Parents, will you be judged as you venture out of the house with kids? Take the test!

I see you have decided to leave your house with your children, you foolish, foolish person.

Do you think you can avoid comments, judgmental stares, or eye rolls from friends, family members, and complete strangers as you exist in the world with young humans? Take the test and see! 


First up: getting somewhere.

I see you have a baby in tow. Do you…

Take a stroller?

Oh, I’m sorry, your baby will always feel neglected and pushed away, because you are literally pushing them away. Your child will never know what it is to feel loved. 

Wear the baby?

Ugh, guess you’re one of those parents, then? Can’t cut that umbilical cord? Do you need your baby close to you? They’ll never grow up to be individuals capable of making decisions now. 


Next, an activity.

Phew! You made it to the park! Now while you’re here do you…

Sit down and watch your kids play?

You’re a neglectful parent who probably allows their kids to *gasp* go up the down part of the slide. Your kids will become criminals who can’t operate successfully in society. 

Go around the park playing with them? 

You’re a hovering, overprotective helicopter parent who makes your child’s life too easy and are too involved with their lives for them to operate successfully in society someday. 


Deciding where to eat

Uh oh, you’re out and need to eat somewhere other than your own home. It’s time to make some decisions on where to eat. Do you… 

Opt for a kid-friendly fast food place? 

Seriously?!? You’re going to feed them that junk? It’s 2020! You’ve gotta be kidding, right? That stuff is so gross for them! It’s. Not. Even. Organic. 

Go eat at a real (not-too-fancy, but sit-down) restaurant? 

Restaurants are for adults, not for children. It doesn’t matter that in order for children to learn how to eat at restaurants they have to actually practice eating at restaurants, which means going to restaurants. It doesn’t matter if the restaurant has a kids’ menu. There are other adults there without children, and your children’s presence there will ruin their day. 


Actually eating out

You sit down at your food establishment of choice, are seated, and the kids are getting a little antsy in their pantsies after they’ve doodled with crayons on the paper placemat. Nothing too raucous, but they’re starting to get bored and the food hasn’t arrived yet. Do you…

Hand them your phone? 

You’re not even going to engage with your kids?!? Ugh, what are you teaching them about human interaction? Have you not read the millions of articles about limiting screen time? What is wrong with you?? 

Not hand them your phone? 

Can’t you keep your kids quieter?!? Why can’t they behave like adults? Isn’t there some sort of screen you can hand them? 


Riding on the train

You need to get across the city? It’s time to take the train! Do you…

Sit next to them and read them a book of poetry at a reasonable, conversation-level volume*? 

Eye roll. Ugh. Can’t you be quiet? Do I have to hear you speak, to your child, no less? What is this, some sort of public space where people are allowed to engage and talk to each other? 

Hand them your phone/electronic device?

Seriously? Seriously?! Can’t you connect with your kids? We just went over this. Have them look out the window! Play games with them! It doesn’t matter that if you were on the train alone, you would be looking at your phone. That’s entirely beside the point for some reason. 

*This is not hyperbolic. This literally happened to me. 


Feeding your kid a snack

It’s a long time between your meal and the next one, and your kids are hungry and tired from all the activities they’ve been doing. Plus, they’re usually fed a snack at school around this time. Do you…

Hand them a snack? 

You know, the French don’t snack at all. Why can’t you be more like the French, despite neither being French nor living in France? Shouldn’t they be eating something healthier? Why are you feeding them junk? 

Not hand them a snack?

Can’t you see they’re hungry? Kids need to eat more regularly! They’re growing! Now they’re angry and hungry and getting whiny. Why didn’t you plan ahead more? You should have known they would get hungry! 


Breathing

You need to take a breath of oxygen in order to stay alive as it is a basic function of human existence. Do you…

Breathe?

That is now one breath of oxygen on this planet your children cannot inhale, you selfish cretin. 

Not breathe?

You have passed out and possibly died. However, you will still be responsible for all snack and beverage requests from your children, regardless of the status of your consciousness.


So, how did you do? Did you avoid getting judged? You didn’t?!? Wow, it’s almost like the game is rigged against parents or something.


My House Looks Like Two Young Children, Two Tired Adults, and a Dog Live Here.

(And I just can’t be sorry about that anymore.)

Hello! It’s so good to talk to you! Would you want to come over here some time and hang out while the kids play? I can offer you tea, water, fizzy water that may or may not ruin your teeth depending on which article came out last week, coffee, and wine while we chat. You would? WOW! This is great news! 

There is one thing, though, and this is hard for me to admit. You’ll see it when you walk in. The thing is… 

My house looks like two young children, two tired adults, and a dog live here. 

There’s really a good explanation for it, I promise. You see, it’s because two young children, two tired adults, and a dog live here. 

I’ve been to many, many houses where there are more children or more dogs and just as many tired adults who live there, but it does not look like it. I marvel at houses like that. I want to live in those houses. 

But the thing is, my house is not those houses. And right now, it will not be those houses. My house looks like two young children, two tired adults, and a dog live here. 

I might have piles of unfolded laundry surrounding the dryer. In fact, I will definitely have piles of unfolded laundry surrounding the dryer. Sometimes they’ve been there a day. Other times they’ve been there a week. I’ll get to them tonight, I’ll say to you. They’re now a fixture of the house tour. And no matter how long I spend folding clothes, the piles of laundry keep growing and changing, and that is just how it is. 

My chairs look like people have sat and eaten Goldfish crackers in them for years. The throw pillows for my couch have a 30% chance of still being on the couch from the time I get up to let you in to the time you walk in the door. My children apparently have declared throw pillows an enemy of the sofa, and have waged war on them with a dogged determination I can only see as impressive at this point. My dog will most certainly have climbed into the exact spot you will want to sit in this opening-the-door-to-walking-in time as well. 

There are strollers in our living room because we use at least one of the strollers every day. I could spend time hiding them somewhere else in my home, but I could also spend time…not doing that. 

Every flat surface over the height of 5 feet has something fragile placed on it, not because they look good, but because otherwise they would most certainly be broken by now if placed anywhere else. 

I don’t say these things to frighten you away. I say these things because I have spent too much of my time worried that my house looks like two young children, two tired adults, and a dog live here. And I refuse to let myself miss out on the connections I would otherwise make because I’m actually embarrassed by the fact that my house looks like two young children, two tired adults, and a dog live here. 

If you’re here, know that I want you here. I want you to come in and be part of my life, so I can be a part of yours. I want to laugh with you, commiserate with you, learn from you, and discuss the terrible television I watch instead of making my house look better. I can bring over the boxed wine, schlep the throw pillows back onto the couch, and talk until it’s time for you to leave. 

I would love for my house not to look like two young children, two tired adults, and a dog live here, but the fact of the matter is: it does. And I wish I could be sorrier about it. 

That’s all I wanted you to know. 

So…how does next Saturday sound to you? 

I’m not telling you how to live your life, but I am telling you to get a library stool for your kitchen.

I’m not telling you how to live your life, but I am telling you to get a library stool for your kitchen.

There are very few things I feel confident I actually know anymore. There are even fewer things I feel confident giving advice about. 

In fact, this is pretty much the only piece of advice I feel confident in giving to everyone I know. Men, women, parents, non-parents, everyone needs to know about this. Because I’m about to blow your mind with this one, simple truth. Ready? 

You need a library stool in your kitchen. 

You know what I’m talking about, right? Library stools? Those round, rolling things you find in, well, libraries? You know what I’m talking about. I know you do. Here, this thing: 

“Ooohhh, those things! Yeah! I remember those!”

Yeah you do. And without a doubt a library stool has been such a great addition to my kitchen I am baffled as to what I was doing with my life before it. 

I shall now explain all the reasons why, because, again, there’s almost nothing I feel actually confident about in this world, so if you could let me have this, that’d be great. 

It’s the perfect height helper. 

I mean, duh, right? This is literally the first criteria of any stool, that it makes it possible to reach things your body wasn’t designed to reach. And I can! I can reach tall places now! And even better, my kids can use it and become instantly able to help do cooking projects. And the best part? When it’s time for them to come mix or chop or whatever they can even go get it themselves because…  

You won’t find anything easier to move around.

These things were designed to be easily kicked around by someone with lots of things in their hands (say, maybe, librarians with lots of books in their arms). They roll easier than you remember. My kids can maneuver it anywhere (which turns out to be a blessing and a curse because now they can reach much higher in the pantry than I originally had planned for when storing baking goodies/Halloween candy/“why are you eating that 5 minutes before dinner?!” (That last one is a pantry category all parents know all too well.) 

Anyway, the point is this: there is not a single stool easier to move around with no hands required. And this might be worrying to parents except…

They’re really sturdy 

You might not remember exactly how these work, but as soon as you step on them, they lock down and will not move. No, seriously, they will not move. 

Bumpers! They have bumpers on them! 

So kicking things merrily around your kitchen is great and all, but eventually they’ll run into something. And these things have bumpers on them. Bumpers! So worry not about this easily mobile, sturdy, kickable stool: it won’t scratch your cabinets! 

Bumpers! 

Why on earth do you need more reasons? Okay, fine, you’ll look like a genius when you have guests over because they’ll all marvel at how brilliant this idea is. 

I’m not going to claim I came up with this idea, because I read about it on Lifehacker. But I will claim that the very few people I allow into my unfettered mess of a house have commented on what a great idea it is. And I won’t even care if you claim this idea as your own genius. That is how strongly I feel about your need for this item in your kitchen. 

Hopefully by now I’ve got you wondering where you even find such a marvel of old-school technology. I searched locally, but failed, so I got mine from Target, where there are a few colors available. I try not to shop on Amazon whenever possible*, but it appears they sell them there, too. 

So reach, my little beauties! Reach to cabinet heights previously unavailable! And now that I’ve dispelled one of the only things** I know to be true, I will go lie down and scroll through my streaming menus with decision paralysis and never actually choosing what to watch, because that is who I am and I’ve come to accept that. 

*It’s just a whole thing, so it’s best not to get into it, but basically it boils down to: I think they’re a terrible company doing terrible things to good people, the economy, and the world. 

**”Vaccines work” is the other thing. Vaccinate. Your. Children

Step right up, folks, and witness the horror of a mom trying to get her child into preschool

Step right up, folks, don’t be shy! You are about to witness a true marvel of the modern era! The breathtakingly terrifying Mom Trying to Get Her Child Into Preschool!

No, no, don’t be afraid! She won’t hurt you! Well, I mean, maybe be a little afraid. She might actually hurt you. She is quelled only with the soothing sounds of terrible ‘90s jams and wine. Watch her as she scours her meticulous spreadsheets, school websites, local parenting forums, and notes from open houses as she descends slowly into madness.

…this is the story of me.

…you don’t want to be like me. Continue reading

Everything’s under control. Situation normal.

I have some parent friends who make parenting look relatively effortless. And not in a, “my life is a curated series of Instagram stories but I’m actually hiding a mess in the corner you can’t see” kind of way. I’m talking effortless more in the, “we have bumps in the road and move forward productively” kind of way. These parents have incredibly funny conversations with their kids they can transcribe to social media to make us laugh with them. They laugh about how their kids always want to eat pasta, but you also sort of know their kids eat the asparagus, too. These parent friends are kind and empathetic when you’re struggling as well. I love these friends.

I have other parent friends who make parenting look not quite as effortless. They joke with me about what the tipping point in the day of switching from coffee to wine is. They have their meltdown stories to swap with you on a bad day. Generally, though, these friends tend to have incredibly useful pieces of advice to give and also seem to have their stuff together. These parent friends are also kind and empathetic and I love them, too.

Then in the parent world…there’s me.

Though I’ve never conducted a formal poll, I would place a good Vegas wager that none of my friends would place me in either the, “has her parenting thing together” or the “sort of, kind of, possibly has her parenting thing together” categories. 

I got pregnant with my daughter when my son was 1.5. As fate would be so kind to show us, this happened to be when the already near-impossible task of parenting inched much closer to the “impossible” category. This wasn’t because I was tired or sick. Things just started going…sideways. My son wasn’t speaking like he should have been, even allowing for a bit of a delay for “being a boy.” His toddler tantrums were getting worse and more intense than other kids’ his age. We started monitoring and waiting, thinking that one day he’d just start spurting out words like an avalanche and things would calm down.

Then we kept waiting.

And waiting.

Months went on. My son continued to struggle to say anything but a few words here and there. His tantrums continued to worsen. His fear of anyone who wasn’t either me or my husband was paralyzing. Hitting started. The screams were ear-piercing. There were days I almost forgot I was pregnant because my son took up so much of my time and mental energy.

We started him in speech therapy and enrolled him in a preschool two days a week, hoping the combination would help him socialize and talk more with peers and professionals.

Things didn’t get better. My belly was getting bigger and things just kept going more sideways. Hitting, yelling, screaming, tantrums were in abundance but there were so few real words from my son.

The hard part, of course, was that I thought I was doing all the things. I was setting firm, realistic boundaries while practicing kindness. I was being consistent. I was trying to make my son use words for things instead of just pointing at them. The things didn’t work.

It all kept getting worse.

His peers were having real conversations with adults and each other and yet we were elated when he used 3 words to tell us he wanted something instead of pointing or yelling (or, more often than not, just going to get it himself). His tantrums were so intense and long-lasting there were periods I wondered if something was seriously wrong. I had been so proud of raising a child who was independently motivated – he could find activities to play on his own and didn’t need me to entertain him 24 hours a day – but what if that independence and self-motivation was the exact reason he wasn’t talking? What if I was the reason our life was insane?

Mom guilt was at level one million percent.

I knew my son was smart – he could figure out any puzzle, lock, climbing structure, and yet he wouldn’t – couldn’t, rather – show it to anyone other than us.

I cried a lot.

I couldn’t imagine bringing another child into our life. My husband was working about 70-80 hours a week and was appropriately exhausted and unable to help the way he wanted. My world felt like it was collapsing and I had never felt so alone – both figuratively as a parent with a child struggling and literally with no other adult around the house.

Whenever someone asked me how things were I felt like Han Solo in Star Wars after he had raided the detention area and the enemy command was calling over the radio asking for an update. In the scene he looks around at the smoking wreckage, frazzled, and hastily says, “Everything’s under control…uh..situation normal…we’re all fine here…how are you?!

Nothing was normal.

Things were certainly not under control.

We weren’t all fine here.

How were you?

After six months at the preschool we came to the conclusion a Montessori environment wasn’t right for my son. While he was incredibly self-motivated, the classroom was too quiet and he retreated into his own world, never speaking. We chose a different play-based school that had availability starting in a few months and we were counting down the days to everything. Days until I gave birth. Days until we could switch schools. Days until my husband could go on paternity leave. Days we had survived since we last counted.

“Everything’s under control…situation normal.”

It’s not that there weren’t sunny days. It just seemed like our cloudy days always brought storms.

My daughter was born in late March as my son turned 2.5. My husband had an almost unheard of 6-week paternity leave. Much of the progress on my son’s speech stalled, but he never actually regressed. Heartbreakingly, though, he rejected me completely. He didn’t want to spend one-on-one time with me. He didn’t want to come home after being out with my husband. The screaming, hitting, crying, and all-out tantrums continued.

We switched my son to the new play-based school and he started to open up more. His speech still wasn’t where it needed to be, and his fear of adults other than basically my husband, me, and my in-laws was still almost paralyzing for him. Play therapy was helping the anxiety a little bit, but there still seemed to be a piece missing from the puzzle. The speech delay was a symptom of a bigger problem, we knew, but of what?

We kept trudging along. My son improved, slowly but surely. We felt more and more that his speech therapist wasn’t a good fit, but we also started to suspect that maybe he had some sort of sensory processing issues too. He couldn’t handle any “goop” on his hands, lights started being too bright for him, and if he was in a busy environment he could barely function and would just shut down entirely.

I should probably mention that having a newborn in the mix to care for made this trudging along that much harder. I felt like I could never give any of my children the attention they deserved or needed. Mom guilt was now at level two million percent.

“We’re all fine here, how are you?”

My son was struggling. There was progress, yes, but he was struggling. He would feel something, the words wouldn’t come, he would get frustrated, and then melt down. I just wanted to make it better. I just wanted the words to come for him, so I could understand what would make his world a better place.

The words wouldn’t come.

I read books about spirited children, late talkers, and attachment philosophy to try and get a better grasp on the situation. There were more sunny days, but still lots of storms.

After my son turned 3 we scheduled an appointment with a neuropsychologist who also does something called “brain mapping,” where the doctor performs the typical cognitive tests, but also goes one step further and actually measures brain wave activity between various regions of the brain, seeing if any areas of the brain are under-or-over-performing by more than a few standard deviations. This way if children won’t perform up to their abilities in the cognitive assessments (*raises hand*), it can help paint a better picture of what’s actually happening inside the brain.

The process of brain mapping involved sitting my son down in a chair, putting a cap with electrodes on his head, and having him watch a movie of his choice (Star Wars) for 15 minutes. There was nothing invasive, and it was probably the best part of our day that day. He dazzled the technician with this ability to tell me every starship and character in the movie.

My husband and I went in for the results about a week later. As we knew would be the case, my son was only willing to perform about 30% of the tasks assigned in the cognitive tasks (note that he said willing, it was very clear he was able to do them if I happened to be in the room or he liked the task). It was immediately evident brain power was not the problem. The neuropsychologist also confirmed he wasn’t autistic; the “problem areas” in his brain were completely well-defined, and autism shows up completely differently.

There were, however, three areas of my son’s brain that were performing abnormally by a few standard deviations.

First: expressive language. The neuropsychologist explained his expressive language area like this: imagine you’re trying to jump up, but have your knees locked rigid. The brain waves are so tight and at such a high frequency there was hardly any flexibility for him to talk. However, his receptive language brain power was absolutely fine. My son understood everything we said, but just couldn’t get any of his words out. I imagined what it would be like to have my jaw wired shut as I was trying to communicate, but nobody knew why I couldn’t talk. My heart broke for my son all over again.

The second area of concern was emotional regulation. Three-year-olds are not exactly known for their emotional regulation skills (and neither are most adults these days), but my son’s lack of emotional regulation went well beyond that of a typical three-year-old. “If you were to assemble 50 parents of 3-year-olds in a room together and ask them who was the most tired,” the neuropsychologist said, “everyone would raise their hands. You guys would be the only ones telling the truth.” Ah, so that wasn’t just in my head.  

Finally, the third brain area we talked about was sensory processing. While my son was in speech therapy for speech and play therapy for emotional regulation (we had just been calling it “anxiety” to that point), this was the piece we hadn’t been addressing. Essentially, my son’s experiences to certain “sensory inputs” (touch, sight, sound, etc.) were amplified compared to someone with neurotypical brain patterns. Where we might see a light in the house as maybe a little bright, it would be like shining a spotlight in my son’s eyes. Where there might be a design pattern on the front of his shirt sewn in and we think it’s a little bit scratchy, that would feel like sandpaper scratching the surface of his skin off. He experienced the world at volume eleven. No wonder he was overloaded.

It’s a tough combination. Once one of the areas starts going really haywire (for instance: too much sensory input, too much frustration, or needing to get words out that won’t come), the other two get drawn in and overreact as well.

If my son experiences something that overloads certain senses (say, perhaps, shaving cream on his hands), it puts his sensory processing area of his brain into overdrive, which then pulls in the emotional regulation, and then shuts down any expressive language. This means that any ability to calm down is out the window, as well as any ability to express the words to tell us what is wrong. If he’s frustrated and his emotional regulation is overworked, he becomes more sensitive to sensory inputs, and then his expressive language piece shuts down, too. He can’t actually tell us what’s wrong, which then frustrates him more, which heightens the emotional regulation piece…and, well, you can see how this can spiral.

The neuropsychologist recommended keeping the course with speech therapy, putting him in school as much as possible because he was more comfortable speaking with peers and the more speech he can practice the more those brain wave patterns would “loosen up”, keeping with the play therapy, and adding in occupational therapy to help with the sensory processing.

I probably should have felt dismayed, but instead I felt…better. I felt relieved.

My son’s brain was literally wired to take longer to talk than his peers. His brain was literally wired to throw more extreme temper tantrums. His brain was literally wired not to be able to handle different sensations on his hands or feet. I didn’t do this to him. I wasn’t wrong in thinking his reactions were more intense than other kids’ his age. Maybe I wasn’t even the worst parent in the world.

(Maybe.)

I felt like I could finally tell people I trusted the situation wasn’t under control and was most definitely not normal.

We found a new therapy clinic where he can do speech and occupational therapy together, back-to-back, with an integrated team approach between the therapists. The clinic has an enormous sensory gym (complete with ball pit!) and his therapists quickly became his favorite people in the entire world. What I came to understand that while his wiring might have been a bit different, it could be changed. These wires could be reconnected with the help of therapy.

This isn’t to say things were immediately easy. For a while I was taking my son to 3 hours of therapy a week, not including travel time. When you added in my personal therapy as a remnant of my postpartum depression I was probably logging in around 7+ hours a week dedicated to therapies alone.

It was a lot. But, here’s the kicker: he started improving.

Things started getting under control. The situation actually became more normal.

It’s been about six months since we took my son to see the neuropsychologist (two years since we started down this long, patchworked road). His speech has started exploding recently, and his therapists are amazed at the improvements he makes weekly. His play therapist has said that he’s been doing so well we can go to every other week instead of every week. He talks to us, he answers questions, and, as a bonus, it turns out he’s actually really funny. When he laughs, he doesn’t ever just giggle, he laughs with his entire soul. When he hugs, he doesn’t give a light tap, he runs up as hard as he can, and squeezes you as if to make sure you know just how much he loves you. He’s still spirited, but his spirit is being put into his sense of self instead of lashing out at us (well, more often, at least). We’re learning how to set him up for success, and which situations will simply overwhelm him and are nonstarters.

He’s blossoming on the outside to the boy I knew was trying to get out from the inside.

I have no idea how much longer we’ll need to take him to therapies, or if this is all something he would have grown out of eventually on his own. I don’t think there will ever be a way to know those things.

I do know, though, how truly and completely alone and confused I felt over the past two years. How I didn’t know if there were other parents trying to figure out why their child was the only one screaming because they didn’t want to get off the train, even though they were going to go get ice cream. How I didn’t know if there were other parents who wanted to help their child if only their child could tell them what was wrong. I didn’t know if there were other parents who were watching their child’s tantrums asking themselves if this was normal, or if they were just the worst parents in the world. How I didn’t know if there were other parents whose only wish was just one normal day. I didn’t know.

It took almost two years to figure out where all the puzzle pieces were, let alone how to put them together into a plan to help my son. But I do want other parents to know this: if you’re standing in a pile of smoldering wreckage desperately telling everyone that everything’s under control, and insisting the situation is normal to everyone while you know it’s not, there are others in your shoes. There are others willing to listen. And, more than likely, there are others willing to help.

As a parent everything will never truly be under control. The situation certainly will never be normal. But maybe we’ll all be fine here.

How are you?

Wish List: TaskRabbit for Moms

Recently I’ve been introduced to using TaskRabbit as a way to actually accomplish things on my to-do list. This is obviously nothing new – TaskRabbit has been around for a while now – but because I am perpetually old and lame it’s new for me. I’ve always been a “I can do this stuff myself!” kind of gal, but with two kids in the house and no parents nearby where we can send said two kids for the day, it turns out…I can’t do this stuff myself. I used to hire babysitters where I would tiptoe around the house trying to avoid the kids and accomplishing my to-do lists, but that never works. The kids find me, or, more likely, I find I don’t want to use my precious babysitting money doing something like moving my stuff from one closet to another. Finally it hit me: why not use my precious money on getting someone else to do the actual thing I don’t want to do instead?

If you’re unfamiliar with TaskRabbit, basically the concept of the app is, “Get people to do things you really don’t want to do yourself.” Need a tire changed? Pantry cleaned out? Sidewalk shoveled? Item returned at a store? Furniture assembled? Literally, anything you don’t want to do or don’t have time to do you can get a tasker up to the job. You set up a task, get a list of people willing to do the task, see their qualifications, reviews of people who have hired them before through the app (verified), and how much they charge an hour.

The thing is, though, there are certain tasks being a mom I can’t seem to outsource. I started to wonder if there shouldn’t be a new parenting Subcategory on TaskRabbit. Here are just a few of the tasks I would click “Hire” on immediately. 

TaskRabbit_ Toddler Dinner


TaskRabbit_ Get Toddler Ready for School


TaskRabbit_ Breastfeed.jpg


TaskRabbit_ Clothes Proxy.jpg


TaskRabbit_ Bedtime.jpg

Okay, Instant Pot Recipe Bloggers…let’s talk

Alternately titled: No, Instant Pot recipe writers and bloggers, it is NOT “just 20 minutes and done!” and you need to stop saying that.

(Second alternative title: this post is in no way about parenting, but this has been bothering me for months now and has to be said.) 

For those who don’t know, the Instant Pot has recently become the generic trademark (aka, when a brand becomes synonymous with the item, such as “Kleenex” for “tissues”) in the world of electric pressure/multi-cookers. Whereas traditional pressure cookers heat up on the stove and give me massive amounts of fear of exploding and killing us all, electric pressure cookers (supposedly) have multiple failsafes that supposedly don’t allow the whole “exploding pressure cooker” thing to happen. So basically: the Instant Pot is an electric pressure cooker that has taken the world by storm in the past year.

I’ve had my 8-quart Instant Pot for about 8 months now, which is long enough to have gotten used to the machine, tested it with multiple recipes and types of foods, and have cooked enough in it to finally need to call shenanigans on pretty much every Instant Pot recipe blogger out there.

Shenanigans, I say.

Shenanigans!

And here is where they go wrong: they never, ever, ever include the time it actually takes to come to and off of pressure in their recipes. And that, my friends, is a grotesquely misleading oversight.

Now, technically, while under pressure, the food cooks about twice as fast as it would on the stove or in the oven, which is supposed to save time and make it possible to do things like 3-hour sauces in a fraction of the time. On a weeknight, say. This is the claim.   

The thing is, though, the Instant Pot needs a lot of time to actually get to pressure. Often it’s more time than the actual cook time. Then once it finishes cooking and you need it to come out of pressure in order to, you know, access the food, it takes a long time to do that, too, whether you let it “naturally” come down, or “manually release” it, which means switching the vent open and kickstarting the depressurization all at once. (It would be physically impossible to open a pressurized lid before it has come off pressure. And also that would potentially do something bad like kill you, even if you could.) However, in almost every single Instant Pot recipe I’ve ever read, there is not one estimate of extra time around the pressurized cook time.

So this is my plea to every single blogger out there: you have to adjust your time estimates in recipes to include the pressurization and depressurization times.

Currently Instant Pot recipe writers tend to say something like, “…select manual pressure for 35 minutes, and then allow to naturally release for 10 minutes and then manually release the rest, and then enjoy!”

That’s not how that actually works, though. When I put everything into the Instant Pot to pressure cook, at minimum it takes about 10 minutes to come to pressure with the minimum amount of liquid necessary to make it work (1 cup of water, say). If it’s a big stew or soup or something, that process can take 20-30 more minutes! Then depressurization takes at a minimum 5 minutes with a natural release, or 20 minutes with a full natural release of a big soup or stew. So that “cook time” of 35 minutes doesn’t include: 20 minutes of pressurization or 10-15 minutes of depressurization. That means that “35 minute meal” actually is cooking for about an hour.

Time saver? Ehhh…maybe.

And yes, once the food is all in the Instant Pot, it’s in. It’s hands-off. But oftentimes you have to pre-cook some things, sear some others, or do general prep that you’d do with a non-Instant Pot recipe. So really, I’m not sure the time saving is great when you actually break it down. Here are a few examples of recipes I’ve actually made.

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My point isn’t that Instant Pot recipe bloggers aren’t doing a very cool thing. My point isn’t that they aren’t working hard to help others put food on the table. My point isn’t that their food is bad – quite the opposite, in fact. My point is that recipe writers have to start including the amount of time it takes to come to pressure and depressurize while writing these recipes to give an accurate account of how much time these recipes will take. And I’ve heard, “well it takes time to boil water if you’re cooking on the stove, and recipes never take that into account!” Which is true. Except…you can still do other prep things while you’re boiling water on the stove. With the Instant Pot, there is no other option than just wait. So it’s really not the same thing at all.

Now, you might think I hate my Instant Pot, and the truth is I don’t. I’m just not as wild about it as other people are. But to be fair, here’s where the Instant Pot really excels and can’t be beat:

  • Hard-boiled eggs. My 1-year-old can devour hard-boiled eggs and cooking them in a pressure cooker actually separates the shells from the egg in a way that boiling does not, which leads to perfectly peel-able eggs every time.. The time isn’t that different than the old-fashioned way, but the peeling of the eggs and their absolute perfection every time is fantastic.
  • Baby back bibs. These were the first things I made in the Instant Pot and I will never achieve fall-off-the-bone ribs like this in my oven. They finish in the oven with the barbecue sauce, yes, but since there’s only a cup of water to pressurize this one’s timing does make sense.
  • Frozen chicken breasts. I don’t know any other method that allows me to safely cook frozen chicken breasts straight from the freezer, which I can then put into my mixer/use my hand mixer to shred in a matter of 1 minute once they’re cooked. 

Look, I can see where I’m coming off as harsh on the Instant Pot and its hardworking food blogger devotees, and I don’t mean to. I think it’s a cool machine, and I really do appreciate all the hard work recipe writers are putting into making its complicated buttons and gizmos accessible to all of us with delicious food. I just think we need to be honest about the timing of this machine. We’ve been too busy trying to convince ourselves that we can pressure cook anything that we aren’t asking ourselves if, maybe, a lot of these things would be better off the old fashioned way. 

It’s a simple solution, recipe writers. Instead of listing just “prep” and “cook” times, include another line called “Pressure/Depressure” and add that number to the total amount of time needed for a recipe. You’ve done your job on selling us on the Instant Pot, and now it’s time to be honest about how long these things take. 

End scene.