By: Wendy Rhein
There are a plethora of labeling adjectives in modern marketing speak meant to define my family demographic: multi-ethnic, single parent by choice, multi-racial, adoptive, sandwich generation, multi-generational. Just the other day someone told me we are the poster family for modern diversity. I suppose that should be a good thing and it is certainly something to think about when I’m folding laundry at midnight on a Tuesday.
I am a single mother of two young boys. My six-year-old son says that I’m not white, I’m pink. And that goes well with his tan and his 19-month-old brother’s chocolate brown. He adds his Nana, who lives with us, and says she is whitish with brown spots. Nate is his name, and I’m Wendy. Sam is the baby who is not really a baby anymore. And Nana is also known as Mom – my mom. A little over a year ago, just months after I had adopted Sam at birth in an open, domestic, third-party adoption (more adjectives), and after losing my job when he was 5 weeks old and only two months after once again taking Nate’s father to court for child support he refuses to this day to pay, I was offered a new job in a new city. I took the whole family to visit the new city one weekend and while strolling through a Farmer’s Market on that first Saturday, Nate looked at me with a big smile and said “Mom, there are families like ours here!” That was all it took. One month later, we loaded up two cars with me, my then 4-month-old, 5-year-old, the cat, and my 70-year-old mother, and moved. We left behind two large condos with a lot of the stuff that filled them, many memories, and a collection of friends that had gotten me through more crises than I care to repeat. Think the Clampetts but without the Texas Tea.
Now, we live in a smaller, much more urban apartment complex with a pool, playgrounds, and big parking lots. For the first four months Nate thought we were living in a hotel complete with a lobby, elevators, and maintenance staff.
My mother is aging and desperately wants to feel useful but also needs some looking after. We struck an arrangement that she would be Sam’s primary caretaker during the day, meet the kindergarten bus at the end of the day, and I would work and care for all of us. I am incredibly grateful for not having to pay full time childcare for an infant but adjusting to living with another adult, especially in such a charged mother-daughter relationship, has not been easy. Add to that different ideas and approaches to raising children (no, we don’t need to put six layers of clothes on the baby in August; he’s really not cold), and you’ve got a recipe for a reality show or a courtroom, depending on the day. In the end it is actually recipes that save my sanity. To regroup, de-stress, and celebrate, I cook. It is motherhood at its most efficient: I am serving a purpose to my family by preparing home-cooked meals seven nights a week while also getting my groove on in the kitchen. In future posts, I hope to share some of these recipes with you, since for me, food and family are intertwined.