I guess open and honest discussion with our boys to try and undo the message is what we have. So, Ruth : Mother, wife, Blogger aka. Gourmet Girlfriend, Clog Wearer, Painter… the list goes on… Creative expression has been a big part of your life… particularly through Food… I'd love to hear about why it so important to you?

Food is the sustenance to our body. The Family table is the sustenance of our soul. As a child growing up, I feel as if our entire lives were played out in our large farmhouse style kitchen. It was a revolving door of people, amazing food, great coffee, wonderful music, laughter, tears and all the best of life. My mum & dad demonstrated through their incredible generosity what was most important in life: PEOPLE. Our kitchen was always filled with extras. The true heart of the home. So many people talk so fondly of the memories of my parents kitchen and the influence it has had on them. I am one of them. So while I LOVE to cook and the making of good food from great quality ingredients is super dear to my heart - it is the act of sharing love via the Family Table that is of most importance to me. To share food is to share love. And love is the most important thing of all.

Such beautiful words Ruth. Thank you. LOVE… it’s what makes us human, I agree, it is the most important thing of all. I know we are going to run a little over here… but can I ask you… what has been your greatest challenge as a Mother? And, if there is something you had wished you had know before becoming a Mother what would it be?

My greatest challenge was without a doubt nearly losing our fifth baby when he was 12 months of age. He went into convulsion and didn't come out of it, 25 minutes and an ICU ambulance later we were rushed to the Children's hospital where he was put into a medically induced coma for a week. We very nearly lost him a couple of times during that period. Horrific. Our family spent Christmas in the hospital that year. Not the most joyous of celebrations. But...we did go home eventually and he is in sound health now. It changed our world entirely. I think it took a period of time for all of us to recover from that. And in some ways I will never recover, but I am also very grateful. There are some families who were with us in there that didn't get to take their child home. It certainly cemented for me what was most important. LOVE. It was the single thing that got us through. Messages of love from far and wide. Hmmmmm. Regarding the second question- I'm not sure that I wished I knew anything more than I did to be honest. In some ways I think we wish to know too much and maybe that is why so many of us struggle- we build up this idea of how it should be and then feel as if we are doing it all wrong. Not knowing anything at all means the road is WIDE open to do it your way, to find your own groove. We don't all have to be doing it the same to be doing a good job. The way I parent wouldn't work for lots of people- and that is ok.

Oh Ruth. Hearing that story… I cannot imagine how that felt… Healthy children, that is all we wish for as parents, the possibility of losing a child… I'm not sure if there are words to describe that experience… only feelings… I didn't ask you earlier… how old were you when you had your first boy? I was 23 and feel just like you… I think that the less we know is often better… I love that your words: "the road is WIDE open to it your way". Do you think there is possibility that delaying childhood builds expectations of motherhood that can never be met?

I was 27. And yes i do think that as we get older we get harder on ourselves. I think we have a tendency as we age, to overthink everything instead of trusting ourselves a bit more.

I know I have to let you go… which is disappointing… I could sit with you here all day! But before you disappear, is there any other gems of wisdom you would like to share with us, a piece of advice you would give to a new mother maybe? Anything?

ok.....this might be controversial but here goes. I felt the pressure to be a great breastfeeder - as I am sure 100% of new or expectant mothers do. I persevered through 13 bouts of serious Mastitis with number 1 in 12 months. I then tried again with number 2, only to be hospitalised for a week with septicaemia on my fourth round of mastitis in 3 months. Finally to be told- 'Ruth this is not for you' by a medical practitioner after so much pressure from the breastfeeding crew. It was truly horrendous for all of us. Can you imagine my poor husband watching me suffer through this- just awful. The societal pressure is H U G E. We are made to feel so guilty if we can't or if it is not a pleasant experience. For me it was not. It filled me with terror every time my children latched on- was I going to get ill again? When I was finally 'given permission' to stop and given assistance medically to do so, it was the most amazing relief. I NEVER loved breastfeeding and I feel as though we are made to feel bad about that. There are some of us that just can't do it- for whatever reason (choosing not to is ok too). I was overwhelmed by guilty feelings of NOT loving it. The pressure to love it is relentless. As if being a parent to a newbie isn't hard enough...... But I did LOVE bottle feeding. I loved that I could give my baby my 100% undivided attention without feeling overwhelmed by anxiety that I may be about to go down with another bout of mastitis. I LOVED that my other children could take turns in nurturing their new sibling. I LOVED that my husband could feed his new baby too. And I LOVED that I regained my health as a result. we should be allowed to love the choice of bottle feeding just as much without the guilt. Sometimes the health of the entire family is bigger than choosing the boob! I want people to know that both bottle- feeding and breastfeeding are brilliant choices for your family. And don't feel guilty with your choice. It is your family and you know best. xxx 

You make me want to cry. I am so grateful that you said yes to chatting with us… your honesty is so important to all mothers I think… after all it is honesty that builds trust… whether we like to hear it or not, controversial or not… it makes us feel safe. I have no doubt that there are many mothers who have suffered in silence on this issue… so thank you, thank you so much Ruth. 

I better let you get back to that kitchen. Many hungry boys with empty tummys! Always empty tummys;) You. Me. We need that bowl of coffee. Soon. x

Aw I don't want to make anyone cry. Unless it makes them feel better. then it's ok Actually I am not feeling well so I may sneak back under the doona. It may be a weet-bix dinner tonight Thanks so much for having me- this project of yours is just so great. Anything that helps parents not feel as if they are swimming alone is a good thing and it was an honour to be asked to be a part of it. Thankyou. xxxx 

Weet-bix… Baked Beans… whatever works! Hope you feel better soon.

and YES! when I am feeling better I would LOVE a bowl of coffee with you!

Excellent… we'll do it… sooner rather than later:) xx

YES we will! xxx

If you would like some further reading, click here to read Ruth's message of LOVE. xx
If you would like some further reading, click here to read Ruth's message of LOVE. xx
top photo by:  hellokateberry  |  all other images by:  luisa brimble


  1. This is great, what a wonderful, wise woman. It would astound me how often I would be asked if I was going to try for a girl after having my three boys. I LOVE being a mum of boys, and I had four brothers, so it was all I really new. Of course, now we do have a girl, but we didn't 'try' for her, she was an unexpected little gift and was just meant to be. Whether we breastfeed or bottle feed, and how we parent our children in general, the choices we make are always going to be the right ones for us, because you're right, we know our family best. Thanks so much for sharing this with us x

  2. Adore this entire conversation and personally feel so relieved to hear a shout out for bottle feeding. I think the pressure on mums to breastfeed and breastfeed exclusively has gotten a bit out of hand. There are lovely, incredible things about nursing but there are also lovely, incredible things about bottle feeding and noone ever seems to talk about them. Such a breath of fresh air to hear your thoughts.

  3. You are both such beautiful & wonderful women inside & out - What an honest interview with a warm & wise woman #wholeheartedjournal - doing such great things ; the pair of you. x