Best of Both Worlds podcast: Mid-life awakenings, plus mailbag

The stereotypical midlife crisis involves a balding man in a red sports car. Neither Sarah nor I bought a convertible upon turning 40. But mid-life birthdays are a time for thinking about life and what we want life to look like. So in this week’s episode of Best of Both Worlds, we open with a discussion of midlife awakenings and Sarah’s thoughts on her recent birthday, attending her 20th college reunion and so forth.

Then we pivot to some listener questions and responses. We share a helpful note from a listener who is navigating the tough combination of parenting young kids while trying to spend time with and care for her mother, who is in the early-to-middle stages of Alzheimer’s. This listener has some good advice on navigating these often competing roles.

Then we turn to some lighter questions on easy meal planning and baby personalities. Do they stay consistent with time?

Please give the episode a listen! And as always, we welcome ratings and reviews. (We are aware that the sound is a little different — we could not get Squadcast, our normal recording software, to work. So it was back to Zoom for this one…)


14 thoughts on “Best of Both Worlds podcast: Mid-life awakenings, plus mailbag

  1. I’m like you, Laura, and don’t feel like I have the bandwidth for mid-life awakenings since I am chasing a toddler around/feeling exhausted in general. Ha. But maybe it will come for me in a couple of years?

    For the meal planning person, she might find her view on meal prep shifting as they add a child or the kids get a bit older. I did not like being away from our baby in those early months because we got very little time with him in the evenings on week days. So when I went back to work, my husband took over the grocery shopping because I would rather be home with the baby versus at the grocery store. Flash forward about 4 years and I think grocery shopping might be a nice break for my husband?! It is hard to get dinner on the table when you get home after 5, though, so hopefully one of the solutions you guys suggested works. Lowering standards/getting some help from the nanny makes sense. These days when I am doing meal prep, my husband usually takes the kids into the basement/outside to play and I have to say I really enjoy listening to a podcast and focusing on meal prep. But I couldn’t have imagined feeling this way when our baby was younger and he was our only child!

    1. @Lisa – it may hit yet! I agree that prepping dinner can be nice when someone else has the kid. It can be decompression time…

  2. For the listener struggling with dinner during residency/fellowship – I agree with the frozen meal thing and would encourage them to check out Trader Joe’s if they have one in the area! My husband and I were in the exact same boat – 1 resident/1 fellow with a baby – and dinner is important to us so we wanted to make it work. TJ has sooo many delicious, healthy (mostly), easy frozen or pre-made options. Now that we are 2 attending physicians and a family of 4 we still do almost all of our grocery shopping there. Their sauces are also REALLY good and can make a simple chicken and veggie dinner more exciting. I also agree that now is the time to dramatically lower standards about what food is eaten. If family dinners are important to you it’s great to make it a priority and make it happen, but at this stage what matters more is that you’re getting into the routine, not so much what the food is. In time when you have more time/more resources the food can become more fancy.

    1. All of this! I had small children in residency and fellowship and we lived on pasta with sauce from a jar, rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and grilled cheese. Even now that I am in private practice and my kids are big we have a lot of simple favorites in the rotation. I know we weren’t the only ones. My residency provided additional money for meals and it was common to see residents in the cafeteria with their kids “shopping” for dinner or breakfast. It won’t always be this way. You won’t always be residents and your kids won’t always be little.

    2. @Amanda- Trader Joes can be a winner in so many ways! I stopped shopping there because I bought too many chocolate covered ridiculous items but now that I can’t eat a lot of chocolate maybe I can venture back in there…

      1. I am actually going dairy free right now due to some digestive issues with my infant who’s breastfeeding and they have lots of good dairy free options! They have a coconut milk ice cream that is very good in particular, and I just got an oat milk this week that tastes the same as cows milk in my cereal/granola as far as I can tell.

        1. @Amanda – I have been pleasantly surprised with the number of dairy-free items out there these days. It turns out a lot of people can’t or don’t eat dairy so the market is not small!

  3. Sarah’s hinting at upcoming big life changes/awakenings that she wasn’t able to discuss yet was sure cryptic. Hope everything is ok.

  4. In addition to the other great suggestions for meals (readymade meals, lowering standards), one thing that is a massive help for us on weeknights is splitting adult and kid dinner shifts. So after arriving home from childcare pickup with tired and hungry children, we could get their dinner on the table in 20 seconds – 2 minutes (typically leftovers or ‘snackie’ dinner) and we could chat with them and play with them before bed. Then after their bedtime my husband and I would have our dinner, again nothing fancy but could be something that requires a bit more time to cook rice or pasta to go with the readymade meal, which in turn provides the leftovers for the kids’ dinner the following night. It does spread out the dinner tasks and the grown ups have to eat later than preferred, but especially in the early years and when you need to fit in breastfeeding as well it’s a lifesaver to not have to sacrifice weeknight family time for cooking.

    1. @Alicia P – this sounds like a great idea! The time after kid bedtime would be more relaxed in any case. It wouldn’t have worked in my family because my little kids never seem to go to bed so I’d be eating at 9:30 p.m., but hey. The evenings didn’t feel rushed!

  5. Agree with all Sarah and Laura’s dinner thoughts. I like having family dinner and kind of like to cook, but hate the time involved, especially when my kids needed more hands-on time, so we try to make cooking as hands-off as possible. I depend on bagged salads, pre-cooked components (target has a great section with whole meals or just pieces: pulled pork, mashed potatoes, soup you microwave), frozen meals (Stouffers lasagne, pf chang frozen asian with grocery-brand or TJs frozen brown rice, skillet pasta dinners), and frozen veggies esp for kids. I also basically only cook with a sheet pan, crockpot, or instant pot, because I don’t have to watch those while they cook. I cook 3x a week, and we have leftovers a couple days, pizza on Friday, and takeout usually once (often Panera or the deli chain fast-casual). Leftover soup is frozen for lunch, and sometimes sauced pasta too, or if I made too much taco filling; my frozen servings are good for variety if this weeks leftovers were too boring or I just don’t feel like cooking. The best dinner decisions I made were to decide to avoid cooking with my stove and to stock my freezer with chili and soup. I also avoid meal prep, but sometimes I’ll chop a veggie or prep a little for tomorrow for 5 minutes tonight while the instant pot is getting started and while I have a half-messy kitchen and the measuring spoons out. We have done Home Chef – as far as I can tell, they have some of the best options with little hands-on time with oven-ready meals and some microwave meals; my husband will cook those on nights I’m not home. My nanny doesn’t cook either, but she’ll put a lasagne or casserole in the oven, stir a crockpot, or take something out of the freezer.

  6. I loved this episode and the dinner tips. I totally agree the advice to rethink what a homecooked meal really is and examine the stories we are telling ourselves. It has taken me a few years but I have come to realize that my kids will reliably eat a few super easy dinners and it is FINE for those to be our rotation.

    For those with less picky kids, I wanted to suggestthat a personal chef could be a good option. I have a friend who goes into families’ homes and cooks 3-5 meals at a time that can be warmed up later in the week. Her food is amazing and more affordable than you would assume.

  7. Hi! I just listened to this one and the elementary age one. I want to thank you both for your openness. In particular, when Sarah said that she would do anything to keep her nanny full time, including working more, I felt something in my chest relax! I only have one child, and he is plenty, and this June, because I am not teaching, I did not sign him up for after care. It was to save money, but if I’m honest, it’s really because that narrative of “they’re only little once!” and this idea that moms should feel guilty or bad about missing time with their kids is circling in my head – I felt like logistically I could manage it, so I should. But 2:30 is a super early time to end work, and playing for four hours straight with a 6 year old and managing all of his emotions is really tough to do 5 days a week… plus weekends. (I don’t know how many times I have to learn this lesson!) It was really nice to hear another mom say that she would pay for child care, even if it meant working more.

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