Motherhood and Baking: A Debate

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:

Making the Perfect Birthday Cupcakes for Our Kids: Two Perspectives

Cupcakes specially requested by my daughter for her 3rd birthday

Cupcakes specially requested by my daughter for her 3rd birthday

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The Things I Know To Be False Help Me To Know What’s True

I’ve always been a positive person. Annoyingly optimistic. Eternally grateful. A lot of fun. I haven’t been that way for the past few months. Not here on this blog, not in emailing with friends, and certainly not at home. I know it’s wearing on my family — my short fuse, my constant restlessness, my absence as I take on too much. But I sense I’m discovering a lot of important things about myself and the way I operate. I am reinforcing what works to really motivate me and make me happy. I am noticing — and slowly shedding — what keeps me small, scared and stuck. Continue reading

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They’re Not All Gems, But Sometimes They Are

I write a lot. Empirically it’s true. For the past few weeks, I have been writing 1000 words a day for Mommyish (Monday through Friday — and if you’ve missed any, check out the WTTM Facebook page, I post them all there). I also write a fictional story (1200 words) a month for my beloved writing group. I scribble my crazy thoughts down in my journal almost every day. I am slowly working back to my novel in my mind (I will get there soon, I just know it!). And yes, I am still a full-time lawyer (more on that soon I hope). But the point is, I write a lot. It keeps me sane.

Most of the time, my writing is just in the ordinary course of my life. Meaning, I spout my opinion about one thing or another, fill in all the SEO requirements, add an appropriately credited picture, hit publish and submit an invoice at the end of the month. But sometimes I write something that makes me stop and say, “yes! This is good stuff!” Sometimes I look at my finished product and I think, “Wow, I really had something to say here.” Because when I start writing, I never know how it will turn out. Some pieces I love more than others. Some just flow almost like an out-of-body experience. Others I feel so strongly about, but the passion I feel doesn’t come across on the page. Some things I care less about and just need content. But I never really know until it’s done. In the words of one of my favorite funny bloggers, Wendi Aarons, “they’re not all gems.” And they’re not.

But sometimes they are. Continue reading

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That Kind Of Mother

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.

And it’s taking a toll.

I am now “that kind of mother” who misses dinnertime and bedtime at least once a week. Once a month I get home after they are asleep and leave before they are awake. On those days I have no idea what they ate during the day, or whether they brushed their teeth, had fun at school, or read any books before bed.

I am now the kind of mother who screams at their kids to put their shoes on, adding, “hurry up, Mommy has to get to work!”

I am now the kind of mother who says, “Mommy’s just got to finish this email before I come in to read you a story” more often than I’d like.

I am now the kind of mother who has trouble transitioning from the uber-productive state at the office, to the constant presence required to spend time with a two-year-old and four-year-old.

I am now the kind of mother that cries on Sunday night because the thought of doing it all over again — another Monday through Friday! — is more than I can bear.

None of this is not what I had in mind when I wanted to set an example for my daughter.

I don’t know exactly what we will do about it, but something has to give. Finding an exceptional nanny/caregiver would certainly help. So would moving to Maine, or anywhere else where the cost of living wasn’t so insane. But alas, none of those is a reality for today, so I’m trying my best to keep my shit together and get through another day.

Now, after I said all that, please don’t look at me like I’m crazy when I tell you that I agreed to cover the weekend news for Mommyish yesterday. If you are interested in any of my posts, here they are:

You Definitely Didn’t See Louis C.K. Or His Kids In Line At The Apple Store Yesterday – I don’t care if you click on this or not, but if you didn’t see Louis C.K.’s recent rant on Conan, you MUST find it. Hysterical and profound, I love this man.

Why I Won’t Take My Introverted Son To Be Evaluated For Autism – an intensely personal story inspired by the Salon’s piece on confusing introverted brainy boys as showing signs of autism.

I’ve ‘Opt-ed In’ To ‘Lean In’ And Now I’m One Of Those ‘Maxed Out’ Working Moms Having It All – last night I read the first chapter of Katrina Alcorn’s book Maxed Out: American Moms On The Brink and I nodded my head with every.single.line.

After Kindergarten, Redshirting Backfires On Uber-Competitive Parents – this really just revolves around my fascination with the topic, but there’s a much more personal story of a mother willing to let her son be the youngest at Omnimom.

7 Awesome Benefits Of Being A Working Mom In An Office – you know me, always trying to stay positive!

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In The Catfish Era And Lack-Of-Fact-Check Era, I No Longer Believe Anything I See On Facebook

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.

Images are even more susceptible than words. Perhaps you saw the recent picture of “two moons” in the sky “picture” meant to replicate Mars and its close encounter with Earth. Thanks to my biology major of a husband, I know the truth is Mars will never appear as big as our moon, not on any August 27, not this year, not in 2287, not in 2003 when the online hoax first started. Yet every year since then the false promise is perpetuated, perhaps because we think the picture is pretty and we don’t really care if it’s true because no one is staying up until midnight just to see it.

Social media has driven the game of deception to a whole new level. Even if you haven’t seen the eerie documentary Catfish, you may have heard the term. Urban Dictionary.com gives the following definition and example:

A catfish is someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.
“Did you hear how Dave got totally catfished last month?! The fox he thought he was talking to turned out to be a pervy guy from San Diego!”

Although it was reduced to a mere line of text flashed right before the credits ran, I wondered deeply about Aimee Gonzales and how she felt having her picture all over this movie when she hadn’t consented to its initial use. And I wonder what her rights were to say no to the documentary even if she wanted to.

When I started this blog I had to answer some big questions for myself as to what I felt comfortable sharing online. Personal stories were completely open. Identifying information, especially about my kids, was completely closed — no real names, no school information, and no more than a very general indication of where we live. After all, we live in NYC, which is a wonderful and exciting place that can also be dangerous with thousands of strangers moving by every single day. I might be going overboard, but when you start a blog you have to make these decisions in a vacuum and you kind of just have to go with it.

Despite having seen the movie Catfish well before starting this blog, I was somewhere in the middle about pictures. After all, as much as I think my kids are the most adorable in the world, they aren’t models. Since I was more concerned with their personal safety than their likeness being shuttled around, I didn’t think there was much harm.

Until one day, they were catfished.

To be fair, a woman very innocently commented on a picture of my kids captured on Humans of New York in which she shared a story about when her son chose to get a pink cast, like my son was wearing in the photo. However, like a game of telephone, this story and picture became so intertwined that other sites were saying the commenter was the same as these children’s mother. It was infuriating to me. That picture of my kids turned up everywhere and I had absolutely no control over it.

They were even made into a meme:

pinterest

In the end, there was really nothing I could do about it. Except, of course, write about the experience.  I love when people ask me where I get ideas for blog posts.  My real life is full of them!

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Me And Miley: We Can’t Stop, We Won’t Stop

My metaphorical death post elicited two kinds of responses: understanding and an uncomfortable sort of sadness. Sometimes I got both at the same time. I kind of expected that it might bum some people out, but I was pleasantly surprised by how many people could relate to one aspect or another. That’s why I share – for the hope of connecting and finding empathy, but I don’t want people to think of me as a downer. It’s just not who I am at my core.

My writing tends to be much darker than my every day personality. I’ve always got a smile on my face, I am quick to see the good in people, and I consider myself an undying optimist. But part of what allows me to stay so positive is the (relatively) quick and thorough processing of the negative stuff.

Before I starting blogging, those thoughts stayed messy and hidden away in journal in my nightstand. Now, I make the effort to process them in a way others might relate to and tell a story of sorts about the uglier aspects of my journeys. If you know me in real life, this probably won’t jive with your vision of me. That’s ok. What you see is still mostly me — I am a very positive upbeat person who loves life and sees opportunity everywhere — but this blog has allowed me to show a little more complexity. Because that’s life.

Lest some of you are afraid the Carinn you know and love is slipping away, I want to assure you that I’m still alive and thriving. To demonstrate, I offer a list of the five BEST things about my new schedule and the new hats I wear ranging from “that’s good even though it’s terrible (aka the way I feel about the new Miley Cyrus’s We Can’t Stop video*)” to “that’s as awesome as Ashton Kutcher’s Teen Choice award speech*.” Continue reading

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Death By Full-Time Employment

I grew up Catholic and believed there were two stages of existence — life and death. Death was the end of your time in this realm. There was no reincarnation, no second chances, no in-between. The rest, I deduced, was life. Life was good. It meant more time, more opportunity, more growth. So anything short of bodily death in my book deserves a smile. Nothing can be that bad! I’m still alive, right? Well I can’t pretend that alive and dead are the only two modes we have in this one body.

To say I’ve been having a hard time with this transition back into full-time employment is like saying The Real Housewives are neither real nor housewives (duh!). At times I manage to get though the day. I even have moments where I feel inspired. But mostly I feel like I’m dying. I won’t ever be able to explain what that means or how it feels to your exact liking, because trust me I’ve just spent the past five weeks trying to explain it to Ian. He’s no closer to understanding my overdramatic thinking than I am getting better at explaining it. You either get it or you don’t.

Either way, today I decided to try something new. Today I accept death. I’ve spent 5 weeks feeling terrified that I’m going to die, and today I’m just going to assume it’s true. I am dead. Now what Carinn? Now what?

Now, I tell you how it all happened. This is not a story about a car accident or a battle with cancer, this is just me going back to work. Where I died. A lot. Continue reading

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