Before we head into my most delicious and healthy san choy bow recipe, a possibly irrelevant story: I have an intense NEED to keep a well stocked pantry. If I don’t have what I feel is sufficient dry goods, I feel like we’re running low and it makes me feel uncomfortable.
I don’t feel this way about convenience foods, as my son will purport. He will often look into our fridge or pantry and be all, “There is nothing to eat in this house!”
When in actual fact if he fancied soaking some lentils, boiling some quinoa or rice, and opening some tins, there’s enough to feed a small, yet hungry, army of legume lovers.
I have met people better stocked than myself, but as far as the average family larder looms, I am dry store personified… and let’s not even start on my herb and spice cupboard. It’s stocked yet shameful.
I can’t find a damned thing.
Here’s what I make when I can locate my stores… this healthy san choy bow dish is fresh, light-yet-filling and bloody delicious. There are a lot of ingredients (mostly from the pantr – see above), but don’t be scared. Make it for dinner tonight.
Another unreal dinner option: Chicken satay burgers
Healthy san choy bow
Makes 4 serves
Takes about 30 minutes
2 tablespoons of coconut oil or peanut oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cm, ginger, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
500g pork mince, or chicken if you prefer.
100g water chestnuts, finely chopped
2 spring onions
100g rice vermicelli
2 tablespoons shao xing wine
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon white pepper
a big handful of chopped coriander
friend onions and chopped peanuts or cashews for serving
chilli sauce for serving
Wash the lettuce leaves, spin and set aside to dry.
Pour boiling water over the noodles in a bowl and leave to sit for ten minutes, or until soft. Drain and set aside.
Heat oil in a heavy fry-pan, on a medium stove, and chuck in the garlic and ginger. When deliciously fragrant, add the mince.
When the mince is cooked chuck in the carrots and celery, stirring well to combine.
When they’re softened toss in the spring onions, water chestnuts, shao xing, oyster and soy sauce and pepper and give the whole lot a good shimmy.
Cut the prepared noodles into 1.5cm(ish) pieces and stir through, adding the coriander as you go.
Place the mince mix into the lettuce cups, garnish with fried onion and nuts.
We love this with Chinese chilli sauce, so sauce away and banish hunger!
First, let me just say that being a family after separation is in no way easy or even achievable for many. Splitting up a marriage is basically pants, any way you look at it.
I’m writing these ways to still be a family after separation assuming that your situation is safe. You are safe, your children are safe, and you just can’t get along with your partner any longer.
Everybody’s circumstances are different, everyone’s fears and struggles are different, and everyone’s reason for ending their marriage, are different.
When I realised my marriage wasn’t going to work, one of my biggest sorrows was that my children wouldn’t have a nice, tidy nuclear family. That’s still the dream for most of us, but the reality is that it’s no longer uncommon for marriages to end, and families to split.
Stability is paramount
When my ex-husband and I put aside all the hurt and disappointment that our marriage breakdown wrought, we knew that the children’s feeling of stability was a paramount concern for both of us.
We knew we needed to work hard in order to allow them to still feel like they were part of a family unit even though we were no longer together. In fact, they were going to need to feel that way more than ever.
Don’t test triggers
When you love someone enough to marry them and have kids with them, over time you learn each other’s trigger points. It’s easy, and sometimes mildly satisfying, to poke them with a red hot iron, but as with most conflict, it’s often better to walk away and process stuff logically rather than being reactionary.
So, with that firmly in mind, here are my best ideas for remaining a family after separation.
How to stay a family after separation
Share a meal together regularly
Whether it’s birthdays or holidays, or just an organised family meal together once a month, it’s important to all spend time together as a family unit, if you can.
Try a family conversation dinner to help break the ice
You don’t have to be BFFs with the ex, but do be civil and pleasant. Show your kids that although you may not live together any longer, you are both still friends and you enjoy spending time with the kids all together as a family.
This not only helps your kids still feel part of a family unit, but it also models for them how to behave when they break up with boyfriends or partners in the future.
Remember we are our kids closest examples of human behaviour, so we need to lead by example of good, well-adjusted, non-freaky human behaviour.
Don’t fight or discuss your issues in front of the kids
Because you know each other so well, when you separate, it’s likely that you can a) push each other’s buttons or b) still have issues that make you nuts.
Related: How to financially prepare for divorce (even if you think you don’t need to)
Be mindful not to fight about those things in front of the children. Your children are your joint beating heart, so why would you want to hurt them by involving them in your issues?
It’s okay to still have unresolved issues that you’re trying to work through. In fact, it’s probably likely that things will come up and tempers will flare: you broke up for a reason, right? But it’s better to step away from the button pushing when your blood rises and speak about it later when the kids aren’t around. That might mean regularly meeting up without the kids, so do that, even if it’s hard.
I find email is a good way not to lose my cool over an issue that makes me passionate.
Go as a family to an event the kids will enjoy
If there is a particular movie or stage show the kids are interested, go all together sometimes. Grab an ice cream after.
It’s only a few hours and then you can go your separate ways again, but it will give the kids a sense of fun surrounding the family unit. They will have happy memories of doing nice things together, even though you’re no longer living in the same house.
A family movie is a great option when you can barely tolerate your ex for longer than five minutes. It’s dark, you don’t have to talk, but it’s still a shared experience as far as the kids are concerned.
Be a united front at school
If there are special school events, first days, teacher meetings, it’s important that both parents show an interest. This is especially true if it involves a difficult meeting with your child’s teacher.
This might help: How to avoid toxic disputes between parents and teachers
The children will want to know that you are both there and invested in their school life. The same goes for extracurricular activities. Both of you should be there to cheer and clap.
You don’t have to hug or high five if you don’t fancy it, just let your kids see you there, hopefully side by side with matching proud grins. That way, they know you are both there for them.
Bear in mind that my “family time” did not happen immediately. To be honest, sometimes it goes completely pear shape and we need to start back at the beginning and remember why we’re doing it. However, as with everything worthwhile in life, perseverance, patience and love will get you there in the end.
How are you managing to stay a family after separation?
Feature image by Priscilla Du Preez; ‘It takes grace’ by Maddi Bazzocco; cafe by Christin Hume
These chicken satay burgers are the flipping bomb. They’re the kind of thing you can make and keep in your freezer for busy work nights. They’ve been a saviour for me in recent years, when I started working outside the home again. Ah, the life of a working single mum.
I once referred to myself a ‘go-getter’ in a conversation with someone I cared about very much but they shut me down and asked, “What did you ever go and get?”
As none of my pursuits were deemed a ‘financial success’ this person questioned my achievements, and made me question my worth. At the time I was heart broken by the careless comment but now I think what-flippin-evs, dude.
If you’re are brave enough to try something, and you get a kick out of it, and make a little cash to float your boat, then you have achieved something. Not doing anything, that’s non-going, nor getting.
As a freelance writer and integrative coach, I get scared sometimes, but it’s mostly when I project too far into the future. I fear the unknown future jungle out there; the imaginary one inhabited by creatures with large teeth waiting to swallow me whole.
When I just get front and centre in my body, in my day, there’s nothing to fear.
Instead, there is day-saving recipes like these chicken satay burgers. Make a double or even triple batch and freeze them for a busy day. Pop one in the lunchbox too; they taste good cold.
If the whole thing looks like a lot of ingredients, you’re right. But it’s well worth it.
I’m a go-getter.
Another Danielle special to try: Cheat’s cassoulet
Satay chicken burgers
Makes about 6 burgers
Takes about 30 mins
For the burgers
- 500g lean chicken mince
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 clove garlic
- 3 teaspoon ground coriander
- 6 coriander roots, finely chopped
- rind of 1 lime
- lemongrass, white part only, bashed and chopped
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
For the satay sauce
- 1 small red onion
- ⅓ cup peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon shao xing wine
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- juice of one lime
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 carrot, grated
- ¼ cabbage, finely sliced
- a good handful of chopped coriander
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon castor sugar
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon chopped pickled ginger
Plus buns for serving.
Throw all of the burger ingredients into a bowl and mix well with your hands. You cannot really do this any other way. Don’t be scared.
Make the mince mix into burger-sized patties, any size you like. Set aside (covered in the fridge) until you’re ready to cook them. BBQ is always king when it comes to burgers, but on the stove is also good.
Stick all of the satay sauce ingredients into a food processor or a bowl in order to blitz it with a stick blender. You want it to be smooth as a baby’s bottom. Once you’ve blended it, pop it into a saucepan and cook it off until it’s nice and thick. If it gets too thick, you can add a little water or coconut milk.
To make the salad, toss the veges and herbs together. Then put the dressing ingredients into a little bowl and stir well to combine. Add the pickled ginger then toss the lot until all the salad ingredients are covered and you are good to go.
Construct your buns any way you see fit, and chow on down.
Burger patties will freeze well for about a month.
Keep some burger rolls in the freezer too, ready to go.
Do your kids love chicken satay burgers like mine?
Anxiety over change can be triggered by anything. A new school routine, going on holiday, changing jobs, moving house. Any routine change can mess with your brain-space. Yep, back to school is torture for this anxious mum.
Basically, I just get my knicks in a knot about the unknown and I like to torture myself about for months leading up about all of the things that might possible wrong, but really very rarely ever do. So it will come as no surprise to learn that school going back is stressing me out more than the kids.
Let’s just say that years of experience in talking myself out of this stressed out, catastrophising, neurotic way of being has taught me a thing or two. Here’s how I’m coping with the new school routine…
Talk about the worries that are causing the anxiety
Admittedly, you open yourself up to someone screwing their face up and saying “Really?? You really worry about THAT???” But it’s also good just to get that shit out of your head, and off your chest.
You can work out which are real worries and which are probably unlikely scenarios that you don’t really need to waste precious worrying time on.
Take all of the worries and right them down
A worry in your head is like a merry-go-round horse with diarrhoea. It goes around, and around, playing a freaky song, leaving stinky mess everywhere and you can’t focus on it properly, or anything for that matter.
A problem written down is far more manageable. A list of problems or worries is actually less scary than the shit swimming in your head.
School business requires some serious organisation. School uniforms, before school care routines. Pick-ups and drop-offs organised around work. Homework, reading, after-school commitments.
Organising stuff and having an action plan means you can tick it off your list. This helps you to feel like you’re in control of the situation.
Being in control helps you to feel less like an anxious mum and more like a boss.
Lunches organised the day before, the next day’s outfits laid out.
I’m a dichotomy because I’m a control freak but I’m mega disorganised, but don’t tell anyone, ok? I think I have them all fooled.
Ask for help
I cannot impress upon you how important asking for help is in managing most anxiety.
Feeling like I’m paddling upstream on my own is the fastest way for me to feel my heart racing and my mouth clagging. And the merry-go-round of diarrhoea begins again.
Get kids to do their bit
Teaching kids to be independent will only help you in the long run, so making them responsible for dressing themselves, making breakfast (and cleaning up after themselves), or being responsible for their school bags will put you on the road to winning. Less for you to do, equals less stress.
This is a work in progress for me, I still yell about putting shoes on about 5 million times a morning.
Keep a wall calendar, and use it
Trying to remember all of the dates of school things, deadlines, social engagements… MESSES with my brain. The phone calendar doesn’t do it for me, and a day to day diary doesn’t either. I’m an old-fashioned wall calendar kind of girl.
If you don’t use a wall calendar, that’s fine. I’m not the Know All of Diarising Life, I’m merely suggesting you take the dates out of your head, and write them all down somewhere easily visible. Unless you’re Rainman and totes happy with the figures in your head.
This is my new strategy that has been in pace for one week.
So far, I suck at it, however, practice makes perfect with this stuff. If you have any tips to add to this, feel free to let me know so I can get a grip on life, and unknot my knickers.
Are you a fellow anxious mum? How do you cope with school?
There are only so many times you can lose your shit uncharacteristically at your kids, or cry whilst sorting the washing before you realise things aren’t right. You’re exhausted by life. You need to make some changes to get your shizzle back into balance.
I was riddled with anxiety and I was sad a lot – I was basically just so exhausted by life that I could barely function. I started seeing a therapist in order to get the crazies out, but I also ensured I did a few other things that I know help me maintain a healthy balance.
Double edged sword. You feel shit so you don’t want to go, however, the second you finish you feel amazing. You just need to start.
I’d been letting my exercise slip. Too busy, too tired, and too many appointments were fairly high on the excuse rotation. I found I was only exercising about twice a week.
Caning myself physically helps keep my brain in check, but some people respond better to gentle exercise for brain wellbeing. Three to four times a week helps me to sleep better, focus better and feel better.
Try this: 20+ simple changes that promise incredible results
My booze consumption was sneaking up. This happened over a few years, and in the end I was drinking every single day. We all know that we should have a few days off a week. I was using alcohol as stress-relief to get through dinner/bed/bath routine.
Admittedly, my stress at witching hour is elevated, but I know that it’s worth it to be in control of my booze consumption.
I now aim to only drink three days a week. Note I said aim. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose. Human.
Speaking to a therapist and getting a few tips on how to cope with the stress of everyday life has been extremely beneficial. Even just having a safe space that I can go and vent without fear of hurting anyone’s feelings, or cry without fear of anyone think I’m losing my shit. Therapists are used to seeing people exhausted by life, so there’s no shame in rocking up and pouring out your all.
Life is stressful, and there will always be worries but learning techniques to keep on top of the pile of poo is pretty darned helpful.
Everyone kept suggesting that meditate to calm my bat shit crazy mind. I’m a bloody awful meditator. I have nightmares about a stint in Vipassana, so meditating is never gonna happen.
Mindfulness however is totally cheat’s meditation.
You don’t even need to sit still to do it. In fact, mindful activity is pretty cool too.
Just 100% focusing on what I’m doing. Feeling the way my muscles contract to move and the way the air hits certain parts of my skin. 100% in the now. 100% not stressing about stupid shit that’s probably not going to happen.
Ask for help
People often suggest they look after the kids, or we catch up for coffee, and I don’t take them up on it for one reason or another, but now I am.
People babysat my kids while I got stuff done, went out for a meal or even one day I had a cheeky massage. We all need a break like that from time to time. I have asked people for regular help, weekly help, and have found that they love to be involved in our lives. It’s actually a mutual exchange whereby everyone wins.
Remember this:To be a good mum, raise yourself first
I always eat well, but I also got serious about supplements. I’m really into fish oil as I’ve heard it’s not just good for the body, but also the mind.
After I got sick I needed to boost my immunity, and I wanted to help get my mind and body back on track. I ate for energy, and I ate food that I knew I would feel good about eating.
And a little ice cream because that’s good for the soul.
So, am I feeling fighting fucking fit?
For the moment.
I also know that there will probably be another episode some time where everything gets too much. I am a natural worrier and life can be tricky.
Now I know that I have the strength to say I need help, and the smarts to go and get it.
What do you do when you feel exhausted by life?
If you’re not feeling like you’re coping with life call a good mate or phone Lifeline on 13 11 14
Image by Abbie Bernet