In a recent post, I asked about ideas that would help me in my quest to be more accountable for the family’s food decisions in 2011. Among the excellent suggestions I received was an intriguing thought from reader Deidre about finding my “conditions of enoughness” around food. I wasn’t sure precisely what she meant by the comment at the time, but it interested me enough to give it some thought.
An extremely quick and cursory search of the term gave me a general thought process about the whole concept of “enoughness” — basically, it seems to be a standard for how much is necessary to make me (and the family — can’t forget the family in all of this) satisfied and happy, without tipping over into the territory where we’re doing too much for the same level, or even a diminished level, of satisfaction. In other words, finding a place where I can draw the line in the sand between what’s “good enough” and what’s “crazy excessive loco Mommy-ness” is probably a good contribution to the larger topic of life balance.
Just so we’re clear right up front: I haven’t really answered this question yet. It’s a big, complex thing to wrap my brain around, and I frankly haven’t got the room in my cortex for it all at the moment. But it’s precisely because I feel like I haven’t got the room for it that I’ve been musing on it here and there. Most weeks, life may be a bit hectic, but I’m in the groove of a routine and I’m not really noticing any particular effort or lack thereof put towards food and eating — it’s all just part of the rhythm of life in the RRG house. This week, though, is a little crazier than most, and has forced me off the routine a bit, prompting me to take a couple of very deep breaths and dive into the consideration of “enoughness” head-on.
Things started promisingly enough. Sunday was a good day, relatively relaxed, and I was able to both make our Sunday dinner and whip up a dozen or so whole wheat-cinnamon waffles to keep around for weekday breakfasts without much stress. Monday morning I dashed out the door with my travel mug and one of the waffles triumphantly in hand, ready to face the week. And then I opened my calendar. Out Tuesday night for rehearsal. Out Wednesday night for a side gig I picked up (I occasionally do some contract work for local organizations, just because I’m crazy like that). Out Saturday night with the family for a birthday party. Oh, yeah, and then there’s all that snow in the forecast AGAIN. And OT and PT for L. And PT for J., who’s got a back injury right now….
Yikes. I reshuffled the meal plan hastily to accommodate everything, but as you’ve probably guessed by now, doing something like rearranging the meal plan at the last minute can sometimes be like pulling out the wrong block in a Jenga tower. And although everyone has gotten fed this week, so far, it’s definitely happened in a manner that has challenged my perception of what’s good enough.
We had our No-Fuss chicken on Monday night instead of later in the week, because I realized that I was going to have a lot more time on my hands Monday evening than at pretty much any other moment all week long. I was astute enough to make a double batch, 1/2 of it as “fingers,” to help with lunches; what I didn’t count on was P. suddenly deciding, again, that he doesn’t like No-Fuss chicken. Sigh. On Tuesday night, we had the slow cooker meal that I’d planned, cleverly using the leftovers of a loaf of bread to make garlic toasts as a bed for the chicken sausages and peppers. Or at least, I thought it was clever. Until I realized that we were left with a bunch of sausages and peppers and no more bread. And L. and P. didn’t like the sausage and peppers enough to eat them without the bread, or over pasta (which would be the next logical thought, if my boys really like pasta much), so that meant that when I moved Fend Night to Wednesday…the options were kind of scarce.
J. was in charge of dinner entirely for Fend Night, because I didn’t have time to go home between work and my evening commitment. His report: L. had the very last scrapings of the steak and guinness pie that was left from the weekend; P. had a peanut butter sandwich and applesauce. Enoughness challenge #1. My Overdeveloped Sense of Kitchen Guilt started revving as I realized that I’d sort of left him in the lurch as far as feeding himself and P. — L. was really the only one among them who got a good, square meal. I mean, OK, peanut butter on whole wheat with some applesauce isn’t a terrible dinner, but it’s not usually what I have in mind.
Then this morning rolled around, and I woke up to find the boys’ lunchboxes open on the kitchen counter. Mommy Guilt. Enoughness challenge #2. I got home later than I had expected last night, and I was tired, and I forgot entirely about packing their lunches, so J. was trying to put something together for them this morning before school. I peeked in and sighed. L. was getting the last of the chicken fingers and some leftover couscous….for the third day in a row. P. was getting waffles with sunbutter and banana. After that, J. seemed to have gotten stuck. I grabbed some staples — applesauce cups, yogurt, orange slices — and stuffed them into the lunches before I went up in flames from the searing guilt.
When I got into the living room, P. had turned up his nose at breakfast — we were out of bananas, his favorite; he wasn’t allowed a waffle, since that was his lunch; and he’s apparently sick of Cheerios. Double sigh. L., bleary-eyed, wandered downstairs and munched a handful of his brother’s Cheerios, but seemed uninspired by any other option. I finally coaxed more of the Cheerios into him and convinced P. to eat a cheese stick. It wasn’t exactly a “rise and shine” kind of breakfast for any of us, that’s for sure.
So now here I am, looking forward — incredibly so — to just going home tonight and cooking. We’ll have a real dinner, and I know there are things in the fridge and pantry that I can pull out to rectify the breakfast and lunch scenarios for the rest of the week. We’ll likely finish strong. But the lackluster food situation of the past few days has really challenged me, and I have to admit: I’m uneasy with it. I’m trying to let it settle. I’m trying to tell myself that nobody has starved, and that the casual observer wouldn’t even realize that anything was amiss. But I know better.
Sure, technically, we’ve had “enough.” There’s been enough food to fill up the bellies. I just don’t know if I feel that it’s been “enough” in terms of quality. Not enough vegetables. Not enough variety. I don’t like feeling as though we’re just slapping together calories for the kids and calling it a meal. But this week, I feel like I didn’t leave us much of a choice…because there wasn’t enough of something else at my disposal, and that was time. It was definitely a planning failure, but it was also instructive, because it gave me more insight into the whole issue of the time/planning/meal prep equation we all wrestle with; I can see how easily one might start out with good intentions, but get sucked into the black hole of convenience by scheduling pressures and just plain old TIREDNESS.
So have I defined, and committed to, my “conditions of enoughness?” Not by a long shot. I will admit, though, that since nobody has yet died of starvation or rickets, I may have found at least the “bare minimum” threshold. This will be an ongoing process, I’m sure, but while I ponder it, I’m going to go cook up a whole bunch of vegetables to assuage my conscience.