Monday 20 April 2015

Back to Work Already

Today was my first day back at work after eight months of maternity leave. I had hoped to go back relaxed and fresh, ready to deal with anything, but after a hectic weekend, not enough sleep and trying to get through all the housework, I woke up exhausted and aching. I quietly shuffled into work at 7am, got organised and by 9am had cleared the 576 e-mails sitting in my inbox.

I then enjoyed a quiet coffee, that I could drink while it was still warm, which doesn't happen at home. My girls have got a hot coffee radar; no matter what time I make my morning coffee, Darling and Pixie will wake up at exactly that time and howl for me. I spent the rest of the morning with everyone that goes passed my desk exclaiming “oh, your back! How’s the baby?”, leading to a conversation that ended each time with “well lovely to have you back, I’ll catch up with you later”.

After a nice leisurely lunch with two friends, I familiarised myself with all of the systems, caught up on reading material, had a meeting with my manager about starting a new project and spent the rest of the day doing more reading while I waited for 4pm to come round.

By the time it was time for me to go home, I felt well rested, slightly less achy and much more cheerful than I had for a few days. It felt a bit like I had been on holiday, or a day spa even.

Mums that stay at home often get made to feel as if what they do is easy in comparison to work outside the home. Often they make themselves feel that way by not valuing what they do – like when they say “oh I'm just a housewife”. But having been at home for the last eight months I can say that formal work is a doddle compared to being a wife, mother and home-maker. This is regardless of whether you have one child or six. The dedication required is the same, the 24/7 nature of the work is the same and the giving up of so very much of yourself that you sometimes wonder if there is any of the original, old you left is also the same.

So today, for the first time in my twelve year career as a mother I felt no guilt for leaving the girls and going to work. I felt as if my aching bones, sore head and overwhelmed brain have earned a few hours of quiet and calm, even if your heart is still right there with them.

There has been one strange side effect of going back to work after what feels like so long. I seem to have lost some of social skills for the time being. I've spent so long around either just the kids or just my Pakistani/Bengali (“desi”) friends, family and neighbours that I seem to have lost the art of small talk. Kids tend to be quite direct and you can respond to them in quiet direct way. Desi’s also tend to be quite direct, (I think that gentle, slightly beside the point, small talk is more of an English thing). Usually I'm quite comfortable with that kind of banter and chatter, but today on one or two occasions when someone tried to make a joke I just looked at them blankly or gave them a slightly awkward answer. I'm sure my brain will catch up after a few days, but part of me quite likes being so direct - feels like much less effort.

The girls reaction when I got home was priceless.  Darling jumped up and ran to me and Pixies smile lit up her whole face.  She dribbled all over my face, I'm not sure what she was trying to do!  I've spent most of the evening cuddling them both an absolutely revelling in them alhamdulillah.  

Tuesday 14 April 2015

Recipe: Umm Salihah’s Yummy Macaroni Salad

I don’t often put yummy at the front of a recipe, but I have with this one because it’s one of my favourites – easy to make and tastes great.

To make it healthier I substitute some of the mayonnaise with Greek yoghurt, which just makes it taste fresher and lighter.

1 cup elbow pasta/macaroni pasta (the small kind)
1 cup Greek yoghurt
½ cup mayonnaise
2 heaped teaspoons castor sugar
1 level teaspoon black pepper
2/3 teaspoon salt – can adjust as per taste
1 red bell pepper - diced
1 green bell pepper - diced
1 small can pineapple chunks – drained and washed
1 small can sweetcorn – drained and washed
½ cucumber – peeled and diced

Mix the Greek yoghurt, mayonnaise, sugar, pepper and salt.

Then add the diced peppers, cucumber, sweetcorn and pineapple chunks, if the pineapple pieces are quite large, I sometimes halve them. Give everything a good mix.

Boil the pasta as per packet instructions aiming for an al-dente (slightly firm) texture. I usually add a dash of oil to stop the pasta sticking together as it boils. Add the pasta to the Greek yoghurt mix. Check the salt and pepper is to your liking (I use coarse black pepper and often add a little more, butt find you have to be careful with the salt as it can easily be too much).

This makes a nice little addition at parties or picnics and is fairly filling because of the pasta. It is also quite nice as a light lunch in summer. Once you have made this once you can easily adjust as per your taste (e.g use more or less of any of the fresh vegetables or try adding new ones as per your preference).

It keeps for a few days in the fridge, if you find it becomes watery the day after you make it, just add a dash more Greek yoghurt or mayonnaise and give it a gentle stir.