Entries Tagged as 'life'
December 19th, 2014 · 4 Comments
So, last year, I faced the ultimate culinary challenge: a holiday meal for a dozen people.
And you’d think that would be a huge success, right? People do this all over the world, and it goes off without a hitch, so this Saveur-endorsed expert will have no trouble, right? The girl who’s piped eclairs and rendered duck fat and baked cakes from scratch?
Sure, you would think so.
And you would be wrong.
Don’t those potatoes look so great? Sure, they do. They look terrific.
But my guests, the ones who were supposed to be eating them for Christmas dinner last year… what did they get?
Oh, sorry. They got a bunch of burned potatoes.
And, you guys… I feel like I have some story to tell, but there’s no story here.
I was six months pregnant. I didn’t have a crying baby to look after or a seven-month sleep deficit.
I just tried my best at a holiday dinner, and… well, I burned the potatoes. In fact, I burned everything. The details aren’t really important, so let me just say: it was inedible. I spent all day cooking, and there was literally no edible food on our table. We didn’t even save the leftovers — and, yes, there were plenty. They went straight into the trash.
I felt awful. I felt so badly about ruining Christmas dinner that I could hardly talk about it for months — Chad had to pretend, every time I brought it up, that really, it wasn’t so bad. Sure, the potatoes were tossed into the garbage, but, even a holiday dinner sometimes goes awry; people understand. No one starved.
And as our family was leaving (after I’d given them enough dessert and wine to ensure they weren’t still actively hungry, even if they weren’t quite full), my mother in law told me that the first time she’d cooked for her husband’s parents, she’d done the same thing. She’d spent all day in the kitchen, planned a perfect menu, and then burned the whole thing.
And, you know what? Someday I hope to tell this story to our son’s wife. Some holiday, many decades from now, when I see her (and him! I’m raising a man who cooks, if it’s the last thing I do) take on the incredible effort of a holiday meal and see it go wrong, I’ll share this story. I’ll tell them about that time, a few months before he came into this world, when I bit off more than I could chew and came up just a little bit short.
And I’ll tell them about how we all laughed about it the next year (while eating the store-bought backup dishes I’m ordering this time around).
So, this year, turn on the Christmas lights. Open a bottle of wine. Play some great music and take a moment to focus on the faces of the people around your table. Because life goes by really fast, and this year’s burned potatoes are next year’s funny story. And a decade later, they’re a treasured memory of a time you tried and failed; a time you were just human and not superwoman.
So go ahead. Burn the heck out of those potatoes.
Tags: food · holiday · life
November 19th, 2014 · 5 Comments
In case you haven’t been following this issue, paternity leave — paid or unpaid time off that new dads take to spend with their kids — has been a hot topic lately. It’s an issue that Chad and I have spent a lot of time discussing and planning in the last few months, and I thought it might be valuable to talk a little bit about our perspective.
In case you haven’t been following, here’s a quick summary. Currently, the United States is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t offer any type of paid leave for new parents. Thanks to the Family Medical Leave Act, larger employers must offer 12 weeks of unpaid leave to new parents. That’s it.
Now, that’s a problem for new moms. It means that lots of moms have to go back to work earlier than they’d like, or need to make hard choices about their careers and the ability to balance a family.
But there is a deeper problem. And one that a lot of people don’t think about.
When we talk about parental leave, we mean maternity leave.
As in: Only women take it.
As in: Only women are offered it, much of the time.
But raising children isn’t just the job of the mom anymore. Studies show that the happiest households are those that with dads who do chores and spend time with kids. Not only do those moms get more satisfaction out of their marriages, but dads do too.
The fact is: the disengaged dad is a relic. We don’t live in a society where, like Don Draper, dad comes home on the evening train with a cocktail after the kids are in bed. It’s not true in any family I know — instead, dads value their time with their children as much as moms do, and our parental leave policies should reflect that.
And Chad and I were extremely lucky. We had a situation that any new family would dream of: my husband was permitted a generous amount of paid leave from his law firm. An amount that many moms don’t get, let alone dads.
And I was nervous. Paternity leave isn’t as widely accepted as maternity leave, and I wondered: Would this affect his future career? What doors would close because he made this choice? Would people be angry that he took time away from his job, for the mere purpose of spending time with our son?
Then suddenly I realized: those are the questions that face every woman who has taken maternity leave. Paid or unpaid. What repercussions would this have for her career? What sacrifices are she willing to make, to take time with her children?
Sure, there are some biological reasons that moms have to make these choices more often than dads do. But they are important to both genders. Moms and Dads have to make these decisions. Pretending that this is only an issue for moms keeps parental leave as a women’s issue, and it quite nearly guarantees that we will never make progress in getting to a solution that works.
But parental leave isn’t a women’s issue. It’s an issue for parents: men, women, gay parents, adoptive parents, everyone.
And you know what? When Chad was home more, spending time with the baby, his perspective changed. Up until then, I had been the primary caretaker of our son, and he just didn’t understand what I meant when I said that it had been a hard day. His perspective was different: no matter how hard a baby was, it wasn’t as hard as being a lawyer (I confess: I felt the same way before our baby was born).
Then, we had a morning where Chad took care of Bear on a particularly fussy day, and I slept in (yes, I was up all night and then handed the baby off at 7 am and slept till 10, and it was the best thing ever).
And when I came downstairs to see them, he told me: “I know what you mean, now. It’s really hard.”
And you guys, I melted. Months after my worst day, when I was all but immune to those tough days when the baby crying never seems to end, it meant so much to me to have it recognized by my husband. To have him say, “I understand what you’ve been struggling with, these past months. I get it now.”
And who knows? Maybe we would have gotten there without parental leave, but maybe not. I am still working; my career is fundamentally important to me, but balancing our son and my work has been incredibly challenging, like it is for any mom. And to have a dad who understands that balance, who knows what you’re going through on a bad day: it’s invaluable.
It makes two parents into partners.
So when we advocate for leave for moms, I think we should be advocating for dads too. It’s families that need this help.
Placing the burden solely on moms is never going to fix this problem. But advocating for leave policies for both men and women, for retiring those outdated gender stereotypes — I think that’s what’s crucial for us all to move forward.
So let’s figure out how to get there.
Tags: baby · life
So, first of all, let me say: for those of you that aren’t actively thinking about babies on a day to day basis, I totally get that this post will have zero interest for you, and for that, I apologize. Feel free to skip this one, and I’ll see you in a day or two with my next post. No hard feelings! But if you’re curious about breastfeeding, a topic that has occupied a huge portion of my mental energy for the last six months… Read on.
Before I got pregnant, breastfeeding wasn’t a topic that occupied a lot of my day-to-day thought. My view on it was pretty simple: the medical literature shows some benefits. I wanted to give it a try, but I knew that many moms can’t breastfeed, no matter how hard they try, for many reasons, both medical and personal. Some babies can’t feed that way and never learn to.
Still, I felt certain that if there was a natural way to feed our son, I wanted to at least give it a shot. But I promised myself that, if it didn’t work out, I wouldn’t beat myself up over it. I’d switch to formula and feel comfortable that I was meeting my baby’s needs in a way that worked for us, guilt-free.
(Side note: HA HA. That was my pre-baby self talking. My post-baby self quickly realized that there is no such thing as “guilt-free” when it comes to your kid.)
The hospital I delivered at was incredibly supportive of breastfeeding, and there were nurses, lactation consultants, and a free breastfeeding class all offered within days of his birth. But, ultimately, I didn’t even really need the extra support: Bear was a natural and had no trouble feeding, latched perfectly, ate hungrily, and slept for a few hours at a time without a peep.
But the big surprise wasn’t him. It was me.
I loved breastfeeding.
Yes, it hurt at first. A small part of me was terrified of it before he was born — the stories about bleeding nipples and breast infections and how *hard* it would be. But I wasn’t prepared for how much I would love those moments with our baby boy. How wonderful it felt to be snuggled up with him. How peaceful and happy it made me.
The first few weeks were hard, and it was painful and uncomfortable and took forever and frustrated me on a regular basis. But then, one day… it was easier. It didn’t hurt anymore. It didn’t take a special pillow or a particular position. It was just how I fed our baby.
And… I thought that was the end of the story. I thought that if you successfully breastfed for your baby’s first weeks or months, you were set.
But as the months went by and Bear got bigger, something different started to happen.
He was hungry. All the time.
As a newborn, he’d sleep four and five hour stretches at a time. (I know: I was *very* lucky.) But as a four-month-old, he was suddenly up every hour, starving. I was exhausted and frustrated, but I loved breastfeeding and didn’t want to give it up.
Or, I should say: I had very mixed feelings about giving it up. I loved nursing, but it also took a toll on me. I could never make enough milk to pump, so I couldn’t leave the baby for more a few hours at a time, which was challenging with work. Because he was hungry so often, I was feeding him up to ten times a day — hours and hours of every day were devoted to it. I had plugged ducts almost once a week, which were painful and scary. And there were mornings, afternoons and evenings when I’d feed him, lay him down, and hear cries minutes later because he was still hungry.
And so, I decided to try some formula.
I struggled a lot with that decision — the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for a baby’s first year, and I had friends who’d done it successfully. If they could do it, I found myself thinking, I should do it too. In giving him some formula, I felt like I was failing our son somehow. Yes, my rational mind knew that was ridiculous… but emotionally, I had trouble accepting it.
But the day finally came when I couldn’t put it off any longer. I fed him two ounces of formula… and cried the whole time. (Seriously. We can blame postpartum hormones for at least a portion of reaction, which I now recognize was completely insane.) And Bear promptly threw up the whole bottle.
Needless to say, it was traumatic for both of us.
And then I remembered my thoughts about breastfeeding before Bear arrived: that I’d give it a try.
That I’d do my best.
And, you know what? I’d done my best. And it wasn’t the end of the world if my best wasn’t exclusively breastfeeding for the first year. And so… I gave myself a break. I stopped trying to be “perfect” and started doing what worked for our family. We kept breastfeeding, but Bear also got some formula.
And you know what? He was happier, I was happier, and everything just kind of fell into place.
Now that he’s almost seven months old, I still nurse him three or four times a day, and he get formula too. It works perfectly for us. (Well, as perfectly as anything with a seven-month-old can ever work, which is to say: sometimes.)
I’ve been nervous to write about this, because people tend to come down firmly on one side of the breastfeeding vs. formula debate, and sometimes people act like there’s only one right way. But I’ve spent the last few months doing both. And, you know what? That’s what worked for our family.
So, here’s how I feel: If you’re able to breastfeed, give it a try. If it works, that’s terrific. It’s an incredible experience and I, personally, love it.
But if it doesn’t work? You are still a great mom. You’re still doing an awesome, amazing job for your son or daughter, and the last thing you should ever do is beat yourself up over making a decision that’s right for your family.
Because here’s the thing: I hate that something as simple and personal as how you feed your child sometimes feels like a competition. I hate that anyone feels guilty for doing what they need to do to take care of their child and themselves.
Breastfeeding moms are doing a great job. Formula-feeding moms are doing a great job. Combination-feeding moms are doing a great job. (Pumping moms, don’t even get me started: you ladies are saints.)
Every single one of those moms is doing their best for their child, every single day, without hesitation. And turning breastfeeding into a do-it-my-way battle makes it harder for every single one of those moms. And we all know that being a mom is hard enough without anything making it harder.
So however you decide to feed your child, do it with kindness and compassion and love. That’s all they really need anyways.
Tags: baby · life