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Jealousy. Envy. Dirty looks. No, I’m not talking about last week’s episode of The Real Housewives of Orange County. I’m talking about the classic battle…as epic as Sparta vs. Athens, or Yankees vs. Red Sox, even Me vs. My Hair…it’s the:
The Working Moms VS. Stay-At-Home-Moms (SAHM’s…see?? They even get a cute acronym!!)
From my snarky remark, you can most probably guess which side I am on. For the past five years, I have been a working mom. There have been good days, bad days, and days when I feel like swimming across the Nile River, or being Charlie Sheen’s agent (a treat compared to the mental/physical/emotional rut I was in.)
Now, I should say that I kinda play both sides of this game. Yes, I am a working mom (WM? nah, just doesn’t have the same ring…), but I’m certainly not the workingest mom on the block. I teach middle school, which means although my day starts early, I am home by 3:00pm most days. Some working mamas are just grabbing their afternoon pick-me-up espressos on their way to their fifth meeting of the day at that time.
Being a teacher also means I have snow days, holiday breaks throughout the school year, and of course, that coveted 10-week summer vacation. I know I have the best of both worlds, and to top it off? I heart my job. Like, if you covered it with bacon and whipped cream and it was delivered to my front door by Matt Damon, I couldn’t love it any more! I work in a great building, with amazing colleagues, who happen to also be some of my best friends, and I truly enjoy teaching and interacting with my gaggle of sixth-graders every day.
I also have another advantage, in that my mom (who actually used to also work at my school), retired from her position when Bella was born so she could babysit for us while I worked. I know how blessed I am to have this advantage…I’ve never had to leave a crying baby at daycare, or a teething toddler at a sitter’s house.
The Enormous Mommy-Guilt
At the risk of sounding like a spoiled brat, despite all of these amazing accomodations, being a working mommy still bites. Missing the first day of school, class parties, first steps…and what’s worse than missing those sweet moments? THE GUILT. MOMMY GUILT is the worst variety of guilt available. If it was possible to bottle the insane amount of guilt that me and my fellow working mamas feel on a daily basis, I could market it to the US Government as a weapon of mass destruction. The A-bomb has nothing on us.
What’s almost as bad as ‘the guilt’ is the perpetual feeling of playing catch-up. As my mommy-partner-in-crime always puts it, it’s like we are constantly treading water, just trying not to drown in the ocean of tasks that all have to be done like, NOW. Or even worse, 5 minutes ago. Multi-tasking doesn’t even start to describe the day…grading spelling tests, while breading chicken cutlets, nursing your six-month-old and helping your Kindergartner with her homework is an EASY afternoon.
OK. Enough woe-is-me. There is a bright side. Like I said, I do love my job, for which I am so grateful. I have the benefit playing dress-up everyday, wearing heels, baubles and cute sweater dresses for an entire 8 hours without the threat of having smashed banana smeared across my boobs, or sitting in a puddle of apple juice. I get to bring home da bacon and live very comfortably in a two-salary household. Eating lunch and having a half-hour of uninterrupted adult conversation each day is also a major perk. To most SAHM’s, that probably seems as unattainable as scampering up Mount Everest in platform heels.
And I won’t claim innocence. Us working madres are pretty judgmental when it comes to the SAHM crowd too. We expect them to be Martha Stewart/Gwyneth/Donna Reed hybrids, with sparkling clean houses, organic meals and crafty projects done each day. They have allll day, don’t they?? Yes, they have all day, unless their darling two-year-old decides that he is NOT getting dressed in anything except rubber rain boots and a tiara today. They have all day, until their 18-month old decides to fingerpaint their leather couches with mac and cheese. They have all the time in the world unless their 4-year-old stomps a BJ’s size bag of Pirate’s Booty into your brand new living room area rug. SAHM’s need to multi-task as much or even more than the working mamas do…and they have to do it for longer periods of time, each day, with no breaks or relief in sight. Like I said, I get to be a SAHM every summer, and it is both wonderful and exhausting, and usually by 3:00 in the afternoon, I am counting the seconds to when my husband is going to walk through the front door.
Doing the best we can
There are no winners in this war, no right or wrong. You always want what you can’t have, and the most destructive thing we can do is to judge another mom, because 99.9% of us are doing the best we can, with what we have. The most important thing is that our babies grow up to be happy, well-adjusted little people, who won’t have to invest too much of their future salaries in psychotherapy.
My New Year’s resolution this year was to be a ‘half glass full’ kinda gal (as long as that glass is mine, and it’s half-full of Pinot Grigio) and appreciate what I have. Green isn’t my color anyway…
The other night I needed a meal that would come together quickly, yet be suitable to serve to guests, both picky and discerning. We were in the mood for chinese food, but being gluten-free, ordering take-out can be a risk. I turned to one of my favorite recipe websites, and was excited to try this dish. As always, I made a few minor revisions, and we were very, very happy with dinner. I’m usually hesitant to make this type of dish in the crockpot, as vegetables can easily get overcooked, but adding them as a final step worked perfectly.
Crockpot General Tso’s
Beginning with this recipe for General Tso’s, I decided to make a few changes to make it more akin to sesame chicken, a favorite in our house. When making the sauce, I added a tablespoon of sake and a teaspoon of sesame oil. Before serving, I sprinkled with sesame seeds, which I lightly browned in a frying pan beforehand. Served over brown rice (with yellow squash puree) and some orange slices, it was a great dinner that kept me out of the kitchen until the end of the meal.
Postpartum depression, after-birth anxiety, and other mental health issues can be quickly overlooked in the wholebirthing experience. There’s so much going on between the excitement of a new life, the onslaught of visitors, the congratulations, the flowers, and the backslaps. The new mother herself may not be fully aware of how she is feeling emotionally with this new responsibility, especially for the first time, or even the second time around.
Stacey Ackerman is what you’d call a “supermom,” one of those ladies who’d create a “50 item to do-list,” who rarely gave up control, and who needed a plan for most events, and more importantly, needed that plan to go AS PLANNED. She never thought that the birth of her third child, a beautiful girl named Emily, would send Stacey on a mental health decline that had her looking at institutional walls in a psychiatric hospital. In her book, Supermom: A Postpartum Anxiety Survival Story, Stacey tells the harrowing true tale that perhaps some of may have witnessed in our circle of friends or family or maybe some of us had a taste of her frightening symptoms. What she has done with her no-holds-barred story was to remind us that postpartum depression can not only happen to the best of us, but can be treated.
I had the chance to speak with Stacey who is not only promoting the book, but some very helpful websites as well. In brief, this is her story: after her third child was born, Stacey was diagnosed with panic disorder, stemming from anxiety that spiralled out of control. Sleep deprivation worsened the panic, and she soon suffered a psychotic breakdown. She feared for her children, and her sanity. She writes:
“People had no idea what was going on inside of me, and I didn’t understand it either. I didn’t know where to turn for help. The sicker I got, the more paranoid I became about what was happening to me. I was feeling increasingly desperate and hopeless.”
A friend, Regina, came to Stacey and said, “Stacey, I know of a hospital with a psychiatric unit. Tell them that you insist on staying. You need to get help before this becomes a dangerous situation.” Her next line says it all: “I felt completely relieved that someone was going to do something about my situation. I didn’t want to go to the hospital, but I knew I desperately needed help.” Sometimes the patient knows that something is amiss but can’t bring themselves to ask for help, and getting help for Stacey finally came in the form of a firm friend who said, “you have to do this.”
I asked Stacey about the writing of the book. “It was very therapeutic,” she said. “I had my notes [from her hospital stay] and went off to a three day retreat to start it, and then worked on the book at coffee shops. Sometimes I had to put it aside because it was extremely hard to go back there.” She said her husband didn’t want to read it. “He said, ‘I lived it, I can’t live it again.'” But, she added, “he did end up reading it. ”
During her hospital stay, Stacey wrote in her journal. As a student of journalism and communications, writing was always part of her life. “It grounded me,” she said of writing even in the throes of the panic disorder, “It helped me stay connected.”
What can parents-to-be learn from this? “Ask yourself what really needs to get done. Learn to let go. Say ‘no.'” It was difficult for Stacey to do that because of her “supermom” personality. What she’s learend to do, for example, is rather than clean for a half hour, she’ll play with her children.
In a letter Stacey wrote to Emily on the occasion of her first birthday, she writes, “My experience after your birth has taught me to cherish every moment that we have together….There was a time when I wasn’t sure I would get to raise you….I am so happy to be celebrating your first birthday with you. We made it!”
In the book Supermom, Ackerman gently walks readers through her terrifying journey of how a seemingly charming life unfolds into a nightmare of physical and mental breakdown, ending with inspirational, heart-wrenching inner strength that gives hope to a world of women – from the book’s website. For more information on the book, and to reach Stacey, visit supermombook.org.
Here’s just a sampling of support on the internet:
jennyslight.org (impove and save lives by increasing awareness of all perinatal mood disorders including postpartum depression.)
mommiescrytoo.com (peer to peer website created for and by postpartum sufferers and survivors.)
ppdsupportpage.com (information, support, and assistance to those dealing with postpartum mood disorders, their families, friends, physicians and counselors.)
Going INto Africa
A few months back I announced that my daughter had chosen where she wanted to go on her 11th grade trip, the trip I give my daughters before they go off into the world, and the opportunity of international travel may not be so available. My oldest chose Paris, with a ride through the chunnel to London for an overnighter. My youngest daughter, hands down the total opposite of my oldest whether by DNA or by choice (since their sisterly connection has had its ups and downs), chose South Africa. I was dumbfounded at the choice. But, I’d given her the “no-restrictions” offer. (It’s a reminder to parents out there to beware what you offer your kids, thinking that you going to know the answer.) I truly thought it’d be Mexico or the Bahamas since she’d enjoyed a family trip there a few years back.
But, no, South Africa. Where we each had to get three vaccinations the other day, and a prescription of malaria tablets now sits on my dresser, waiting for us to begin our weekly dose, however, not until a week before we depart. I’m also gathering specific information on what to pack, how much to pack, what electrical converter we’ll need, and when to change some our American dollars into the currency of the country; it’s called the Rand.
What me worry?
In other words, it’s becoming a reality. Am I worried? Not as much. I’ve been fortunate to hear wonderful stories of people who know people who’ve been there. It’s quite the popular destination now that the country’s internal strife has calmed a little bit, and Capetown, at the southern-most tip of the continent has turned into one of most luxurious sites on the planet. All that has made me feel okay about it, that if all these thousands of people can travel there, every day, so can Caroline and I.
The flight alone will be a challenge: 15 hours non-stop. I do have my books, my crocheting, my laptop for as long as the battery holds out (no AC plug in our poor little economy section), and my daughter beside me.
The best part: being with my daughter
And when I think about that part: having my daughter beside me, my fear vanishes. I don’t know why. I am absolutely thrilled to have this “non-stop” time with her on the plane, in the lap of Capetown luxury, and even on our walking safaris (that visual alone makes me want to pack a two-week supply of Xanax). At 16, she has quieted down, isn’t as chatty-cathy with me as she used to be; she’s turned inwards into her art, into her music and internet world. She’s becoming her own person, the way teens become them these days. But I’ll have 12 uninterrupted days to be with her, even in her quiet, or in her drawing. I have asked her to allow us to have a daily “mommy-daughter” chat time, even if it’s just to discuss where we’ll eat for dinner, or how about those lions, huh? or, gee, that close encounter with the rhino was pretty scary. Things like that.
When I asked her about that little snippet of conversation time, she looked up at me, and smiled that smile I remember since the day she was born. And that alone makes me so excited about this trip. Any fears of the red ants, the bird-size bugs, or even the fact that the malaria tablets are just 99% effective, and whatever else I think about (whether real or imagined) just evaporates.
My daily recap of our South African day
I will be blogging about our daily adventures, and even skyping if I can figure out how that works, so I hope you’ll come back and visit! Begins in April.
Valentine’s Day has past, but I wanted to share what we had on our table that morning. These pancakes are quick to make, very tasty, and would be cute in any shape. Surprise your family with a little love at breakfast for dinner sometime, or tuck this idea into your memory for next year.
Buckwheat heart-shaped pancakes
- ¾ cup buckwheat
- ¾ cup flour (regular or gluten-free)
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 ½ cup milk
- 2 egg whites
- 1 tsp vanilla (I added this in)
- ¼ cup melted butter
- diced strawberries (optional)
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk dry ingredients together. In a small bowl, whisk wet ingredients together. Add wet ingredients to dry, mix until well blended. Add strawberries. Pour by ¼ cup onto greased, hot griddle or frying pan, in the shape of a heart. Cook 2-4 minutes, until brown on edges and bubbling, and flip, repeating on other side.
We are all guilty of it. Maybe you were out to dinner with your husband or one of your girlfriends in the PK (pre-kids) Era, and at the table next to you, there was a mom letting her two-year old smash Cheerios into the carpet underneath the table. The mom was seemingly oblivious, talking to her husband, enjoying her wine, while her little monster was dumping out her purse, eating her lip gloss and creating abstract art with those delicious little honey nut O’s. You lean over to your dining partner and inconspicuously point and whisper, “OMG, look at this mother! She is so busy talking and drinking, and totally not paying attention to her baby! That floor is so filthy, and she has no control- I would NEVER let my child do that.”
Let’s look at this from the more familiar point of view- the irresponsible mother…who we ALL know is not talking to her husband and enjoying her wine – she’s arguing with her husband about why there is only 14 dollars left in the checking account, thinking about the 9 loads of laundry she has to fold when she gets home, and wondering if she has time to chug just one more glass of Pinot before her little cereal-smashing artist enters the melt-down zone.
I think we can all agree that in the BK era, we would throw around the “N-word” quite often…I will NEVER do that when I have kids or I would NEVER say that to my children.
I think it’s pretty safe to say that by the time your first baby is one month old, you’ve probably broken about 99% of your I would NEVER… promises.
Motherhood is both the most amazing and the most frightening journey you will ever take. It is filled with bumps in the road, bumps on the head and the most horrid smells your nose will ever come in contact with…but one super-squeezy hug from your Kindergartener as she gets off the school bus, or a sniff of your newborn’s tiny little head as he snoozes in his car seat makes you say the ONE true I never statement…I would NEVER trade one moment with my little circus for anything!
I love cooking, but the clean-up can get to me. Although I don’t mind the clean-up in a theoretical sense, having the time to dedicate to a big mess in the kitchen at the end of a long, busy day can be a deterrent to cooking. On those days, I embrace a recipe that will have very little impact on the cleanliness of my kitchen (and as a result, my sanity). This delicious dinner required only one cutting board, a knife, a measuring cup, a vegetable peeler, and a 9 x 13 glass dish that went right into the dishwasher. It was quick to prepare, healthy, and kid-friendly. Further, since it cooked in the oven, I was able to prep it and walk away, and didn’t have to wipe down a greasy stovetop afterwards. Fabulous.
A one-dish dinner
- 1.5-2 lb. turkey tenderloin
- 3 large potatoes
- 1 medium onion
- 4 large carrots
- ½ c white wine
- ½ c chicken broth
- 1 T butter, cut into chunks
- a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
- kosher salt and coarsely ground pepper
Preheat oven to 350 and spray a 9 x 13 pan with non-stick spray. Place the turkey tenderloin in the center of the pan. Peel the carrots and potatoes; cut into chunks along with the onion. Arrange the potatoes, onion, carrots, and butter around the turkey, pour in the white wine and chicken broth. Distribute the rosemary around the turkey and vegetables, and season lightly with S&P. Cook for 60-80 minutes, until center of tenderloin reads 165 on an instant-read thermometer.
Usually I write about coupons. Not today. Something happened at my house yesterday and you moms need to know about this stuff. I know a lot of our readers out there have younger kids. For those of you with kids in the middle schools, I have something to tell you. I overheard my son last night (he’s 14), talking to a buddy on the phone. He told his friend he was going to try the Cinnamon Challenge.
My son thinks he wants to take a challenge where he attempts to swallow a heaping tablespoon of cinnamon. My first reaction is to tell him it will chemically burn his mouth. My fiance tells him it will cause convulsions (not so sure on that one) and my older son tells me it will cause vomiting. Joy. I looked up some videos on YouTube just to see. They look harmless to start with. Some folks cough it out right away. Lots of folks don’t. The one I saw showed the last person over a toilet bowl very sick.
Needless to say, both jars of cinnamon are in my purse today. My son tells me he is not stupid, so I ask why does he say he wants to do these things. Just to be cool is my guess. His answer was silence and hostility (typical teen behavior). We will be having more and more discussions on what we watch on YouTube and peer pressure.
Have you heard of this? Know anyone who has done it? I would love to hear from you. Until then, the cinnamon at my house lives in my purse. The things we do to keep our kids safe.