When I was in college I thought I knew it all. I’d major in something smart and esoteric, work my tushie off, spend my summers learning the ropes at highly respected internship programs, go to graduate school, land a job, get promoted, get married, have kids, buy a house and manage it all with grace, while still being able to fit into my size four jeans. “I’ll never be one of those harried moms who looks like she just got run over by a truck at the grocery store,” I said to myself and anyone else I could convince. I was sure this would happen because I had my act together. I was motivated, determined, relentless, creative, and yeah, even a bit cocky. Steps one through seven actually took off as planned. I was accepted to a fine academic institution, humbled by working for various television producers and writers, made money working in TV (and waiting tables), landed a full scholarship to a well respected graduate school in communications, got a great job and got married.
AND THEN I HAD CHILDREN
...and suddenly, everything I had known or thought about the universe completely changed. People say it all the time but it’s true. It’s as if someone dropped a ton of bricks on my head and left me naked in the middle of nowhere. All of a sudden I was a mom. Not just a wife, a writer, an entertainer, a creative spirit and a selfish 30-something. I was a mom who had to put something and someone else above myself. A mom who had to get healthy meals into my kids’ mouths. A mom who was supposed to cut up grapes and have snacks ‘on hand’ at the playground and show up at school and be organized and be patient and be smart and know what I was doing. I didn't. And I was very, very scared to fail.
Motherhood threw me into a world unlike anything I had ever anticipated. Unlike any job I’d ever had. And I didn’t exactly like the change. I saw my friends embark on similar paths. Many took to full-time parenthood with a grace that I could only envy, yet never emulate. Others hired full-time nannies so their lives post-baby wouldn’t have to change. I chose the hybrid path. The “I’m going to try to do both at the same time” path. Home daycares were found on Craigslist. Really. I found my equilibrium working as a writer and still had time to be at my kids’ schools. It was hard. It still is hard. You’re always feeling guilty about something whether it’s work or kid related. Sometimes work suffers and sometimes family suffers. But as Marlo Thomas or Oprah or someone really creative and smart and rich and successful once said, “Sure you can have it all. You just can’t have it all at once.” Well, she was right. Work often takes a back seat. Projects are passed by and all the glory that goes with it. A small price to pay for the smile I get when I show up for second grade “Center Helper.”
Life got a little more insane when I got divorced which kind of throws a girl, too. But somehow, it's all working out. I have a happy household and well adjusted children. But it takes a lot of work, laughter, wine, patience with myself as much and my kids, and a lot of ‘winging it.’
But meals, meals were always different. Meals were coveted. They still are. I always loved to cook. For one, for two, for lots of people…it didn’t matter. I tested recipes, made up my own, doctored others and enjoyed the process. I love good food. Not fancy food. Just good food. There is a difference. Could be from Waffle House or Daniel, depending on the day. So while I was willing to do a give and take with my career, I wasn’t willing to compromise with food. I refused to fall into the dark world of chicken nuggets and the occasional mushy green bean. I wanted to maintain my standards of eating well no matter what the circumstances. And so kids in hand, I forged on, continuing to cook and host parties for my friends. I just tweaked my methods of getting it on the table.
Sure, my kitchen looks like a tornado hit it most of the time. Sure I can be the “meanest mom in the world” on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays (let’s not even talk about Mondays). I’m no Martha Stewart but I can put on a holiday dinner like the best of ‘em.
I laugh when I remember scolding my daughter for licking the remote control or telling my then seven- year-old it was inappropriate to tell her friends that she “Brushed her teeth with a bottle of Jack” like Ke$ha. Or when I have to throw candy on the floor and turn on smooth jazz so my kids will be quiet while I talk to a client who thinks I’m sitting in a fancy office. Sometimes I find refuge in the gossip magazine section of CVS. Sometimes I’ve already had two glasses of wine when my kids come home so I can’t actually drive to the CVS. But somehow the food gets cooked and it’s pretty darn good.
And so the concept of My Kitchen Chaos was born. Born out of a love for never compromising when it comes to food, born out of a love for continuing to cook like I used to and for not being afraid to admit that I’m fiercely competitive and jealous of every cooking show hostess out there who has little ramekins filled with chopped up veggies waiting for her on her slate marble countertops. Not in my kitchen. Not on my linoleum.
This blog is for all the moms (and dads) out there who know what I’m talking about it. Embrace the journey of parenthood as best you can. Keep working whether it’s as a volunteer, a hobby or for money. You always need something that’s just for you. But don’t ever stop eating well. And please, please. Get rid of those high-rise jeans. I don't care how many times they come back in style.