Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Self-Centered or Self-Care: Lentil, Mushroom and Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie

I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be self-centered.  It's kind of a sticky wicket, isn't it?  You're supposed to take care of yourself, and be good to yourself, but if you do too much of that, people start to look down their noses at you.  And how do you decide what you're doing for yourself, and what you're doing for someone else, even if it fulfills you?

For example.

I know someone who dedicated 40 years of her life to teaching in public school and raising her children.  She paid her dues.  And now she does the things that she wants to do: going to the YMCA, meeting friends for lunch, watching TV, helping out with a project at church.  When you talk with her, she talks mostly about these things.  Is that self-centered?  Or well-deserved self-care?

And there are times I think that maybe *I'm* self-centered.  I'm at home with N., but most days I go to the Y in the morning after the morning routine and playtime, and N. plays in Child Watch for an hour while I go sweat.  We come home, I feed N. lunch, and she takes an hour long nap, during which I get to shower.  In the afternoon, we do something ... sometimes a walk, or an errand, or on rainy days, we draw and do puzzles.  Then there's picking I. up from the bus, and managing homework time trying to keep her entertained, and dinner.  At night, I am out at a meeting sometimes three nights a week.  Board of Education, the Board of the Friends of the Library, a meeting for church.  Sometimes I go to yoga.  Less often I go out to a discussion group.  I feel guilty about going to yoga or to other events, because I feel like I am already so self-centered.

Not making my own salary has a lot to do with this worry, I know.  I buy some expensive tea, or a book, and I feel like I have taken without giving back.  Like I've tipped the balance of the Universe in favor of MEMEME.
I made this recipe even though my family isn't vegan, even though my husband really likes meat, even though I knew my kids probably wouldn't like it (and that N. probably wouldn't eat it at all).  Is THAT self-centered?  (I also made another version of it, which I will post later this week, which my son DID eat ... for breakfast.  Maybe it's a matter of simply winning people over to doing what I want them to do in order to get around the problem of being self-centered?)

Lentil, Mushroom, and Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie
Adapted from the kitchn

5 medium sweet potatoes
1 c. green lentils, washed and picked over
3/4 c. uncooked steel cut oats
1 bay leaf
1 t. salt
1 T. olive oil
1/2 lb. white mushrooms, quartered
1/2 lb. white mushrooms, diced
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 c. low-sodium vegetable broth
1/4 c. red wine
1 T. tomato paste
1 T. soy sauce
2 t. smoked paprika

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Wash sweet potatoes well and prick them a few times with a fork to prevent explosions.  Bake the potatoes for about an hour, or until they just about collapse when you try to pick them up with your potholder.  Set aside.

Place lentils, oats, bay leaf, salt and 5 cups of water in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, for 15-20 minutes or until lentils are just done, and no longer crunchy. Remove bay leaf and drain the mixture, trying not to eat too much of it before you add the other ingredients.

Add the olive oil to a large saucepan and heat over medium-high heat.  Saute the quartered mushrooms with a pinch of salt until tender and just beginning to brown, about 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the remaining vegetables and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until they are softened.  Reduce the heat to medium-low nad add the lentil mixture and additional seasonings.  Simmer for 5 minutes, adjusting seasonings to your taste if necessary. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Peel the potatoes (this should be very easy; just grab one end of the skin and the rest should fall out) and mash into a medium bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.  

Pour the the lentil mixture into a 9x9-inch pan and cover with the mashed sweet potatoes. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the lentil mixture is bubbly at the edges.  Cool 5 minutes and serve.
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  1. Ah, I have gone through that same through process myself. Such a fine balance between self-care and self-centeredness. But I imagine that this thought process shows that you're probably quite far away from being a self-centered person. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and of course, this delicious recipe. What a wonderful winter meal.

  2. You are "paying your dues" by taking care of your children. An I am saying this for both of so, so you know, since I have had this own talk with myself on days that I felt like I should be "contributing" more to my household. Oh, and it's self care! Mom comes first - and then everyone else is happy!

  3. Whoa, such an interesting question. I always think of self-centeredness in terms of expectations or entitlement. That message sent of "I deserve this." I'm not getting that sense -- anyone who questions it this much can't really be self-centered by my definition. So I would label all these things self-care.

  4. No. And a firm no at that. Doing good work in your community is not self centered. Taking care of your body so that you live a long, productive life is not self centered. And LORD, girl: your purchase of humble goods is not self-centered.

    If your children are well cared for and your husband is OK, don't sweat this.

    And here is where I speak up as the working partner of a stay-at-home parent: The money I earn is OUR money. It is ours because we share financial goals and this brings us closer emotionally.

    OUR money is maintained in two ways. I ACQUIRE it by going to work each day. My stay-at-home husband PRESERVES it by saving us the cost of childcare, reducing meals eaten out and by saving the costs that we would have if he were working- like gas, clothing, co-worker gifts, etc.

    We both get to enjoy OUR money. We are both conservative spenders, but we can afford small treats. I would be so very deeply dismayed if I thought he felt guilty about this. I love him and I want him to enjoy our life together even in small ways. I suspect S. would feel this way about you too.

    You are lovely and good and wise and wonderful, my dear friend. You deserve personal time and all the chocalates and teas you can handle, but most of all you deserve to be free of guilt.

  5. I'm completely with CA. Nowhere in what you describe do I see anything but a mother, wife, community member, and friend who is fulfilling her duties and then some. With the leftover time & energy, you are working on your physical and mental health. Self-centered? I see absolutely nothing that could qualify as such.
    Not making a salary is not the same as not working, as we all know. The time you don't spend at a salaried job is spent caring for your children and serving your community. Its an even trade. Family money is FAMILY money & I know your husband does NOT want you feeling guilty for a modest treat.
    As for your retired teacher friend---with 40 years of service under her belt, she has EARNED the right to some self-centered behavior---though it sounds more like a good balance of self-care (time at the gym, time with friends), self-centered-ness (TV), and very moderate service in the form of church projects.
    Let go of any guilt you have hanging on my friend, you do not deserve to carry that burden.

  6. I forgot to add one thing: it is indeed self-centered to ignore the obvious needs of loved ones around you. Most of us truly can meet our own needs without completely neglecting the needs of our family (immediate & extended) & friends. Achieving that balance might be a bit tricky, but most of us do it every day. Maybe a women who taught school for 40 years owes no more to the community at large, but I'm certainly not advocating neglect of family obligations (which are lifelong, to me).

  7. I really appreciate your thought process here and I have been there! I also love the comments and hope the validation was helpful to you! I agree with Mel and CA and Ana. As a fellow primarily SAHM, I get where these questions come from, but also think sometimes we are hardest on ourselves. I just came back from a 2-day moms conference with the theme of "no more perfect moms" and I loved the messages that were being given to all 5,000 of us about what we should and don't need to be focusing on as mothers, women, wives, etc. We can be imperfect women and still perfectly wonderful at what we do and who we take care of, including ourselves!


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