By Bonnie Fishman / San Francisco Bay Area
As we approach Mother’s Day this weekend, I think of a conundrum that faces many mothers. This is theoretically a day when someone else takes care of us moms, making us a meal, buying us flowers, giving us a rest from household chores and watching young children.
However, if you’re fortunate enough to still have a mom or mother-in-law who has expectations about her own Mother’s Day celebration, you may well ask, “Do I care for others today or take care of myself?” This is a tough one, as I bet you mothers out there know.
We read and talk about the Sandwich Generation, those of us literally stuck in the middle with you. The Sandwich Generation is defined as those between the ages of 40-59 who are caring for both children and aging parents. According to the American Psychological Association, almost 40 percent of those from ages 35-54 report extreme levels of stress: “This stress takes a toll not only on personal relationships but also on their own well-being as they struggle to take better care of themselves.”
While raising my two kids and running my business, I didn’t have that opportunity with my mother. We buried her 52 years ago this Mother’s Day. I was a caregiver for her when I was a kid so I haven’t been blessed with being torn between two generations.
I did, however, have a mother-in-law for many years and we always celebrated her with either a brunch or dinner at our house. Going out on the busiest restaurant day of the year was not in the cards. I fussed and put my own needs aside. Isn’t that what mothers do? Put others before themselves? I sure did. It was what I was taught and what I thought was my role.
I was talking to my good friend Debbi last week about her own personal experience. Her children were young, she worked full-time, she was newly divorced, she had a house to take care of and her elderly mother became ill. Debbi was the only sibling living in the same city as her mother. The stress was unimaginable. This is not an isolated case.
I see changes in this generation of young people. My son and his wife really support and help each other with the house and kids. It’s a beautiful thing. I admire my daughter-in-law, Rachel, and how she gracefully navigates motherhood. She is very present for her two young boys, my son (her husband) and their home.
However, Rachel engages in “self-care”, something I never dreamt of. What a blessing for her and really the whole family. She’ll take hikes with friends and solo walks, run, take an evening off and occasionally go on a retreat alone. Now she can be calmer for the inevitable dicey times that arise with small children and their own struggles.
Fortunately for Rachel, she is not caught in the middle with elderly parents. There is a major shift in the family dynamic when a mother is raising a family, working full time, and taking care of sick parents. That is the real Sandwich Generation. Where do your loyalties lie? Sometimes, it’s whomever is in the most need of assistance.
Mothers have a number of different roles: nurturing, caring, loving, directing family “traffic,” providing a safe home, cooking, and, well, mothering. It’s a huge responsibility. Sometimes we, as a society, don’t stop and think of the magnitude of what many women do day in and out. We definitely should.
To celebrate all you mothers out there, I’m offering a classic French sandwich, the Croque Monsieur, in honor of the Sandwich Generation. It’s great for breakfast or lunch. This recipe is made with ham, but the ham can be replaced by turkey, changing it into a Croque Madame. You can also make it vegetarian by using two different cheeses.
Tell us here at The Insider if you are taking care of yourselves on this upcoming Mother’s Day. At the very least, have someone make you a Croque for breakfast!
Yield: As many as you want!
1 loaf of sour dough or egg bread, sliced
1 lg. or 2 medium onions, sliced thin
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 pieces of bread
a smear of Dijon mustard
2 thin slices ham (see note)
2 thin slices Swiss cheese
2 lg. eggs, scrambled
1 Tbsp. oil
1 Tbsp. butter
Make the caramelized onions:
In a medium skillet, heat the 2 Tbsp. oil over moderate heat. Add the onions. Sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Turn heat down to moderately low. Cook onions until very soft and browned, stirring occasionally. Do not rush this step, it may take 30 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Reserve.
Lay bread slices on your work surface. Spread bottoms with mustard. Place on a piece of cheese. Add the 2 slices of ham. Spread around about 1 Tbsp. caramelized onions. Add the second piece of cheese and then bread. Press down firmly with your palm.
Heat oil and butter in a large skillet, enough to hold 2 sandwiches, over moderate heat. Scramble 2 eggs per sandwich in a medium bowl. When the oil is hot, dunk each sandwich into the egg, allowing it to soak up the egg. Make sure both sides have egg.
Place the sandwiches in the pan. Turn heat down to moderately low.
The sandwich needs to get hot enough to melt the cheese but not hot enough to burn the bread. Keep an eye on it. When done, place on a cutting board and cut into 4 triangles. Serve hot or warm.
Note: You can replace the ham with sliced turkey. OR: You can make it vegetarian and use two different kinds of cheese.
Bonnie Fishman attended the Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London. Later, she owned and operated Bonnie’s Patisserie in Southfield, Mich. and Bonnie’s Kitchen and Catering in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. She has taught cooking for over 35 years and created hundreds of recipes. She is now living in Northern California.