I vividly remember watching Like Water For Chocolate on VHS from the library. The themes in that movie reflected back to me a reality I had never identified outside myself. It was like the moment the fish swimming in his bowl finally understands this is water. Though my roots are Italian and Puerto Rican (not Mexican, as in the movie), all of those cultures place an emphasis on food. And like the main character Tita, it felt that the women who cooked in my family — my great-grandmother, both my grandmothers and my mother — poured their emotions into their creations and their charges were immediately infected with their feelings. Love was as real and as substantial an ingredient as flour or milk or butter.
When I became a mother, I realized instantly how important feeding my children would be to my happiness. I fretted over breastfeeding (is he getting enough?) and eventually I served up mashed fruits and vegetables by hand. Even today my husband will tell you that nothing lifts my spirits like a clean plate handed to me by my 3yo or 5yo.
So when I’m inclined to go above and beyond what a busy mother can “get away with” at school functions, it typically revolves around a baked good. But sometimes it’s just about showing up. My actions – every little thing I do for my kids – are my expressions of love.
A few months ago Lauren Apfel and I began this debate for Brain, Child Magazine with a focus on Superwoman Syndrome — I had it, she didn’t. At the time, I was explaining why I felt the need to do so much, especially around my family, especially when I had a full-time out-of-the home job. But as our drafts progressed, my life changed. I reduced my work schedule and I started to let go of some of the less significant things (like a clean house). Yet that pull to go above and beyond, to perform to perfect standards (even if they were only my own or my child’s as opposed to society’s ideas) remained.
I also refused to believe Lauren lacked ambition by any definition of the word (this woman is a phenomenal writer), which is typically thought of as the “opposite” of Superwoman Syndrome. So when she used the metaphor, “ I never wanted fingers in lots of pies. I wanted one cake at a time so that I could properly enjoy the eating of it,” we knew this conversation would revolve around the symbolism of baking and motherhood. Of course, it’s about so much more than that. I hope you will read the entire debate here:
Cupcakes specially requested by my daughter for her 3rd birthday
When my daughter was born and I was presented with an opportunity to go back to work, I knew there was no way I could turn it down. I was suddenly compelled to set an example for my daughter as a successful working mother in a way I had not been while I was home with my son for two years. I wanted to be “that kind of mother” who gives her the freedom to make her own choices, while continuing to break glass ceilings and forge work-life balance to make her path just a little bit easier (as previous generations have done for me).
I’ve since realized that “successful working mother” is a loaded goal. I am successful at work, yes. I am a professional, working at a reputable national law firm. I have a salary that allows me to take home six-figures even after egregious federal, state and New York City taxes. I have awesome family health insurance paid for by my employer — and it even includes dental. The “successful working” part rings true.
As does the “working mother” part. I am grateful to have a job that respects my priorities as a mother. I have not missed a phase-in session, orientation or smallest event at my children’s school and none of the partners I work for have blinked an eye. They trust that I have a handle on the work that needs to get done and they leave me to do just that (my associate co-workers are another story, but I’m ignoring them).
But “successful working mother” implies that I’ve got it all under control. That, while I wish I spent more time with my kids, I have negotiated drop-offs and pick-ups around conference calls and late night loan document distribution. But this simply isn’t the case. Every single day is a negotiation. If I have deals closing, Ian needs to do more at home. If he has an important client meeting, I offer to take the kids on the morning he’s supposed to do it. For the most part our schedule is utter chaos. Continue reading
This morning I received a message from a friend alerting me that her words had been lifted by a well-known site. I read her piece about rage and the dark side of yoga weeks ago and it was so personal and intimate, yet universal and powerful that it stayed with me for days. Then there it was today — so many of her original ideas — but this time with someone else’s byline. Plagiarism is not a new concept, but with information as accessible as it is online, opportunity is greater than ever. Continue reading
It’s Friday, of course, but this post has little in common with the upbeat infectious anthem of the same name, sung (is that the right word?) by Montell Jordan. It’s also lacking the introspection of the NYT Motherlode’s How We Do It series. This is just my real life without a filter, an editor or even a Timbaland-esque producer. For those things I apologize. Continue reading
Lately I’ve been struggling. I’ve also been succeeding. I’ve been picking and choosing and placing and planning. Through this process I’ve been visualizing what’s really important in my life. I imagined myself as a pie with three thick slices*. Fill it with whatever pleases you (mine is peach cream) but picture it.
(*Note: there are other slices of my identity such as wife, yogi, dysfunctional twitter user, but those are firmly established. The three slices below are the ones I’ve been struggling with over the past few years.) Continue reading