I’ve been thinking a lot about the weightiness of motherhood given the combustible reactions received recently by two controversial mommies. The Wall Street Journal printed an excerpt from Amy Chua’s new book,“Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” in which she extols the superiority of the Chinese, and very strict, mom. Among the list of things Ms. Chua prevented her daughters from doing, in the name of building a superior human being, were: having sleepovers, having playdates, watching TV, performing in school plays, and choosing their own extracurricular activities. Yikes. Major news outlets and blogs jumped on the story and, not surprisingly, Ms. Chua was a very busy lady last week clarifying her position with an appearance on the Today Show, a return to the Journal etc. Google her and you’ll get hundreds of news results.
While the embers of the Asian mother fire were still aglow, Gwyneth Paltrow and her GOOP newsletter managed to insult mothers from a totally different angle. GP decided to share her own juggling tips as well as those of two fellow working moms, venture capitalist Juliet De Baubigy and designer (and Paul’s daughter), Stella McCartney. All three provided a snapshot of a day in their lives to illustrate how they were able to successfully multi-task.
Now, if any of these women had given the credit to their household help that is undeniably due, I think the accusations of elitism and tone-deafness would have been tempered. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Gwynnie seems to be bearing the brunt of the outrage which is kind of unfair. It was Ms. De Baubigny's helpful hints which caused me to gasp, “you must be kidding.” If you’d like to experience a surge in blood pressure, click here. If not, here are some ways the venture capitalist makes her day a little easier: “I’ve found that having a trainer come to my house on a Monday really motivates me.” But on cardio days at the gym she says, “I bring my iPad and use the Flipboard app to curate my social media.” Okay, huh? What does that even mean? Curating (the most over-used word in 2011) is something a curator does at a museum. (And if I hear it used in any other context I may scream.) Let’s not forget the blow-outs, make-up lessons, obsessive list and label making, bulk gift and card buying, and taking of stock. “Did I spend my time in the right meetings? Have dinner with my family at least 3 times during the week? Did I read to [my kids] at least 5 times in the last 7 days?” I can’t decide if I’m nauseated or exhausted or both.
Obviously, being a mother is really hard. Most women I know, whether they can afford help or not, just struggle to do the best they can, much of the time falling short (in their minds) and wishing they had more to give. Do they really need (in the disingenuous name of being “helpful”) other know-it-alls to remind them just how much they are failing, how much more they should be doing? No.
So in the spirit of having fun, I babysat for my nieces last week. Who else but an aunt would think it is totally fine to 1) make a chocolate pizza and 2) to make it at 5pm when she’s supposed to serve supper to her charges at 6pm? No one.
It was post-pizza and pre-dinner when I appreciated the juggling my sister does, sans paid help. Niece 1 wanted to take her bath while Niece 2, who skipped the terrible two’s only to embrace the terrible three’s, refused not only to bathe but also to put on her pajamas. After my pleas provoked a primal scream I parked her in front of the TV, because I believe in rewarding bad behavior. I also wanted to save my ear drums. Then there was yelling from Niece 1, still upstairs swimming in her tub. “I’m lonely,” she said with a face only a monster could resist, so I sat with her while she demonstrated her underwater breath holding.
I nuked the leftovers they were supposed to eat and served them in front of the TV which earned me the second, “you are the best aunt!” of the night. (The first was when I let them eat one pack of the M&M’s that were supposed to go on the pizza). Reminder: I’m their only aunt. After cleaning up in the kitchen I returned to the TV room where neither had touched a bite of her pasta. “I don’t like this,” Niece 1 sneered, “there are hard pieces.” She caught me. I had totally scorched the wagon wheels and thought if I hid the crunchy bits she wouldn’t notice. Niece 2 ate two bites of her pasta and then begged for milk. I saw my opening: with a little bribery, milk for pajamas, everything seemed calm and good. Niece 1 was still on the couch watching something or other (see how well-supervised she was?) while Niece 2 and I “doctored” her chronically ill Ugly Doll upstairs.
Because the girls have a tendency to hide cordless phones I had to run downstairs when the phone rang. My sister would be home in three minutes. Click. Just then Niece 2 yelled from upstairs. I sprinted to find her standing in her doorway having had an accident which in turn caused me to scream. I put her on the potty, way too late, ran back downstairs where Niece 1, the expert on really everything, met me in the kitchen to boss, I mean instruct, me on accident-cleaning protocol. And so, with paper towels and cleanser strewn in the hallway, a running bathtub and a soaking wet youngest daughter, my sister and brother-in-law walked in the house mid-mayhem.
The lesson is that there is no way a mother (or father or aunt) can control the uncontrollable. It doesn’t matter how many times you type on your P-Touch label maker, buy birthday presents six months in advance or make your kid play the violin. Accidents are going to happen and you might as well try to have some fun.
I’m sure that the Tiger Mother and GP et al would disapprove of this chocolate pizza, thinking only a bad mother would serve their children something sure to make their blood sugar spike. But they would be missing out on all the fun. It is great to make with kids and you can be as experimental as you like. You can swap out the Nutella for jam or peanut butter, use dried fruit, your favorite candy etc. Your kids won’t eat dinner but you’ll be "the best mommy,” at least for one day.
Bad Mommy Chocolate Pizza
Adapted from Giada's Family Dinners, by Giada De Laurentiis, 2006
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1 pound homemade (see Note below) or purchased pizza dough
2 teaspoons butter, melted
1/4 cup Nutella
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 pack (1.69 ounce) M&M's
1/2 cup crushed pretzels
1/3 cup mini-marshmallows
Position the oven rack on the bottom of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F.
Line a heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
Roll out the dough to a 9-inch-diameter round. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet. Using your fingers, make indentations all over the dough. Brush the dough with butter, then bake until the crust is crisp and pale golden brown, about 20 minutes. Immediately spread the Nutella over the pizza then top with the chocolate chips, M&M's, pretzels and marshmallows. Bake just until the chocolate begins to melt, about 1 minute.
Yield: 8 wedges
NOTE: Remember the dough made for the chocolate pretzels? Now is the time to use the other pound. Click here for a reminder.