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On being Married to a Chef with Children

January 20, 2012 in Family, Life

 

Ask and you shall receive, right? I don’t know about you but I feel SO much better after reading Hilarys take on what it’s like being Married to a Chef with Children. I knew it was going to be challenging, that I would inevitably be the primary caretaker, but it’s SO good to know that the answer is finding what works for each couple, when times get tough.  I LOVE what she said about:

” Being married to a chef is hard enough without children. Having children is hard enough without being married to a chef. Combine the two and you’ve got a recipe for a lot of work.”

SO insightful. It’s amazing to me to see how similar we other halves are… PURPOSEFUL, STRONG and RESILENT… almost like we could carry the world if we knew had to.

Well, you are in for a treat. We have another wife and mama’s take on what it’s like… well, you know. I am receiving so much guidance in her wise words. I have a feeling you’ll end up feeling as empowered as I did.

Married to a Chef … With Children

by Gretchen Alfonso of GastroMami

I met my husband Reny during my last year of college.  I was bartending my way through school & he had just arrived in Memphis to take the helm of a nationally acclaimed restaurant.  He was cute, talented, covered in tattoos, completely full of himself & I was smitten.  After dating my way through the classic “bad boys,” mostly musicians and bartenders, I had found my ultimate man:  a badass in the kitchen who worked hard, played hard & loved hard.   I went to school in the mornings while he slept, we both worked 5-6 nights a week followed by drinking, eating & dancing our way through every juke joint and blues club in town.  Life was grand.

Fast-forward to 2008 and I caught the “Yes We Can” bug, heading to Pennsylvania to work a congressional campaign.  You see, with a chef as my partner, my “wild & crazy” idea to move 800 miles away for 6 months in order to work 80 hours a week didn’t seem all that “wild & crazy.”  The thing about insane work hours & exhaustion, however, is that one can let some important stuff slide and ‘well hello there double blue lines!’  Our son Reinaldo came in May 2009 and to say that he rocked our world (in a good way) is an understatement!  About 22 months later Fiona arrived on the scene.

Our life with children isn’t all that different from our life before:  we are up at all hours of the night, someone is always hungry, work never seems to stop and occasionally we have an out of control ‘customer’ that needs to take a seat & have a glass of water or he will need to leave (or go in timeout as it were).  The main difference is that, instead of us both working & playing together I am home, alone, much of the time – and that has not been the easiest of transitions.

It is difficult for me to put into words what is so hard about this lifestyle, with kids.  Is it the long hours or the weekend events alone?  Is it the fact that even when he is home he is usually sleeping?  Do I regret that I often turn down playgroups because they are almost always at 10am and that is his time with the kids or that all his time at home is taken up by two children who love him but what about me, his wife?  Do I look at other dads on New Year’s Eve and mourn the fact that my husband isn’t there to watch his 8 month old daughter as she is mesmerized watching fireworks for the first time or regret that he isn’t there for our nightly “get the wiggles out,” post-bath, naked-babies dance party?

There is a lot that is hard, really super-duper hard, about having a chef as my parenting partner but there are also a lot of really great things:

  • We get to go to the zoo, to the aquarium & museums in the morning, during the week, when no one else is there!
  • My husband is able to enjoy our children at their best time of day – early in the morning!  Granted, he is usually half asleep but the joy & love they have between the hours of 7-9am is unbeatable!
  • Reny & Fiona’s father makes a mean breakfast!  They want challah French toast with slivered almonds & macerated berries on a Thursday?  No problem!
  • When our babies are little I can pump a bottle before bed and “Dada” willingly takes the 1am feeding (because he is just getting home), thus granting a very tired Mama 4 solid hours of much-needed sleep
  • Jars of baby food?  Ha! – not in this house!  My kids were eating curried lentils & roasted squash while their playground companions were stuck with nasty-smelly “chicken dinner” & “pureed peas”
  • My  son’s favorite food is “pulpo” (octopus) & my 8-month old daughter just chowed down on some duck & rabbit goulash … picky eaters?  I don’t think so!
  • When we do get a date night Reny & I dine like we are part of the 1% and pay like we are below the poverty line

There are a lot of really difficult moments of parenting with a chef & there are a lot of really good moments.  We have also made some huge changes in our relationship over the past 2 ½ years:

My husband wakes up with the kids at least 5 days a week. Ouch, right?  This schedule started when I used to wait up for my husband to come home from work, usually around 11pm (at his old job); the deal was that if I waited up to see him, he would wake up with Ren since it was usually at least 1am before we rolled to bed together.  Now he has a new restaurant that keeps him at work later but he still wakes up and does breakfast & gets the kids dressed while I spend some much-needed alone time in bed!

We moved closer to my family. My parents are still a 7 hour drive from Philadelphia but the fact is that I CAN drive it, ALONE, with 2 kids instead of (from Memphis) taking 2 flights ($$) alone, with kids.  This means I can travel home for weddings, long weekends, ski trips & holidays and my husband can still fly, drive, or Megabus it, to meet us for part of the trip, if his schedule allows.  We also have relatives in NYC, DC & Baltimore if I need a quick hand!

Family comes before the restaurant. This seems like a no-brainer but sometimes chefs get so wrapped up in the restaurant, their staff & the customers.  I understand that it is a huge stress to run a restaurant and know that your staff of 50+ depends on you for their, and their family’s, livelihood & that each and every customer can make, or break, the restaurant that your chef so loves.   It has taken years of communication but Reny understands that our family comes firstIf I absolutely, desperately need help – he comes home. Granted, Reny is Executive Chef so he can always leave knowing he has the most capable sous chefs, and believe me, I know I am lucky in that ability.  I suffered from horrible post-partum depression after the birth of Fiona & was grateful that his schedule was flexible enough to give me, and our family, the time & extra set of hands we so desperately needed.

I hire a sitter so I can have adult time. I don’t have a husband to stay home with the kids so I can go to dinner with friends or attend book club so I hire a sitter – without feeling guilty! We budget that extra expense every month so I don’t feel isolated or “stuck” at home.

I don’t work outside of the home. As both a woman that loves to be busy & a feminist this is very hard for me but not having a job outside of our home is what works best for us, for now.  Since I am home with the kids we can be available for my husband whenever he is free.  The schedule is different this week and he is off on Wednesday instead of Monday?  Fine.  He’s out picking meat up from the market and wants to meet us at the nearby coffee shop for hot chocolate?  We can be there.  He’s working a double?  We pack up a lunch and have a picnic in the bar lounge.  I know that this flexibility is not forever, especially once our kids are in school, so we enjoy the moments together now and I will re-enter the workforce in the future.  He is a chef, however, with a paycheck to match, so we sacrifice & save to make it work but it does work, for us, for now.

I am going to be honest that there are times when my heart aches and I miss my husband and our children’s father; there are times that I am so overwhelmed and resentful of his job that I simultaneously burst into tears and call him to bitch and complain and vent.  There are also times when I am so eternally grateful that the passionate, fun-loving, badass of a 26 year old has turned into the most passionate, fun-loving, badass of a father that any kids could wish for.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Gretchen Alfonso is a stay at home mom to Reny, 2 & Fiona, 9 months.  Her husband, Reny, is the Executive Chef at Alma de Cuba in Philadelphia, PA.  She spends her free time writing about her culinary & parenting adventures at GastroMami & volunteering as a “spokesmom” for The Clean Air Council and Sierra Club of Southeastern PA.  Gretchen loves exploring her new city, its museums & restaurants with her family.  An avid runner, eater & nature-lover, she and her husband work on instilling a healthy love & respect for food, and its origins, in their children.

On being Married to a Chef with children

January 15, 2012 in Family, Life

Source: icanread.tumblr.com via Dorothy Marie on Pinterest

Since my chef husband and I do not {yet} have children, it’s a no brainer that I felt I could not accurately write from what that perspective was. Before we got married, I had a sense it was going to be the most challenging part of being married to someone in the restaurant industry and I knew I wanted it to be an important focus here on Married to a Chef. In our village, it’s become a subject of great focus, I reached out to other halves who are in this sweet (and also challenging) spot to share their experiences, and today I am honored (as her blog was the first place I found comfort years ago) to share with you one amazing significant others take on what it’s like.

My Truth

by Hilary Battes of Desperate Chefs’ Wives

Being married to a chef is hard enough without children. Having children is hard enough without being married to a chef. Combine the two and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a lot of work.

I could tell you about the lonely nights and the struggles of managing a job, a home and a son but I’d be wasting your time. You know all of that; you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t. I want to share my specific struggles and how I cope with them. I’d like to be as honest and direct as possible, especially for those of you who are planning on having children.

I’ve been married for six years and my son is nearly two years old. Before I had my son I struggled with occupying my time when my husband wasn’t around. I cried my eyes out on New Year’s Eve several times and I sneered at other women enjoying meals with their spouses on Saturday nights. I surrounded myself with other women in the same situation. I blogged. I cried. I complained. A lot. None of those worked. Although they all played a part in my growth, I never gained the freedom I needed until I started communicating with my husband. I’ve been working really hard for the past four years or so to talk about anything and everything that bothers me. I worked on my voice tones. I had no idea how much I was conveying to my husband with the tone of my voice. The more I talked, the more he talked. We talked about what it’s like to be lonely. I stopped asking, “Why can’t you get off for Christmas?” and started saying, “I feel so let down when I can’t be with you Christmas Eve”. This created conversations between us instead of just arguments. I stopped whining. The whining was only pushing my husband away. Chefs have little to no power over their hours and days off so giving them grief about it only makes it worse. The communication started to make a big difference, but only after a while of working at it.

Before I had my son, I had a vision of motherhood that was a modern-day fairy tale. I imagined a tiny pink baby, warm against my breast, meeting for the first time in the hospital room moments after delivery. I hate the fact I never had that moment. After hemorrhaging a massive amount of blood and undergoing an emergency surgery, I survived delivery. But that picture perfect moment of mother and child after delivery that you see so often in the movies didn’t exist for me. That was the beginning of so many things that I expected motherhood to be like. The fairy tales are lies. Don’t get me wrong, I love my son, I adore him and although he can melt my heart like no one else, I don’t hide the fact that he’s a lot of work.

My biggest challenge was (and really still is) the feeling of resentment. Sometimes I just crumbled under the pressure of motherhood and I blamed my husband for it. Looking back now, I know none of the struggles were his fault, but I was so angry that I was doing so much more than he was. My body, my schedule, my life changed a hundred different ways since the day I got pregnant. And my husband? You guessed it, he has made minimal changes. Because of our lifestyle he didn’t necessarily have to. I couldn’t continue my life with the amount of work I was doing. Again, I changed the conversation. Instead of complaining I let my husband know what happened for me every time I had to take work off when our son was sick. I told him the jealously I experienced when he was able to meet up with his friends after work while I was at home giving our baby a bath. I asked for help. That was the hardest thing to do. It’s easy to complain. It’s easy to feel comfortable as the victim. The hard part is stepping out of the defenses that have kept us safe since our childhood.

Nearly two years after that traumatic day, my son, my husband and I are doing fantastic. We argue and get aggravated, but we also make room, lots of room, for communicating. We ask for help, we cry when things get rough, and we allow – no wait, encourage, each other to communicate.

I love my life and all the bumps that go with it.

That’s my truth.

About Hilary: A middle school teacher and administrator at a charter school in New Jersey. Her busy schedule allows for little downtime but when the rarity occurs, she enjoys reading, playing with her son, and dining out in New York City. She has been blogging for nearly five years on her site Desperate Chefs’ Wives and loves connecting with the women she meets through her blog.