Eating Healthy

Guest Post by wordssetmefreee

Developing a healthy relationship with your food means eating for nutrition, sustenance, and with gratitude. Instead, in the modern age, we eat while we are standing or driving, as we rush through our day trying to meet obligations and deadlines. We eat out of stress or boredom, we over-focus on taste, and health goes out the window. The result of this unmindful eating is the feeling of being perpetually tired and health issues occurring at an increasingly younger age.

On the one hand, we have seen wonderful advancements in modern medicine that have increased longevity and help us manage many conditions while remaining active and functional, despite the effects of aging.

On the other, we live in increasingly toxic environments where we are exposed to harmful metals like lead, mercury, aluminum, and harmful chemicals in our air, food, and water.  The only way to counter the inevitable intake of these toxins is to build up our body’s natural defenses and supply it with the right kind of fuel.  A silent revolution has been taking place with our food.  Many of us haven’t noticed that the food we consume in current times is several fold more processed, and combined with harmful additives, compared to the foods consumed a generation ago.  We need to start saying no to this invasion of chemicals on our bodies.  We need to start treating our bodies with care and respect.  Not an easy task, since everywhere you look, you are surrounded by harmful additives.  We need to begin the process of choosing what we eat deliberately, rationally, meticulously.

I’m not a nutritionist but I’ve always been interested in pursuing a healthy lifestyle. And healthy eating is a big part of it. I haven’t met all my eating goals yet and I’m somewhere in the middle of the ladder to a balanced, healthful diet. I will share here what I’ve read on the subject. If anyone would like to add or correct the info included here, please do so.

Know Your Foods

1. Whole Grains – What’s The Big Deal?

Why eat Whole Grains? Whole grains contain all three parts of the kernel. Refining normally removes the bran and the germ, leaving only the endosperm. Without the bran and germ, about 25% of a grain’s protein is lost, along with at least seventeen key nutrients. Whole grains are healthier, providing more protein, more fiber and many important vitamins and minerals.

Some whole grains to try (in place of white rice) are quinoa, brown rice, amaranth, millet (ragi, jowar), buckwheat, bulgur, and wild rice. All these alternative grains are great for maintaining balanced sugar levels. Quinoa has the highest protein content, so it’s perfect for vegetarians and vegans. It provides all 9 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein.

2. The Argument for going Vegetarian

Meat contains dense protein, which is difficult to digest. Protein needs to be absorbed slowly, in order to have health benefits. Also, meat is highly acidic, leaching alkaline minerals like calcium from bones. Meat can be toxic with all of the antibiotics and artificial hormones fed to animals to make them grow faster and bigger and can exhaust the liver and kidneys having to work overtime to detoxify the body of these toxic and harmful substances. It also takes quite a lot more energy from our body to digest and break down meat, sapping our bodies of our vital life force. Meat contains high amounts of fat and cholesterol, leading to cardiovascular problems including heart disease, atherosclerosis and stroke.

Plant protein comes not just from beans and lentils, but also from whole grains. Eating a variety of whole grains and legumes provides the optimal amount of protein the human body needs, at a rate at which it can be easily digested.

And of course, going vegetarian is good for the planet! Meat production is a huge contributor to pollution due the use of fossil fuels. In developed countries, it is the largest source of greenhouse gases and in developing countries, one of the major causes of water pollution.

For those who do eat meat, leaner (chicken, turkey) meats are better than red meats (beef, pork) and grilled is better than fried obviously.

Note: There are others who take a different stance. For instance, advocates of the Paleo diet argue in favor of a heavily meat based diet.

3. Colorful Veggies – the fashion designers of the food world

Veggies are an important part of a healthy diet. They contain dozens of essential nutrients and have loads of dietary fiber. And just by getting your daily quota of five servings, you help build your body’s immunity to illnesses like cancer, heart disease and diabetes. One of the new trends with veggies is juicing – why – because it saves time and you can get in veggies you don’t normally like eating plus it’s more water. Whether you like to juice them, steam them, or eat them raw, veggies are great for you. Remember, no frying and no cooking with oil showing up all over your plate. With veggies, think bright colors plus white. Red, dark green, and bright yellow – all of these are packed with nutrients. White veggies like cauliflower, radish and cabbage are also excellent for you.

Here’s a suggested list of to include into your diet:

Dark Green Leaves – Spinach, Kale, Swiss chard, Methi, Romaine, Bok Choy, and Collards.

Green veggies – broccoli, green pepper, zucchini, cucumber

Red veggies – carrots, beets, red pepper, red cabbage, red potatoes

Yellow veggies – squash, yellow pepper, sweet potatoes

White – cauliflower, cabbage, radish

4. Fruit are cute, but too much is moot.

Fruit are tasty and nutritious, but watch out for the high-sugar ones. Berries are the healthiest kind of fruit. Most fruit contain fructose, a healthier form of sugar than glucose, except for grapes, which contain glucose. Even if it’s fructose, sugar is sugar. Bananas, apples, mangoes, and grapes are the sweetest fruit. Pineapple, kiwis, and strawberries are medium sweet. Pears, blackberries, raspberries are low in sugar. Cranberries are one of the lowest in sugar. Treat fruit as dessert, keep it to 1 to 2 servings a day max.

5. Dairy: No need for Milk Mustache!

For the longest time, milk was thought to be super healthy. Now, many nutritionists are questioning and debunking this long held myth. In general, it is better to keep dairy products a small part of your diet. We’ve been lead to believe in the myth that you absolutely need milk to get Calcium – mostly clever marketing from milk manufacturers (remember the famous milk mustache?). The truth is that there are many other, healthier sources of calcium in your diet – including all green leafy vegetables, also broccoli, and baked beans. Exercise is another excellent way to build and maintain strong bones.

Milk also has the disadvantage of making us feel full with no room for lean foods such as veggies and fruit. The more dairy we consume, the less lean, fibrous foods we eat. Milk can also lead to lactose intolerance in some people – bloating and constipation.

If you are a milk drinker, try substituting cow’s milk with alternative milks – almond, rice, or hemp milk. Many people are becoming intolerant to cow’s milk in the US because of the way it is being processed.  If you MUST drink cow’s milk, then at least stick to organic milk and avoid brands that come from cows treated with hormones.

Organic, plain, non-fat yogurt is the better form of dairy. It contains probiotics needed to protect your intestinal tract against bad bacteria. There are also non-dairy yogurts available now – based on coconut milk, etc. Goat milk yogurt is considered healthy but I’ve never tried it.

6. Healthy Fats

Healthy fats include nuts, seeds, olive oil, and avocado. I also use sunflower and safflower oils, which are more suitable to Indian cooking. Avoid processed fats like margarine and butter.

7. Drinks: Live it up! Party! Get drunk! (on water, I mean)

Soda – One of the worst things of the typical American diet is the consumption of sodas like Coke and Sprite – sodas can contain strong acids, tons of sugar and caffeine, artificial sweeteners like Aspartame, harmful colors and flavors. Coke contains Phosphoric acid – leave a nail in a cup of coke and it dissolves in 4 days. Imagine what it does to your body. Not to mention the 10 spoons of sugar that go into a regular sized Coke can. Avoid all sodas.

Diet coke is much worse. It contains Aspartame (an artificial sweetener present in many brands such as NutraSweet, Equal, and Spoonsful) which is linked to many devastating illnesses. Avoid all artificial sweeteners. Either reduce sugar, give up sugar (if you are pre-diabetic), or try Stevia, a plant based sweetener.

Store bought fruit juices (such as Tropicana) are not healthy – they contain high levels of sugar, some contain high fructose corn syrup, a sweetener that has been linked to many illnesses. They also contain artificial colors, flavors and extracts. If you like fruit juice, please make it at home.

The best beverages to drink are –

Water – the 6 to 8 glasses rule is great if you can, but if you can’t, then drink as much as you can. Drink after every meal to aid digestion and hydrate. Avoid drinking from plastic bottles. Use a stainless steel bottle or cup, or one made from glass.

Coconut water – Make sure you buy a “clean” brand that contains no sugar or additives. The ingredients list should read: coconut water. Nothing else. And it shouldn’t say, “extracted from concentrate” or “sugar added”, etc.

Veg juices made at home with carrots, beets, etc. are awesome. Fruit juices made at home – orange, pineapple, mango, etc. Don’t add sugar please.

Fruit smoothies – Combine almond milk with your favorite fruit to make a healthy, filling drink.

Tea (hot water with tea bag – Burdock, Tulsi, Green Tea, etc.) Green tea helps you detox . Too much tea is not good as many teas also contain caffeine. Chamomile tea helps you calm down, mint tea helps you feel refreshed. Also look out for Teevana (now under Starbucks) – they have some interesting flavors like Samurai Chai. (Note on Indian tea – too much full fat milk, too much sugar, too much boiling – not good!)

Coffee – the jury’s out on this one. Some studies show that limited amounts of coffee (1 cup/day) are linked to a lower risk of diabetes. Others recommend giving up this artificial waker-upper altogether.

8. Snacks – what’s healthy, what’s not?

The short answer: the best snacks are mostly what nature offers – fruit, veggies, nuts. (And plain white, non-fat, organic yogurt.) Keep tons of these raw foods ready on hand. Everything else is unhealthy. Do not store your kitchen shelves with junk food.

The long answer (for those who love detail 🙂

Remember, it is BEST to eat food in its original form or lightly cooked. The more processed the food gets, the lower it’s nutritional value and the more harmful it becomes due to additives. This is why store bought snacks are among the unhealthiest of foods.

Many store bought snacks contain harmful ingredients such as colors, flavors, and flavor enhancers such as MSG. In the olden days, people used safe, natural coloring like turmeric to make the food yellow or beets to make it red. But artificial colors are based on chemicals and have harmful health effects.

Examples of healthy snacks:

Check out a health food store such as Whole Foods for some of these and choose snacks with less sugar (less than 5g per serving):

Fruit and Nut bars (with no harmful additives, like Kind bar or Lara bar)

Trail Mix – nuts and dried fruit mix (don’t pick those with added salt and sugar)

Baked chips (Lentil Chips, Kale chips, Sweet potato chips, Vegetable chips like beets and radish chips again without additives)

Organic dark chocolate (small amounts)

Whole grain crackers with no additives, plain or dipped in hummus

Examples of Unhealthy Snacks:

Protein bars (usually contain high levels of sugar and additives)

All snacks from the Indian store (cookies, crackers) contain additives

All packaged, ready to eat, instant foods

Anything deep fried (potato chips, corn chips)

All cookies, brownies, muffins, and sugary snacks

Many brands of nachos contain high levels of artificial colors and flavors

Anything with “bbq” or cheesy flavors or trans fats or GMOs

The biggest rule with snacks – READ THE LABEL! Read Ingredients carefully. A general rule of ingredients – the fewer the better, the more easily you can pronounce them, the better.  A bottle of ketchup should read: ‘organic tomatoes, salt, water, organic paprika, organic red pepper’. Baked potato chips should read: ‘potatoes, salt, sunflower oil’. That’s it. Say no to brands with long lists of ingredients (many of which are harmful additives).

EATING/COOKING HABITS – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Cooking Veggies/Curry – when making curry, use no more than ½ tsp of oil to fry seasoning and spices, then add veggies, cover and lightly cook. Veggies must remain crisp to retain nutrients. Oil should not be sticking to plate when you serve curry. Avoid rich curry sauces that contain cream, etc. Avoid store bought sauces, they contain harmful additives such as flavor enhancers. Avoid bottled ginger garlic paste or anything ‘ready-to-use’. Grate your own ginger and garlic and if you lack time, skip it.

Vegetables like eggplant and capsicum do not taste good, when boiled/steamed. So the tendency is to fry them. To avoid frying, try grilling them. You can add grilled eggplant, zucchini, or squash to your sandwiches. You can add grilled bell peppers to almost anything – pasta, salad, sandwich, mixed grain dish, etc.

Eating Raw – There are many advocates for raw food but my personal preference is for lightly cooked foods. I feel the body spends too much energy breaking down raw foods – energy which should be used for other activities. The only veggies I can eat raw are tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and onions. I lightly steam carrots, beets, cawliflower, and all the other harder to break down (for my body) veggies.

Attitude – Sit down, chew well, and eat slowly. Savor your meals. Meals should not be eaten rushed, or while standing up. If you have little kids and meal times are chaotic, then let the kids eat first, then sit down to a peaceful meal with your spouse. As your kids get older, and you have family meals together, make it a social experience and catch-up time for the whole family. You can discuss something interesting you’ve been reading about or news from work (making sure it’s child appropriate). The dinner table can be the place for some great conversations.

Involve your children in the making of food. Children can accompany you to the farmer’s market, select veggies and fruit, and help out during meal prep, help set the table. Help your children develop a healthy relationship with food. Stocks your kitchen with tons of healthy snacks that kids can grab between meals. When kids watch you eat healthy, they are more likely to follow suit. Food battles are inevitable, especially during the teen years. Do the best you can – stick to cooking healthy at home, provide them with the right information, and when they eat out, let them make their own choices.

One of the best things you can do if you have some time is to grow a vegetable garden and get your kids involved with the planting and growing of veggies – this doesn’t have to be ambitious – even growing tomatoes is fine. This teaches children to have a healthy relationship to food and to be thankful to our planet and take good care of it. It is a therapeutic, stress busting activity and is quality time for you and your child. You can also teach them about generosity by distributing some of your home-grown veggies to neighbors and friends.

Buy seasonal, local, non-sprayed or organic produce. Don’t eat imported out-of season fruit, for instance. Support the local economy and the environment.

Eating Schedule – It is good to have a routine – that is you eat at consistent times everyday. The end goal of good eating is to be kind to your body – so your body can give you energy and focus.

Avoid negative eating habits – eating to fix boredom, to fix stress, starving to lose weight, over-eating something that is tasty, being excessively focused on taste rather than nutrition, using large helpings, craving excessive variety, random/unplanned eating or fixating on certain foods.

But, what about those darn cravings??

We all have them – chocolate, cheese, samosas, ice cream, pizza – we crave foods that are unhealthy. So should we kill our cravings instantly? The answer is NO! What happens when you suddenly eliminate these foods is – your craving intensifies. You do not feel good about eating good foods.

Instead, reduce bad foods gradually, with the goal of minimizing them. There are 2 ways you can do this – either by reducing the quantity of bad food OR by improving the quality of the bad food.

Say, you like eating pizza every month.

To cut down on the QUANTITY/FREQUENCY – You can try to cut down to a pizza every 2 months, then make it every 3 months.

You could also reduce your serving size (say from 3 to 2 slices to 1 slice), and supplement your meal with a salad.

Or to improve the QUALITY of the pizza – you can try going for thin crust pizza, with less cheese on it.

Thus you have not entirely eliminated the pizza or whatever it is you crave in one shot, but your consumption of it has been modified to be less unhealthy.

If you feel you are drinking too much coffee or tea, first try eliminating sugar in your coffee/tea without entirely giving up your ‘energy booster’ drink. Now, you don’t have to worry as much about your habit because it’s not as unhealthy. Next try eliminating milky tea and go for hot water and tea bag.

If you love ice cream, save it for special occasions or eat it with a fruit salad.

If you decide to eliminate a food, do it gradually by reducing your consumption over a period of time. In the end, you must be able to give up the food in peace, without feeling bitter about it or aching for it so much that you just gorge on it after a long gap.

POTS AND PANS – is it time to go shopping?

Avoid non-stick pots and pans.

Minimize the use of microwave ovens. Microwave ovens use radiation, which alters the chemical composition of your food.

Use glass containers and avoid plastic, for storing food. Glass is inert so nothing leaks into your food. Plastic is bad enough when cold but downright toxic when heated. Even BPA free plastic contains harmful chemicals. Glass and high quality stainless steel containers are healthier. Avoid zip-lock bags as much as possible.

Baking with glass (Pyrex) is way better than using metal pans to avoid leakage of metals into your food.

Pressure cooker versus slow cooking – slow cooking is healthier, soak grains (rice, quinoa, etc.) for an hour and cook on medium to low heat on stove top. Cook all veggies on stove top on low to medium heat.

Cooking pots – this is where most experts disagree – obviously non-stick cooking pots are unhealthy due to Teflon. Some people recommend glass cookware, and even though glass is inert and strong enough to be heat resistant, I still don’t feel comfortable using glass cookware. I currently use stainless steel cooking pots. My favorite brand is Cusine Art – the pots are heavy stainless steel. All stainless steel pots do have a bit of nickel and other metals in them – but they won’t seep into your food unless they’re scratched. So don’t scrape the bottom of stainless steel pots and pans. Use enough water to keep the curry or rice moist, to avoid scraping.

NEXT STEPS

Eating better is a process and it takes time to get there. An at-a-glance way to assess where you are in this process:

Level 1 – you eat lots of sugary and oily snacks, don’t pay attention to labels, and eat out a lot

  • You need to reduce sugar and unhealthy fats.
  • Trash the junk food from your kitchen shelves and stock your fridge with cut up veggies and fruit to meet your in-between-meals hunger pangs.  Also keep small quantities of raw nuts on hand when the munching urge strikes.
  • Cook some simple, wholesome meals at home.

Level 2 – you cook simple, wholesome meals at home pretty regularly, avoid sweets and oily snacks, stick to some basic health rules like avoiding MSG and packaged foods. You eat some vegetables and fruit but you could do better. You also rely more on grains and less on fiber on hectic days. You may also be eating some refined grains.  You may sit down and have a peaceful meal for dinner, but breakfast and lunch, you eat on the run because you are pulled in many different directions – the needs of work, home, kids, self. (Level 2 is sort of where I fall.)

  • Include more fibre in your diet by adding more fresh veggies and fruit.
  • Move closer toward whole grains.  Aim for grain rotation (quinoa, millet, Amaranth, brown rice, whole wheat – try to eat a different grain everyday and keep rotating).
  • Re-org your day (wake up earlier if needed) so you can set aside time to sit down and eat mindfully. Create a pocket of time to chop veggies and fruit to be used for next day.

Level 3 – you eat whole grains, lots of fresh veggies and fruit that are seasonal and local, you get optimal amounts of protein and healthy fats, you avoid colors and flavors, GMOs, avoid packaged foods, and eat at home as much as possible by cooking simple meals with fresh, organic ingredients.

  • Find ways to maintain this.
  • Keep reminding yourself of the benefits – you have optimal levels of energy, you are calm and focused, and better able to handle stressful situations.
  • Get everyone in your family to join you, if possible.

References

Healthy Eating Info websites

http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/healthy-eating

http://www.ayurveda-holistic-medicine.com/ayurvedic-diet.html

https://unblindmymind.org

Whole Grains –

http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/whole-grains-a-to-z

Vegetarian Protein –

http://sacredsourcenutrition.com/plant-vs-animal-proteins/

http://kindrednutrition.blogspot.com/2011/06/plant-vs-animal-protein.html

Leafy Greens –

http://www.webmd.com/diet/healthy-kitchen-11/leafy-greens-rated

Fruit Sugar

http://www.thehealthyeatingguide.com/sugar-content-of-fruit/

http://www.sugarstacks.com/fruits.htm

http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/fruits-vegtables-good-low-sugar-intake-2148.html

http://lowcarbdiets.about.com/od/whattoeat/a/whatfruit.htm

Milk overrated – http://www.mercola.com/article/milk/no-milk.htm

The ugly effects of coke – http://uk.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20060823150145AAUrVMa

The danger of artificial sweeteners

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/11/06/aspartame-most-dangerous-substance-added-to-food.aspx

Is Coffee Good For You? – http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/coffee-new-health-food

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/coffee-and-health/AN01354

Artificial colors in snacks – http://www.naturalnews.com/032512_artificial_colors_food.html

Going Organic http://www.care2.com/greenliving/15-reasons-to-eat-organic-food.html?page=3

Harmful ingredients to avoid –

http://www.naturalnews.com/033162_food_ingredients_chemicals.html

Dark Chocolate –

http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/6-health-benefits-of-dark-chocolate.html#b

Quality of Food goes down with processing

http://www.prevention.com/food/healthy-eating-tips/23-ways-eat-clean/11-soup

Workplace Equality requires Equality at Home

Guest Post by wordssetmefreee

If you are a mother who works in a conventional office setting, the scenario in the following article by Katharine Zaleski may sound familiar to you:

http://fortune.com/2015/03/03/female-company-president-im-sorry-to-all-the-mothers-i-used-to-work-with/

Two telling excerpts from the article:

“I secretly rolled my eyes at a mother who couldn’t make it to last minute drinks with me and my team. I questioned her “commitment” even though she arrived two hours earlier to work than me and my hung over colleagues the next day.”

And

“I sat in a job interview where a male boss grilled a mother of three and asked her, “How in the world are you going to be able to commit to this job and all your kids at the same time?” I didn’t give her any visual encouragement when the mother – who was a top cable news producer at the time – looked at him and said, “Believe it or not, I like being away from my kids during the workday… just like you.””

Zaleski’s article makes some great points on

  • the attitude of younger women/male and female non-parents/male employees with kids(fathers) toward employees who are mothers
  • the very little empathy and support that mothers receive at the workplace
  • the condescension with which they are viewed when they have to cancel a meeting or need to take an unexpected day off

However, this successful, professional woman ignores the role of fathers in parenting: What I find disappointing about this article is

  • The author reserved her condescension (in the past) only for mothers, and did not extend it to fathers as well. Many men in senior management tend to be married with kids. Yet no one questions them if they have to cancel a meeting because it is assumed that the cancellation has nothing to do with parenting responsibilities or family time. This is representative of many people I’ve known here, both men and women.
  • Why is the role of fathers never discussed when we talk about over-burdened mothers?
  • When we say workplaces are “male-oriented”, what do we mean? Do we mean that they revolve around the needs of men, with little understanding of the needs of women?
  • Does this imply that taking care of kids should not be a male concern and only women workers must worry about childcare and parenting?
  • Why can’t we start using the term “parent-friendly” instead of “mother-friendly” to refer to workplaces that provide flexible schedules, work-from-home options, and more autonomy to their employees?

The change in perspective that Katharine Zaleski experienced is commendable. She started a company, PowerToFly that matches women with technical skills to remote jobs that they can perform from home. I’m glad she is doing something to make it possible to tap into the talents of countless women who lack sufficient supports at home.

However, we need to start having discussions on the role of fathers in parenting. Even in the US, men and women still play very traditional roles when it comes to parenting.

Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In is in the same vein – it talks about how women need to be more assertive in the workplace but doesn’t discuss how fathers need to do their fair share at home.

We seem to be fighting for equality in the workplace but remain content with inequality at home by turning mothers into supermoms.

How can we expect people at work to treat women (and mothers) as equals if we don’t change our gender based attitudes toward housework and parenting?

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Some experiences I’ve had in this regard:

Everywhere I go, I’m seen as being solely responsible for all tasks related to children and home.

My children’s pediatrician, a woman, always concludes the visit with a list of instructions meant for me alone, even if my husband is present.

“Make sure he takes this 3 times a day with meals, “ she says, looking at me, then turns to my son and says, “Mommy’s gonna get you all better buddy!”

I encounter this at my kids’ school on the days I volunteer in the classroom.

The teacher says to some kids, “Oh look what mommy packed you for lunch today! You are one lucky kid!”

All emails from the teacher to the volunteering parents are addressed, “Dear Ladies”, and unfortunately, most of them ARE ladies.

I encounter this at my workplace too. Even the compliments are suffocating.

“I don’t know how you do it all!” (I DON’T do it all. I do my fair share of the work, my husband does his fair share and we let go the things we can’t do.)

A recent conversation with my friend, a full time working mom:

She works full time at a very aggressive company with an extremely stressful work environment. The other day, she was complaining about taking home work again over the weekend.

She said, “My boss is such a slave driver. Lucky for him, he has a stay at home wife to take care of his kids.”

So, she puts another woman down for her legitimate choice but doesn’t hold her own husband accountable.

I said to her, “They must’ve made a joint decision on that. When one parent chooses to stay home, the family takes a huge cut in income. The advantage is more work life balance, with one parent taking care of earning, while the other takes care of home duties. When both parents work, they must share cooking, cleaning, and parenting duties.   Either way, people should do whatever works for them. In both cases, both parents should share the overall work fairly. “

To this, she said, “The problem is, my husband can come home and relax, but I can’t. He doesn’t feel guilty about not spending time with my daughter or if there’s no food at home. I do.”

This then is the crux of the problem. Women are finally getting more choices and opportunities work wise. But we come home and nothing much has changed. Women still need to make those meals and care for their children. And if the working mother fails at achieving this impossible state, then she punishes herself with guilt. It’s still her job and her job alone to cook, clean, do dishes, laundry, and parent the kids.

Another seemingly small incident that brings to light the casual guilt inducing culture mothers are surrounded by:

I was in line at the grocery store. A woman in front of me with a child in tow placed 3 frozen food type of lunches, 2 cans of soup, and a carton of milk on the counter.

The cashier, who was probably just making small talk with her, said breezily, “I guess you’re not cooking today!!:)))”

The woman looked slightly stricken, and then went on to painfully explain why she was picking up those frozen food lunches and soup cans. “Well tomorrow, I’m expecting guests so I have to clean my entire house and prep for the elaborate meal I’m going to make. So, you know …. (smiles apologetically) …. I’m trying to simplify at least today’s meals.”

The cashier and the customer are probably unaware of this exchange as being guilt inducing. But it’s all around us. I’m sure he wouldn’t have made that comment to a man buying those frozen items.

Or worse, he might’ve said, “Guess, your wife’s out of town!!:))”

———————————————————————————————————–

For this mindset to change, we should start changing workplaces not only to support mothers but to also change our expectations for fathers. We need to start building a workplace culture that encourages work life balance – a place where a father can proudly say he needs to leave early to attend his daughter’s soccer game.

To a smaller extent, I do see this happening. One of my colleagues, a marketing manager goes for a run with his daughter on Wednesday afternoons (which is a short school day) to help her train for marathons. Another colleague, a graphic designer, alternates short and long working days with her husband, so they take turns picking up the kids and cooking. My husband and I do the same thing. I know one dad in the autism support group that I run who does business consulting work (for startups) from home and takes care of the home and kids, while his wife has a full time in-office type of job.

Sheryl Sandberg’s next book, “Lean In Together” talks about how men need to do their fair share at home.

“About time we discussed that!” was my first thought, when I heard about the book’s release – although a little voice in my head said, with the kind of money Sandberg and her husband make, did they ever have to worry about household chores when they can hire fantastic help?:-)  What do they even know about the struggles of everyday kind of families?  But let’s ignore that for a moment and look at the advice.

Although she gives suggestions that make sense (share the house work 50/50, be equally involved with your kids, etc.), the overall pitch of the book seems a bit salesy. The “perks” of gender equality at home include “better sex for spouses and better profits for companies (due to more satisfied, productive employees), more promotions to go around and 5% growth in our GDP”. This to me seems like a desperate sell to get men to do their fair share of work. Or a bid to get privileged, white boys club type managers to look down kindly on their male subordinates going home earlier to do “a bit more” at home.

Gender equality at home may not bring higher profits and higher profits and productivity and benefits to men should not be the driving force behind gender equality.

The REAL positive outcome for men from gender equality at home? Dads get to give their children hugs and wipe their tears. Dads get to cheer their kids at sports. Dads get to really know their kids and earn their trust and respect and love. Moms get to be human because the work is shared fairly. When moms feel good, they can bond better with their husbands. Husbands “benefit” too from this emotional bonding and warmth. This is not exactly in the category of “profitable” but it’s an awesome feeling and you can’t put a price on it.

But all of the above benefits to men – better bonding with their spouses and children – are things that flow from doing the right thing. We must do the right thing simply because it’s right, not for a benefit.  And I think it’s not just important to bring about change, but to do so for the right reasons, so that the change is genuine and long lasting.

Gender equality begins at home. And it matters because it’s fair. Because women deserve equality. Like everyone else. It’s that simple.

Please share your thoughts and experiences on the sharing of housework, parenting, and workplace attitudes.

I talked about my experiences in the US. If you live elsewhere, in what respects are your experiences different/same in Europe and other countries in Asia (Singapore, China, Japan, India, etc.)?

It’s not about hot hot chappaties.

Somewhere in the blogosphere …

The topic of discussion : Some women make hot chappaties for their family and finally eat alone only when everybody else has eaten.

The comment: But, if a woman loves to give “garam garam roti” to her husband and kids without any compulsion, straight or oblique, then we should not snatch her joy by being judgmental in a superior sort of way. It is not what you do but why you do what you do that is important. / Did I say there is anything wrong in the whole family eating together? It is something to be cherished…but if someone follows a different way, without compulsion ..

Why this bothers me:

1. We all know how much real choice do Indian women have in most matters, so let’s not even talk of no compulsion, oblique or straight.
Is it really okay for a woman to have cold chappaties after the family has eaten ?
Why should one family member ignore their own comforts?
Does she feel this will make her more likable ?

2. It also means that the girl who does not stand in the kitchen making hot chapatties for her family and is perhaps a little less willing to suffer for them, is not as good …

3. But most of all it shows that the men and the children in that family feel no compunction in allowing this sacrifice. Why don’t the sons, the daughters, the husbands and the in laws put their foot down and refuse to let her eat alone?

Obviously she believes that they can enjoy a meal without her?
What in their attitude made her believe that they will not mind her eating alone, after they have all eaten?


The Comment:we should not be judgmental and disturb the harmony that exists.

The biggest myth is this harmony. There is no harmony here, or else we will not have anonymous blogs, emails and comments from wives, daughters in law and girls who hate this system and all that it stands for.

The Comment: At the same time, positive education is needed to ensure that discrimination based on gender, that which is in the mind, is eradicated.

Reminds me of our politicians “I condemn the dastardly acts of terrorists/violence against innocent citizens…We will /not tolerate /make sure this never happens again …
Why?
Read the next sentence!

Comment: Frankly, I feel that this thing about “equality” is being stretched too far in some cases.

How does equality NOT get stretched too far? By accepting a little equality and an occasional inequality?
As in we will allow a daughter in law to visit her parents but only twice a year…?

As in we will allow the first child to be a baby girl, but second daughters not allowed?
Or as in we will permit you to work but we will not help with house work?

The comment continues : Why should it mean only doing what men do?

How many women has this commenter seen trying to do what men do?
And what do only men do that women mustn’t?
Play football? Have careers? Be independent? Drive? Wear jeans?
Enjoy a late night outing? Be self reliant? Have fun with friends?
Refuse to live in a joint family? Love her own parents even after she is married?
Or just wish to sit and eat with the rest of the family 😦

I know of real women, brought up with this sort of conditioning, who are actually annoyed that men do not have to undergo labour pains and go through nine months of pregnancy…why should the woman alone suffer, is the argument.

When I had nausea during the first trimester of my pregnancy we were at a party and this bachelor (from Haryana btw) said “All these problems happen only to city girls, in my village women go back to working in the fields soon after the baby is born.
I did not ask (always think of it later) what the Pregnancy related mortality rate in Haryanawas, but today we know why with this attitude, has Haryana got the worst girl:boy ratio in the country.

So please understand why women say such stuff. I am sure I would have loved it if this guy whose face and name I don’t remember, was given one day of my nausea.

I know you will find it silly, but try telling that to them and they will say that this discrimination exists because God is a male!

You mean, you know for sure that God has a gender!!?
Sita, Durga, Laxmi are male?
Who created a male God? Who decided that God is male?
You will never hear me say any such thing because my God is gender less 🙂

Related Posts:

Stay Hungry. Stay Oppressed. – There and Their

Can a Veetodu Maapilai rightfully ask for the 4th coffee of the day or whatever he wants in his in-laws’ house? 

An email from a DIL living in a Joint Family: Should I adjust or should I leave? 

I now pronounce thee Man and Cook. (you may now kiss the bride)

How Indian Homemaker learnt to enjoy cooking…

When I started writing a reply to Alankritas comment where she ‘wondered at people who trained their daughters to grow up and get married’ I found my reply was getting even longer than my usual long comments, *sheepish grin* … I went on and on, remembering, rambling… There’s something so wonderful about sharing the stories of your growing years. …the pleasure of talking about the powerful hands that were rocking our cradles; buying us “Amar Chitra Katha’, Enid Blyton, Nandan, Tintin and Parag; hands that insisted we needed a hair cut when we were dreaming of competing with Rapunzel; hands that talked about giving in and compromising, but fought to make us strong…my mother could confuse!

My mother did not say marriage was not a priority, she said she will not raise us to be ‘traditional’ wives, and ‘they will find us‘ suitable husbands.
She was unconventional in a confused, inconsistent way, using tradition as and when it worked for her. As a teenager I had no interest in cooking, eating or in anything to do with food or kitchen. My mother showed me an article in a women’s magazine, it cribbed (in 1980) about how modern girls do not like to cook. The article said it was the mothers’ responsibility to make sure their daughters learnt to cook, because no matter how successful or modern she became, a girl eventually had to cook. It was just the sort of stuff you would expect from such a magazine. I wrote an angry letter to the magazine, and to my surprise they published it. My mother saw it before I did, and was delighted to see my name in print. She was convinced with my written logic, or maybe she thought if the magazine published it, it couldn’t be so wrong. Her half hearted efforts at ‘compelling’ her daughters to train to become good wives and daughters in law ended right there.

To the horror of some aunties, I did not even know one ‘dal‘ from another. I was not proud of it, anymore than I was proud of despising Physics and Maths. But unlike Physics and Maths, cooking seemed sacred. It bothered me, but it did not make me enter the kitchen. People’s response never bothered my mom though. One of her lines was “This is the time for books and learning, if she is smart she will earn enough to hire a cook when the time comes. And do you think we will marry her off to someone who only wants a cook, then maybe we should train them to fetch water from the well also, who knows what future holds for them?”
I thought my mother was just being typically loyal to her children, she made many conflicting statements. She could not even dream of us not getting married, but she did insist that what mattered was not how like a perfect daughter in law a girl was brought up, but how the parents find the right kind of husband for her.

For all this talk, she was still scandalised when she first saw my new husband make tea. To be honest, so was I. In my family, men never entered the kitchen.

I was even more horrified when we were barely married for a month and my husband announced that two of his bachelor friends had invited themselves for dinner that evening. Why didn’t he ask me first? Now I was going to be laughed at, everybody would know I couldn’t cook. My brand new husband explained that he couldn’t tell them not to come without being rude. They were not coming to eat a gourmet meal, they just wanted to meet us and have some simple, home cooked food. More importantly, he assured me that after a few drinks nobody knew what they were eating, he also helped me plan a Menu. That was easy, I only knew how to make Butter Chicken and how to boil rice. I had a brilliant maid Polamma who had assured me she could make perfect chapattis, (my only condition for employing her) turned out whenever I asked her to make chapattis, she couldn’t understand what I was saying!



I just had the whole day to make an impression on our first guests. I opened my folder of Femina clippings, browsed through Sumit Mixi recipe book and my all time favorite – and at the time brand new, Lalita Ahmed wondering if liquor did really have that effect on human taste buds.

Polamma insisted dosa would go very well with Butter Chicken and stuffed Capsicum, but for that, the batter required fermentation, so she decided she would contribute to the cause with her uthappa, Sambhar and coconut chutney. I had seen Stuffed Capsicum cooked at home, and for this elaborate stuffing my husband helped me chop onion before leaving for work. So finally (the now famous amongst friends and family) menu was ready –

Starters

Cocktail Idlis (made without fermenting the batter), served with coconut chutney both made by Pollamma.

Open sandwiches – chicken (from butter chicken) mixed with mayonnaise (mayonnaise recipe from Sumit Mixi recipe book)

Cheese and Pineapple – cubed

Cauliflower florets, button mushroom, carrots, courgettes served with ‘Pink Lady Dip’ (from Femina, Recipe: mayonnaise mixed with ketchup, any ratio)

Dinner

Butter Chicken (IHM’s favourite then, and the only contribution)

Sambhar (Pollamma’s)

Stuffed Capsicums (mashed boiled potato, chopped onion and pepper stuffing, a joint effort)

Boiled rice (Pollamma)

Uttappa ( Pollamma’s last minute rescue)

Coconut chutney (entirely by Pollamma)

Egg Curry (Another Pollamma creation, cooked with tamarind, never cooked or eaten like that, before or after.)

Dessert

I can’t believe but I have forgotten. Was it custard (Weikfield with easy to follow recipe given on the cover) or was it Gajar ka halwa (made with Milkmaid, easy to follow recipe given on the cover)? Husband can’t remember either!

Our guests, the two bachelors, were thorough gentleman about the unusual menu, unusually cooked. (My husband insists they were not being gentlemanly they were grateful for a home cooked meal. He had been in their shoes.) After that first dinner they ate at our place often, and they and many other friends were welcomed several times a week. They became the guinea pigs for my newest passion, the unbelievably delightful, COOKING. Recipes were shared. We tried many kinds of omelette’s, (yes, I could not even cook THAT till then). I was given the never forgotten mantra that ‘all dals taste good, if the tarka is good’.

I couldn’t believe I could actually cook. I wrote long letters home but although my siblings acknowledged my new talent, my parents still think my husband is one accommodating sweetheart!

The moral of the story is:

1.) Cooking is no big deal, can be a lot of fun, if the learner is enjoying the experience. I made sure both my kids enjoy cooking.

2.) Cooking has nothing to do with getting married. It’s a useful skill, just like driving, and everybody, across genders, benefits from knowing how to feed themselves well.

3.) If the food is not good, get the guests drunk 🙂