I Know I Can, but I Won’t…and I Can’t

the-doctor-irit-bourla

“The Doctor” by Irit Bourla

I am writing an ongoing series about my thoughts on feminism and modern motherhood, at least that’s what I said I was doing a long time ago.  Oops.  I guess it’s time to get started.

Once upon a time, in my twenties, I wanted to go to medical school.  I started out pre-med in college, and then changed gears.  Then, in my early twenties I decided again to go, and for some reason that I cannot remember (fear of failure/anxiety I’m assuming), I didn’t.  When I was twenty seven and deep in the throes of a quarter-life crises I read an article by Roger Ebert discussing his work with an anaplastologist, and it felt like a punch in the gut.  That was it! That was what I was meant to do!  A wave of relief washed over me; I had found my calling (I still get all tingly when I read that article).  I had some work to do, pre-requisites to take, and a move back to Chicago was in order, but I was excited.  We went to New Orleans and I celebrated.  I came back pregnant.

When I turned 30, I had a little panic.  What was I doing with my life? I was in a career so far outside what I had ever imagined, and unsure how to proceed. Medical school began to creep back into my mind, and a lovely girl from my Sunday school class who was both a med-student and a mom was kind enough to meet me for a drink so we could discuss what it was really like to balance both.  She was blunt and encouraging.  She told me I definitely could do it.  She was doing it, her friends were doing it; moms go to medical school all the time! She walked me through her experience both overall and day to day, and I realized that yes, moms can do it.  I couldn’t do it.  It was a relief and a disappointment at the same time.

When we’re growing up we are told we can be anything, when we’re fully grown we’re told to lean in.  When I tell people I wanted to go to medical school they still say “Go! You can totally do it!” What no one tells us is we will be stressed and exhausted and wonder if it’s all worth it all the time.  People don’t really bother to tell you that while you can go to medical school as a mom, or have a huge career you will be exhausted to your bones every second of every day.  Some women don’t feel much guilt, and they shouldn’t.  I’m not one of those women.  I do feel guilty about being away from my kids, and it’s not just guilt.  I miss hanging out with them.  I like them, and enjoy their company.  It doesn’t feel worth it to me to go back to school while raising young children.  This isn’t a post about working or staying home (that one is coming), but rather about how hard we should work when we do, not for our children’s sakes, but for our own.  I’m not trying to tell you how to be a good parent, I’m just trying to figure out how hard we should be on ourselves.  I think, in my case, it really comes down to how hard my husband works, and how I feel about my job.

I think “leaning in” is wonderful as a concept, and I think it’s a very important thing to do for your career and as an example for your children, but it’s also a really difficult thing to do when your career is not equally matched with your partner’s.  If one person has a more demanding career, their schedule is going to win.  It’s not that my husband’s job is more important than mine, and it’s not that we need his money more than mine.  We don’t even have a primary bread winner.  It’s that his job relies on a real schedule.  He has client meetings and court dates, he travels for work.  I sit in my office most of the time, and while I have to be physically present to do my work, most of what I do isn’t so urgent that I can’t take the kids to the doctor.  So, I take the kids to the doctor.  This isn’t to say that my husband doesn’t do his share.  He has taken them to the pediatrician a million times.  He’s taking our daughter to the dentist next week.  He is as equal a partner as he can be, and he works really hard at it.  It’s just that he has obligations he can’t shake and we don’t have family nearby, so I do more.

Did I mention yet that I’m tired?  I don’t mean to complain.  I “have it all” and it’s great (sort of). It’s just that a little more honesty would be nice when we’re telling our kids they can be anything when they grow up.  They can be anything, but they can’t be everything.  They need help and that’s what people forget to explain.  If you want a big career and you want to move away from your family, marry someone who wants to stay home or work part time.  If you want to be half of a power couple, live near your parents.  Even if you have a nanny.  Especially if you have a nanny…nannies get sick sometimes, usually at the worst times.  Or maybe you and your partner will be lucky and both have really fulfilling jobs and not feel like shit all the time for not spending enough time with your kids.  I hope that happens for you!

I generally love being a working mom.  I love getting out of the house every day, I love the example I set for my kids, I love the way it gives our lives structure, and I have a lunch hour, and my husband and I get to go on dates while the kids are in daycare.  A lot of it is great.  I just don’t actually enjoy the work that I do, so it doesn’t always feel worth it.  It’s hard to justify being away from your kids to do something totally unfulfilling, even if your salary allows them to have an enviable lifestyle.  It’s also hard to know you probably won’t change what you’re doing even when everyone says you can, because you’re just so tired you can’t.

MelTown: 2016

feminist mom

Hi guys, just popping in for a quick second to tell you something and ask you something.  I have a series planned, exploring the relationship between feminism and modern motherhood.  If you know me, you know I love to overthink everything and now you get to follow along as I overthink aloud!  If you know me well you know that I took a lot of gender studies classes in college, majored in writing, and am a mom so this series feels like a natural topic for MelTown.  This was originally planned to last one week, but I think it will go on for a while, interspersed with other topics.  So that brings me to my question: I’ve gotten some fun feedback on the blog, and it seems like you like it (or at least those of you who don’t are keeping it to yourselves…thanks for that)!  I want you to keep liking it, so what do you want me to talk about?  Food? Fashion? Home decor? Motherhood? Something else? Do you want to ask me questions that I will research for you and write about?  Research papers were my favorite thing ever in college because I’m a huge nerd.  I would do that for you.  Anyway, think about it, let me know, and stay tuned!

Resolution Buster: Chocolate Pie

monument pie

Have you ever been to Monument Cafe in Georgetown, TX?  Me neither!  Luckily for me though, my husband had a case up that way and he had a breakfast meeting before heading to court.  Long story short, the other lawyer ordered him a piece of pie, and not being one to eat pie for breakfast he brought it home for me (I eat pie at all hours).  You guys, it was AMAZING, and I don’t say that lightly.  Pie is my favorite desert, and I am nothing if not not discerning when it comes to quality.  Next time he went to Georgetown I made him buy a whole pie…and then I ate most of it myself.  Since we live a few hours from Georgetown and it’s not really realistic to hop in the car for that kind of trek when I get a hankering for pie, I decided I would carve out some time to try to recreate the magic myself.  This Christmas I managed to come really close and am both delighted and horrified by the results.  This kind of calorie bomb is best saved for special occasions.  Anyway, without boring you with more stories about me eating pie, here is the recipe:

Shopping List:

2 cups pecans

Unsalted butter

Vanilla Extract

Brown Sugar

32 ounces of cream (That’s right, the big one.  You’re going to use every drop!)

Eggs

White Sugar

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate

Powdered Sugar

Chocolate Bar

Crust (adapted from this recipe):

2 cups pecans

2 teaspoons melted butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

4 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon water

Ground one cup of pecans in a food processor until fine.  Add second cup and grind a few more seconds.  Add melted butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and water.  Mix until it forms a paste.

Press into a greased pie pan and bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes. Set aside until cool.

Filling:

I made this recipe.  My only note is that when it’s time to whip the cream you’re not going for creamy fluffiness.  You’re going for firmness.  Beat it to death.  Then spoon it into your pie crust and pop the whole thing in the refrigerator to chill.

Whipped Cream:

The rest of your cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup powdered sugar

Dark chocolate shavings

Beat until firm, plop it on top of the pie, add chocolate shavings to the top. Chill until serving.

This pie is definitely time and labor intensive, but it was SO GOOD.  It’s definitely worth a try! Enjoy!

Rest.

Happy 2016! I hope you experienced an abundance of both comfort and joy over the past couple of weeks, and while I hope you’re feeling refreshed, I also hope you don’t take your resolution setting and back to working too seriously.  We need to ease into these things.

rest

I approach resolutions differently every year.  Some years I make them, some years I ignore the tradition completely, but most years I use them as a chance to take stock of what I would like to change, without setting unreachable goals.  When I look back at the past couple of years, and what I have been struggling with, nearly every problem comes down to not getting enough rest.  It hasn’t really been up to me.  I had two babies in two years, the second of whom thought sleeping was for chumps until he finally realized the joys of a full night’s snooze at the ripe old age of 16 months.  I work full time, my husband works more than full time, and in 2014, well, let’s just say there was little chance for relaxation.  2015 was a big year of recovery for us.  I won’t say we are recovered, but we’ve settled back into our lives.  We have routines; our kids are no longer babies.  Things are as calm as they are likely to get, and so I want to harness this time to get my life back on track.

Since I’ve become a mother, so many things have slipped.  Totally normal, I know, but there are some things I would like to see happen again.  Like, eating healthy food, and going to the gym, and showering every day.  I know if I can start properly caring for myself again, it will be the best thing for my family and for work.  As I was taking stock I really realized that none of those things will happen if I keep staying up so late.  So, my resolution is to sleep more.  To go to bed at a reasonable hour.  To take some time to sit on the couch on the weekends.  If I can manage that, the gym and the vegetables and work (and keeping up with a lot more MelTown!) will all seem surmountable.  I’m not wired that way.  I would stay up all night and sleep all day if I could, but I’m hoping with a little practice I can ease into this new habit.

Oh yeah, and no more wine.  At least for a while.  Ugh.

Wishing you a calm and slightly boring year!

xo

 

Shout-Out to my Homegirls!

Yesterday I went on a school tour as we ramp up our search for a suitable elementary school for our special snowflake #1.  This is a school in our neighborhood, so the parents in attendance all live in our area, which is a semi-urban mid-century neighborhood where all the cool kids moved when they started having children of their own.  Think adult hipsters/middle to upper-middle class liberal creative class, and a lot of lawyers.  Anyway, the parents in my neighborhood fancy themselves to be not regular parents, but cool parents (ourselves included…we’re pretty fun at parties).  This sort of thing abounds in my ‘hood.

Joanna Goddard

Anyway, the fun thing about cool moms is they’ve made looking like shit cool!  I mean, they don’t look like shit…they all look really good and hip, but there’s not a lot of makeup, hair is dirty and messy, and no one wears heels (unless they’re taking pictures for Instagram).  It’s amazing and wonderful.  I am so grateful to the cool moms of the internet who have made this possible.  Our grandmothers cooked and cleaned and went to the grocery store in dresses and heels and pearls.  Can you imagine?  Our mothers wore mom jeans and vests and shit, and it was awful (sorry you had to mom in the 90’s, Mama!).

Now though, the original style stars of the blogosphere have grown into 30-something moms and they have been our salvation.  So to you ladies who made joggers and bedhead cool, you are my heroes, and I love you.  I love you for your messy hair, and your oversized, mummy-tummy hiding sweaters.  I love you for your ripped jeans and your sneakers and flats.  I love you for making comfortable cool.  You’re the best.

Sydney Poulton

Shalice Noel

Christine Andrew

The best part: you can be a cool mom too!  It’s easy!  I’ve made you a quick Cool Mom cheat sheet.  A primer, if you will.  Links and substitutions below!

cool mom

Striped T-Shirt/Cut Offs/Ripped Skinnies/Army Jacket/Blanket Scarf/New Balances (you know where to get the phone and the coffee)

Substitutions: Super Casual Dress/Grey T-Shirt/Grandpa Cardigan/Chucks

Up next: Cool Mom beauty edition!  Stay tuned!

Welcome to the club😉

Go Ahead, Be Matchy Matchy!

As Holiday Card Photo Session Season really picks up steam, blog after blog is espousing advice on what to wear in your shoots, and they all say the same thing: don’t be matchy matchy!  You know what I say?  Get matchy, and kitsch it up!  If you do one family photo shoot a year, then yes, you might want to go with something conservative and frame worthy, but if you’re taking pictures just for your cards, I say have a little fun and live a little!

She’s matching her dog, and she looks fucking fabulous!

I’ll never get over this divorce. Anyway…all red, all fun!

If you wear your underwear on your card, I will hang it in a place of honor because you earned it!

Love plaid? WEAR ALL THE PLAID!

I love everything about this. I’m not even joking.

Not a fan of this family? Me neither! But they know how to Kristmas Kard.

Are you a baby? You’d best match your big sister!

I realized the tone of this post seems sarcastic, but I promise it isn’t!  I’m just tired of everyone telling us how to look good.  Maybe I want to have some fun, ok?  It’s Christmas for crying out loud!

We’re going fancy this year, because I don’t want to wear jeans and a puffer vest and a turtleneck like I’m supposed to.  Here’s our mood board for this year’s pics (my biggest family picture tip is to make a mood board, and if you don’t know how, at least lay everything out together to make sure it works):

christmas card pictures 1

Merry Picture Taking!

Mom-Life Crisis

fab old lady

When I was a kid, I always thought I would age gracefully (I was a really weird kid).  I imagined myself being a cool old lady, who was really hip and had fun hair and a sharp sense of humor and a pet poodle.  I still think I’ll be like that; I absolutely think I’m going to kill it as an old lady…I even have a Pinterest board dedicated to my future style, and another dedicated just to poodles.  I’m pretty eccentric, and eccentricity looks better on people who have the wisdom to back it up.  I’m finding it much easier to be comfortable with my idiosyncrasies as I get older and lose more and more of the impulse to impress other people.  On that front, I’m doing ok.  The thing I forgot about when I was imagining myself as a rad old lady was the transition period.  The one that lasts about thirty-forty years in the middle of your life; the part where you slowly creep away from your youth, and put in the real work that is the meat in your life sandwich.

Once, when my daughter was an infant, I went to the grocery store on a Saturday morning.  I was twenty-nine and feelin’ fine.  I hadn’t yet realized that I was an actual mother, so much as a cute girl who happened to have a baby.  I forgot that people viewed me as “a mom.”  I sauntered up to the express check-out lane, and saw that I was behind a bunch of bros buying beer.  “Great,” I thought, “I’m so not in the mood to be hit on right now.”  One of them turned, looked me up and down, and said “why don’t you go ahead, ma’am.”  “MA’AM?!”  Didn’t he know that just a year before I was buying beer on Saturday mornings?  Didn’t he know that I was young and hot and cool?  I couldn’t believe he was being such a dick!  Oh, except he wasn’t.  I had a baby strapped to my chest and I was just buying one thing and he was being super nice, and now I feel bad for calling him a bro.  I wasn’t who I thought I was.  I was a mom, with a baby who needed to get home.

Mom-life is hard, especially when you have little kids — you’re such an adult, but you still feel young.  It’s an awkward transition, not unlike the many other awkward transitions in your life, but this one seems to be more fraught than most.  It’s the first transition that feels like I have left my unbridled future behind.  My future is totally bridled.  Now that I’m three years in, I’ve mostly adjusted and am happy in this season.  I am grateful to be a part of this generation, where being a mom is a part of you, but not all of you.  It is nice that I can still wear cool clothes, and have a job, and be me, but it doesn’t totally prevent an identity crisis.  Maybe it was especially hard for me because motherhood was thrust upon me unexpectedly, but I imagine most parents experience this to some degree.  It’s hard to reinvent your life.

(Photo via: Hello Giggles)