As of a couple of weeks ago, I’m officially back at work. Unlike his mama, B3 thought the transition was a total breeze — he sees me off to work every morning with such blasé cheerfulness that I’m wondering whether I shouldn’t be at least a teensy offended. (He is, however, in a war of attrition with his Public Enemy No. 1, The Bottle, so there is at least one part of me that he misses. Or, more accurately, two parts.)
Me, on other hand! On my last day of maternity leave, I cuddled aggressively with B3 until he squirmed and got bored, blew raspberries with him, and watched him nap with an intensity that was probably a little bit creepy. And the next day, when I put on real clothes that require things like buttons and dry-cleaning, and drove somewhere that wasn’t just the supermarket, I got there and I just watched him all day on the baby cam with pretty much the same intensity.
Predictably, a lot of coworkers have been asking whether I’m happy to be back at work. I get the sense that the right response is something like you know, I really didn’t think I would want to go back but I was ready! or I got surprisingly stir-crazy, it’s nice to actually talk to adults! or somewhere along those lines. Being a terrible liar, I don’t think I’ve managed to convince anyone that this is the case. I didn’t really get stir-crazy; I am fairly certain that a good chunk of my adult vocabulary has leached out of my brain (and with it, my ability to converse normally with adults — wait, did I ever have that?) to make room for random high-pitched noises and variations on “peek-a-boo,” but I’m cool with this. To be totally honest, I really, really loved being a stay-at-home mom, and I treasured the weeks we had where it was just me and little man, day in and day out. I’m missing it, and Luke, a lot these days.
Still, I’m grateful to be at a firm that gave me the length of maternity leave that I had. Knowing how hard it was for me to go back leaves me in awe of the many moms who go back to work far earlier. (That said, I also know full well that the mamas who do stay at home with their littles don’t have it easy by any stretch, either.) Even though I can’t help but be a little melancholic that it’s over, there are things I’m learning to love about our new normal: Our hazy early-morning hours, traipsing around the apartment to open all the curtains and let the sunshine slant in, our rosy evenings, with the biggest, eye-squinching, face-stretching welcome-home grins, and cuddles before bed. A friend at another firm told me that you feel more “present” in the hours that you are home, even though they’re fewer. Whenever I’m tempted to worry (you know, not at all dramatically) that Luke won’t love me as much as he might have if I was home full-time, I remember that he loves his papa with an all-encompassing, shining adoration, and B2 has been back at work for months and months more than I have. If papa had to do it, so can I.
And anyway, I’m pretty sure Luke plans to hit all his developmental milestones on the weekends only.
The cooking around here has been minimal for the last several weeks, quick salads and little armies of Tupperware’d casseroles to make more time with B2 and B3. A month or so ago, though, I made this simple-but-special pasta with Mother’s Day in mind. A little springtime riff on this pasta from Cook’s Science, it lends comfort (don’t all mamas need some of that?) from a silky sauce that comes together with roasty garlicky oil, starchy pasta water, and a dollop of Vermont Creamery mascarpone. I never knew that mascarpone could work so well in a savory application, but it’s the perfect, subtly creamy base for pungent garlic, and becomes beautifully bright when matched with peppery shiso and lots of lemon. On top of that, tender green peas get cupped up in the little ears of the orecchiette and tuck some sweetness into every savory bite. (I could eat green peas plain — and may or may not finish Luke’s leftovers when I make him green pea purée. Am I the only one who finishes their child’s baby food?) The pasta has heft but plenty of vibrancy, and it’s the kind of light but substantial meal that feels perfectly happy and celebratory for a mama’s special day. I hope you have wonderful Mother’s Days ahead, or just a wonderful Sunday, too.
Thank you to Vermont Creamery for sponsoring this post! All opinions and unrelated ramblings about motherhood are, of course, my own.
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 ½ tablespoons plus ½ teaspoon minced garlic
- 12 ounces dried orecchiette or shell pasta (or two batches of this fresh orecchiette)
- Salt and black pepper
- 2 cups frozen peas
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest plus 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2-3 tablespoons Vermont Creamery mascarpone (Greek yogurt or Vermont Creamery crème fraîche work well, too)
- 2-3 tablespoons grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
- ¼ cup finely sliced shiso leaves (or mint, if unavailable), plus more for garnish
- Combine oil and 1 ½ tablespoons minced garlic in a small skillet or saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic is pale golden brown, 9 to 12 minutes. (For me, this took the full 12 minutes -- the garlic began to sizzle gently at around 4 minutes or so, and took about 8 minutes at a gentle sizzle to turn golden.)
- Meanwhile, bring 2 quarts of water to boil in a large pot. Add the orecchiette and 2 teaspoons salt and cook, stirring frequently, until al dente. (The pasta should still have quite a bit of bite; it will continue to cook in the sauce, so I prefer to take it off the heat when it’s several minutes less cooked than I want.)
- Reserve 1 cup of the starchy cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add the peas, lemon zest and juice, reserved garlic-oil mixture, and ¾ cup of the pasta water to the pasta. Stir until pasta is well-coated with oil and no water remains in the bottom of the pot.
- Add the mascarpone, Parmesan, and shiso leaves. Toss until the cheeses melt and evenly coat the pasta. If needed, loosen the pasta with the remaining ¼ cup pasta water. Season with more salt and plenty of black pepper to taste, then serve, with extra Parmesan on the side and more shiso, if desired. Enjoy!