Crossing the divide: will women ever get out of the kitchen?

Valuable recipes

1910s. Click the image to purchase this cook book from PlantsNStuff.

Thanksgiving’s traditional gender roles are getting stuffed.  That’s pretty exciting.  Want to know how I know?  Our local free paper ran that as its cover story last week! Unless I accidentally picked up an issue from the 1960s.  Or 1970s.

The article quotes one local 50-something housewife whose husband cooks at Thanksgiving: “I’m not going to complain.  I’m his assistant.  It’s nice.  Lucky lady, huh?”

refrigerator ad

1920s. Click to purchase this advertising proof from Surrender Dorothy, one of my favorite Etsy shops!

I don’t think I was supposed to laugh.

I’ve written here before about how “stress related to cooking healthy home-cooked meals night after night” is just not worth it to the women who do the cooking.  I’ve also written about the rise in diversity in the structures of American families.  And I wonder, as you probably are right now, how family structures could change –dramatically — and yet somehow the women are still in the kitchen.

SOS ad

1930s. Click the image to purchase this vintage ad from Estranged Ephemera.

Reading the cover article from our most liberal, most artsy, youngest paper I was struck not just by “the invisible stuff” women do at home (the article cites “making sure beds are made, towels are clean, and the kids have nice clothes on.”  I’m totally failing at my invisible work, but didn’t notice, haha), but I was also struck by the invisibility of women’s cultural work, which has by and large changed the shapes of our possibilities in the world.

The article does well to point out that the holiday can be a “third shift” for working women, and that “some men are crossing the divide and proving that traditions can change.”  And these are timely reminders as we rev up for a big holiday season.  Still…

vintage gas ad

1940s. Click the image to buy this vintage gas ad from Retro Reveries.

When I told a new friend what I do at Funnermother, helping lay out meal plans that negotiate diets, food allergies, palates, and finicky kids; or gathering a kit to make moving to a new school easier; or working out family sleep issues — all within the bounds of your family culture as it’s already built (how your family operates) —

dishwashing ad

1950s. Click to buy this image from Mamiezvintage.

she put her head down on her arms, and said “Oh thank god, then we all don’t have to spend our time reinventing the wheel.”  YES!  And reinventing the wheel seems to be what women end up doing over and over.

We do it in the kitchen, in the home, at work, and in culture at large, as we still press on about gender roles, pay equity, assault, catcalling…. but also home organizing systems such as meal planning, bedtime routines, moving — all with new emphases on our kids, and all things that women worked on in the 70s.

range ad

1960s. Click this image to buy it from SnowFire Candle Co.

And earlier.

If you want to work together on building flexible systems that work in your family, and take some of the “guess work” out of parenting, follow me on Facebook, sign up for my weekly-ish E-zine, or email me: Funnermother[at] yahoo [dot] com.

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I love Mondays.

vintage black and white photo

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“I’m always hungover on Tuesdays.”

On the phone scheduling a date, we laughed, but it’s true!  Monday nights are moms’ night out.  I go with my neighbor to the local pub, where they can set their watches by our arrival.  We catch up, comment on the news, and laugh. Those hard and long belly laughs that cause chemical changes in your brain.  Have we been doing this for half a decade?  Yes, I think so.  That’s a lot of chemical change!

ladies at a party

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This is part of my self-care.  I love Mondays!  Who can say that?  It’s just a couple of hours, but it erases so much strife — like how exhausting the mundane can be, especially when there are bumps in the road. A system can’t just be implemented for kids; it’s constant change.  Rethinking the same questions over and over: rules, food, screen, bedtimes, friends.  Keeping them fed with healthy food, fresh air, challenging books and some kind of spiritual wonderings…  Exhausting and mundane is not part of that sexy cultural narrative that convinces us to choose parenting.  But that’s a real part of the experience.  I say that with love, but I don’t know if I could, were it not for Monday nights.

ladies in hats

Click the image to purchase this postcard from Sundew Rose.

On Mondays we talk about those mundane things too, though her kids are grown. There’s still so much to laugh about, so much the same.  And it’s working.  Our proof?  Our mates!  They bend over backwards to drive us, rearrange schedules, give us cash…  They make sure we don’t miss a Monday.  We laugh that we must be pretty hard to live with when we miss a week.

What’s your treat?  Your regular self-care?  Let me know in the comments.  And if you’d like to chat about managing the mundane, drop me a line.  🙂

Bye-bye, Typical American Family: Diversity is on the rise

diverse family

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Remember when families were either typical or “broken homes”?  I do; I was from a broken home.  I’m happy to report that those two easy categories are officially irrelevant.  Yep, they’re dead.

The New York Times  reported in fall 2013 on astonishing research about changing family structures:  “Families are more ethnically, racially, religiously and stylistically diverse than half a generation ago — than even half a year ago.”

fabric owl print

Click this image to purchase this print from AnnyaKaiArt.

“In increasing numbers, blacks marry whites, atheists marry Baptists, men marry men and women women, Democrats marry Republicans and start talk shows. Good friends join forces as part of the “voluntary kin” movement, sharing medical directives, wills, even adopting one another legally.  …We’re sappy family romantics. When an informal sample of 52 Americans of different ages, professions and hometowns were asked the first thought that came to mind on hearing the word “family,” the answers varied hardly at all. Love! Kids! Mom! Dinner!”

Free to be a family

Click this image to purchase this book from AttysSproutVintage.

Interesting four words, right?

In fall 2014, the Council on Contemporary Families released Paul Cohen’s study on the shape of the family that found that “Diversity is the new normal.” The report says that it’s not simply that families move from two-parent homes to single moms, either: “we can better understand this transformation as an explosion of diversity, a fanning out from a compact center along many different pathways.” At the end of the 1950s, 65% of kids lived in a family with two parents, the father employed and the mother not.

biracial family

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“Today, by contrast, there is no single family arrangement that encompasses the majority of children.”  The 2012 census counts kids who live with: neither parent nor grandparent, grandparents only, single father, formerly-married mother, never-married mother, cohabiting parent, married parents both unemployed, married parents mother employed, married parents both employed, married parents father employed. “Family” means kids in this study, which charges that public policies need to understand and keep up with these changes.  When we factor in all the same-sex relationships, racial diversity, political and religious affiliations mentioned in the NYT article last year, it’s pretty mind-blowing, right?

woman in kitchen

Click this image to purchase this vintage photo from RetroGraphique.

I wrote a few weeks ago on a recent sociology study’s findings that home cooking might not be worth the stress it puts on women. Women.  Certainly there are single dad families where “the woman” doesn’t cook.  And two-dad families. The point of the study was to show the stress.  But I’m a little concerned about the women.

And I have been.  As Funnermother, I’m in some big groups of other women in business, and it really can be stressful to feed everyone!  And yes, maybe its our elephant-like memories or our octopus-like multitasking, but the feeding falls to the women still, we chat about it all the time.  I want to change that.

I really want to change that.

Women in the kitchen

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So I’m designing a Kitchen Coaching program where, for 8 weeks or so, we’ll talk all about your family meals.  In a no judgement zone. We’ll talk for an hour or two and you can tell me how it is.  And tell me how you’d like it to be.  And we’ll work together on the structural and/or mindset changes that will get you there — or as close as humanly possible!  I mean, I’d love to have a home cook or eat takeout every night.  But I’ve found some great hacks for simplifying it IN SPITE OF two very finicky eaters and one slightly finicky eater.  🙂  I’m working with a couple of clients right now, and will clear space for more soon.

Stay tuned for details.  Here, or on Facebook, or sign up for my weekly-ish newsletter.

Seven Phrases to Help You Back Off the Helicopter Parenting

helicopter parents

Click image to purchase this running print from JannaDekker.

I’ve written before about being a helicopter parent, and as my kids moved from private to public school, man, I was on high alert in my very mommy cells!  But my rational brain wants them to be self-sufficient and feel capable, so my mommy cells and my brain continue to fight it out.  As Thing 1 moves into tweenhood, I find it much easier to back off at home — not bring him water after *I* am in bed, ask him to get his own snacks, dinner condiments, whatever — than to figure that out about the rest of the big wide world — how far he can go from home alone and for how long, and when he can have a cel phone…

1. “Oh, good idea, you can do that yourself!  Let me help you with it.”  Then, a few months or years later, “If you need help let me know.”  From getting water for the bedside table to packing up the backpack for school, make it clear that they have the ability and you trust them to do it, and you’re still there if they need you.

running postage stamp

Click the image to purchase this stamp art from PassionGiftStampArt

2. “Ug, I know how much that sucks, I’m sorry. Do you want to talk about it?”  Don’t blame the other kid, the school, or the world for their pain.  Let them feel the pain, move through it, and bounce back.

3. “Everyone fails.  Nobody ever gets it right the very first time, that’s how we all learn.”  Our kids should expect to fail and have some coping skills for when it happens.

4. “Yeah, I think you can!  Give it a try, let’s see how it goes.”  Constant praise and you-can-do-its can be deceiving.  You can still be positive without making them think success is guaranteed.  See #3.  🙂

5.”Aw crap, I messed up.  Let me see if I can make this right or try again.”  It’s a lot of pressure to think of ourselves as models for our kids at all times.  But we are, and that does not mean we don’t make mistakes.  In fact, those mistakes are great opportunities to teach them what to do next, how to fix it.

stylized foot print

Click to purchase this print from OurSoleIntent.

6. “And then this one time, I embarrassed myself so badly {hearty laugh and tell the story}”  Laughing at ourselves is the very best gift we can get. Or give.  It took me until my mid-to-late 40s to figure this out.  One of my kids really resists it, and I work to remember in the moment to laugh instead of being defensive when he catches me goofing up.

7. Everyone has a family story like this one: my father raced my nephews: on foot, all the time, he always won.  ALWAYS.  I said, Pa, that’s rough, you’re being hard on those boys, they’re only 4, or whatever.  He didn’t say a word.  Fast forward 20 years. One day the older boy looked over and slowed down until Pa passed him.  Then Pa stopped.  “Don’t patronize me, kid.  I never let up on you, and now it is your turn.  You earned this.”  My own kids love this story, and they understand.  Their dad never lets them win on family game night.  It’s agonizing, even though I know it’s the right thing to do.  Tell your kids your family story, and beat the pants off them on family game night.  Eventually they WILL stop throwing the game board, they will stop crying, they will stop being angry about it.  And they will be stronger.

Come on over and join me on Facebook as we work together to ditch the helicopter.

What’s for dinner… who, ME? Pressures on family meals.

What's for dinner

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what's for dinner

Click the pic to purchase this print from SmartyPantsStudio

I’ve marched for women’s rights for 30 years. I’m old!  Ha ha. So I’ve earned a certain right to grouse.

Sociologists from North Carolina State have released findings on a study of the stress related to cooking healthy homecooked meals night after night.  Their findings are disappointing.  The stress on women just isn’t worth it.

On women? Still?

Yes. According to TodayParents, they “interviewed 150 black, white, and Latina mothers, with family incomes ranging from poor to middle-class, and spent more than 250 hours with 12 families during meals, grocery runs and children’s medical checks. Most mothers, regardless of income, were feeling the angst.”

What's for dinner?

Click the pic to purchase this matted book art from CloudNinePrints.

Pressures on home cooking are increasing!

 

Medical folks, tv foodies, even the US government (think food pyramid and anti-obesity campaigns) are putting increasing importance/pressure on home cooked meals.

The study recorded inadequately stocked kitchens in many lower income families (one family lives in emergency shelter in a hotel room), and picky children and husbands all across incomes.

Families do share duties sometimes; the report mentions a married mother of 3: “Although her husband sometimes helps with cooking, the task is largely in her court.”  In 30 years of feminism and cultural studies, I hardly expected such stasis!

home cooking refrigerator

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As Salon reports, “the main reason that people see cooking mostly as a burden is because it is a burden. It’s expensive and time-consuming and often done for a bunch of ingrates who would rather just be eating fast food anyway.”…

I admit to feeling this way myself sometimes.  And my Running Mate does a LOT of our cooking.  But a national trend?  An epidemic? That’s not right.

Let’s start with picky children, shall we?  Sign up for my free weekly-ish Ezine at Funnermother.com and watch for details about my upcoming free talk on finicky kids.  I have two, and have some great tips.

Check out these recent articles on the endangered family dinner study in Salon and in Today Parents. Leave your comments below, and of course come join us on Facebook.

I failed him as a parent…

My brother

“Me and my brother” by Jumpintotheotherside on Etsy. Click to view

I failed him as a parent.

He fell through the cracks in school, he might have had a learning disability, it’s not clear.  But you know how struggle and failure, end to end, over and over, changes you… your attitude, your choices, your willingness to be open and try.  He changed.

It was hard.  He was sent away from me.  He got into trouble, trouble I couldn’t keep him from or deal with.

He grew to a teenager.  One night at a party, he drank too much, went out on the porch for fresh air.  But it wasn’t a porch, it was a roof and he slipped.  Nothing was ever the same. The ambulance driver knew his dad.

First responder

First Resonder Metal Wall Art by Iron Exile on Etsy. Click to view.

When his dad got to the hospital and saw the gravel still stuck in his boy’s face, he fainted.  His dad… well, his dad is my dad.  My brother slipped.

Divorce naturally puts the oldest kid in position of helper, caretaker.  A sort of parent.  I swore I would do it “right” the next time.  And so, before I had kids, before the 7 years of infertility and baby chase, decades before I met my current amazing Running Mate, before I finally got pregnant, and before my first kid came early, I was preparing to be a helicopter parent.

So when you see us at the playground, ensuring our kid gets their turn in line; sanitizing their hands every few minutes; running around behind them with our hands outstretched, palms up, to catch them; going down the slide backwards in front of them to clear any pebbles and not let them out of our sight; unpacking an enormous bag of wipes, snacks, drinks, stuffed animals, jackets, hats, band-aids and supplies — be gentle in your criticism.  I was doing what I clearly saw as  BEST for my child, even if it had everything to do with me.

And if you want to jump out of the helicopter with me, come on over to join Funnermother on facebook or sign up for my weekly-ish E-zine.

 

Endless

I grit my teeth and steel myself for yet another endless day.  One car is in the shop and the other is stuttering, asthma is acting up, printer is broken, furnace is moody, and when you sit on that middle cushion of the couch you go through to the springs and knee yourself in the chin.  Then there’s outside.  Cloudy skies.  Dirty nuisance snow.  Biting cold.  Endless grey.  I got in bed and pulled the covers over my head.  I got up.  Nothing had changed.

parenting

Stuff is piling up — Funnermother.com

I read a parenting blog that mentions the end-of-the-day feeling of “just trying not to yell.”  I chuckle, not the way I was meant to.  When I yell, it comes from somewhere and jumps into the room without my permission.  “Just trying not to yell” is actually a pretty good day.  A bad day is endless grey.

I’ve always been told my face betrays me, we MacDonald women [mom’s maiden name] don’t suffer in silence,  and that I can access scary ferocity when crossed.  Mad or blue, my kids see it and hear it.  I am an imperfect parent.  In addition, we are in a big transition that’s not going smoothly, as we try to relocate several states away.  So on top of my transparency, we are asking our kids to accept a shaky and unknown future, and the for sale sign out front is a constant reminder.  It’s a lot to ask of all of us over time.

Picking a car up from one mechanic and dropping the other off to another mechanic, I felt up to my neck in muck and told Running Mate, “Ug, I’m losing my optimism.”  He put his right hand palm up, shrugged, and said evenly “You can’t.”  And that was the perfect answer.  Giving up is the least desired, least viable, least helpful…. and it is structurally impossible.  He reminded me of my mantra “It’s not IF things will work out, it’s HOW things will work out.” Dammit.  My own words!  But it’s a new day, and I feel the clouds behind me.  Close, but behind me.  My kids see and hear the change.

feelings

Up to my neck in it!
Funnermother.com

I assume if you’re reading, you’re parents.  And in contrast to a lot that I’m reading for parents these days, you have my permission to show emotions other than happiness.  You have my permission to be upset, sad, worried….. and show it.  However, this permission comes with the condition that you move through these feelings and model for your children how to do that, too.  It doesn’t have to be with poise, though a little dignity would be nice.  🙂  As a kid, my family’s emotions were like a box of pingpong balls, dropped from a high spot.  But the opposite of that is NOT constant pleasantness.  It’s management, feeling your feelings, and not being sidelined by or fearful of them.  There may come a day when I never yell.  In the mean time, it’s important to show forgiveness after anger, bouncing back from sadness, and resolution of worry.  I’d love to hear your story of bouncing back in the comments.  Did your kids follow your recovery?  Do you have a tip for putting your feelings into perspective?  Let me know!

This is my… um…running mate

“I just can’t read that dad’s work after his comment ‘my kid is so high maintenance I think he’s a woman.'”  Some bloggers I know were chatting about gender. I’m happy, frankly, that someone notices other than me.

partners

My running mate – Funnermother.com

Mommy-blaming and daddy-blaming are everywhere.  It’s funny.  They say.

I don’t bash my baby daddy, he’s pretty cool.  But I don’t include him, either, and our gender chat brought that to my attention.  I feel… a little guilty actually.  The blogosphere is pulsing with strife, industries are built around it, and we all have friends who are unhappily entwined.  Occasionally we all are.  But overall, he’s a great dad and partner.  And I should include our unlikely success story; we are the most unusual couple I know.  We have been together romantically for twelve years, unmarried, and are both fine with that.  “The last of the red hot hippies” I  say.  Before that, we worked together for a few years.  We moved immediately to being a family (more on that here).

partners

My running mate – Funnermother.com

During the last election, Thing 1 (then 9) asked if we were ‘running mates’ and indeed that seems perfect.  We are opposites.  He is a drummer, masseuse, landscaper.  I am a perpetual grad student, recently escaped from a dusty archive.  We complement each other.  Bad Dog Daddy has kept me from dragging the Things to the emergency room more times than I can count.  And I tell him no, they are not always welcome to live with us.  We balance. There is harmony, there is contention. Yep, you might have heard me say “But we women have 500 years of sexism to catch up on!” once… or twice.  But that was before I started this little family project with this bad dog.  We have learned that we have to speak clearly, compromise, and let go of our egos for it to work.  We have surely hurt each other, but we are not trapped and we choose every day to work it out.

I think it’s time to trade gender bashing for an exercise in what we might call diversity… for  extrapolating whatever oddly shaped lumpy arrangement it is that works.  What do you have that works?