Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Goat bucco

Goat! Tastes a lot like beef

I've done a thing that I feel bad about. Not bad, but I feel like a quitter. I've done a thing that makes me feel like I've betrayed the sister-motherhood a bit.

I've hired a nanny 5 mornings a week.

A lot of people probably assume that I have a full time nanny and a housekeeper and a driver because my husband once made a telly programme, but it's not that case. I have help, but like most people who can afford and want to have help, but who do not work full-time, it's patchy and makeshift.

I don't want too much because there are many tedious domestic and familial things that you ought to do yourself and there are many tedious domestic and familial things that I want to do myself. But I don't want too little help because the house would fall to bits and it would destroy my marriage.

So I used to have the odd bit of help in the mornings but I now have a chance to opt out of mornings altogether and, ladies, I'm grabbing it with both hands. I'm getting enough paid work to justify it, you see, and I'm gone -  NEEEYOWM! My chair is still going round and round. Kitty goes to nursery, Sam goes out to tear up Kentish Town High Street with the delightful and fragrant Mihaela and I answer to no-one but myself from 0930 to 1300.

And I am mostly okay about this decision, and push thoughts of failure from my mind, because I have done a lot of mornings of childcare and I've just bloody had enough. I could never make it work for me. My best mum friends don't live within wheeling distance and I never managed to get myself a cosy circle of mates to hang out with.

Mihaela, of course, has great teeming masses of nanny friends with their own delightful little charges and they skitter about from playground to playgroup like little buggy fairies and natter away and watch each other's kids, like it ought to be. It was never meant to just be me and the kid, staring at each other, both thinking "Well, this is dull."And if Sam picks up Mihaela's sing-song Romanian accent I will find it charming.

I'm still in sole charge from 1pm-bedtime, which is still hard work but getting easier now Sam is bigger. Kitty zips about knocking things over, squashing PlayDoh into the carpet and throwing potty-related fits and Sam sits on the floor, staring at Kitty with his mouth hanging open, going "Ger", and sometimes "Ah ba ba ba ba ba ba". (And sometimes he just whinges and whimpers and growls from 3pm-bedtime but let's not dwell on that.)

But I feel like a traitor. I feel like a cheat and a weakling - and also slightly neglectful - because I never thought I would get 5 mornings of childcare until Sam was at nursery, when he turned two and a half. I just thought I would mostly do it all myself until then, and only then kick back and deservedly relish my free mornings.

I know how hard all-day childcare is, especially with the under-2s. I know how demoralising and humiliating and boring it is. I've seen it with my own eyes and I don't want to do it any more. A half day, yes yes fine - but not all day. Please not all day!

It used to piss me off, those pieces in the paper quoting any parent saying "I have so much respect for stay at home mothers. I couldn't do it, I would go mad!" It struck me (because I am so angry and defensive about everything) as somehow deeply patronising, like stay at home mothers are aliens from the Planet Patient And Kind.

"What," I would think, "you don't think it sends me mad? You think I somehow have some intellectual thing about me missing that means I can deal with this better than you can?"

Why not, I thought, just be honest about it. You could do full-time childcare if you wanted to. You just don't want to. Don't dress up the fact that you don't want to look after kids full-time as some kind of delightful, chic little personal failing. Just say it. Just say "Full-time childcare is just too awful. I'd much rather look at spreadsheet for 8 hours a day."It's okay to say that! We're all friends here. (Up to a point.)

Some people, I would fume, cannot afford to go back to work because their salary minus childcare is a negative figure. It's not a choice! Some people, of course, cannot afford not to not go back to work (are you still with me?) because their salary minus childcare equals the mortgage. And there are a lot of people whose salary minus childcare equals the mortgage, sunny holidays, private school fees, snazzy shoes… And some people have to go back to work because if they took a few years out to look after kids their job would swiftly be given to someone else, the world would move on and when they did want to go back to work, they couldn't.

Anyway, Christ, I don't kid myself that the money I earn makes any difference to this house, but it justifies the extra childcare. If I'm not working, then it's only right that I take on most of the childcare. And I just can't take it anymore. There's nothing special or precious about me that means I am less good at childcare or that I ought to be exempt from it. I am reasonably good at it these days in fact - you learn to be good at looking after the under-5s like you learn everything else.  But I know what a full day of childcare means and the simple truth is: I really, really don't want to do it anymore.

Anyway so don't have a bloody go at me for chucking in the mornings because it works out well for you, too - I mean, those of you who actually like reading this blog rather than those people who read it and are then mean about it on Mumsnet (why are you reading?!) because it means that I will have a bit more breathing space to blog rather than spending every second having my photo taken looking fat for the paper. Sorry I mean doing my mega important work like writing about haircuts and what I had for lunch. I've gone crazy with the power of it all.

Are you still there?

Now come here, stop backing out of the door, take my hand and let's leap into the world of Cooking With Goat. Yes! I said it: goat. Not mutton, not kid. GOAT.

Cooking with goat appeals to me (as much as any meat appeals to me these days, I am *this* close to becoming vegetarian) because it is not lamb. And goats are annoying.

This is not a thing to go out especially looking for, this is just a nudge from me to have a go at goat if you have access to it: you may live in an area where they sell it and have wondered what the hell to do with it. You can curry it if you like, but you can also treat it less fearfully and use it in this Osso Bucco-type stew, which goes like this:

1 large thing of goat, about 1kg, from the leg somewhere
1 large white onion
2 small carrots or one big one
About 300 ml chicken stock
3 sticks of celery
2 big cloves of garlic
some assorted herbs, whatever you can get your hands on: bay, thyme, MARJORAM?!
definitely a bunch of parsley
some lemon zest
1 glass shitty white wine

Preheat your oven to 140C

1 Chop up your veg and garlic really small into a mirepoix (if you don't know what this is, Google "Recipe Rifle + Mirepoix because the Search function on this piece-of-shit blog isn't working).

2 Brown your goat all over in a casserole dish (which has a lid) in some plain oil then remove to a plate.

3 Without cleaning the pan, sweat your veg gently in the same casserole for about 10 minutes. Then throw in your glass of shitty wine and bubble down until there is only a small pool of liquid.

4 Put the goat back in, along with any juices that have run off onto the plate it was sitting on and the chicken stock. Put a lid on then put it in the oven for 5 hours. YES YOU HEARD ME FIVE HOURS.

5 It shouldn't dry out because at that temperature it sort of can't - water from the veg and from the meat as well as the stock will create a self-sauce.

6 To serve chop a lot of parsley and lemon zest together and sprinkle over.

Eat while thumbing your iPhone because you're so fackin busy with werk, yah?


  1. I completely agree. I felt really bad about sending O to nursery from age 1 - from 8.30am - 5pm for god's sake - because I needed 2 days a week just for sanity's sake. And periodically working from home doing the freelancey foodie crap I do sort of demanded it. Now he's entitled to his free hours, he still goes and I slightly dread Tuesdays; they're the only day we don't have a playgroup or something on and the day STRETCHES before me like nothing else. Goat looked scrumpilicious other night, btw. If Cheshire could just muster some up, would make it that way. Unlikely. We have a lot more cows....

  2. I'm a stay at home mum, not because of some GLORIOUS CALLING TO MOTHERHOOD, or because I am A SAINT or want all my friends to smile at me being AMAZING but because I'm one of those whose salary - childcare = negative figures. There is no point in working for nowt, even if it would get me out of the house. So, instead, I sit bored at home, RESENTING the children. I don't believe a word of these women who claim SAHMing in a nonstop shit of rainbows and sunshine. My children (of whom, one is autistic, so slightly more difficult than the other) are amazing, charming, delightful creatures for about half an hour a day. The rest of the time, it is like trying to round up a flock of furious vultures, and then trying to get the vultures to do something improving.
    The point of this moan is to say there is nothing to feel guilty about - everyone would do it if they could, and if they say they wouldn't, they are LYING. You are not a failure. You have earned your childfree time, so RELISH it.

    1. Your whole post is obviously fab Esther, but the comment about the vultures by Soph is so funny/true that it has made me laugh 'til I cry!

    2. I mostly write posts so that my readers will leave amusing comments - no offence taken

  3. Am now tempted to make something with goat, thanks! I don't think anyone should judge you for needing time away from small children. Most mothers I know need to go back to work for their sanity or those who don't work spend a LOT of time meeting up with friends and going out constantly. The drudgery and slog of it all can be overwhelming at times - hey I don't even have kids and the tedium of the laundry and washing up makes me want to scream at times.

  4. I'm really struggling with being at home with a baby and a 3.5yr old. I am counting the days until I go back to work...even though to begin with it will be 2 days a week. But it's 2 days where i choose what i do for every minute of the day from 9am - 5pm. I am embarrassed and ashamed that i feel like this. I feel like it makes me massively ungrateful ....my children aren't bastards, my husband really helps with everything every night and all weekend... we are not doing brilliantly for money (eg couldn't afford 2 in childcare full time) but we're not desperate. I feel awful when people brightly say to me, So, are you LOVING your maternity leave? I have to just nod mutely, in my head screaming NO NO NO. Obviously I do love it when it's fun! And my son is making me laugh my head off and my baby girl is grinning and making my heart melt. But when she's screaming the place down and he's having a grade A tantrum I feel like I am in the pits of hell. I don't blame you one bit for daring to have mornings to do whatever you want to do. I don't eat goat though.

  5. Oh yes YES to all of the above! I could not wait until my baby was old enough to join his brother in morning day care! God 5 uninterrupted HOURS! It was bliss! Sorry for all the exclamation points but it felt that good!
    And then....
    He was kicked out! Well, okay, the infant program was cancelled.
    Lifted from the depths only to be sent back, but this time knowing what I was missing! It was the worst!

    Happily Ever After.... 3 months later he was old enough to go back and join the "pre toddler" group.
    And I got my sanity back.

  6. Everything you say is so true and so right. Looking after kids is SO HARD. I'd be grabbing that opportunity too. And who is mean about your blog? Some people. honestly.

  7. I've just sent G to nursery 2 mornings a week because I am pregnant again with shitty SPD. In my head he wasn't going to go until he was 3 in Sept, and I almost drove myself to distraction making a decision. And you know what, I kinda like it. I sobbed and sobbed the first few times and now we hug and wave goodbye and I skip (well, waddle) back to the house positively relishing my 3.5hrs of freedom!! Some days I don't even do housework, I just watch Girls on sky+ and throw a tennis ball on the lawn for the labrador.
    Stupid thing is, I feel guilty for admitting it!!!
    You're so wise. I wish we were friends in real life!!!

  8. Yes! The shitty white wine is back!

  9. Brilliant article. They're your kids; as long as they're being cared for somewhere, by someone, then people have no right to jump on your head about it.
    (And your Mumsnet comment just perfectly sums up the entire Internet using population these days; why the FUCK read/watch/listen to something just to be publicly mean about it in as witty and sarky a way as possible?!)
    ANYWAY, I was thinking I might try the goat; it's available at various surrounding farmers markets for an arm and a leg; BUT just worried that it'll have that overwhelmingly sweaty BO tang that goat's cheese has... does it?
    S xxx

  10. what you said about not getting a cosy set of mum mates nearby has really comforted me (hope that doesn't sound mean) because I always feel like a huge misfit at the school gates these days - like I'm the billy-no-mates I often was at my own school - all my best friends live miles away and work as well so we see each other once every blue moon and I miss that camaraderie.

    As for the goats - they always have that look that says "bite me!" so fair play....

  11. Paragraph four entirely justifies my guilty pleasure: a once-weekly cleaner. Thank you - I might have to write that down.

  12. Hey - don't beat yourself up. It's 3.5 hours a day - and it is the EASY bit - post breakfast, at nursery, not too tired. You've got the other 20.5 hours a day. It is hardly slacking off or being indulgent - and you are working for at least some of the time. Seriously we are our own worst enemies sometimes!


  13. My salary equals my travel card plus my childcare but I am sane enough to deal with the 2 days I'm at home with all 3. I am for whatever keeps you sane and happy.

  14. My closest friend cannot go back to work because her salary minus two childcare fees equals major debt every month. There are women who make her feel guilty about this and insinuate that she's work-shy or lazy (with two kids under three?!) However, she CAN afford a minder a few afternoons a week and that is probably the only thing stopping her from cracking up entirely. Rough deal! (No-one is selling parenthood to me...)

  15. Thanks for being real Esther, we love you for it x

  16. After a year off work, I put my one year old in nursery four days a week and now, six months on, he's there full time. I love the time I have with him now, but as I'm no longer used to it, I dread my days/nights when my husband's away. If I could have help I would. Also: not sure about goat.

  17. Your blog has saved my marriage. Again. Thank you.

  18. So honest and true! I was at home f/t with my twin boys for the first year and would have DIED without the new friends I made at the Hackney NTC group. They saved my bacon, totally. But I was still thrilled when the boys went to nursery - I came home and cried, not from guilt but joy and relief! I started worked 2 days a week, and made not a coin as the nursery fees were so high, but I didn't care - I was buying my sanity. Hope you are too!

  19. Never wanted kids and this blog kinda helps support my worst fears about it all. I hate how everyone lies about childcare and how wonderful it it. I can just about look after myself and need the freedom far too much. You lady are keeping in real and are a hero.....but more importantly well done on the goatness. Now knock up a badass, slow cooked curry (6 hours in a slow cooker at least plus some resting time) with lonts of onions and some potatos one and prepare to be permanently converted. PS - Please don't go veggie.

  20. Oh, I am so jealous. So so jealous. This is what I dream of doing. Instead I spend three days a week at the office staring at spreadsheets and yes mine is the 'salary - childcare = the mortgage' job. Relish every minute! Of course even if I had the mornings off, it wouldn't make me a better unselfish mum in the afternoons. I'd still lie on the floor against the couch reading twitter while my 1 yr old crawls back and forth over my prone body, hitting me with bricks.

  21. Juts found this post through mumsnet and its refreshing to read!
    I've always thought it very odd that its ok to use childcare if you work but not ok if you don't work but just, um, want to use it!
    No judgement from me, i would do the same in your position - fully believe a break helps to restore the equilibrium (for me anyway).
    Great post :)

  22. I adore this blog so bloody much!

  23. Don't feel guilty, just enjoy the peace and quiet! After being a full-time mum for 7 years both of my girls are both in school now full-time, its bliss!

  24. Enjoy your mornings, what a lovely treat and to my mind you still do the worst part of the day, from 5-7. Although mine are older now so that just prolongs the process some days. Sorry I will not find goat in my part of town but I do love veal ;)

  25. I enjoy (read: get viciously annoyed) when working moms pointedly tell me that they are not sending their child to school until they are 3, or 4, or even 5. and then give me that patronizing judgy-look because my son started nursery at 18 months (3 mornings/week - now he's 3 and he goes 9-3 every day- brilliant!). but they aren't the ones at home reading the same book 47 times, and not brushing their hair, or showering actually, and waiting for it to stop raining to go to the park but by the time it stops raining it is naptime. their nannies are doing that crap.

    anyway, i think you are awesome and i'm so happy i discovered your blog!

  26. Here's how the expat approach goes: Month One - hire full time helper, cock a hoop that you can have 24 hour, live in help for £250 a month. A Few Months In - hire second full time helper as you don't want your original helper to be "too tired" by all housework and general schlepping around to look after your child/ren.

  27. I've always found life is better when it has some variety - work/play, up/down, weekday/weekend. When you're in one bit, you can enjoy it more because it is different to the other bit and you appreciate the good AND the bad parts more. And that is why I find full time childcare tedious at times. It just doesn't vary much and although weekends are more fun because you have an extra pair of hands (yay!), it's still basically more of the same. So when I go back to work in a few months it will be a shock to my cake-eating system but I think my brain will enjoy the change of scenery, routine, company just as much as the so called "challenge" everyone bangs on about.

    Don't feel guilty Esther, it's a waste of time. Just enjoy the mornings that you've earned. (I still feel guilty about a lot of things but I am trying to fight it).

  28. I love this post! I'm on mat leave as i have a three week old and my son still goes to nursery two mornings a week. I love it!
    I'm also counting down until I'm back at work (17 weeks) because although I love my boys, the relentless drudgery of being the one who cooks, cleans, reads the same book all the time is too much!
    next step, cleaner! I've promised myself a cleaner when i go back to work

  29. Currently witnessing two, previously sane, friends appearing to go a little bit doolally after becoming stay at home mums. There's nothing wrong whatsoever with getting help with the children, wherever it comes from. Some people get help from
    Grandparents or sisters if they have them around. Lots of people don't have family close by these days and so paid help is just as important. I make no excuses for keeping my older child in nursery three days a week while on maternity leave with new baby. I know my limits and I think it's healthier for children to have parents who are happy, rather than be at home all day with a snappy, tired and irritable parent.

    1. The extended family thing is what I often think of when people seem to be kind of fetishizing avoiding any outside help - because I truely don't think it's that natural for one or even two adults to be solely responsible for all care for a child 24/7. It's kind of a newer thing for people to live so isolated from each other in such small nuclear family groups. And if you don't live in a big close-knit clan who all live together and care for each other's kids with grandparents or aunts and uncles or older cousins or teenage siblings to regularly hand the kid to for a few hours - well, it seems logical enough to create your own...

      Particularly if you're lucky enough to be able to form some long-term relationships with caregivers.

  30. Oh I love this post. I went back to work three days a week when my baby was seven months old. I was dreading it but it's the best thing!! Full time childcare is hard work.

  31. I'm the twat whose salary - childcare = WTF. I run my own business that I tell myself will one day get me more than the equivalent of minimum wage (although I do about 70 hours for that). We've got a bloody amazing nanny (former winner of the dafter than a brush award at said business) - but she costs and arm and a leg. She has him from 9am - 7pm every day and has him overnight once a week so that I can maintain sanity/ mainline Manhattans. Dude, your half day is tame : )

    Spurgles is the most dementedly happy baby on the planet - although I'm not sure he knows who his parents are given his propensity to sit on the laps of random strangers (preferably burly men, he has a type). But fuck me, it's hard to feel you're having a life. It's mainly an endless stream of doing ALL THE THINGS.

    If I stopped being a director, my business would fold and we'd be even more fuckered because at home with a sprog I'd go mental, my staff would be out of jobs and Spurgles, b/f and I would lose the prospect of living a life doing stuff that we love (our business does some really amazing things). We sit at home most nights going "It will get better, won't it?" - tonight it was "I'm not sure we've turned a corner but I'm sure the path is slightly bendier than it was."

    So, yeah. Whiskey.

  32. Elizabeth Medonik3 February 2014 at 15:40

    Hey, don't feel guilty! I'd do the same if a) we had the money, and b) I had some sort of job I could go back to. I don't spend the day playing with my daughter in an educational way, I spend it trying to find something to occupy her while I wander off to do a chore, make a phone call, or look something up on the internet. I'm sure that she would find the attentions of a nanny much more fun! xx

  33. Good work! I consider the help with childcare that I have to be an investment in my mental health. Humans were never meant to look after tiny children on their own. This will give you the chance to think about applying for schools etc. and all the jobs you don't get a chance to do.

  34. Forget guilt! I really struggled with my two when they were toddlers, and being a paediatric nurse, I was always able to work full or part time and still come out financially ahead. Then when my daughter started school I made the decision to stay home and - be a childminder! And I enjoyed almost every moment of OTHER people's children, especially knowing they would be leaving at 6pm! Talk about guilt, from knowing I didn't enjoy my own in the same way. And on top of that, I hired twice weekly cleaners, rationalising that the children I looked after deserved a sanitary environment which I wasn't able to achieve. Love your blog, force my daughter to read it, and keep up the good work.

  35. Esther - here's something from a granny of five! I've managed psychiatric clinics, medico-legal companies etc. and nothing, NOTHING comes close to the stress and boredom of being shut up for eight hours a day with an/some infant(s). Partner/husband strolls in at 5.30, 6.30 - whenever, to be fallen on by the shaggy-haired, tearful harridan who was once the cool and gorgeous girl he married...
    You are doing THE RIGHT THING - and also, spreading the money around, so stop feeling guilty... When my youngest finally entered nursery school, the first morning, I drove home, entered a silent house, leaned against the inside of the front door and bellowed at the top of my voice 'YeeeeeHaaaa!!'

  36. Esther, from one NW London mum to another - I love your blog! And agree with almost everything you write (no pork for us, thanks). I have a 2 yr old, spent a year on mat leave which almost drove me mad. How many days a week can you do Brent Cross?! I'm really lucky to be back in my job 3 days a week, which I find is a perfect balance for me. My salary just about covers the childcare and I've got no doubt that if it didn't pay for me to come back to work he would totally be in nursery at least 3 mornings a week - for my sanity and his! I feel really guilty about things sometimes because it took him several years to come along, and I do have a lot of close friends who had kids the same year as me, but I just found it so hard.
    Very relieved to be amongst like minded people here! x

  37. I had 3 under 3, now aged 12, 13 and 14. My house is untidy and leans towards the beastly. I was home with them through choice, but poverty struck. I had no help until my husband staggered through the door at 6pm for the potentially x rated, painful and torturous tea - bath - book - bed routine (people don't warn you about this). Exhausting, draining, demoralising but I never felt humiliated, felt a bit sad to see you did/do. I'm no Ma Walton but we have fun, the 5 of us. I just enjoy their company and always have done. Room for everyone and every variation. Enjoy your mornings, they grow away awfully quickly, no medals in this game but there should be.

    1. Anonymous, it sounds like you were built for this game and you are lucky. It's probably why you had three. Don't be sad for me, I'm just fine.

  38. I mainly stayed at home with my two-under-two because I thought I should, luckily I discovered how much I loved taking care of little children. Didn't much enjoy the whole baby/toddler group scene mind you, found it exhausting & still do and detest the whole health visitor spiel of "if you don't want PND you'd better get out and socialise!". I also learned that littlest don't give a toss if you do stuff like make your own playdough, they just want a happy, interesting and interested mama. Now we're on baby #4 I pretty much either hang out with the littles doing stuff I like (eg outdoor walks, baking, listening to Radio 6) or they are at playgroup and nursery while I do other stuff to keep me sane that l can't do when they are around. Oh and yes I get someone in to clean. These days I can't believe I didn't start doing what works for me until I thought that having 4 made it permissible. There are myriad ways to be a good mother. Here's hoping yours makes you a happier one, too.

  39. I absolutely love every aspect of Natasha's comment. It can be lovely being at home with children, but people just don't say so. We all find our own way, but being at home can be so rewarding, and you utterly reap the rewards as they get older.

  40. I LOVE your blog. It's fucking awesome. See there? You made me use the word awesome and I hate the bloody word.